Literary New To You July 2020 => Books you read this month
Andy Howell
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
flag msg tools
100 Years of Coast Guard Aviation!
badge
Those dang kids just keep growin'
Avatar
Microbadge: Golden Geeklister
Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
11.25
 tip
 Hide
Bookish types love nothing more than a bibliography, especially book lists generated by like-minded (or not so like-minded) readers.

Please share what you've been reading with your fellow gamers!
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. RPG Item: Top Secret Box Set (Second Edition) [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:2464]
RPG Item: Top Secret Box Set (Second Edition)
Andy Howell
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
flag msg tools
100 Years of Coast Guard Aviation!
badge
Those dang kids just keep growin'
Avatar
Microbadge: Golden Geeklister
The Testament of Caspar Schultz by Jack Higgins

External image


I have read one or two spy novels over the years. This one fits into a certain era, like maybe pre-James Bond films, where the superspy is kind of an Ishmael character who bumbles through the adventure as almost more of an observer than the hero.

Events happen, and other characters take as many of the big actions as the hero. Some of the Fleming novels feel that way as well. Women fall in love with the hero, but you're not sure why, since all he seems to do is smoke cigarettes and drink brandy and feel sorry for himself.

That's the negative part of the review. The positive part is that this is a super-tight highly-economical Cold War page turner just perfect for a weekend at a campground. Higgins is so clear, so efficient. And there is no better time and place to set a spy novel than when aging Nazis can still come out of the woodwork to make trouble.

At the campground my brother in law said whachu readin'? I said it's the early 60s, a Nazi bigwig comes out of hiding to publish his tell-all. The Neo-Nazis want to kill him, the Mossad wants to kill him, the Germans want to kill him, and the Brits are trying to save him. He was like "Can I read that next?!"
4 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Hugo [Average Rating:3.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Hugo
Pete Lane
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: I love the UK!Microbadge: World TravellerMicrobadge: X-Men fanMicrobadge: Heavy Metal fanMicrobadge: I love Switzerland!
Been a fun month of space and interdenominational travel for me! As you know, working on my goal of 35 books read in 2020. Thanks to quarantine July gave me books 28-31! What a month it was!!

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - 5 stars
Very enjoyable sci-fi mystery with some cool bio-tech jibber jabber. Both my wife and I would list this amung the top books we've read in the year, and with good reason as it just won the Hugo Award for best novel last night!! Much to my shock, this is Arkady's first novel, and I am very much looking forward to reading more from this talent. Was my pick to win, as I had read all of the nominated books and this was my favorite.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow - 4 stars
Also nominated for the Hugo this year is this romantic work about a young woman who discovers a doorway to another dimension. As it started I thought it wouldn't hold my attention as it was quite flowery, but in the end I very much enjoyed it and was glad I stuck with it. Well worth the nomination!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers - 4 stars
First book in the Wayfarers series introduces you to a rag-tag band of space travelers taking on jobs and getting into mischief. Feels a little "been there done that" but in the end reads like a series of short stories involving the crew to give you more depth and development than if they had just carried along a delivery route. Harmless and enjoyable with a likable cast this is a good beach read for sci-fi fans. I'm looking forward to reading more of the series.

Sourdoughby Robin Sloan - 3 stars
Charming but a bit ridiculous story about a young girl who starts the journey in learning how to make bread from a mysterious starter given to her as a gift. I quickly sped through this one, but this might be because this book shares with the author's "Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store" a desire for the author to show off their knowledge of San Francisco's tech scene. Makes things more fun than a standard baking book but also a little obnoxious as you can tell they just can't wait to drone on about nothing. Still, it's a fun and quick read.
5 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: The Hunger Games: Training Days [Average Rating:5.34 Overall Rank:17238]
Board Game: The Hunger Games: Training Days
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
flag msg tools
badge
For a limited period only!
Avatar
Microbadge: Babylonia fanMicrobadge: Babylonia fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Babylonia fanMicrobadge: Babylonia fan
I read the new prequel to the Hunger Games aka President Snow: the Whiny Teenager Years or Fascist Dictator: the Origin Story.

I wouldn't recommend it.
7 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Dragon Slayer [Average Rating:5.62 Overall Rank:10125]
Board Game: Dragon Slayer
Kirk Groeneweg
United States
Clear Lake
Iowa
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Viticulture fanMicrobadge: Glen More II: Chronicles fan - SceneryMicrobadge: Brew Crafters fanMicrobadge: Dogs fanMicrobadge: Wingspan fan
I finished a couple of books in July.

Haunted Mesa by Louis L'Amour - A paranormal investigator travels to the Southwest to investigate the disappearance of a friend. I really struggled with this one, took me a long time to finish it. I just didn't really get into the story. There are a lot of references to the Anasazi, and how they got to "this world". I just felt this one spent most of the book slowly setting things up and then throwing all the action and answers into a very short time at the end.

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King - A fantasy type novel about a Prince accused of his father's murder. Not your typical King book. I enjoyed the storytelling in this one. It's all in the form of a person telling the story of the King, his sons, the magician, and the other people involved. I like the characters and how he pit them in the story. Enjoyable read.
7 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Stool Pigeon [Average Rating:8.12 Unranked]
Board Game: Stool Pigeon
Pete K
United States
Arizona
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Level 02 BGG posterMicrobadge: Chihuahua loverMicrobadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level I - One small step for geek... One giant leap for geek-kind!Microbadge: Power Grid fanMicrobadge: I love Hong Kong
Yet another quarantine month, meaning a lot more reading books than playing games.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
When the movie Bladerunner finally made it onto Netflix, I was reminded of the large number of PKD novels in my re-read list.

Unfortunately, Vulcan's Hammer (1960) is one of the weakest PKD novels I've read; several familiar elements (killer robots, surveillance state, a creepily precocious child) are combined into a fast-moving story, but this time the parts really don't fit very well. I'm convinced that a perfectly fine novella was overworked in order to form half of an Ace double (this happened to a lot of works in late 1950s).


Frank Herbert (1920-1986)
He wrote the Dune series, of course. His non-Dune material can get unfairly written off these days, but there always seems to be copies of his books around. Soul Catcher is recommended.

The Lazarus Effect (1983) is the sequel to The Jesus Incident, continuing the collaboration between Herbert and the poet Bill Ransom. This volume enjoys an improved structure than TJI, doing a better job following through on plot threads and justifying the importance of its major characters. The tension between two post-colonial races, the hardscrabble mutant Islanders and the more sophisticated Mermen, is developed from multiple perspectives. However, there is one "elder statesman" whose existence seems to be for spouting the authors' political theories (giving Heinlein diehards have something to look forward to). I had my doubts about finishing the series, but it seems headed in right direction.


Donald Westlake (1923-2008)
My favorite author of crime novels, which almost always have a decent amount of humor mixed into them. I discovered him through his Parker series (usually found under his pseudonym Richard Stark), but everything I've read of his has been worthwhile.

The Fugitive Pigeon (1965) is the first of Westlake's "comic crime" novels, whose surprise success (his editor was convinced that the genre had gone stale, but let Westlake try anyway) let to a prolonged run of similar books. In this one, a thoroughly ordinary nephew of a mob-connected businessman gets targeted for erasure. Escaping through a series of lucky breaks, he tracks down different mobsters in a bid to show how he isn't a treat to them ... inadvertently causing a fair amount of violence and mayhem along the way. If you're a fan of crime stories with a sense of humor, then obviously Westlake is a seminal figure in that genre, and this (good, not great) book started his legendary run.

A Spy in the Ointment (1966) is another of Westlake's comic novels, only this time the "nephew" is replaced with a more seasoned counterculture figure who has years of experience being a target of the FBI. He typically publishes pacifist literature out of his apartment, and never has to empty his own wastebaskets. He gets entangled with a group of truly dangerous radicals, however, and has to foil them without much help from a mostly incompetent government. This book was a bit weaker than The Fugitive Pigeon, but was still an entertaining farcical take on the spy genre.


Shakespeare (1564-1616)
When my kids were assigned Julius Caesar for school, I became inspired to start reading through Shakespeare's plays again, with the help of texts by Asimov, Bloom and Van Doren. I've been finding his work surprisingly enjoyable.

The Taming of the Shrew (1591) is Shakespeare's comedy about relationships; more specifically, about the delusions men have about their relationships with women. The principal characters are fun.


Gene Wolfe (1931-2019)
One of my favorite authors, known for his deep and complex stories. However, most of his work is eminently readable, even if it abounds with puzzles, allusions, and structural/symbolic clues.

At the end of the month, I read the first three parts of The Book of the New Sun (1981-1984), which has been celebrated as a cornerstone piece of the genre since its initial publication. It is about as engrossing as a reading experience can be, and I haven't paid any attention to BGG until finishing The Citadel of the Autarch, yesterday. I'll have more to say about it in the next (August) geeklist.

John M. Ford (1957-2006) is an author I recently became interested in, after hearing that his cult following has led to a reprinting of many of his works. Apparently, all of his books are out-of-print collectible paperbacks.

I really wanted to like Web of Angels (1980) because it contains several cyberpunk tropes, including something like the "dark web" and shadowy government forces that track down hackers, in their earliest forms. However, there is also a lot of metaphysical and mystical elements, including psychic travel and tarot-driven decision making. The characters are hard to follow in many places because there are just too many wild ideas crammed into the story. I might try a later Ford work at some point, once it becomes more readily available.

Hard Case Crime
This is a small publisher of crime books, often hard-boiled mysteries but sometimes from other subgenres. I've been a regular consumer of their titles for a few years. They are almost always swift, entertaining reads.

The Consummata (2011) by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins is pretty awful. This is actually a manuscript abandoned by Spillane in the 1960s and finished by Collins, and the result is some readable parts scattered amongst some very lowbrow, worn-out material. Avoid.

The Vengeful Virgin (1958) by Gil Brewer is classic, no-nonsense noir. The reckless characters, their murder plot, and their attempted escape from their unresolved pasts are all straight out of the genre formula. But of course, this book is from the days when that formula was being invented, by Brewer, Cain and others. Good, solid cult fiction here.

Baby Moll (1958) by John Farris is another noir tale, but with substantially more intrigue and interesting characters. An ex-gangster is pulled back into an underworld power struggle, with an entire crew poised for war, betrayal or abandonment. It's an interesting story of how personal motives undercut an overextended power hierarchy.

Finally, the recent Blood Sugar (2019) by Daniel Kraus was a departure for the HCC line, but this time the experiment really worked. It tells the desperate life of an accidental family of wayward juveniles, told in the voice of one of the children. They are conspiring to give tampered Halloween candy to unsuspecting children, but the conditions in which they live form the most disturbing parts of the story. Certainly not for everyone, but I found it surprisingly well-told.
5 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Cytosis: A Cell Biology Board Game [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:1557]
Board Game: Cytosis: A Cell Biology Board Game
Ivan
Russia
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Yuri Gagarin - first human in spaceMicrobadge: Microbadge: I ride public transportationMicrobadge: The answer to Life, the Universe and EverythingMicrobadge: Debian user
Vikenty Veresaev - Memoirs of a Physician, (autobiography)

External image


The life of a young doctor at the very end of the 19th century. Difficulties in diagnosis, in training students, the responsibility of the doctor during operations (no antibiotics, the danger of infections, etc.), social difficulties for doctors. Very informative and interesting.


Nikolay Rubtsov - Poems

Lyric poetry, deeply saturated with the quiet and unscrupulous beauty of the villages and nature of Northern Russia. An excellent poem about the Moscow Kremlin with an insert about Ivan the Terrible.


Soviet poets - Poems

Poems about family, love, parents, about meetings and separations.



in Russian:

Викентий Вересаев - Записки врача

External image


Жизнь молодого врача в самом конце 19 в. Сложности при диагностике, при обучении студентов, ответственность врача при проведении операций (нет антибиотиков, опасности заражений и т. д.), социальные трудности для врачей. Очень познавательно и инетерсно.


Николай Рубцов - сборник стихов

Лиричная поэзия, глубоко пропитанная тихой и неброской красотой деревень и природы Северной России. Отличное стихотворение про Московский Кремль с вставкой про Ивана Грозного.


Сборник стихов советских поэтов о любви, о родителях и немного о войне.
4 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. RPG Item: Mage: The Awakening Tarot Deck [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
RPG Item: Mage: The Awakening Tarot Deck
Anne Skelding
United States
Connecticut
flag msg tools
Avatar
Microbadge: Goodreads userMicrobadge: Rolling for oneMicrobadge: My cat destroys games in progressMicrobadge: Tea drinkerMicrobadge: Maneki Neko - I welcome good fortune!
Not much from me this month. Was super busy.


External image

Read for my thesis. I got about as much out of it as I would reading any religious text that I haven't studied. Which is to say, some parts interesting, mostly over my head.




And one fanfic shoutout:
a nation, held by snowdarkred. Avatar: The Last Airbender, short story. "It doesn’t take long for the rumors to start. The Fire Nation prides itself on its civilization. It isn’t like the other, lesser, nations who throw their children away by sending them into war. They are to be protected, because children are the future glory of the nation. The crown prince is thirteen when his father burns his face in front of an audience of hundreds."
4 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}