Book Thread 2024

Finished my first book of the new year:

Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway.

Sci-Fi Mystery about murder of an altered person. Was a decent mystery done in the style of a hard boiled private eye. I read it through Overdrive (its cost is a bit high on Kindle. I do not like going over ten bucks for eBooks). As a Library book I think it is worth a read if you like mysteries in a Sci-Fi setting (it feels a bit like Blade Runner to me).

Titanium Noir felt to me like a Dick Tracy novel set in a vaguely sci fi setting

I just finished Magpie Murders, a cozy mystery with a book within a book. It was interesting to me because the book within the book was quite good. I would have enjoyed it even without the meta stuff. The meta stuff was good too, but I would like to see the other books in the mythical nine book series featuring detective Atticus Pund as standalones. Alas, they don’t exist.

They also did this on PBS but I haven’t seen it. I suspect it’s quite different from the book.

I grabbed Magpie Murders on Overdrive. Not sure I will be able to get to it this month. I am currently reading the third book in the Thursday Murder Club series.

It’s good. The book within the book is probably novella in length, but I enjoyed it. I actually read this in a protracted manner so at some point I was in the book within the book and forgot that it wasn’t the whole thing. It was a bit jarring to realize that closer to the end.

I have to see the TV show. Once you read the book and think about how they might have filmed it, you realize it must be quite a bit different. If they didn’t film it differently, that in itself will be quite interesting.

Sean Carroll’s The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion is both an introduction to the underlying laws of physics as we understand them today, and a deeper dive for those who know the basics. Space, time, geometry, laws of motion and conservation - these and more are presented in a descriptive, high-level overview first, then expanded upon with the underlying mathematical definitions (and often the history of how those were developed). There’s a good amount of technical notation present, but Carroll always explains what he means, and the presentation of the math is done in support of the narrative, without getting into the detail of how it was derived (though some of that is in the appendices).

I consider myself a fairly educated layman around the basics of the laws of physics, and most of the early part of the book was pretty easy for me to understand. I knew those concepts, but the book gave me another layer of understanding in terms of different ways to view the same concepts, as well as a good reminder of the history behind the discoveries. Later on in the book, as the subjects moved into spacetime and black holes and relativity, it was slower going as those are concepts I had a much shakier grasp on to start with! Carroll does a fine job of both making those concepts understandable and providing a pathway to step from one to another. I’m still no expert on those things, but I definitely feel that I have a better understanding now, and a better chance to follow along when I run across expert discussion of the subject.

This was volume one of the Biggest Ideas series - volume 2 is scheduled to be out later this year and start delving into quantum mechanics. I’ll be looking for it. Also, there’s a series of YouTube videos that cover much of the same material (though the book has more depth), if that’s more your style.

I’ve been on a bit of a LITRPG bend lately, because I got free or discounted subscriptions to Kindle Unlimited twice in 2023, so I had many months of reading light books in that genre. But the more time I spent there, the more it made me hungry for actual, good writing, with well written prose and words that give you pleasure to read. And I was surprised to find that when I went looking in one of my other favorite sub-genres. I love stories about school, be it your Ender’s Game or Harry Potter or any other variation of a group of young minds being molded, growing up together, slowly becoming adults through their experiences at school. I had heard of The Sword of Kaigen: A Theonite War Story By M.L. Wang as being a good example of that genre, and it was in Kindle Unlimited so I dug in.

What I found was just immediately pleasurable to read. It’s kind of funny that someone can write words that are completely foreign to me, and a culture that’s foreign to me, but write it in a way that everything is very clear from context. There’s a mother who gave up her ambitions in life to play the traditional family role, a son who is bound by duty but also ambitious and adventurous. It’s a fantasy version of our world, with real magic. I like that the novel stays local, even if the glimpses we get of the wider world also let us know about a grand politics and story that we’re not necessarily a part of. The school played a smaller role in the story than I would have liked, but in the end I wasn’t disappointed because it still is a story about a coming of age, and it’s a novel that’s beautifully written with wonderful language and excellent characters who will stick with me a long time. I also appreciated that it’s a complete novel, not part of a series, and it doesn’t follow a story structure that I’ve come to expect from most novels. I would recommend it.

New book in the Frontline series released January 1st. New character, takes place a year or two after the last series ended.

I thought it was a solid and fun read. Pretty self-contained with a fulfilling ending, but also ends in a place very clearly setup for a full series run.

I haven’t tried Paladium Wars yet, but I did see that book four of Paladium Wars is scheduled for release this July 16th.

[Sorry, I couldn’t quite figure out how to properly cross link to @ooomalley and @vinraith’s posts from the Book Thread 2023.

I had this one on preorder on the strength of the previous titles, it certainly sounds like an interesting setup. Glad to hear you liked it.

Cool, thanks for the heads up! I wonder how long until my library gets a copy…

Now that I finished a wonderful novel set at a school I decided to keep the streak going and look in my digital library for more novels set at school.

I started Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education.

I was so tickled with the opening passage that I just wanted to share it here.

You’re in for a treat, that trilogy is excellent.

I finished reading Of Blood and Fire (Bound and Broken Series #1) by Ryan Cahill. I am surprised that the whole series is on Kindle Unlimited as it is of superior quality of what one usually has available on the service.

If you like Epic Fantasy such as Tolkien, with a more modern writing style I would suggest giving the series a try. There are currently three main books (4th being written with three extra novellas also available).

Reading Order:

The first two books could be read in any order. Most traditional reading order would be to read “Of Blood and Fire” first than “The Fall” (I did it the other way around). The Fall is available for free on the authors site by signing up for the email newsletter.

Here is the Authors page:

Does anyone use the Goodread’s (or other reading site’s) reading challenge?

Last year I set my challenge to 100 and went way past it. This year I am trying to decide what to pick and leaning on only 50, as I plan to try and catchup my reading backlog which includes a lot of Epic Fantasies. Most Epic stories are very long and I feel like it might be hard to get to fifty. Then I have 27 books selected on Kindle Unlimited to read (mainly LitRPG).

I am curious if anyone else spends time agonizing over the number when doing a challenge?

I don’t bother with the challenges, but I’m interested to see what my numbers look like at the end of the year. Last year I think I was at 133 books read by the end of the year. And that was with some epics.

I finished reading The Bullet That Missed (Thursday Murder Club #3) by Richard Osman. Series is just so good! This book did make me a little sad near the end.

I started on Magpie Murders recommended by @Mark_Asher above in the thread (while working on some of my other books on my current reading list).

Currently reading Hyperion. Been in my library for a couple years and hadn’t gotten around to it.

I also don’t do the Goodreads challenges. Being pressured to read would take some of the enjoyment out of it, and the need to read shorter books to meet a goal is silly. I could read four short books or one long book and the former is supposedly better than the latter? No thanks.

I took this advice and checked out Number Go Up from the library. It’s a dive into the world of cryptocurrency and related products, with an emphasis on the people behind the speculation. The author talks to quite a few different actors in the crypto ecosystem, some of whom seem very accessible while others are extremely reclusive. The timeline covered is only a few years, but that’s enough time for the rise and fall of massive fortunes and billion-dollar organizations. The story ends in 2023 around the time of the fall of FTX, but even though some of the crypto world has clearly fallen by that time (NFTs, many of the dodgier coin offerings, FTX itself), there’s plenty more still standing (including the Tether stablecoin that Faux spends much of the book investigating).

I found the book to be somewhat disjointed. With one exception, it’s a bunch of character profiles of shady actors in the crypto world and the sometimes-convoluted methods that the author used to get them talking. It didn’t feel to me like there was a coherent story being told - the author tried to tie everything together around Tether, but it isn’t really involved in some of the biggest events. I feel like this book wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know from reading a sample of the many news pieces published in the last few years on the subject. That one item that felt exceptional was very good, though - the investigation of a Cambodian camp where workers were held against their will and forced to perpetrate scams, usually on marks in the developed world. I’d seen a few mentions of similar things over the last few years, but nothing at this level of detail. There are some good interviews with people who experienced it, and the author himself talking with a similar scammer, though it’s too bad Faux wasn’t able to get closer to the people in charge.

If you either know nothing about the crypto craze of the last few years, or know about it and want more details about what it was like to be inside at the time, then Number Go Up is worth the read. Expect a wide range of people and topics, not a laser focus on any one person or event - if you’re looking for all the details on the fall of FTX or collapse of NFTs, best to look elsewhere.

I see what you did there.

I couldn’t sleep last night because it’s super cold outside, which means it’s too hot inside on the second floor where we sleep. I decided to make the most of it by reading, and I made it through several chapters over the course of the night.

It actually feels very appropriate to be reading this book late at night. As I was reading it, I had this thought about how Galadriel is the protagonist whose head we’re in, and yet she’s also the most interesting person in the story, and I kept thinking about how rare that is in most fiction that I’ve read. Usually the protagonist is not the most interesting person in the story. Usually it’s your Ender Wiggin or your Harry Potter or your Frodo Baggins or your Ned Stark or your Arthur Dent.

I can only admire Naomi Novik’s courage as an author in deciding, no, I’m going to put you in the head of the most interesting character in the story instead. Because that’s how good I am.