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What'cha Reading?


Good book, better than Artemis, probably not as good as Martian.
Yeah I think this is where I stand with it too. I do think this would be a way better movie, I am still incredibly impressed that they managed to make a movie out of The Martian.

Anyway, I'm starting up The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata for my classics book club. Japanese author who won the Nobel Prize in 1968 and it's set in Kyoto but I don't know much more than that.


Summon for hire
Finished off Randall Munroe's What If? 2. It is, as you'd expect, lots more delightful mass destruction and deeply researched nonsense.


Finished off Randall Munroe's What If? 2. It is, as you'd expect, lots more delightful mass destruction and deeply researched nonsense.
I am making my way through this and loving it. It's my nightstand reading so I've generally been reading one question before bed. Delightful.


commander damage
i'm rereading The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler to my kid, and man, it really holds up.


Anyway, I'm starting up The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata for my classics book club. Japanese author who won the Nobel Prize in 1968 and it's set in Kyoto but I don't know much more than that.
I liked this very much! However it's almost a guide to Kyoto at a few points and since I've been there that was meaningful to me. I'm curious how other people in my club (who as far as I know have never been to Kyoto) will like it. I could find it being really jarring to keep mentioning locations that don't mean much to you. But it's a beautiful subdued book. I am sure that there is much more beauty in the original Japanese, the translation was fine but there were times when I just got the feeling there was a lot more to a sentence than I was reading in English.

Also I finished What Did You Eat Yesterday Vol 19. I liked this one a lot. It felt like the last few issues have had big moments of upheaval (promotions, moving, fights, etc) and this one was all fairly mundane issues and was just pleasant to read. I expect more drama next issue based on Wataru's news here but it was nice to see them have a relatively calm year.
Rereading The Blade Itself in preparation to binging the entire trilogy. Doubt I'll read all three by the end of the month, but I should be able to finish the second book by then


The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs was a delight. A history and discussion of all sorts of types of puzzles, everything from crosswords to chess puzzles to jigsaws to scavenger hunts. It's definitely an fun overview rather than an in-depth history but I very much enjoyed it.

Also it sounds like he's a fairly well known author but this is the first thing I've read from him. Might check some of his other stuff out, it sounds like people really liked The Year of Living Biblically which isn't something I'd normally find interesting, but I enjoyed this book quite a lot so now I'm curious.

Dark Medusa

Diamond Crusader
Crossposting somewhat from the books channel in Discord:

Having mixed feelings about Babel: An Arcane History (same author as The Poppy War trilogy) - it's the kind of book that has a message and delivers it beautifully, and also has a theming that is like catnip to me (a loving look at translation and languages). But the book isn't exactly a great... novel, if that makes sense, and is in the end a vehicle for the author to be very clear about her message. The magical system crafted around translation is, ultimately interesting but almost superfluous to the message itself (even if it tries to enhance it through a metaphor). The message is very powerful, though. I just wish the book itself was more satisfying to read? Which feels paradoxical considering that the message is "racism and oppressive systems require violence to overthrow, and there is no individual wins, just a bloody paste where revolutionaries made small changes through the cost of their life"

And if you've read The Poppy War trilogy, (spoilers for general ending feelings of both series/books) it's a very similar playbook/arc, which is also disappointing, you can see the ending coming a mile away. And considering it doesn't divert from history, something set in the British empiric heyday about a bunch of people realizing and fighting the empire isn't going to end in any way but the way it does

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Finished Garth Marenghis Terrortome.

I… don’t quite know how I’m supposed to evaluate a book that was deliberately written to invoke the idea that it was terribly written self insert fanfiction, that exists to further the (fictional) authors mammoth ego but… umm..

I… guess it succeeded?
Before finishing The First Law trilogy, going for a bit of a palate cleanser with Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak (and yes, I recognize the irony of taking a break from grimdark by reading horror/thriller)


commander damage
i just finished the Legend of Condor Heroes and am craving more martial arts novels. do such a thing even exist?


Staff member
January has been an productive and rewarding reading month.

Monk's Hood - Ellis Peters (1980)
The third novel in the Brother Cadfeal series about the eponymous crime-solving medieval monk. I'm loving these books. They're super cozy and go down quick, but that's not to say they're unsubstantial. There's plenty going on beneath the surface; less about the who-done-it than conflicts between what's right by law and what's right by man, and they typically end in a profound moment of quiet grace or harmonious alignment. Plus, the prose is gorgeous in a humble understated way. Great stuff. This one deals with an elderly landowner who gifts his manor to Cadfeal's abbey but is poisoned before the deal can be affirmed, which opens all sorts of knotty questions of inherence and legal distinctions between Wales and England.

"ON THIS PARTICULAR MORNING at the beginning of December, in the year 1138, Brother Cadfael came to chapter in tranquillity of mind, prepared to be tolerant even towards the dull, pedestrian reading of Brother Francis, and long-winded legal haverings of Brother Benedict the sacristan. Men were variable, fallible, and to be humoured."

The Face - Jack Vance (1979)
Excellent excellent. A+++. 20 stars out of 5. This one knocked me sidewise and I'm still reeling. Fourth book in the Demon Princess series about Keith Gersen and his lifelong quest for revenge on the five notorious slaver-pirates that destroyed his home settlement. In this volume he's tracked the sadistic trickster Lens Larque to the planet Dar Sai, one of the most odious yet compelling settings I've ever encountered in fiction. A subtle critique of class disparity, at first the book sets us up to despise the Darsh and their horrific society then turns everything on its head before ending on an astonishing moment. Absolutely phenomenal.

“The woman behind the bar called out: ‘Why do you stand like hypnotized fish? Did you come to drink beer or to eat food?’

‘Be patient,’ said Gersen. ‘We are making our decision.’

The remark annoyed the woman. Her voice took on a coarse edge. “Be patient,’ you say? All night I pour beer for crapulous men; isn’t that patience enough? Come over here, backwards; I’ll put this spigot somewhere amazing, at full gush, and then we’ll discover who calls for patience!”

Rumfuddle - Jack Vance (1973)
Long short story about the invention and exploitation of infinite parallel dimensions. Has the flavor of a really good Rick and Morty episode (without any Roiland-isms thankfully) and haunting in its implications. To say more would ruin the fun. "Fun."

"I can now report that the mathematics of the multiple focus are a most improbable thicket, and the useful service I enforced upon what I must call an absurd set of contradictions is one of my secrets. I know that thousands of scientists, at home and abroad, are attempting to duplicate my work; they are welcome to the effort. None will succeed. Why do I speak so positively? That is my other secret."

Saint Peter's Fair - Ellis Peters (1981)
At the yearly summer fair and horse auction at the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul an inauspicious merchant is found stabbed in the back with no apparent motive or profit in the murder. Cadfeal is pulled into the investigation and the welfare of the merchant's shrewd niece who knows more than she's telling. Peters has a gift for transporting the reader to 12th century and I was hoping for plenty of delicious details about the fair itself but most of the action is focused on the evolving nature of the crime. That's okay though, still a wonderful read. Everything ends happily: a hero emerges to stand up against base greed, lovers are united, and there's that surprising moment of grace, here resolving the inciting incident which was apparently discarded way back in the first chapter. Then it concludes on a pleasantly bitter note as the camera pulls back to reveal how the small concerns of the plot have ominous implications for the larger historical context.

"Child, death is with us always," said Cadfeal, patient beside him. "Last summer ninety-five men died here in the town, none of whom had done murder. For choosing the wrong side, they died. It falls upon blameless women in war, even in peace at the hands of evil men. It falls upon children who never did harm to any, upon old men, who in their lives have done good to many, and yet are brutally and senselessly slain. Never let it shake your faith that there is a balance hereafter. What you see is only a broken piece from a perfect whole.

"Such justice as we see is also but a broken shard. But it is our duty to preserve what we may, and fit together such fragments as we find, and take the rest on trust."

A Taste of Honey - Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
Wilson is my favorite contemporary fantasy author, though unfortunately he hasn't published much. This is his follow up to the outstanding Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. It's not as immediately impactful as that book, being more reserved in both the story its telling and in the stylistic excesses by which its told. It's ending in particular comes off as almost a non-event on first pass, the equivalent of a cheesy "it was all a dream!" cop-out. But Wilson is way too skilled a writer to fall into such a basic trap and the more I think on the ending the more it gains thematic and consequential power. The story relates the homosexual romance between Aqib, a minor noble (read: demigod) of Olorum, a north African-like kingdom, and Lucrio, a visiting soldier from a Rome proxy. It's told out of chronological order, bouncing between the ten days of their passionate affair and the fallout that constitutes the rest of Aqib's life. Beautifully written and I'm still pondering on all the implications of that ending.

"Men cannot kiss!" Yet it seemed there was a conspiracy within his own body. For it took all of his strength not to consummate their nearness into actual touch, while he was utterly strengthless to shift even an inch away.

"I bet you they can." The soldier's breath smelled of young palm wine. "Anybody ever make love to you, Aqib?" So near, his words were sensation, a brush of feathers. "Let me; I want to. Can I?"

A mystery clarified for Aqib, and not just concerning this long walk, this fraught conversation—not just tonight's mystery, as it were—but the deeper one concerning his inmost self. Ah, this was why his wayward gaze alit so often on whom it shouldn't, going back to peek howevermuch snatched away: those taught bellies and hard thighs of men heroically scrawled in scars. So yes, then: clearly two men could kiss!

The Leper of Saint Giles - Ellis Peters (1981)
Cadfeal book 5. The squire Joscelin Lucy is accused of strangling his lord Huon de Domville (great name to say out loud) on the eve of his wedding to the demure Iveta de Massard, a girl some 30 years his younger and to whom Joss has fallen in love. Joss finds refuge in a leper's sanctuary and plots for a way to free Iveta from the control of her dragonish aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, Cadfeal takes the case more for the sake of the girl than justice for the corpulent and base de Domville. But there's a second mystery lurking around the edges of the action and its reveal in the last few pages caused me to gasp out loud then brought me to tears. I'm constantly amazed how these books can turn in a split-second from fun but slight whodonedems to sparkling ruminations on the human condition. I'm now a quarter of the way through the series and each has been a delight. I'm concerned about series fatigue so I might pump the breaks for a bit but these go down so smooth that it'll be hard to not jump right into the next.

“Here I begin to know that blessedness is what can be snatched out the passing day and put away to think of afterwards.”


i just finished the Legend of Condor Heroes and am craving more martial arts novels. do such a thing even exist?
I know this genre is called wuxia but can't give any specific book recommendations. Here's a list I found with some random googling that includes Legend of Condor Heroes so maybe this'll give you some ideas?

the Brother Cadfeal series
Well these sound fun! My library is doing a Winter Reading Challenge that started today and one thing on the list is to read a mystery so I'll pick one of these up.
Before finishing The First Law trilogy, going for a bit of a palate cleanser with Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak (and yes, I recognize the irony of taking a break from grimdark by reading horror/thriller)
This was okay, but definitely didn't deserve the Goodreads award for Best horror (then again, except for Gwendy's Final Task, I didn't read any of the other nominees). Anyway, heading into February with The Last Argument of Kings, and getting my history on with Greater Gotham by Mike Wallace


I've had two duds recently. I admit both sounded only vaguely interesting but they also sounded like unique fast reads so I was curious and glad to get them from the library.

First was Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman. Right in the intro they say they have no idea if Rickman would have wanted his diaries published. So uh, why did you? Almost none of the book is full sentences, just weird notes to himself with people's initials. Lots of discussion of weird drama that no reader would likely even remember. So much here is private and uncomfortable and also just not actually writing. I saw a couple other reviews that suggested the diaries were actually Rickman's notes to himself for when he wrote an autobiography someday. That makes a lot more sense. This should not have been published.

Today I finished The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan. I heard this was Dylan writing short essays on songs that were important to him, which sounded interesting. But I don't know what the fuck this is supposed to be. My first red flag was that the lyrics to the original songs weren't in the book at all. So I guess you have to just know all the song lyrics to understand what's he's talking about? Made the book feel really inaccessible. Then the writing itself is just not good. Rambling, sexist, weird, etc. And finally there are tons of photos and posters that area probably related to these songs, but there are no captions or anything to describe these. It was pretty obvious many of these were famous musicians but hell if I recognize them all. This book felt like being made fun of for being uncool, but then you take a step back and realize a sexist old drunk guy is making fun of you for being uncool. I dunno. Bob Dylan has done some cool stuff but this was just awful, and I really can't get over how poorly women are treated and represented here.


Lapsed Threadcromancer
I don't know how to describe Daryl Gregory's Revelator, it's as if Flannery O'Conner and H. P. Lovecraft collaborated on a story. Is Southern Gothic Cosmic Horror a genre? If it is this book is an excellent example of it. Gregory's ability to evoke feeling and place with his word's is put to great talent in this story of a young women's attempt to escape the poverty, oppression, and small mindedness of the hollars only to have their family and personal history drag them back into it. I don't want to say too much as just reading this book was a joy.

Stella, at great cost to herself, thought she had escape her past but the death of her grandma and familial obligations has her returning to her family's ancestral home and the strange evangelical cult that revers and subjugated her that her family founded. Revelator's story bounces back and forth from Stella's childhood and ten years later as she deals with the death of the family matriarch both storylines crash together in one of the best cosmic horror finales I've ever read.

Strong recommend from me. If I had known about this book in 2022 it definitely would have been one of my Book Club selections.
First series of the year is done. Will definitely be continuing on with Best Served Cold in March. Now, reading James Patterson by James Patterson: The Stories of my Life by James Patterson as a bit of a palate cleanser
I'm starting to read Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry by Paul Ingrassia and Joseph B. White. It's similar kind of book as Game Over and Console Wars, Japanese and American perspectives on a new Japanese industry disrupting an old American one, but instead of video games, it's about cars. I chose it because I wanted to read about Honda's factory in Marysville, Ohio, the first Japanese owned and run car factory in the USA, which began production in 1982.

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
Listened through Troy, Stephen Fry's third Greek mythology book (and read by the author in audiobook form, which is delightful). It's what it says on the tin, Fry presenting Greek mythology, so if you like that idea or especially if you liked either of the other books he did (Mythos and Heroes), I can recommend this one.

Started A Peculiar Peril by Jeff Vandermeer, but I haven't made much progress in it. My bedtime ritual has shifted from reading to listening to audiobooks while I play Picross, so I really only read on commutes.

Speaking of listening to audiobooks, I'm a few chapters into the third Scholomance book, The Golden Enclaves and I'm having mixed feelings about it so far. It's definitely not new, but it's striking me as more annoying than before, when Novik goes off into some extremely long tangent or comparison that is somehow related to the plot that's happening at the moment but ends up just distracting from what's going on and making short scenes drag on.
I don't know how to describe Daryl Gregory's Revelator, it's as if Flannery O'Conner and H. P. Lovecraft collaborated on a story. Is Southern Gothic Cosmic Horror a genre?
Reminds me of Lovecraft County (though I've only seen the show, not read the book).
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On top of finishing Anxious People, I was listening to The Original by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Kowal. Very meh. Anxious People was alright, but not as good as Ove or Beartown. Now, finally starting The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
The Wall of Storms was a little less solid than the first book. I thought the flashbacks were a little bit jarring and the science stuff was over my head, but I still really enjoyed it.

Over the weekend, I read I Hate Fairyland Books One and Two by Skottie Young. Fun and demented comic series.

Just recently finished an excellent novella called Hamlet, Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm. I'm a sucker for anything Shakespeare related. Now, switching it up with some historical fiction: The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
I finished reading The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre. It is a Le Carre spy novel. Ethically dubious espionage. Good stuff.

Now I'm reading Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins. WW1 history time.
Benny Lament was so good. It's my book of the month so far and I have a good feeling it will be in my favorites for the year. Beck to fantasy with The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan


commander damage
Currently reading The Wind Won't Know Me by Emily Benedek, which is a history of the conflict and land dispute between the Hopi and Navajo people. I got it as a festivus gift some years back, and it's fascinating.

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
Listening to Light by M. John Harrison. It kinda reminds me of a more sci-fi-y, shorter Against the Day so far, in that it's a multiple plotline, multiple timeline literary science fiction (or sci-fi-ish literature) (or just literature if you're a wiener, like the author appears to insist) that appears to be about Light in some way. Anyhoo. Enjoying it, but finding it a bit hard to follow in audiobook format; would be easier in print, I think, what with invented words and concepts that I could take a bit more time mulling over.


I've had Sea of Tranquility on my holds list at the library for months after hearing about it on many different lists and having a number of friends recommend it. However in that time I'd forgotten everything I'd heard about the book, and when I started reading had no idea what genre this was in or the general plot or whatever.

I think this has served me well because this is one of most mysterious books I've read in a long time and I'm really fascinated by it. I'm about halfway through and have no idea where it's going but the few threads/teasers are really interesting. No idea yet if the second half holds up but I wanted to call it out as a very cool book.