Discuss and rate the last thing you read

Queen Michael

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The Kalevala 5/5

As you know, this book is written
in trochaic tetrameter;
therefore, I will be reviewing
it that way. It just seems fitting.
This might be my favorite epic;
well, Paradise Lost excepted.
I don't mean the most well-written
(though it's certainly well-written);
what I mean is, well, the feeling.
This book has a lovely feeling
of cold, harsh old Scandinavia.
It's the feeling of an autumn
when the leaves are turning yellow
and you're walking in the forest,
far enough into the woods that
you no longer can see houses
or some other trace of humans,
and some crows have started cawing
as the sun is sinking lower...
Even the poetic Edda
cannot match that lovely feeling.
Only five stars is enough for
such a wonderful old classic.
 

Ogoid

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Boy in Darkness and Other Stories, Mervyn Peake - 7/10

Finally got around to reading this, the "lost" chapter of Peake's Gormenghast books. I found it bizarre, even for the series, mostly - but not exclusively - in a good way. The Lamb is an absolutely fascinating antagonist, and what little hints Peake drops about his decayed domain, "the Mines", only adds more mystery and questions to the larger world Titus and Gormenghast exist in. On the other hand, though, the story as a whole seemed like a very prolonged setup with a very rushed resolution, as though Peake started writing at his leisure and eventually found himself running out of space.

All in all, I think it's a worthwhile read for fans of the series.

The other stories in the book are mostly brief, humorous or surreal little pieces, which I found interesting but hardly very memorable.
 

Hawki

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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation (3/5)

This book is...weird.

Okay, here's the thing - I grew up in the console wars between Sega and Nintendo, so a book about this time period instantly appeals to me on some level. But is the book "good?" Well...I did enjoy it, but I can't call it "good," and the reason for this is also the reason why I like it, if that makes sense...

...it's written as a story.

Let me explain. While this book is non-fiction, it's structured in a way that feels akin to a narrative. Tom Kalinske is arguably the 'protagonist,' who goes on the 'hero's journey' - recruited to help Sega dethrone Nintendo, and for awhile, that works. Unfortunately, a series of wrong decisions on Sega of Japan's part gives the story a tragic ending (the release of the Sega Saturn). It's very rare that the book really deviates from this formula, with various events and decisions being presented as a story rather than taking a more omnipotent POV. The book feels like it's written specifically for a movie, and considering the supposed movie adaptation, maybe that's paid off. And hey, subject matter aside, I could see myself enjoying it - while I know nothing about baseball, and barely use Facebook, I really enjoyed films like Moneyball and The Social Network.

Still, this is a book, so I'm left wondering how much of it is true, and how much of it is fiction. Also, if it is operating like a story, there's a number of structural problems - for instance, about an entire chapter is dedicated to the development of the Super Mario Brothers movie. Which is interesting, but it's a deviation from what the book's been about up to this point. While the book does address how Sega and Nintendo wanted their mascots in the public conciousness (e.g. the two Sonic cartoons we got in the early 90s), the Mario movie gets far too much attention in respect to the actual "console war" being fought, which is the 'meat.' It's actually quite interesting, how through the story, we get to see how Sega was able to sell itself, and how its market share in the console market increased because of that.

I will say that this is primarily Sega's story, so to speak, so if you fought for Nintendo back in the day, you might feel left out. But hey, Nintendo won (or rather, Sony, given that the words "oh shit" are literally used to describe the PS1 reveal vs. the Saturn reveal), so I guess you'll be happy. Maybe?

So, yeah. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but the book does have issues.
 

Kendritch

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Amazing Spider-Man #612-614, "Power to the People". - 3/5

This is the first part of what was promised to be a massive story arc titled, "The Gauntlet", but it's basically just Spidey's rogue gallery being reinvented for the Brand New Day era. I didn't like some of the changes BND did to Spidey, but in the case of Electro here in "Power to the People", I initially liked what they did to change him. He manipulated the people of New York into supporting him because of the financial crisis going on, and he became sort of a voice of the people. I always like it when Spider-Man stories use more than just the villains' superpowers against Spidey, and here is a creative and interesting display of how brilliant and cunning his enemies can be. It's almost a throwback to Norman Osborn, who also used political manipulations to get into power with his "Dark Reign".

Add to the fact that Electro's own power is literally killing him, and it makes for an almost relatable villain one could get behind.

Unfortunately, Electro's trickery didn't lead to anywhere fruitful, and the story arc was soon reduced to your average fist-fight. I wish Mark Waid had played around a bit more with the people supporting Electro, like put them in the line of fire more often and forcing Spidey to placate the angry mob. Peter is suffering his own financial crisis too, so it would have been nice to see him playing the "I'm one of you and could relate to what you are going through" card.

There's also some continuity error in Part 3 of the story arc relating to the characters' memories of the Daily Bugle being attacked. But that bothers me less than the overarching feel of this arc, like it had potential to lend us some interesting perspectives on New Yorkers, Max Dillon and Peter himself, but ended up being average and formulaic.
 

Smithnikov_v1legacy

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A Taste For Rabbit

Dark little sentient-animals tale. Switches between the view of a hare newly appointed as a watchman for his species and debt ridden fox attempting to solve a dwindling meat supply for his community by locating a new source of prey. The drama it'self revolves around...well, imagine you're a deer hunter, and suddenly that prize buck produces a rifle of their own, takes cover and returns fire? Side plots feature a bit of brother-brother family conflict and a conspiracy involving outright cannibalism on the fox's side.

A bit of a throwback to the likes of Watership Down, but a bit too simplistic. Enjoyable enough, but not too memorable afterwards.

3/5
 

Kendritch

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Amazing Spider-Man #617 - "The Rage of the Rhino"

Many people, Marvel Animation included, seemed to forget that the Rhino was initially not just a dumb, mindless brute (the kind you see in the animated series and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) in his first appearance (ASM #41-#43). That's what was so fearsome about him, that he had the brains and brawn. He wasn't a super genius, of course, but he was intelligent enough to be competent in combat tactics.

This was always one of my favorite issues in the Gauntlet arc, not just because it's yet another deliciously interesting character-study that made up some of the best stories of this book, but also because it brought back the level-headed and street-smart Aleksei from the classics. There's yet another twist played around identities, and it makes you think that the horned idiot is back to his old ways of destroying everything again - but of course, this isn't so, and I love how it plays out. It's heartwarming and charming, and I love the relationship between Aleksei and Spidey here, having a form of mutual respect for each other.

However, the major props go to the side story -- "The Walk". This holds up to the gold standards of Spidey stories like "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man". It's a simple and humble tale, very small-scale and personal, much like many of my favorite Spider-Man stories. It shows how Aleksei came to walk the straight and narrow path. Not only does it lend a very inspiring and sympathetic perspective on ex-cons, it's always nice to see a villain who could uphold his moral integrity as much as Peter. It's a very fitting chapter in the ASM mythios where one of Spidey's villains understands as much about choice and responsibility as the titular character. Of course, if all of his rogue gallery's like that, it can dilute the power and uniqueness of such character integrity, but it's always nice to find gems like this that humanize his villains.

I also have to give credits to Pulido for his art here, particularly in the second story. It almost bears a minimalist style that lends more focus on the characters' expressions. You can make out all the pain in both Aleksei and Oksana's eyes, adding a beautiful layer to the story. I also particularly love that panel where Aleksei had to choose between Oksana or returning to his crooked lifestyle. Very nice symbolism there. Top notch work from the writing and art.

10/10
 

the December King

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No Man's World series, book one, The Black Hand Gang, by Pat Keheller

7.5/10?

The series of books is about the British Pennine Fusiliers push across to Harcroft forest, November 1st, 1916, during the First World War. The 900 men, as well as sporadic waiting german forces, a single pilot and his Sopwith and a Hush Hush tank division meant to support the manoeuvre, as well as a half a mile of the trenches, are ripped from our reality and left on an alien world, where everything is deadly.

I'm enjoying this series a lot, as the storytelling is competent, characters are fleshed out and distinguished, and there feels like a solid grounding in historical reenactments to support the story (not being an expert myself, mind you, and of course before they all get pulled into another dimension). I also enjoy the monstrous and alien encounters, all feeling quite Burroughs-like, and often the action is brutal.
 

Hawki

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Children of the Fleet (2/5)

Well this was a letdown. Last Enderverse novel I read was 'The Swarm', which takes the #3 spot of all the Enderverse novels I've read. Now, having read this, this takes the bottom spot.

I could describe this novel, but basically think of it as "Ender's Game, but with a less interesting plot, less interesting characters, and a less interesting setting." Really, that's what it is - Card going through the motions. What's worse is that this seems to be setting itself up for a series of its own (so that's, what, five series within the same universe now?) This is effectively 90% buildup for 10% payoff, only the buildup isn't interesting and the payoff is pretty worthless. Considering how good 'The Swarm' was, I guess I really have to attribute it to Johnston, and ask if Card's universe would be better suited as a playground rather than his own creation. Hopefully this is just a dud though, but it isn't one I'll be returning to anytime soon.
 

Kendritch

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Amazing Spider-Man #655 - "Awakening"

4/5

Near the end of Brand New Day, we've encountered quite a large number of deaths that were largely tasteless in my opinion - specifically the ones in "Shed" and "Grim Hunt", two very well-received story arcs that are still popular today. But for me, I was not only exhausted by the fact that Curt Connors wasn't given the proper rest he deserves after having his entire life toyed around in the history of Spider-Man comics, but also the fact that two characters in these two arcs were killed off as a plot-device to create a contrived emotional impact on both Spider-Man and the readers. That one victim in Grim Hunt, especially, was thrown away and forgotten after her purpose was served. No proper funeral, no words of mourning. "Disgusting" couldn't even describe what I felt reading that.

That being said, I could understand the reasoning behind these deaths. It was to wear down the webslinger, make him feel each death he failed to prevent. I welcome these suffering placed upon our Webhead's shoulders - when they are done well. That's always been Spidey's most defining trait, his perseverance in spite of all the suffering, in spite of his failures. And issue 655, "Awakening", another chapter in Spidey's numerous failures, is one of the finer examples of doing it well. Well, almost.

First off, the "silent" first-half of the comic was of course beautiful. Marcos Martin gave us a display of visual storytelling at its finest. Comics are a visual medium, and much like movies, I always love it when they utilize the visuals to tell the story more so than using mere words. It is a trying task, for sure, since wordless panels can either become too plain or too ambiguous, but Marcos Martin here tells the readers a lot more details using the characters' body language than one ever could with dialogue, like the way Jonah somberly dresses himself without a frown or a tear, or the way Peter seperates himself from the others in a literal panel of his own. There's a very tense and almost 'silent' atmosphere felt in the first-half because of that lack of dialogue, and it's appropriately so. I particularly love the way certain panels connect to the following one and paralleling each other. That's a nice touch that further reflects the different reactions the characters have towards the death.

The church in particular plays a rather depressing role in hindsight. During the time this issue was released, the Ultimate universe would be involved in an even more significant death relating to Ultimate Spider-Man, one that comes with a funeral in a very similar-looking church in "Ultimate Fallout".

After that, we have the dream sequence. This part of the issue left me with a bit of mixed feelings. This is hardly the first time Spider-Man has gone through this phase. Someone dies, he grieves, he becomes embittered, he becomes darker and turns into either "the Spider" or "Back in Black", and eventually, he returns into his light-hearted self once more. It's a familiar phase that can get a bit eye-rolling after seeing it this often. But familiarity isn't always a bad thing when certain differences are added, and this is one of those cases. This particular sequence focused more on Peter feeling guilty for not killing the bad guys, letting them get away to murder the next innocent victim. And it certainly didn't help that he has already killed anyway - Charlie, that one woman, the one single life Spidey has ever taken in the one-shot, "Spider-Man vs. Wolverine". A lot of Spider-Man books seem amnesiac about this single very important manslaughter Peter committed, so it's nice to see Slott utilize this grim part of Spidey's history effectively here.

So by the end of the story, once again, Spidey's committed to preventing tragedy no matter what it takes. Unfortunately for him, as we could see from the final panel of the tale, that's not going to be easy. I love how that ending is such a slap to the face for Spider-Man after he proclaimed his "No one dies" statement. The irony stings.
 

Hawki

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Johnny Novgorod said:
Hawki said:
Star Wars: Phasma (3/5)
They made a book out of Captain "3 scenes 8 lines" Phasma? Where's my Nien Numb trilogy?
Is that surprising? Boba Fett, a character with even less personality than Phasma in the OT, was fleshed out extensively in the old EU, not to mention being brought back in AotC for some pointless reason.

Arguably, that's what the EU is for, to flesh out obscure characters.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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Hawki said:
Johnny Novgorod said:
Hawki said:
Star Wars: Phasma (3/5)
They made a book out of Captain "3 scenes 8 lines" Phasma? Where's my Nien Numb trilogy?
Is that surprising? Boba Fett, a character with even less personality than Phasma in the OT, was fleshed out extensively in the old EU, not to mention being brought back in AotC for some pointless reason.

Arguably, that's what the EU is for, to flesh out obscure characters.
From the movies all the personality I got from Phasma was that her armor was shiny. Fett had considerable presence and mystery, the movie singled him out by the way he was framed, his cool cowboy demeanor and the way the camera would occasionally cut to him as a silent reminder. Of course he was overused, overexposed and overxplained in I don't know how many cash in merch over time, but that's over time. I'm surprised they were this quick with Phasma: The Novel.
 

Hawki

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Johnny Novgorod said:
From the movies all the personality I got from Phasma was that her armor was shiny. Fett had considerable presence and mystery, the movie singled him out by the way he was framed, his cool cowboy demeanor and the way the camera would occasionally cut to him as a silent reminder. Of course he was overused, overexposed and overxplained in I don't know how many cash in merch over time, but that's over time. I'm surprised they were this quick with Phasma: The Novel.
Okay - confining this to the OT and ST, let's say what we know about both of them and their personality:

BOBA FETT

-He's a male bounty hunter that works for Jabba the Hutt (or at least does some work for him)

-He flies a starship (never named in the OT - don't think so)

-He wears armour, has a blaster rifle, jetpack, and a grappling hook

-He seems to respect audacity (nods at Leia for her thermal detonator stunt)

PHASMA

-Is a female officer of the First Order

-Wears armour that can withstand blaster rifles

-Has a bullying personality with a vendetta against Finn, though this appears more due to him being a traitor rather than Finn being Finn

-Has a self-serving streak (turns off the shields, and if we include deleted scenes, kills her own men when Finn blabs about her prior actions)

-Is proficient in staff-based combat

So, um, yeah. Neither of these characters are particuarly deep, but Boba Fett rarely does anything (and fails spectacuarly in Return), and has even less personality than Phasma. I get that the EU apparently made Fett a badass, but going just by the films, I've never understood why he's such a popular character. He stands there, looks intimidating, but never does anything, and barely says anything. Phasma at least has an adversarial relationship with Finn, so seeing him overcome her in both films at least complements him as a character. Fett, on the other hand, has no relationship with any character. You could replace him with any other character in Return, and you'd only have to change one line of dialogue (Han exclaiming "Boba Fett? Where?")
 

Kendritch

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Amazing Spider-Man #656 - Resolve

4/5

It's inevitable that Spidey ends up a bleeding heart, but as much as I enjoy his messiah complex and pacifism, he does come off as a tad naive here. One of the many reasons comic book super villains get to hurt people is because they end up escaping. That's the cold hard truth of comics. Applying the same mercy to comic book criminals as we would towards murderers in real life can be problematic, given what we know about supervillains.

And besides, murderers are given the death sentence in many states of America anyway. It's not exactly unheard of. Of course, I don't approve of Jonah publicly executing Massacre - there still needs to be due process. But the death sentence? That's something that I feel is necessary for certain dangerous criminals. What Spidey says, that he'll stop them if they ever break out of prison, is not only naive, it's irresponsible.

That being said, I do enjoy the part of the issue where Peter chastises his co-workers for enjoying themselves while death is all around. I could definitely relate when the Parkland shooting happened just a little over two months ago. It's frustrating that we can't do anything about those deaths, but we have to accept that life goes on as usual for many people.

Even Jonah Jameson here, once a newsman himself, have to accept that the death of his loved one is yesterday's news. The world has already moved on, and so must he.
 

Baffle

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Last book in the Fitz and Fool stuff by Robin Hobb. Not so much of a fan of the most recent trilogy, and felt there was some serious shoehorning and revisionism to make it possible to write it. Decent, but not as good as the previous trilogies.
 

Queen Michael

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Anime Supremacy
4/5

This was a good one!
The novel follows three women who work with anime--one producer, one director and one animator. Though I say "novel," it's more like three novellas, one for each protagonist, plus a short epilogue.

All the characters were interesting and colorful without becoming one-dimensional, and I liked how several characters from one woman's story turned up in another woman's. This is a novel that deserves way more attention that it's received here in the west. My one issue with the writing is that the author is way too fond of replacing "said" with some other word that expressed nothing that wasn't already made clear by the spoken line. But that's my one problem with an otherwise very good novel!
 

Xprimentyl

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Tom Clancy?s Power and Empire by Marc Cameron

2/5

My girlfriend?s son got it for me for Christmas. He knows how much I like ?Tom Clancy?s? Splinter Cell games and I gave him my copy of ?Tom Clancy?s? The Division on Xbox One a while back, so I guess when he saw the name ?Tom Clancy? on an audio book, he figured it?d be something I?d like. Kudos for focusing his ADHD-addled brain long enough to make that reasonably logical connection considering he?d likely forget his own name if his mother and I weren?t screaming it at him dozens of times a day, but man, NOT a good book.

You know the plot: political unrest in China leads some of those in positions of power to try and clandestinely incite a war between China and the USA because of reasons, and President Jack Ryan?s son, Jack Ryan, Jr., and his merry band of perfect federal agents spend the rest of the book dodging bullets and invariably having the right tools on hand for every highly unlikely situations in their attempt to untangle the web of intrigue and unmask the culprits at the center of it all.

I?m not big on a lot of modern writing, particularly the ?geo-political disaster staved off by overly clever, resourceful, devilishly handsome/beautiful and charming middle-aged white spies/agents/rogues? stuff that seems better suited to the screen than genuinely engrossing reading/listening. It seems to me that writing like this is more an exercise in the writer wanting a pat on the back for all the research he/she did to make the tale sound authentic and less about fleshing out believable, likeable characters and interesting situations, i.e.: I don?t care that Jack Ryan?s weapon of choice is the SIG sauer p226; I couldn?t identify one if it was pointed directly at me, so you don?t need to spend a page of text describing it let alone comparing it to/describing other pistols he might have chosen if doing so adds nothing save for ?words? to the story; call it a fucking ?gun? and move the hell on! Oh, but you WERE so clever doing the research; here?s a hand job?

I also dislike that every protagonist in this book is exceptional and never caught with their pants down, literally not a flaw between the handful of them. Found themselves in Japan? Of course one of them speaks enough conversational Japanese to get around because who doesn?t, right? Someone tries to drown one of them unexpectedly? Of course he just happens to be an ex-Navy seal and takes to water like a fish where we?re told he can hold his breath for over a minute even while struggling. I?m sorry, good guys who?re always one step ahead of the bad guys aren?t interesting to me much less make for a relatable read. There was never a point in the book where it felt like there was ever any real danger or risk; I?ve experienced more danger reaching for my toothbrush in the morning!

I enjoy the next Jason Bourne, John Wick, James Bond, Ethan Hunt, et al as much as the next guy, but I WATCH them, preferably with a $12 tub of popcorn and $9 slushy; you won?t catch me reading them. This book was little more than a screenplay, and were it ever adapted to screen, it might actually work as a reasonably entertaining-if-eye-rolling 2 hour distraction, but listening to it for 15 hours was 13 hours too much. I?d have been pissed if I actually READ it.
 
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Wow, the spambots normally filled up a page or two on the thread listings. Now, it's 2 pages within a single thread.

Anyhoo, dealing with things that I've read, I just finished a couple of good non-fiction works.

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief [2008] by James McPherson.

One of the only works to deal specifically with the presidency of Lincoln as a military commander, it is very well written (as usual, McPherson is a very skilled and compelling writer). However, I can't help but notice that the material, while given a fairly tight focus and a new perspective, is still material that McPherson and others have already studied and delved into in other works. Certainly, I have no regrets in purchasing the work, but I can't call it a vital necessity for the historian's library.

Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West [1991] by William Cronon

Cronon looks at the linkages between urban and rural America, using Chicago as the case study. Cronon's thesis posits that the urban/rural divide that seems so prevalent in politics, popular culture, and general perception is a myth and that the ties that bind the two together are far stronger, though less researched, than they seem. Essentially, that one cannot exist without the other economically. I found it to be a wonderful study of the ever-changing dynamics of the 1800s through the interplay of the natural landscape, the alterations made to the landscape by humanity and the development of transportation technology all on the development of the American West and Chicago's place in that story. I highly recommend it.
 

Hawki

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Bunnerong (3/5)

Yeah, it's a book I got in a hotel I stayed in in Hobart, but shadup, it counts.

So, it's fine, it's nice, it's actually kinda interesting to see how many animals come into the sanctuary but can't be released into the wild due to not being native to Tasmania.

Anyway, reading Mercy Kill now and...yeah. I'll have a lot more to say on that.
 

Silvanus

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Foundation and Earth, by Isaac Asimov (6/10).

Foundation is one of my favourite series, but I didn't find this one-- which is the last book chronologically-- nearly as satisfying as earlier instalments.

It has some interesting sci-fi sociology, and provokes some pretty intriguing moral questions. Yet by the end, the trio of protagonists had become repetitive with the arguments they would have, resulting in some of the dialogue feeling like a chore.

The central storyline is also quite contrived, and took a direction I wasn't terribly happy with either (and which did not seem in keeping with the spirit of the original Foundation Trilogy).

Points for connecting together the Foundation series with the Robot series, though (Asimov's two most well-realised series).

Next, I'm going to be reading Chocky, by John Wyndham, and finishing Uzumaki, by Junji Ito.