Category Archives: Book Recommendations

Book Beginnings: What Should I Begin?

Good morning and welcome to the blog. Writing so far is going well, and my characters finally decided to stop being coy and tell me the rest of their story. Or at least, they’re telling me the next part of their story, which is good enough for right now, though I might have to start asking leading questions and nagging them here in a chapter or three.

As I do on a lot of Fridays, I’m taking part in Book Beginnings over at the excellent Rose City Reader blog. Also, as I do on a lot of days, I’m doing something a little different. I’m about to finish The Dragonbone Chair, and I’m still working through War and Peace. I need another book to begin, and, well, also as I do on a lot of days, I’m not sure which book to begin. So, I’m going to post three opening paragraphs and see what you think I should pick up next.

King’s Shield, Sherwood Smith (Book Three of Inda)

inda_3This isn’t so much a “Should I read this?” as it is “Should I read this now?” I absolutely loved the first two books of this series… the characters were fresh, the politics was interesting and intriguing without being at any point boring, and, well, as a sailor, I loved reading a fantasy novel that took place out to sea. Here’s the first sentence

After nine years of exile, Inda was going home.

I was going to include more, but some of my readers are also reading this series, and while the first line isn’t too much of a spoiler, the next paragraph most certainly is. As someone who spent seven years away from his country, though, I have to say that those nine words carry a lot of emotion and import. I do want to charge on ahead with this book, but I’m just about to finish up an epic fantasy (and I’ll want to read the sequel to that, a book I should have read twenty-five years ago) and, well… here are the other two I’m considering.

Interference, Amélie Antoine

interferenceI picked this up on Kindle’s summer sale, and it’s been hovering around my library page for six months. I’m a fan of thrillers (especially after reading long works of classic literature or non-fiction) but I know very little about this one. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Gabriel will worry, of course. He’s always worrying about me, wondering if I’m okay, hoping nothing has happened to me. He’s not an anxious kind of person, though. It’s just that I’m his whole world and he’s terrified of losing me. He puts up an aloof exterior to hide his vulnerability, a bottomless pit of anxiety that probably wasn’t there before he met me and came to are about me. I love Gabriel, and I love that he loves me. I love how he makes me feel about myself, and I love knowing that he’s nothing without me.

And… on to the third.

The Strangled Queen, Maurice Druon (Book #2 of The Accursed Kings)

17624063I’d heard of this series in college when I was studying history, but I never got around to reading it until years later, when HarperCollins billed it as “The Original Game of Thrones.” Having recognized a lot of the machinations behind the Hundred Years’ War in the pages of those books, I was intrigued, and flew through the first book in two or three bus commutes. It was straightforward, dramatic, and fun, though I wished it had been a little longer. Just after finishing it I bought the second book, but it’s been sitting in my library for 26 months or so. Here’s the beginning:

On the 29th November 1314, two hours after vespers, twenty-four couriers, all dressed in black and wearing the emblems of France, passed out of the gate of the Château de Fontainebleu at full gallop and disappeared into the forest. The roads were covered with snow; the sky was more sombre than the earth; darkness had fallen, or rather it had remained constant since the evening before.

Of course, the downside to peeking at the first pages of all three of these books is that NOW I WANT TO READ ALL THREE OF THEM! I will pick just one, though, and I’m welcoming any and all comments.

This weekend, I’ll have my review of the best books I read this year, the ones I wished I’d read, and possibly a bit about all the book-related news we had over the last twelve months. Until then, have an awesome day, and read on.

 

 

The Friday 56: The Dragonbone Chair

Today’s posts are going to be a little lighter than usual. I’m spending today and probably tomorrow preparing my end-of-year in books review, and also trying to push further ahead in Part Two of my book project (which is finally yielding its secrets to me, though it’s making me fight through every rank and take every trench). Also, Rena Partnerlove is reading Part One, and while I know I still need to fix a lot of things, her initial reports were favorable. At least, she didn’t need a vomit bucket.

Over at Freda’s Voice, they host a fun bit called “The Friday 56.” Go to page 56 of the book you’re reading, post a few sentences. That’s it. I’m finishing up The Dragonbone Chair right now, and since I already know I’ll be recommending this to everyone and their cousins (in other words, for those of you with cousins: please forward my review when it comes out this weekend) I’m posting an interesting page from the first part of this book.

Before he could bring the face around to look at it once more, Malachias suddenly put both hands in the middle of Simon’s chest and gave a surprisingly hard push. He lost his grip on the youth’s jerkin and staggered backward, then fell on his seat. Before he could even attempt to rise, Malachias had whisked through the doorway, pulling it shut behind him with a loud, reverberating squeal of bronze hinges.

Simon was still sitting on the stone floor — sore knee, sore rump, and mortally wounded dignity clamoring for attention — when the sexton Barnabus came in out of the Chancelry hall to investigate the noise. He stopped as if stunned in the doorway, looking from Simon bootless on the floor to the torn and crumpled tapestry in front of the stairwell, then turned his stair back to Simon. Barnabas said not a word, but a vein began to drumbeat high on each temple, and his brow beetled downward until his eyes were the merest slits.

Simon, routed and massacred, could only sit and shake his head, like a drunkard who had tripped over his own jug and landed upon the Lord Mayor’s cat.

Between reading this book the first time in late 1990 and reading it now, I’ve since read the Gormenghast books twice, and I think I enjoy the scenes in the castle more because I can see the influence Mervyn Peake had on Mr Williams’s writing. And like all skilled and talented writers, he works his influence in gently, like an accent, and not in bold strokes with a sharpie across the face of one’s own painting, hoping that a loud caricature of Gandalf or Steerpike will attract readers and not just amuse critics.

Have a fun and exciting morning, and I hope you have good tea, a good book, and a good day.

Monday Memories of Memory

It’s Monday. We made it through the holidays, though to be fair, our small, mostly-self-contained family usually does that pretty well. Let’s see if I can make it through a day of writing as well. I did a few errands and such first, and the most important of these was perhaps sitting in Coffee Culture in Gainesville with Rena the Partnerloverperson, drinking a peppermint white mocha and plotting out my writing for the week. (Well, the UPS store was closed, because apparently, 26 December is ALSO a holiday… God forbid federal workers don’t get a free day off if Christmas lands on a weekend. And Rena seemed to recall that she had wanted to call the UPS store that was holding our package and see if they were open. She also seemed to recall that I had said, quite loudly, “Of COURSE they’re open. UPS isn’t a government organization.” Buying her the Nutcracker Latte at the coffee shop down the road was my way of saying “I’m sorry, don’t hate me.”)

Today, I have 2000-3000 words to write and I think I might be able to make it through. I feel like there’s still a little bit of a block there, but I can see daylight through it, and I’m sure that once I pick up a few of the rocks and shift them around, I’ll be able to find the story thread where I left it and follow it into Chapter Eight and beyond. So before I strap on my industrial-strength thinking cap (complete with ergonomic neck support, environmentally safe padding, and a headlamp capable of seeing into all realms of the Aether where my Muse and her friends are wont to hang out) I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I’m reading. I’m cross-posting over at The Book Date this time, another blog that I recommend you check out some time.

This week’s book is somewhat of a reread. Back when I was in bootcamp, 26 years ago, I found myself with a little bit of time to read. We’d graduated about ten days early because of the Christmas Holidays (our Graduation day should have actually been the day after New Years) but we still had to stay there until our eight weeks were up. (That was an early lesson in Navy organization and the Sacred Rite of Following the Schedule, Even if You Had Doubled Up and Got Everything Done Early. Fortunately, things got a little better after that.) (A little.) (Very Little.) Anyway, a friend of mine had the Tad Williams book The Dragonbone Chair with him, and since I was even more a devotee of epic fantasy fiction than I am now (now, I read other types of fantasy and weird literature) I jumped at it and devoured the book. Not literally, though I might as well have. It was different from a lot of post-Tolkien literature I’d read, in that the author spent a lot of time just exploring and playing in the world and the folklore of the place (much like Tolkien) and the quirky-but-made-to-seem-normal people that inhabited it, rather than just throwing a quest or a dragon or a villain at the Chosen Farmboy, and the introduction of far-north mythology also tugged at my brain and told me that this was something special.

I absolutely loved the book, its characters, and its imagery, and a few months later, during my tech school training and before shipping off to the West Pacific, I picked up the sequel, Stone of Farewell, as soon as it was out in paperback. I never got around to reading it, though, and I’m still not sure why. Perhaps it was the Gulf War getting in the way, or the mix of bipolar and my lack of adjustment to Navy life that kept me from ever cracking its covers. Eventually, I gave the book away to a shipmate who had read the first one, and while I remember staring wistfully at the third book when it came out, and frequently told myself that I needed to revisit Osten Ard someday, I never did, until now, some twenty-six years later. During the few months of researching northern German and Lithuanian and Slavic mythology for my own book, Tad Williams’s book kept showing up as a good example of a modern interpretation. The bittersweet guilt that I kept feeling at never having finished the series became nigh-unbearable. Once I started my project I finally broke down and ordered the first book for my Kindle, and I tell you, I am so happy I did. The things I remember… long passageways, strange yet lovable characters, dangerous magic, and especially the healthy skepticism of the main character, are all here. I’m not flying through it as fast as I did in Boot Camp, but part of the reason for that is that I’m trying to savor it a little, taste it, roll each scene around on my tongue before swallowing. I only have vague memories of the book as well, and often, I only recall something as it’s happening. (Once, I realized that a scene I’d recently thought about, involving Doctor Morgenes and Simon as Simon sets off on his travels, actually came from that book; I’d retained a stark image of the scene but could never recall the book it had come from.)

The lesson here is that it’s never too late to go back to a book you loved, and the sooner you do it, the better you’ll feel. My recommendation is to look for a book you started years ago, and give it another shot. Perhaps you stopped reading because you just couldn’t connect with the plot, or you couldn’t find the sequel when it came out, or your cat ate it. For whatever reason, pick it back up, get it out of the library, do something to get it back in front of your eyeholes, and see if the book speaks to you this time.

Book Beginnings: Italian Casual Surrealism

Today, I’m finishing up the editing of Part One of my fiction project, figuring out where the hell I’m going with Part Two, and preparing an article for Reddit’s r/fantasy subreddit. I’m also ignoring the cat, who is currently telling me that I need to put the laptop down and cuddle with her. I really need to focus on the former tasks, but she just went from giving me cute, warm, and fuzzy looks, to turning off “Ms NiceKitty” and indignantly glaring at me because I’m at the other side of the writing room and clearly, I need to be next to her. The hardships a writer deals with, I tell you…

Today’s Book Beginnings post, hosted over at Rose City Reader,  isn’t about a book I’m currently reading (those would be War and Peace, and The Dragonbone Chair, both recommended, both subject to review soon). Rather, it’s about a life-changing book that I’m browsing again for a regular feature about underrated or underread writers. Here’s the first line, in Italian….

Stai per cominciare a leggere il nuovo romanzo Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore di Italo Calvino. Rilassati. Raccogliti, Allontana da te ogni altro pensiero. Lascia che il mondo che ti circonda sfumi nell’indistinto.

…and here is the first paragraph, in the English Translation by William Weaver:

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice — they won’t hear you otherwise — “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.

The book is If on a winter’s night a traveler. Here, Italo Calvino shows himself to be a talented writer and skilled craftsman at the pinnacle of his career. He’d become famous in the 1950s and 1960s with books like The Baron in the Trees (about a noble son who decides to stop putting up with his family and carves a new home for him at the top of a tree) and Invisible Cities (a masterful short book that imagines different worlds and realities throughout time… if you’ve read Einstein’s Dreams, you’ve read that book’s grandson) but this book is, simply, a love letter to readers. The book itself is about your quest to read the book you’re holding, navigating misprints, quirky bookstores, and all manner of inconvenience. Just buying the book requires a near-military operation where you, the reader, have to make it past

…the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you… among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written… but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Just slipping into it is like the feeling you get when you’ve wandered a foreign country for months; the people you meet are nice, and you’ve had great experiences you wouldn’t have had otherwise, but when you suddenly run into someone from your home town, speaking your language, your brain explodes in a frenzy of happiness, laughing, and pure undiluted joy. I liked this book so much that, before I’d finished Chapter 2, I bought Adrienne’s Italian in 32 Lessons so I could, one day, read it in its original language, and I’ve since read it the way he wrote it, along with several other books and stories by him. I was also led to other Italian fantasists like Stefano Benni, Umberto Eco, and even an independent writer of modern sword, sorcery, and adventure fiction with a heart, Davide Mana.

All because of an affectionate note, written in another language, by someone who spoke my language like no other writer ever had.

To Do Today:  I have 8000 words of manuscript to go over and edit because DAMNIT, I told myself I would be done with Part One by this week, and Friday Evening counts as ‘this week.’ I also have to start on Part Two… writing by the seat of my pants might work for getting a project started, but at this point, over a hundred pages in, I need to have a map of where I’m going.  Otherwise, I’ll be sitting at the keyboard, driving around the story in circles, ignoring my frustrated Muse as she keeps telling me “Rerouting… Rerouting…” and getting absolutely nowhere, slowly. I might even get a chance to indulge in my other arcane art, where I get to turn obscure incantations, unusual symbols, and arcane formulae into moving dots and lines and collisions on a screen. Merlin, eat your heart out.

Shelf Control: War and Peace

Yesterday was one of those horrible/ wonderful days in the life of a working writer. For the last week I had been struggling with organizing Part One of my project and plotting out Part Two, and after six days I felt like a mountaineer who had spent all that time climbing to the top of a ridge, only to look down and realize that I was actually on the top of Crapbucket Mountain, and the view was more crap, and I was really only a foot or so off the ground, and not a mile or more. But, for various reasons (most of which are unfit to print in a blog written for the sane and well-adjusted) I kept on going, and a series of revelations Monday and Tuesday helped put me back on track. Monday evening, I realized that I didn’t know the answer to the question “What happens if they fail?” Every author should be able to answer that, I think, and I think I’ve been guilty of not answering that in the past. Today looks to be a good day of inserting a few pages in Part One that answer that question, and moving on with Part Two. If you come back here Friday and my post is written backwards in crayon, that means I failed.

The other thing, perhaps the main thing I’m going to talk about today, is my reading. Bookshelf Fantasies hosts a weekly discussion called Shelf Control, and as someone who really only has shelf control because he travels with his family for the better part of the year, I highly recommend it. I’m kind of cheating, though. Instead of writing about a book I own, haven’t read, and want to read, I’m going to write about a book that I own, started reading, stopped reading, and now want to pick back up and finally finish. That book is War and Peace.

warandpeacemaudeThis is my second-and-a-half time attempting to read this. I’ve read much longer books before (Remembrance of Things Past, Joseph and His Brothers) and I’ve read nearly everything by Dostoevsky, so I’m determined to make it through this one. And it’s not a question of the writing being difficult of boring… I can’t speak for the Russian original or other translations but this is remarkably clear and concise writing. But, a few weeks after I started this, we moved to our winter digs in Florida, and I started writing a novel, and I got distracted by another book I’m reading, and I set this down somewhere in the middle of Part Five, in the ‘Peace’ section. (There are a couple. The book should probably be titled “War and Peace and War and then More Peace, but WAIT! There’s WAR!!!” but I can imagine that Tolstoy’s editor wouldn’t have liked it. Today, and every day til the end of the year, I’m picking it back up, finding out how everyone deals with the uneasy peace of failure and impending war and invasion, and getting this off my list.

If you haven’t read it, I heartily recommend the book. Some parts are a little simplistic, some parts are predictable (and not just because we know who wins) but the characters are very accessible and it’s still fun, for some reason, to watch them do the worst possible thing they can do, and then deal with the repercussions they KNEW were probably going to happen anyway. Tolstoy also does a very good job of describing PTSD and battle shock, and if you’ve ever served in the military, or know someone who has, you’ll relate to what he says. It may be a famous classic work of literature, but it’s also famous and classic for a good reason.

That’s my post for today. It’s time to dive back in the trench and fire away at this thing until I either have good copy or I pass out from a tea overdose. I’ll be back Friday with a book review and more news from the front. Stay safe.

What I’m Reading: Shadows of War and Fingerposts

The title is a bit misleading. I haven’t read much this past week, after Tuesday. Wednesday morning, my fiancée and I went to Atlanta to spend two and a half days packing the rest of my things (books, bookshelves, bookshelf knick-knacks, writing paper for books, and a few t-shirts… also a bunch of heavy things I sit on whilst reading books) and then we turned around on Saturday and worked for two days in Augusta, including one incredibly busy  day of tearing down our family’s roasted nut booth and loading it into a cargo van. (If I haven’t mentioned yet how awesome my fiancée is, here’s a good place to rave about her. I might have been packing with her, but she kept me moving and led the operation, and especially kept me from wanting to reread Every Single Piece of Paper That Had Writing On It.) Plus, I had to complete an assignment for a creative writing course I’m taking through Coursera and Wesleyan University. Plus I’m trying to finish knitting a shawl in time for a wedding. Considering that it’s my wedding, and that I really don’t want my first act as a husband to be my confused explanations of why her wedding shawl still has needles hanging off of it, I’ve slipped that up in my priority list a little. But, I’m a reader and a writer, so unless I’m in the utter throes of depression, I’m going to read a little bit of something, no matter what.
12591698Tuesday morning, I got up early, flipped to I think the 65% mark of Caliban’s War, and decided to read a chapter or three with my mug of tea; always a good way to start any day. About three and a half hours later, I found myself outside on the lawnchair with the cat next to me (apparently, I had moved locations while reading, something I still only have fuzzy memories of) and looking at the extras at the end of the book. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this one. Whether I liked it more than the first… I don’t know. The first half still felt like a retread, but the characters changed and progressed as the story went on, sometimes even in unexpected ways. Also, something bad I thought was going to happen, didn’t, and that was pleasantly surprising. I already have the third book in my library, but I’m going to have to wait until I get to that.

Rating: Also 4 stars. I’d probably rate it a quarter-star less than the first, but I don’t deal in fractions with my reviews. Also, I really like one of the new characters, an older woman, diplomat, who is very practical-minded and believes in looking out for her own in addition to saving the world. I hope she is in the future books in the series.

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Ah. I remember when this book came out, and I was reading Umberto Eco and other historical fantasy works, and put it on my list. Then, I promptly forgot it was on my list. When I found a copy at the campground’s free library (a place I’ve donated some eight books to myself… free libraries are one of the best concepts man has ever thought of, even if you consider the Internet Cat Video) I had to snag  it. Unfortunately, I started reading this Wednesday morning when I was on my way to Atlanta (no, I wasn’t driving; it may be a mostly straight drive to the city from here, and yes, it might have  crossed my mind) and since then, I’ve only gotten about five chapters in. What I read, though, is amazing. I’m not as familiar with the English Civil War and post-Civil War period as I am with the Wars of the Roses (I have a hunch that Richard III was framed by the Tudors and I require extensive proof before being convinced otherwise) but I know enough to pick up the strong sense of verisimilitude the author has worked into his book. Plus, the Venetian narrator is awesome and the foreshadowing (he’s writing this account years after the events) is painfully dramatic. I will hopefully have a full review next week.

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The other book I’m reading, I’m actually not reading. I found a 61-hour audiobook version of War and Peace on Audible, and I’m finally  getting to that book after years of rereading his novellas. Audiobooks and knitting, and traveling, were made to go together, and I dare anyone to say that listening to a book is inferior to reading. For one, I often find myself focusing more on the words and sentences when I’m listening to a book, since I can’t flick my eyes back up a paragraph if I let my attention wander. And for another, story time is awesome. Audiobooks are adult story time. There is no down side to that concept.

Coming soon:  posts for Wednesday and Friday, and maybe some more news on my writing. Stay sane-ish, everyone.

 

What I’m Reading: The Tortured Wraiths of Ganymede

Found on Imgur. If you know who created this, PLEASE LET ME KNOW, IT'S AMAZING!It’s been a long two weeks, but in addition to packing, working (including one road show in Alabama), and having Mr BiPolar show up unannounced a few days ago and raid my internal medicine cabinet for all of my Serotonin, I managed to plod ahead on my Midwest Gothic writing project. I also finished a book, abandoned one (probably for good, though I’m willing to listen to advice from people who’ve read it),  and started two more. I’ve been a busy little sushi roll.  But, today is Book Date Day, so here is my weekly list of what’s on my reading table. 

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First off, I finished one of the books I last blogged about and immediately charged into Book Two of The Expanse, Caliban’s War. Even with work this past weekend, I now find myself some 350 pages into it, and will probably be done soon. Current verdict:  Well, at first, I thought it was less “Vol. 2” and more “Ver. 2.0” but it’s since differentiated itself a little more. Plus, the characters I already knew are becoming a little deeper and the new characters fit in very nicely. I’ll have a full review soon. For now, based on the first book-and-a-half of this series, I’ll just say that if you haven’t read this yet, that’s a problem, and you should fix that.

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I’ve been doing a lot of writing and especially writing about my writing lately, as this book has completely taken over my Muse, and she will constantly chatter about nothing else. When I’m writing something, I’m always looking for parallels in my life or in other things I’ve read, and one of them jumped up and bit me while I was hanging out in a flea market this Saturday. Fortunately, I wasn’t actually dealing with a customer when it did; crazy vendors jumping up and down swatting at their thigh because an idea bit them in the bottom is a good way to lose sales.

I’ve already settled on an unreliable narrator, and I’ve been having a lot of fun trying to decide what “N” covers up or omits or implies or downright lies about. But there’s another level to the concept of the Unreliable Narrator, and that’s the one who doesn’t know he or she is unreliable. A lot of stories written from a child’s point of view (such as the creepy “Dress of White Silk,” found in this anthology by Richard Matheson, among other places) use this technique, and if it’s used well, it can have a profound effect on a reader, especially during a reread. And after I thought of that, my mind jumped over to Severian the Torturer, perhaps the king of unreliable narrators. He lives in The Book of the New Sun, a creepy, dramatic, surreal work of fantasy/ dying world science fiction, and between the stuff he omits, the stuff he lies about, and the stuff that he simply isn’t prepared to understand, a good careful reader can spend months or even years teasing apart the layers and treasures hidden within. I finally finished all four books last summer (it’s not a tetrology so much as it’s a book published in four short novel chunks) and nothing seems more enjoyable right now than reading it again, and seeing if I can add a little more color to my Midwest Gothic story. And if I can’t, well, it’s a great book anyway.

Mistwraith

So that brings me to The Curse of the Mistwraith. This book is one of the many proofs of my hypothesis that I should always try a book twice, a story I talked about two weeks ago. It’s been three days since I binge-read the last 300 pages, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. The first half (well, everything up to the chapter entitled “CONQUEST”) still felt overwritten, and even though I’d read a little more than 200 pages my first time through, it still felt like a slog in parts. Then I got to the  second half, and I realized that everything Ms Wurts was setting up in the first part needed to be there. In fact, it would have been really nice if there had been even more there. She has a great command of drama and tension, and uses the occasional “spoiler” as a way of making the reader even more concerned about whether what will happen at the end is what an unnamed narrator or untrustworthy character stated will happen. And that battle scene… well, not since Malazan have I had a flashback that intense. The Wikipedia page for the book says that she was inspired to write the book, or at least that battle, by the Battle of Culloden, and a desire to show pre-modern warfare without any of the heroic romantic trappings, and by the great Beard of Odin does she succeed.

Rating: Four Stars. I loved this book, but I’m also more than curious about where the series goes from here. There is a lot to process in the beginning, and a lot to put together in the end. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will be rewarded. Bonus: It’s nearly a stand-alone book, so if you don’t want to go on to the others, you don’t have to. I’m most definitely going to, though.

Next up:  I’m not sure. I’ll be reading The Book of the New Sun for a month, since my rereading habits have me just reading it at three chapters a day and taking notes. On my shelf I have Buddenbrooks, which will be my third Thomas Mann book (sixth if you count the four novels in Joseph and his Brothers) and an Enlightenment-era mystery that the free library had, An Instance of the Fingerpost. Plus, I have the next books in The Expanse and the Mistwraith series (properly, The Wars of Light and Shadow). And I have an audiobook of War and Peace, plus a lot of knitting to do while listening to the only major Tolstoy work I’ve not yet read. And, I’ve been craving novellas again, so I’ll have to work one or three in. Recommendations and/ or advice is more than more than welcome.

EDITED TO ADD:  I’m abandoning Of Human Bondage, unless someone can give me a damn good reason to proceed past the first half of the book. I consider Mr Maugham to be one of the masters of the English Short Story, and I think I would rather read the rest of the stories I haven’t gotten to. The first two hundred pages was gorgeous and reminded me a lot of my own childhood as a ‘too-clever boy’ who found himself surpassed by the boys who weren’t as smart but actually worked for what they learned, but from the hero’s trip to Heidelburg and thereafter, it descended into a fit of blahs. The writing itself is wonderful but the story is tedious.