Book Recommendations?

bekkilyn wrote:

Reread Name of the Rose a couple or three years ago. It's wonderful!

One of these days, I'll get around to reading Foucault's Pendulum. It's actually the first of Eco's books I read way back when.

I've been to two signings of Eco's. The first one was where he read a passage from The Island of the Day Before in English and then in Italian. Both renditions were remarkable. I've got to read some of his non-fiction soon, although I'm intimidated by Eco's scholarly style.

I've started Tanya Huff's Confederation series after Malor's suggestion. This kind of thing is often my literary comfort food (see also Jack Campbell, though these books are more serious and less Boys' Own than those), and I'm enjoying them so far. Staff Sergeant Kerr is an effective hero. (I'm only on the second book though). They remind me slightly of Desmond Bagley, a British author from the middle 20th century whose books I dearly loved growing up.

These are working for me in a way that say, the Miles Vorkosigan and Honor Harrington books didn't. I can't really put my finger on why.

It's often said that it's a bad idea to try to put any kind of Message in your fiction. For most authors that's probably good advice, but it's a good thing RF Kuang didn't listen. The Poppy War is, on one level, a sincere attempt to bring the Rape of Nanjing (about which Kuang wrote her thesis) to the attention of a Western audience. It's also a riveting, unputdownable fantasy action-adventure yarn.

Rin, our heroine, makes a desperate attempt to escape an arranged marriage in her provincial backwater hometown in Nikan (China-analogue) by taking the imperial civil service examination. To the surprise of everyone, not least herself, she aces the test and is accepted into Sinegard, the empire's elite military academy. There she learns that she has the talent to be a shaman, one who can summon the power of the gods - something almost nobody still believes exists. Then Nikan is invaded by the smaller but more technologically advanced nation of Mugen (Japan-analogue), and the cadets find themselves on the front lines much sooner than they expected. Rin is so desperate to use her new skills against the enemy that she doesn't stop to think that there might be a good reason why her teachers were reluctant to call on such powers even in a national emergency...

This is a book about the horrors of war, and Kuang doesn't shy away from describing atrocities in graphic (but never gratuitous) detail. This is not a book I'd recommend to anyone with PTSD. But if you're willing to give it a try in spite of that, it's one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I eagerly await the promised sequels.

Looking for YA novels with a first-person narrator. Any suggestions?

lostlobster wrote:

Looking for YA novels with a first-person narrator. Any suggestions?

Maybe one I just read: Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller. (In fact, I just noticed it's on Kindle Unlimited, though I read it through my local library.)

A review of it I read on GoodReads described it as "Harry Potter for Adults," though I think it's more YA.

Philosopher's Flight is modified historical fiction set in America as it enters WWI. In this world, "magic" is accomplished through sigilry, the drawing of glyphs that enable (essentially) magic. It's talked about as a sort of techno-magic where different abilities require different powders in which the glyphs are drawn, so it almost has the feel of a quasi Steam Punk setting.

At any rate, the main hook is that women are much more powerful sigilrists than men, so there's the issue of gender discrimination against the main character, but in the reverse of our norms, but there is a definite "woman belongs in the home" conflict with a tense male populace. Lots of political themes tie in pretty closely to the modern US if you don't block it out.

At any rate, I enjoyed the ride. I'll probably read the second book once I finish a few more on my list. Liked the characters. Lots of strong women, for sure.

Also, thanks to all who recommended The Murderbot Diaries. I'm in the second one now. Just love the snarky perspective of the main character!

DudleySmith wrote:

I've started Tanya Huff's Confederation series after Malor's suggestion. This kind of thing is often my literary comfort food (see also Jack Campbell, though these books are more serious and less Boys' Own than those), and I'm enjoying them so far. Staff Sergeant Kerr is an effective hero. (I'm only on the second book though). They remind me slightly of Desmond Bagley, a British author from the middle 20th century whose books I dearly loved growing up.

I just finished the first book and enjoyed it quite a bit. It had great acceleration after a slow start. I really enjoyed the action in the book, and the interaction among the troops. Good stuff.

I felt like she didn't do that good of a job in introducing and describing the alien races and characters in the book, but it all worked out fine by the end.

I'll likely continue on with the series at some point.

I’m finally getting around to reading the Dresden Files... does the neckbeard-level misogyny get any better? I’m around twenty pages in and there’s already been like three sexist digressions including an incredibly stupid sequence about how women are more prone to evil magic because they are innately more hateful. It’s getting pretty hard to continue and I’m thinking of just shelving it if it’s the author and not the character.

If it's bothering you that much, that early, you probably want to drop him. I don't remember those specific examples, but I'm pretty sure you're going to get uptight by the middle books somewhere. I'm not that sensitive on that score, and if I noticed that his gender characterizations were odd, you'd probably find the series fairly objectionable.

The books do get much better over time, and for what it's worth, I didn't really read his stuff as misogyny as much as misunderstanding, but it sounds like you won't be as forgiving. This is definitely not Sad Puppy territory, I've seen way way way worse. But "it's not vile" is probably damning with faint praise.

If you'd like something in a similar vein, the Alex Verus books would do in a pinch. They're not as much fun as the Dresden series, and get pretty slow about pushing the overall plot forward by book 5 or so, but it's an interesting world and an unusual premise. In a world full of magic users, where each wizard is able to handle only one type of power, Alex's sole power is the ability to see a short distance into the future, to see a whole web of probabilities, and pick the one he likes best. He's got nothing else, just a fairly good degree of fitness, reasonable competence with pistols, and the ability to see anywhere from a few seconds to a couple hours into the future, depending on how active things are around him.

I've always enjoyed books that posit a superpower and then explore the ramifications of how it would work, and that's a major focus here. These wizards don't gain power, only experience in using what they naturally have, and can't pick up new magic types, so what they start with is pretty close to what they'll end with. And Verus has a power that seems impossibly weak, to the point that many magicians are unsure if he's really qualified to be part of their guild. He is, of course, much more dangerous than they think, as his ability has some very interesting and non-obvious applications.

These don't seem to be all that popular here, and the greatly slowed pacing in the later offerings is probably part of why, but the first several books, at least, are well worth the read.

I’ll at least push through Storm Front because I can’t leave a book unfinished once I’ve started even if I hate it, but after hearing the series lauded so much here and in rl I’m a bit let down. I was expecting more Laundry Files and less proto-MRA.

There’s another stupid sequence that could straight up be a Nice Guy talking point with Dresden noting the importance of opening doors for women and how doing so separates him from other guys.

I like the Verus books alot, but nothing has really wrapped up in the last three books, leaving me majorly disappointed.

I think a lot of us read and enjoyed The Dresden files when we were less aware and cognizant of some of the more insidious forms of misogyny and sexism.

SallyNasty wrote:

I think a lot of us read and enjoyed The Dresden files when we were less aware and cognizant of some of the more insidious forms of misogyny and sexism.

This.

I enjoy reading the Dresden files when I'm in the mood for them, and they do definitely get better, but Dresden himself is a bit of a dork. The series does have some strong female characters, but they are written in the first person perspective of Dresden. I was told to at least read up through the third (or maybe it was fourth) book in the series before giving up on it, and while I didn't dislike the first couple or three books and so wasn't planning on giving up, it turned out to be good advice. I do think they would be better overall though without so much of the campy sexual innuendo.

Hey this Windup Girl book is pretty good.
I was worried when they said "its like a newer Gibson" because I really haven't vibed with Gibson.

I gave up on Bacigalupi's works because everyone is so relentlessly horrible to one another. I don't think you could have a functioning civilization with the kind of pervasive dysfunction he models. Yeah, he's describing broken societies, but they work much, much too well, given the behavior of the people in them.

But I did like The Windup Girl... it wasn't until about the third book that I burned out on his worldview.

I saw Windup Girl is on the Audible 2-for-1 sale going on right now. Does it work well on it's own? I've not read the first book in the series.

Looking for YA novels with a first-person narrator. Any suggestions?

Its a novella but Rothfuss's Slow Regard of Silent Things is fantastic! I don't think you have to read the Name of the Wind or its sequel to get into the book. I could be wrong though as I haven't read it in 2 years(?)

That description of The Poppy War has me jazzed to grab it at my favorite bookstore on the way home.

I can't remember if any of them are first person, but Brandon Sanderson has a few good young adult books out there.

Malor wrote:

The books do get much better over time, and for what it's worth, I didn't really read his stuff as misogyny as much as misunderstanding, but it sounds like you won't be as forgiving. This is definitely not Sad Puppy territory, I've seen way way way worse. But "it's not vile" is probably damning with faint praise.

*cough* - well, actually, he was on the Sad Puppy slate, and refused to denounce them in any way, so..

Malor wrote:

I gave up on Bacigalupi's works because everyone is so relentlessly horrible to one another. I don't think you could have a functioning civilization with the kind of pervasive dysfunction he models. Yeah, he's describing broken societies, but they work much, much too well, given the behavior of the people in them.

But I did like The Windup Girl... it wasn't until about the third book that I burned out on his worldview.

man you ever work in an office?

Hangdog wrote:

I saw Windup Girl is on the Audible 2-for-1 sale going on right now. Does it work well on it's own? I've not read the first book in the series.

As far as I'm aware Windup Girl is the first book in the series. It was my first Bacigalupi and I loved it, although as others mentioned he does create some bleak worlds.

oilypenguin wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

I think a lot of us read and enjoyed The Dresden files when we were less aware and cognizant of some of the more insidious forms of misogyny and sexism.

This.

I read and enjoyed the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony when I was ten. I tried revisiting them a few years ago, and they're AWFUL with that kind of stuff.

It's always rough when you reread a beloved book from your childhood and realize that it's offensive/garbage.

trichy wrote:
oilypenguin wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

I think a lot of us read and enjoyed The Dresden files when we were less aware and cognizant of some of the more insidious forms of misogyny and sexism.

This.

I read and enjoyed the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony when I was ten. I tried revisiting them a few years ago, and they're AWFUL with that kind of stuff.

It's always rough when you reread a beloved book from your childhood and realize that it's offensive/garbage.

Yep, and it's not just with Anthony. I just belatedly recognized that my beloved Prince Valiant series (Hal Foster) depicts an abusive love affair between Val and Queen Aleta. It's all the more appalling because Foster clearly knew that Val acting like an abusive dickhead was wrong and out of character, so it's all really due to a fever and head injury. All Aleta has to do is wait it out, resist Val's ill-treatment, and he'll get it. Ugh!

trichy wrote:

It's always rough when you reread a beloved book from your childhood and realize that it's offensive/garbage.

I revisited Xanth a few years back, and was appalled. Butcher's a long way from there, not even in the same state. Maybe on the same continent somewhere, though.

Looking for YA novels with a first-person narrator. Any suggestions?

Another occurred to me: H2O. It's almost like a zombie book without zombies given the setting.

I personally sort of despised the first person writing, but it's definitely first person, definitely YA.

Malor wrote:
trichy wrote:

It's always rough when you reread a beloved book from your childhood and realize that it's offensive/garbage.

I revisited Xanth a few years back, and was appalled. Butcher's a long way from there, not even in the same state. Maybe on the same continent somewhere, though.

Yes, but we're talking 20-30 years between the Xanth series and the Dresden cycle? IIRC, in Xanth there was some pretty normal depiction youthful sexuality (maybe in the 5th book, where two young teens start pawing each other) and then there was Anthony's prevalent misogyny. I haven't read the Dresden books, so I don't know what's there.

Malor wrote:

I didn't really read his stuff as misogyny as much as misunderstanding, but it sounds like you won't be as forgiving.

Misunderstanding?

Natus wrote:
Malor wrote:
trichy wrote:

It's always rough when you reread a beloved book from your childhood and realize that it's offensive/garbage.

I revisited Xanth a few years back, and was appalled. Butcher's a long way from there, not even in the same state. Maybe on the same continent somewhere, though.

Yes, but we're talking 20-30 years between the Xanth series and the Dresden cycle? IIRC, in Xanth there was some pretty normal depiction youthful sexuality (maybe in the 5th book, where two young teens start pawing each other) and then there was Anthony's prevalent misogyny. I haven't read the Dresden books, so I don't know what's there.

Here's a fun refresher. In the Xanth universe, young men can sow their wild oats. In this world, that means they have special magic oats they can plant that will attract a nymph, described as a beautiful young woman who will be bound to the man and do anything he asks.

Spoiler:

Also, there's literally a book entitled, "The Color of her Panties".

There's so much more, but yeah. They're really awful.

trichy wrote:
Natus wrote:
Malor wrote:
trichy wrote:

It's always rough when you reread a beloved book from your childhood and realize that it's offensive/garbage.

I revisited Xanth a few years back, and was appalled. Butcher's a long way from there, not even in the same state. Maybe on the same continent somewhere, though.

Yes, but we're talking 20-30 years between the Xanth series and the Dresden cycle? IIRC, in Xanth there was some pretty normal depiction youthful sexuality (maybe in the 5th book, where two young teens start pawing each other) and then there was Anthony's prevalent misogyny. I haven't read the Dresden books, so I don't know what's there.

Here's a fun refresher. In the Xanth universe, young men can sow their wild oats. In this world, that means they have special magic oats they can plant that will attract a nymph, described as a beautiful young woman who will be bound to the man and do anything he asks.

Spoiler:

Also, there's literally a book entitled, "The Color of her Panties".

There's so much more, but yeah. They're really awful.

No contest. He wrote another non-Xanth book called "Pornucopia." "Color" was published in 2009! What was the publisher thinking?

I don't think anything Piers Anthony wrote isn't disgusting upon reading today.