YouKneeK

My favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy.  Occasionally, I also read horror, thriller, and mystery stories.  For more info about me than you could possibly want, check the "My Profile" link on the right-hand column.

A Long Overdue Clean-Up…

Last year, some people friended each other on Goodreads to avoid losing touch if BL vanished unexpectedly.  I know a lot of people have duplicate friends and aren’t bothered by it, but it bothers me.  When I see duplicate posts on my feeds, I start scrolling faster and skimming more.  Sometimes I miss new posts that I really do want to see.  There was a time when I read every post on my feed, possibly skimming some if they didn’t interest me, but never skipping posts entirely.  These days, I often scroll past several posts without reading them or even expanding them.  To me, that’s pointless.  If I’m following somebody, it should be because I want to see their posts.

 

When BL staff returned on December 9, my intent was to allow a few months for things to stabilize, then clean up the duplicates based on where people had decided to settle.  I’ve put it off for longer than I’ve intended, but I hate tedious tasks and, like most people, my spare time is very valuable to me.  I’ve decided to allocate a (hopefully small!) portion of my three-day weekend toward cleaning up the duplicates. 

 

My plan is this: If somebody I'm following in both places is still active on BL, I’ll unfriend them on GR and keep following them on BL.  Otherwise, I’ll do the opposite.  If anybody sees this, cares, and wishes I had maintained the relationship on the opposite site, just let me know and I’ll happily switch it.  I’ll leave things alone on LibraryThing for now.  I have a couple duplicates there, but my activity on LT is mostly in the groups and I tend to ignore my feed, so I don’t feel any annoyance about it.   

 

I know I could just take people off my “Top Friends” list on Goodreads and limit my feed to Top Friends, but that feels like a numbers game to me.  It’s like saying, “I don’t actually want to see anything these people post, but I’m going to maintain my friendship with them so my friend count doesn’t decrease.”  I hate that.  Also, I’ve seen messages in the Goodreads Feedback forum indicating there are known algorithm issues causing reviews to be excluded from your feed if you have a lot of friends.  I’ve never seen “a lot” quantified, and it might not be affected by people you're filtering out of your feed, but I want to minimize that risk and keep my friend list manageable.

 

Sorry for writing such a long post about something that will be of absolutely no interest to most people!  This should go without saying, but I want to emphasize that I won’t be the slightest bit offended if other people decide to do the same to me.  For that matter, I won’t be offended even if some people want to unfollow me altogether.  I completely understand what it’s like to find yourself following people and realizing you really don’t have much in common.  I also know all too well what it’s like to have a busy life and want to streamline things so you can have more time for the things you most enjoy.  I may do a little bit of cleanup in that regard myself once I get started, but my main objective is to get rid of duplicates.

Review: The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld Book 49 of 49ish!)

The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Aching) - Terry Pratchett

The Shepherd’s Crown is the last Tiffany Aching book and, published after the author’s death, it’s the last book in the entire Discworld series.  It’s very short, not having been completely fleshed out by Pratchett before his death, but it tells a complete story.  Tiffany, now a full-fledged witch, finds her responsibilities increasing beyond her ability to keep up.  Meanwhile, the elves are getting up to mischief again.

 

Unlike the last Discworld book I had read, the characters didn’t feel off to me, with one possible exception from a character who was only in the book for a page or two.  I also enjoyed the story pretty well.  It wasn’t one of the best, but it didn’t bore me either.  However, one major aspect of this story was spoiled for me months ago, so the story had much less impact than it would have had otherwise. 

 

And so here I am, after starting the very first book one year and twenty-one days ago, at the end of the series.  I started it with skepticism, not really expecting to care for it since I don’t normally do well with satirical, wink-at-the-reader type humor.  I love humor in my books, but I’ve always preferred humor that feels like a natural extension of the story and its characters whereas this type of humor tends to pull me out of the story to admire the author’s cleverness and consider the real-world parallels.  Maybe I was in the right frame of mind when I decided to try this series, or maybe Pratchett just did it exceptionally well.  Whatever the reason, I enjoyed this series quite a bit. 

 

I don’t think I ever rated any of the books higher than four stars, because these aren’t the type of stories that I get completely wrapped up in.  And yet the fact that these books didn’t completely absorb me is one of the things I liked about them.  There were some I liked more than others but, in general, they were light, fun, and usually entertaining.  They were particularly excellent travel books because they didn’t demand my full attention.  I’m not much of a re-reader, but I could see myself picking some of them up again someday, maybe in a few years, as reading material while traveling.  It might also be fun to try them as audio books.

Review: Raising Steam (Discworld Book 48 of 49ish)

Raising Steam (Discworld) - Terry Pratchett

Raising Steam is the third and final book in the Moist Von Lipwig subseries of Discworld, and the second-to-last book in the entire series.  In this book, we meet a new character by the name of Simnel who has invented the steam engine and introduced the concept of fast travel by train.  Meanwhile, there is more unrest between the traditional and modern dwarfs.

 

This book spends a lot of time talking about trains: building trains and railways, operating trains, the benefits of trains, train safety, and so forth.  This is not, to me, a particularly exciting topic, and sometimes I had trouble pushing through the book.  I was interested enough that I didn’t want to abandon it, especially not so close to the end of the series, but it put me to sleep a few times.  I was also on my second week of business travel and pretty worn out in any case, so maybe this had as much to do with me as it had to do with the book.

 

Vetinari, a character I’ve greatly enjoyed since his first introduction, gets quite a bit of page time in this book, but for some reason he didn’t seem like Vetinari to me.  Normally he’s more taciturn.  He manipulates and influences people with a few pointed words, with silence and perhaps some intimidating looks, and with visual aids.  That's one of the reasons I enjoy his character so much.  In this book, he had a tendency toward detailed monologues and explanations, and there were one or two weird sections where he sounded like the CEO of a company using corporate buzzwords.

 

It wasn’t a bad book, and there were parts I enjoyed, but it wasn’t at the level I’ve come to expect from the Discworld books.  Combine that with a topic I wasn’t that interested in, and I just didn’t enjoy this as much as the previous books.

Review: Regarding Ducks and Universes

Regarding Ducks and Universes - Neve Maslakovic

I’ve been curious about the title of this book since I first saw it.  I tend to like the odder titles that make me speculate about the contents of the book.  By the end of the first page, the “Universes” part is clear.  The story is about two alternate universes that, as a result of a scientific experiment that happened several years before the book began, have become linked together.  It’s even possible for people to travel between the universes.  The “Ducks” part of the title doesn’t really become clear until maybe halfway through the book, so I won't talk about that.

 

I think I’m somewhat predisposed to like alternate universe stories, and it’s been a while since I’ve read one.  I was a little iffy on the main character, Felix, who seemed a bit contradictory.  On the one hand, we begin the book with him essentially taking a vacation to the other universe with the intent of breaking the law.  On the other hand, he seems a little too passive as events unfold. 

 

I thought the author could have done more with this interesting setting than she did.  For example, we have two universes that, over time, have developed some significant differences.  There could have been many interesting differences to explore, but guess which one got the most page time?  E-books versus paper books.  Although I find it easy to get drawn into a conversation on the subject, because I have definite opinions on the matter, it’s not really something I want to read about in a book, especially when it doesn’t add anything new to the many discussions I’ve already seen over and over.

 

At the beginning of the book, Felix’s main motivation is to spy on his “alter” (the version of himself in the alternate universe) who he’s afraid might become a successful author before he does.  I found it difficult to connect with his attitude, but it was fun to consider how I might react to my own alter and her failures or successes as compared to my own.  It couldn't really relate to Felix’s fear that his alter might be “better” than him.  Any rational person goes through life knowing that, however good they are at something, there will always be somebody else out there who is better at it.  If you can’t handle that…??  I would love the chance to collaborate with somebody who was so similar to me, with similar aptitudes but possibly different experiences and skill sets that we could share and learn from to improve both of ourselves.  Who better to learn from than somebody who shares your communication and learning style, and somebody who can understand better than anybody else what motivates you?

 

Overall, I liked the premise and the book was a quick read.  The story was light and uncomplicated, but it did make me think a little bit.  However, sometimes the story got tedious, and I was never very attached to the characters.  Although the main premise was interesting, the story was stretched a little thin and could have taken better advantage of the interesting setting.

Review: The World of Poo (Discworld Book 47 of 49ish)

The World of Poo - Terry Pratchett

This was definitely one of the stranger things I’ve read in recent years.  The World of Poo is a Discworld-based children’s book that is referenced quite a bit in the previous Discworld book I just finished, Snuff.  The main character, Geoffrey, develops a fascination with poo and starts collecting samples from various creatures he encounters, some of which are fictional Discworld creatures.

 

The Amazon product page lists it as being geared toward ages 8 through 12.  12 seems a little old to me, but I guess 8 sounds about right in terms of the simplicity of the story and language.  On the other hand, there are a few snide comments aimed more at adults that seem likely to raise some questions.  I’m also not sure the average younger child would fully appreciate the Discworld setting and be able to confidently sort through the mish-mash of real and fake facts, unless they’ve read some of the novels.

 

Anyway, it was a cute and very quick read, and it was a fun little tie-in to the main books.  I may even have learned a thing or two from it, although I don’t expect those things to have any major impact on my life...

Review: Snuff (Discworld Book 46 of 49ish)

Snuff (Discworld, #39) - Terry Pratchett

Snuff was the 8th and final novel in the Watch subseries of Discworld.  Vimes reluctantly goes off on a “vacation” to the country with his family.  His impressions of the country, having spent all his life in the city of Ankh-Morpork, are amusing, and naturally he manages to find a mystery to solve which leads to very little relaxation.

 

I enjoyed the book, but I had hoped it might be more of an ensemble story.  This was mostly a Vimes story and there was very, very little page time given to the other members of the Watch or any of the other Ankh-Morpork characters.  It was still entertaining though, and it made a couple of boring flights seem to pass more quickly.

Review: I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld Book 45 of 49ish)

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38) - Terry Pratchett

I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book in the Tiffany Aching subseries of Discworld

 

In this story, there is an entity that is causing an increase of bigotry against witches, and naturally its prime target is Tiffany.  The story was ok, but very short and the plot was pretty thin.  The book was carried by the characters, who are all still a lot of fun.  I liked that we got to spend a short amount of time in Ankh-Morpork, which isn’t a normal setting for the Tiffany books, and I especially liked that we finally got a tie back to the first Witches book, Equal Rites.  The timeline is rather questionable, but I was just happy to see some reference to it.

Review: The Lions of Al-Rassan

The Lions of al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay

The Lions of Al-Rassan is the second book I’ve read by Guy Gavriel Kay, the first being Tigana.  I really enjoy his writing style.  One thing in particular that I’ve enjoyed about both books is that they each managed to satisfy my epic fantasy cravings within a single, standalone novel.  I enjoy a good epic fantasy series, but a standalone does have the advantage of being easier to fit into my reading schedule.

 

The story involves the cultural and religious conflicts between various factions in a peninsula on a fictional world.  We follow some of the more influential characters from those different cultures, most of whom are very likeable, as their goals coincide and conflict with each other.  The author writes characters and camaraderie very well.  Sometimes I thought there was a little too much melodrama, and sometimes events were a bit too coincidental, but mostly it was a well-written and engaging story. 

It did get to the point where I was laughing every time yet another person ended up in Ragosa, though!  And I laughed even harder when one of the characters remarked on it also.

(show spoiler)

 

It’s probably arguable whether this book really counts as fantasy.  It definitely has a solid epic fantasy feel, depending I guess on what you think of when you hear “epic fantasy”, and it’s clearly set on a fictional world with two moons.  However, there weren’t really any actual fantastical elements aside from one secondary character with an unexplained special ability.  The story and setting are inspired by and have some parallels in real-world history.

 

It was easy to decide on a 4.5 star rating on the sites where I can give half stars, but it was much, much harder to decide whether to round up or down on Goodreads.  In the end, I decided to round down.  There was just a little too much bitter in the bittersweet ending, however much I expected it.  I also felt frustrated with some of the characters’ choices, and there was the aforementioned melodrama and coincidences.  Overall, though, I really enjoyed reading this book and I was completely engrossed by it while I was reading it.  I’ll likely try to fit Kay’s work back into my reading schedule sooner rather than later.

Review: A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices (Discworld "Book" 44 of 49ish)

A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices - Terry Pratchett

This was cute and a little bit funny, but it was also very short and it didn’t really have any substance.  It was basically a meeting of the Wizards of Unseen University in which they discuss an inspection report for their university.  Alas, Rincewind was nowhere to be found, nor was he even mentioned.

 

This short story can be read for free here.

Review: Unseen Academicals (Discworld Book 43 of 49ish)

Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37) - Terry Pratchett

This book was semi-entertaining, but it definitely won’t be one of my favorites from Discworld.  I also think I was a little misled by the Discworld chart I’ve been referencing.  The chart lists this as part of the Rincewind series, but he hardly appears in the book at all and has very little to do with the story.  He’s a fun character; I was looking forward to one last book about him.

 

Our main characters are four non-wizards who work on the staff at Unseen University.  The other wizards who often feature in the Rincewind books also get a fair amount of page time, more than Rincewind himself does.  The basic story is that the wizards of Unseen University, to avoid the travesty of a reduced cheese selection, must form up a team and participate in a football competition.  (Soccer to us Americans.) 

 

It wasn’t a bad book, and I liked the main characters, but it was an easy book to put down.  Part of that wasn’t the book’s fault; it was my week to be on call for work, and month end is never the calmest time to be on call, so I was distracted and tired.  It took me most of the week to get through the first half of the book, and then it started to pick up and I was able to finish the second half more quickly.

Review: Making Money (Discworld Book 42 of 49ish)

Making Money (Discworld, #36) - Terry Pratchett

Making Money is the second book in the Moist von Lipwig subseries of Discworld.  I’m enjoying this subseries quite a bit; I’m sorry it only has three books.

 

In this book, Moist von Lipwig finds himself unexpectedly involved in banking.  The way in which this happens is pretty amusing, and the situation provides many chuckles throughout the book.  I’m still really enjoying the character, and I also love that Lord Vetinari gets some decent page time in this subseries.  The story itself wasn’t super exciting, and I was never in any great suspense about what would happen next, but it was funny and held my attention throughout.

Review: The City & the City

The City and the City - China Miéville

The City & the City is essentially a police procedural in a strange and interesting setting.  The book opens up with our main character, Inspector Tyador Borlú, arriving onto the scene where a dead woman has been found.  The story follows him as he attempts to solve the mystery. 

 

The setting intrigued me from the moment we were given the first hint of it at the end of the first chapter.  The story itself was ok.  It held my interest, but I wasn’t completely absorbed by it.  What made the story interesting to me was its setting and the way the setting affected the murder investigation.  The problem for me was that the story wasn’t about the setting, and that was the part I was most interested in reading about.  There was very little background given about it, and very few tangible explanations.  It still played a huge role in the story, and was still fun to read about, but I wanted more meat.

 

I had a heck of a time deciding how to shelve this.  I don’t like to get too complicated with my shelving.  If a book crosses genres, I try to pick whichever general genre seems to fit it the best.  If a book tells a mystery story in a science fiction or fantasy setting, then I’ll shelve it as either science fiction or fantasy.  But this book?  I don’t know.  On Goodreads, the majority of members have shelved it as fantasy.  That surprises me, but maybe most people took certain aspects of this story a lot more literally than I did.  Science fiction doesn’t really fit either, although I’d buy into that more readily than I’d buy into the fantasy label.  In the end, I decided to just stick with the one thing I was sure of and shelve it as “mystery”.  :)

 

I have some more comments about the setting, but I’ll have to put them behind spoiler tags:

 

I really, really wanted to know the history of how the city came to be fractured the way it was.  We were given some very vague and generic theories, but nothing tangible.  I guess the explanation wouldn’t really have fit properly in the story, since none of the characters knew the answer themselves.  

 

As I read, I was constantly trying to decide whether or not the city was actually, physically divided in some way or if it was all psychological and cultural.  In the end, I decided it was psychological/cultural since people and objects could easily pass between the cities as if they had just walked across a normal street.  The people in Breach also didn’t seem, once we saw them in action, to have any special abilities beyond training to help them blend in and access to technology to help them keep tabs on what was going on.  I think each country at some point in the past, for some reason nobody knows, took possession of different parts of the city and built those parts up with their own architectural style.  But I wanted to know how it got that way.  It seems like there’s interesting story potential there.

 

We also weren’t really told why breach was such a big taboo either, although it’s a little easier to speculate why two different countries with tense relations would want to maintain (or simulate, anyway) strict borders.  The concept of “unseeing” was a fun one, and it added an interesting element to the murder investigation.  I could completely buy into the idea that people who grew up in this setting would find it natural to unsee the “foreign” people and their city even though they were really sharing the same city.  People in the real world also learn to unsee things they don’t want to see, although maybe not quite on this scale.

(show spoiler)

 

Review: Wintersmith (Discworld Book 41 of 49ish)

Wintersmith (Discworld, #35) - Terry Pratchett

Wintersmith is the third book in the Tiffany Aching subseries of Discworld.  In this book, Tiffany has made a mistake that has put not only herself but also everybody she knows, and a whole bunch of people she doesn’t know, in danger. 

 

There really isn’t too much I can say about this book that I haven’t already said about the previous two.  I’m still really enjoying the series, and I still really like the characters in it.  In this book, two of my favorite characters from previous books got a decent amount of page time, so I was especially happy about that. 

 

And how could anybody not love the idea of Granny Weatherwax with a little, white kitten?

(show spoiler)

Review: Thud! (Discworld Book 40 of 49ish)

Thud! (Discworld, #34) - Terry Pratchett

Thud! is the seventh book in the Watch subseries of Discworld.  Tensions have always been high between the dwarves and the trolls.  Now a dwarf has been murdered in Ankh-Morpork, and it looks like a troll might have been responsible. 

 

As with the previous Watch book, it focuses heavily on Vimes, but he continues to be far more likeable than he was earlier in the series so I’m continuing to warm up to him.  The story itself didn’t really stand out from the previous books.  Yes, it does a good job of portraying the conflict and prejudice that can arise between two groups of people.  Yes, it has some great things to say through the use of subtle, and not-so-subtle, humor.  The problem is, we’ve seen this quite a bit now in Discworld, particularly in the Watch books, so it’s starting to feel a little repetitive. 

 

The story did hold my interest, and I wasn’t bored, but I don’t think it will be one of the more memorable stories when I’m looking back on the series.  Speaking of which, I’m down to seven books, one illustrated novel, and one short story left to read.  I started this series a little under a year ago, on April 26.  It will feel weird when I finally finish it and I'm no longer a regular visitor to the Discworld.

Review: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure - William Goldman, Michael Manomivibul

The Princess Bride is yet another one of those classic books that “everybody” has read but that I have just now read for the first time.  I don’t think I’ve seen the movie either, although it’s possible I saw it when I was very young and just don’t remember it.  A few of the lines in the book were familiar, but that may just be because I’ve heard people quote from the movie over the years.

 

I really enjoyed this although I think, maybe a little oddly, I enjoyed the framing story the best.  I did enjoy the main story, and it held my interest, but its satire gave it a tendency to cross the line into ridiculousness.  In many ways it was like reading Pratchett’s Discworld books: entertaining and clever, but not usually the kind of story that I would get completely wrapped up in. 

 

The framing story, on the other hand, felt a little more serious, if less fantastical, and added a couple layers on top of the main story.  It was those layers that I particularly enjoyed.  I have a little more to say about that, but I’m going to put it in spoiler tags.  If there’s anybody else in the world who knows as little about the story as I did, I don’t want to rob them of the fun I had. :)

 

 

When I first started reading the book, I was worried that I’d somehow gotten the wrong book and was reading an actual abridgement.  I was reading in my Kindle, so I touched the name of Morgenstern on my screen and was immediately informed that he was a fictional author created by Goldman.  So that undoubtedly saved me some frustration in trying to find the “real” book.  :)  After that, I was completely absorbed by trying to figure out which parts of the framing story were real and which parts were fake.  I laughed several times for no other reason than because I was so confused about what (if anything) was real and what wasn’t.  Then, on top of that, there’s the implication that the main story itself was based on true events and places.  I just loved that whole aspect of it, the layer upon layer of fiction made to appear real and written about so seriously that I started to wonder if parts of it were real after all.  Google helped clear up the last of my confusion after I finished reading the book.  Assuming the info I found on Google was real, of course, and not a cleverly planted framing story for the framing story! ;)

 

(show spoiler)

 

For anybody who does read this for the first time, I have some pieces of advice:

  1. If you start the book and think you’re reading the wrong book, don’t worry, you’re not.

 

  1. If possible, get a more recent edition that includes the 25th and 30th anniversary introductions. I thought they were worth reading, and I think one or both editions may have added some material at the end also.

 

  1. But do not, under any circumstances, read those 25th and 30th anniversary introductions before you read the main book. Especially not the 30th. It’s full of spoilers, and I think it would be harder to appreciate it without having the knowledge gained while reading the book.   In particular, it answers a question you won’t know you have until you get to the end of the book, by which time you may have forgotten you were given the answer because it didn’t mean anything to you when you read it.  Fortunately, past experience has taught me to avoid reading introductions for classic books until after I’ve read the book itself.  They so often assume the reader already knows the story.

 

I’m normally reluctant to spend time watching movies, but I think I’ll watch this movie, probably tonight.  It helps that I’m on vacation this coming week, so I can surely manage to spare the time for one movie.  I always hear such great things about this one.

Review: Going Postal (Discworld Book 39 of 49ish)

Going Postal (Discworld, #33) - Terry Pratchett

Going Postal is the first book in the Moist von Lipwig subseries of Discworld, which is also associated with the Industrial Revolution subseries.  In the case of this book, it’s maybe a little more of an “Industrial Counterrevolution”.

 

The post office in Ankh-Morpork has effectively been out of commission for a while, with tons of undelivered letters sitting around.  Meanwhile, over the past several books, we’ve seen the development of a faster and more efficient method of communication called the “Clacks”.  However, lately there have been issues with the Clacks -- mismanagement, downtime, and maybe even murders.

 

The main character, Moist von Lipwig, was a fun character of the “lovable rogue” archetype.  I wasn’t too sure about him at first, but he grew on me as the book went on.  Vetinari also had some good moments in this book.  The story itself held my interest really well.  In fact, I think this may be the first Discworld book for which I actually stayed up a few minutes past my bedtime one night because I wanted to know what would happen next.  I only stayed up about 15 minutes late, but I take my bedtime very seriously so this isn’t a common occurrence for me. :)

 

I enjoyed the ending, and I particularly liked the choices Moist made it the end. 

 

To be more specific, I liked that he looked at the bigger picture and considered the greater good.  He backed off from his original plan that would have effectively destroyed the Clacks until they could be rebuilt, realizing that they fulfill a vital role and also that there were a lot of good people involved in the industry who would suffer.  Instead, he found a way to deal with the corrupt management that was the root problem.

(show spoiler)