Monthly Archives: February 2018
February was an okay month in terms of my reading. I only had three bails towards the end of the month. Which is considerably better than last month’s bail total. Anyway, here is what I read in February (not including the bails).
I started the month with Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone. I love Gladstone’s world building. It is the purest cyberpunk fantasy I’ve ever read. And a proof that New Weird ain’t dead. But, I am torn on the plot. It is a good plot, but the twist requires that the protagonist be a complete moron. Which, unfortunately, makes him a pain to follow.
Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert is exhaustive and dry.
Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain by Jin Yong and translated by Olivia Mok needs two reviews. I love this novel so much. It is amazing. There are stories within stories. There is scheming and back stabbing. But the translation sucks. Oh my is it bad. Fox Volant needs a new English translation.
Following Fox Volant, I read China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty by Mark Edward Lewis. I love this book. It is a wonderful history of the Tang Dynasty. It is especially strong in regards to urban life and international relations.
Next up came The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann. I must admit that I am disappointed by this book. It could have been better if shorter. Like an essay.
The Law of Superheroes by James Daily and Ryan Davidson is another disappointment. The blog is better.
Again with the disappointing nonfiction: A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup is interesting, but the writing is dull.
Ghost on the Throne by James Romm is (thankfully) a very good history of the Wars of the Successors. Needs more Ptolemy, though.
Towards the end of the month, I realized I was missing a Miss Marple novel. So, I read The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. I really enjoyed this novel. The plotting and characters are very well done. But I do feel that one of the red herring characters could be more developed into the story.
I ended the month with a history and a politics book (baring the three science fiction and fantasy bails).
SPQR by Mary Beard is exhaustive and exhausting.
How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt is the best book I read in February. An amazing exploration of the break down American democracy from the 1980s through the election of Donald Trump explicated through the lessons of the crumbling of democracy around the world.
That is it for February. May March be better!
Since December, I’ve accrued quite a few books.
For Christmas, I got from Barnes and Noble:
Pastel Pointers by Richard McKinley
The Art of Pastel Painting by Alan Flattmann
The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans
Keeping with writing guides, from Alibris and Amazon I got:
The Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
Wonder Book by Jeff VanderMeer
Crafting Novels and Short Stories from the Editors of Writer’s Digest
Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland
The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester
Moving on to fiction, I got:
Five Classic Murder Mysteries by Agatha Christie (Including The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Secret Adversary, The Boomerang Clue, The Moving Finger, and Death Comes as the End)
Heroic Fantasy edited by Gerald W. Page and Hank Reinhardt
The Best of Leigh Brackett by Leigh Brackett
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas
Mage’s Blood by David Hair
Finally, fiction from Amazon:
Shadow and Betrayal by Daniel Abraham (including A Shadow in Summer and A Betrayal in Winter)
Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk
Now, I’m in need of a new bookshelf.
I started the year’s reading on a rough note. I bailed on thirteen books. I am pissed off by that. I hate bailing on books. But I don’t have time to continue on with books that don’t interest me. That said, I did enjoy several of the books I read this month.
I won’t list the bails. So, I will only write up the books I completed.
Star Trek: Treknology by Ethan Siegel is okay in a workman like fashion. The science is interesting. But Michio Kaku’s Science of the Impossible is far better.
Someone by Alice McDermott is good. But I found it rather dull as the story goes on.
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie is delightful even on reread. A much needed reprieve from my reading slump.
Line by Line by Claire Kehrwald Cook is a very useful source for learning to editing one’s own writing. But, the book is dated.
Alexander the Great and His Empire by Pierre Briant is amazing. I absolutely loved this book. Probably my second favorite book this month.
Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy by Lauro Marines is exhaustive and exhausting.
Texas Blood by Roger D. Hodges is an idiosyncratic exploration of Texas through one family’s generations long experience in the state. It mixes family and personal memoir, history, reportage, and literary criticism. The problem is that Hodges fails to capture what it means to be Texan (largely because that is an impossible task). Indeed, the book lacks focus. I will say the critical analysis of Cormac McCarthy is engaging, though.
The Vast Southern Empire by Matthew Karp is my favorite book of the month. It is an awesome exploration of Southern dominated American foreign policy in the years before the Civil War.
The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham is exhaustive and exhausting.
The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans is a wonderful guide to writing science fiction and fantasy. I especially like his question heavy strategy.
Pastel Pointers by Richard McKinley is a really good intermediate book on pastels. Of especially interest will be the chapters on plein air and the business of pastels (which, let’s face it, is never usefully explored in any of these books).
So, that is all the books I finished in January. Hopefully, I will have a better month in February.