Staying at home is the norm... What are you reading?

Drathnoxis

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Read Desperation by Stephen King. The first Stephen King novel I've read. It wasn't bad but it had such a slow start, I almost dropped it. He'd spend 30 pages introducing a character and going over their backstory and then they'd get caught by the villain and he'd backpedal and do it all over again with another character. Like 5 times. I skipped about 20 pages of the introduction of one of the characters and it didn't impact my understanding of the story at all, so the book could have been a bit more aggressively edited. The other problem is that Stephen King seems like a very horny man, and it made things kind of awkward when he starts having the characters think about sex when there's 15 corpses hung up on hooks and stuff like that. Or constantly giving us descriptions of what the characters balls or sphincters are doing, or people wetting their pants. And then more sexual descriptions all over. Like, you just get the uncomfortable feeling that he was rubbing himself through his pants while he was writing this.


Also read 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. I tried to read this when I was in High School and gave up, but I decided I would finish this time. The only reason I made it was because I was listening to an audio book and would just stop listening when he'd get into his endless lists of marine life. Just blah blah, cartilaginous this, and genus that, blah blah blah. Incredibly dull for long chapters. Besides that, the story about Captain Nemo is largely untold. We know little more about him at the end of the book than we learned at his introduction. Journey to the Center of the Earth was a much more interesting adventure. It's not quite as dull as Moby Dick, but it's close. Probably helps that it's about 150 pages shorter. And you could fit the book 5 times over into the door-stopping soporific that is Les Miserables.
 

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Get free religion essay examples online here! You won't regret this as papers from that source are written by specialists.
Why would anyone need religion essays? Is there a big market for this that I'm unaware of?
 
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Hawki

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Wonder Woman (3/5)

Novelization of the movie.

That's it. That's the tweet.

...alright, it isn't, but can't say much. It's the movie in novel form, which means that action scenes don't work nearly as well, and, um, yeah. That's it.
 

Hawki

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Skulduggery Pleasant: The End of the World (3/5)

Really not much to say here. It's got Landry's trademark wit, it's a standard SP novella, twist at the end is okay, though it's kind of squick that it's revealed that the supposed 15year old boy has a crush on the 17 year old girl, yet said boy is actually man who's hidden himself and sealed his memories...yeah.
 

Hawki

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Star Wars: The High Republic - Midnight's Edge (2/5)

This book really didn't do it for me. I've mostly enjoyed the High Republic stuff, but not this book. It's hard to say why, since many of the characters return from prior novels, but for whatever reason, just couldn't get into it.

Anyway, the book deals with Jedi on Corellia, investigating the possible presence of Nihil, and, um, yeah. That's really all I can say. Stuff happens, didn't particuarly care.
 

Hawki

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XCOM: Escalation (2/5)

"Bleh."

That's all I really feel like writing on this drek, but okay, I should write at least WHY it's drek.

Basically, the novel is a prequel to XCOM 2, dealing with XCOM's remnants, the Reapers, the Skirmishers, and the Templars. I assume that means something to you if you've played the games (I haven't), but even if it wasn't that familiar with the setting, I doubt I'd like this much more. Because ultimately, this book has three types of content - action scenes, characters recovering from action scenes, or characters preparing to go into action (scenes). In essence, it's the game mechanics transcribed into novel format, and it's as narratively, thematically, and characterly thin as you'd expect.

I'm not even sure why Rick Barba wrote this, since as far as I can tell, almost all of his work is in strategy guides, so maybe that's why the book is like a pseudo walkthrough? Whatever. It was still drek. It's absolutely possible to write compelling fiction about small squads/groups of characters, but this just isn't it.
 

Hawki

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Just Another Friday Night (2/5)

I could have technically thrown this in with 'The End of the World', but reviewing it separately, but meh.

Anyway, this is a short story at the end of the, um, short story, dealing with two OCs (in that they were submitted to Landry, and he made a story out of them), dealing with zombies in a Brisbane graveyard. Cue axes, splatters, wit, etc. However, ranking it lower - the writing doesn't feel nearly as tight, and part of the reason is that the author has to quickly flesh out said OCs in a short amount of time, which leads to a fair amount of 'telling' rather than 'showing.'

It's actually kind of instructive in a way, in that coming off 'End of the World', how one is more tightly written than the other. Being someone who's done writing courses and writes as a hobby, it's kind of an example of what "not" to do. But the flipside is that that the sad truth is that 'Friday' is probably closer to my own level of competence (such as it is) than 'End.' I'm also generally wary of OCs, and while the two characters aren't bad, they still feel out of place when compared to Skulduggery and Valkyrie.

So, yeah. Not a fan.
 

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Just Another Friday Night (2/5)

I could have technically thrown this in with 'The End of the World', but reviewing it separately, but meh.

Anyway, this is a short story at the end of the, um, short story, dealing with two OCs (in that they were submitted to Landry, and he made a story out of them), dealing with zombies in a Brisbane graveyard. Cue axes, splatters, wit, etc. However, ranking it lower - the writing doesn't feel nearly as tight, and part of the reason is that the author has to quickly flesh out said OCs in a short amount of time, which leads to a fair amount of 'telling' rather than 'showing.'

It's actually kind of instructive in a way, in that coming off 'End of the World', how one is more tightly written than the other. Being someone who's done writing courses and writes as a hobby, it's kind of an example of what "not" to do. But the flipside is that that the sad truth is that 'Friday' is probably closer to my own level of competence (such as it is) than 'End.' I'm also generally wary of OCs, and while the two characters aren't bad, they still feel out of place when compared to Skulduggery and Valkyrie.

So, yeah. Not a fan.
Damn you read a lot, Hawki.
 

Hawki

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Damn you read a lot, Hawki.
Well, I work in a library, so there's that.

Usually, there's at least three things I'm reading at a time - what I'm reading at home, what I'm reading at library 1 (so if I arrive early, I can usually read a bit there), and library 2 (where I get a total of 75 minutes break, so I can spend time reading there). Stacks up over time.
 

Hawki

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Assassin's Creed: Lost Descendants (3/5)

I've a very weird relationship with this IP, since apart from a bit of the first game and the movie, my direct experience with Assassin's Creed is limited to its novels. In that context, Lost Descendants stands out if only because it's not adapting the plot of a game, but it's got its own baggage to deal with. Namely that it's got to make the reader excited about teenagers spending most of their time in Animus simulations to find Pieces of Eden. Or as they call that in the AC universe, a Tuesday.

Anyway, the kids are recruited by a guy named Monroe who claims to oppose both the Assassins and Templars, and since all of their ancestors were in New York City, 1863, during the Draft Riots, they go through the simulation to find a piece of Eden - a dagger that was passed to Cortez when he invaded the Aztecs, and found its way into the Aztec Club. The Templars want to use the riots to do...something, the Assassins want to get the dagger to Grant, as they believe he's their best bet of winning the Civil War for the Union side. I suppose at this point it's rarer to find a historical event in this setting that WASN'T influenced by at least one of these factions, but meh. The bulk of the novel is the simulation, which interweaves with what's going on in the real world, with the kids apparently being part of a so-called Ascendance Event.

Overall, I wasn't too fond of this book, but it's not because of any real flaw that it has, just that I couldn't get into it. As in, I know how the Civil War ended, I know that in the context of the IP, status quo is king, and for whatever reason, I just didn't find the setting that interesting, or the historical characters. That's entirely subjective of course, but whatever, my tastes didn't match. Honestly, I found the stuff happening in the real world a bit more interesting, even if with the teens in question, only two of the six really get fleshed out (which isn't really the novel's fault, again, since the book starts with two characters, and the other four are introduced all at once), but it's a discrepency I noticed.

There's also the moral ambiguity stuff, or rather, attempts at it, and I don't know if this is down to me, the writer, or the constraints of the setting. Because on one hand, the book tries, if perhaps half-heartedly, to convey moral equivalance between the Assassins and Templars, and in the abstract, I don't think that's a bad thing - moral ambiguity can work very well for fiction. The problem with it here is that, basically, the Assassins are clearly in the moral right here, and any attempts at ambiguity are either half-hearted or just don't work. It's the Templars who help instigate the riots (while the Assassins want the Union to win the Civil War), it's Abestergo who abducts 4 of the 6 kids at the end, it's the Templars who have the philosophy of "we're going to run things for your own good," which inherently carries some level of menace. Monroe can claim that both sides are as bad as each other, Isiah (the Abestergo character) can claim all the good the Templars have done throughout history, but in the context of the book itself, it's really half-arsed. I don't know if this is down to Kirby, down to the setting, or down to Ubisoft wanting the Assassins to stay as 'the good guys.'

So, yeah. Book was okay. Could have been better, but not bad. Hardly the best AC book I've read, but by no means the worst either.
 

Hawki

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Assassin's Creed: Lost Descendants - Tomb of the Khan (3/5)

This is the second installment of the Lost Descendants trilogy. Disclosure, I actually started reading this before book 1 and was quite enjoying it, but after reading book 1, my enjoyment plummeted. It's like all the issues with book 1 retroactively transposed themselves onto book 2, or alternatively, made me more aware of the issues at play.

That said, overall, book 2 is better than book 1 in a number of ways. It's actually kind of the inverse, where in book 1, the present was more interesting than the past, whereas in book 2, it's the other way round. Some of the same problems remain, but in a lot of ways, it's better.

First, speaking subjectively, I found the historical setting more interesting - 13th century China, with the Song Dynasy holding out against the Mongols, with the Assassins working to assassinate Möngke Khan. Things are mixed up further, because as I mentioned, the kids were separated by the end of book 1. So the same historical events play out from two different perspectives - from Owen (allied with the Assassins, reliving things from a Mongol warrior) and Natalya (allied with the Templar, reliving things from a Chinese Assassin). It's duality that works in both the present and past. Furthermore, I mentioned in the prior review that last time, only two kids really got fleshed out, whereas here, the fleshing out is more, um, fleshed out. This also kind of extends to the kids who were taken in by Abestergo, who are at a site called the Aerie, with the blessings of their parents - they get to go into the past, their families get paid for it, and they'll take the Templars at their word that they're doing this for the betterment of the world. It's actually much better moral ambiguity than the previous book, in that while the reader knows that Abestergo is run by dicks, the Aerie's a nice enough velvet prison, the staff amicable enough, and the pay good enough, that you can understand why the kids would go along with things for as long as they do.

It's arguably a role reversal of sorts in another way however, in that, well, Owen and Javier got the most fleshing out in book 1, while the other four got comparatively little, whereas here, the "Templar 4" (Sean, Grace, David, Natalya) get the most fleshing out, with comparatively little on the 'Assassin duo.' Over time, however, shifts change. Sean, who's paraplegic, comes to sympathize with the Templar's goals, and becomes addicted to the Animus, since he can experience movement (plus, one of them claims that through the Animus, they may find a way for him to walk again, which may or may not be true). Natalya, on the other hand, is worn down by the constant violence in the simulations, and comes to despise both the Assassins and Templars. By the end of it, Grace and David have gone over to the Assassins' side, Owen and Natalya sort of in the middle, and Sean firmly committed to the Templars.

So, yeah. For most of the novel, things were pretty neat. However, things came apart at the end when both groups raced to Mongolia to find the Piece of Eden - the dagger from the first book is actually part of three 'daggers' that form a Trident of Eden. Here, however, lies the rub.

First, while the book does a better job of portraying why some people might sympathize with the Templar cause, it still can't, or won't, really commit to moral ambiguity, because the Assassins are still portrayed as the de facto good guys, while simultaniously having characters claiming that both sides are equally to blame. On the one hand, the Assassins are so gosh-damn awesome that they won't use any lethal mechanisms in the 21st century, and only incapacitate their foes, whereas Abestergo's paramilitary is fully onboard with everything from assault rifles to SAMs. So when you have Natalya reaching her supposed apex, and turning on both sides, it rings kind of hollow, since one side has shown itself to be much worse than the other.

Second, stuff happening in the year 2015/16 Mongolia isn't as interesting in 13th century Mongolia. And when the Templar guy gets the trident pieces and goes full bonkers, that's another piece of potential subtlty gone.

So, yeah. Better than the first book, but still let down in a number of areas.
 

Hawki

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Artemis Fowl (4/5)

To be specific, this is the graphic novel adaptation of the first book, not the book itself. By now, most of you are probably aware of said book (it's over 20 years old at this point...good grief), and suffice to say, the graphic novel mostly follows the plot. Overall, it's "good," but there's a number of caveats, such as:

-The art style is really weird, with no-one really looking 'normal.' Ironically, this arguably works well for the fairy characters, since they're non-human by definition, but when it comes to the actual human characters? Yikes. Butler particuarly suffers from this - I get that he's a walking mass of muscle, but his proportions are all out of whack. Furthermore, having read 'Guide to the World of Fairies', the art styles really don't match. You can argue that the guide was designed to tie-in with Disney's take on the series (in the film that I haven't seen), and I get that artistic licence is a thing, but even so, even if you put that aside, I really like the style of 'Guide' more than the graphic novels.

-On the flipside, it's nice to see fairy tech visualized the way it is, so there's that, I guess.
 

Hawki

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-As I said, the graphic novel follows the plot of the original novel, so it's got a solid foundation to work off. It also does a good job of handling exposition - you might recall when I reviewed 'The Hobbit' graphic novel, where lines from the original book were taken verbatim and pasted into the panels. Here, things are a bit more creative, namely the use of personnel files for various characters, interspaced throughout the story at regular intervals. It's a good, creative, and effective way of dealing with character backstories, even if not everything can be fit.

-Speaking of stuff that isn't fit in, there's some moments from the book that are removed, and I can't, for the life of me, understand why. Here, Root doesn't acidentally tranq Cudgeon, Cudgeon's just dismissed and taken away. After Holly breaks out, Artemis no longer has his "I don't like lollipops" moment, it's just two blank panels. It's like they intended to include the line, but removed it for some bizzare reason. And I know that these are minor things, but I kept awaiting these moments to fit in and they never came. :(

So, yeah. TL, DR, graphic novel is good, the original novel is better.
 

Hawki

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Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales (3/5)

Well this was a disappointment. :(

I picked this up in the expectation that it would be similar in form and quality to 'Twelve Angels Weeping.' And while it's certainly similar in form (short stories set in the Whoniverse, with the Doctor playing a minor role, if any), and arguably theme (fairy tales, as opposed to Christmas), it isn't similar in quality. Twelve Angels is probably the best Whoniverse novel (technically short story collection) I've ever read, while Time Lord Fairy Tales is bog-standard average.

It's arguably even worse than average. As the title suggests, the short stories are portrayed as fairy tales, all of which are based on real-world ones (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.) or ones that are new, or I can't identify the source of. Which sounds like a great idea, but the titular tales just aren't that compelling. I don't read fairy tales for high literature, but the purpose of fairy tales is usually to impart some kind of theme or moral. Strip them of their original context, and you lose something. And while transplanting them into the Whoniverse does allow for some wacky combinations, most of the time, it isn't really enough. For instance, the story of the Three Little Sontarans fighting off the Big Bad Rutan who destroys two of their three fortifications does have some wacky charm to it, but it's not enough to compensate for what's being lost in translation. Bar a few exceptions, all the tales here come off as being hollow. And while this is silly to ask, I'm left to ask what the context is. Like, apparently Earth developed tales on Cinderella for instance, yet across time and space, a real Cinderella did go to the ball with the help of the Doctor? Um, sure. Hardly the most bonkers thing in the Whoniverse, but it raises questions.

So, yeah. A letdown. :(
 

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (3/5)

Bear in mind that as I write this, I'm about 8 pages short of reading to the end, but I don't see anything happening within those pages changing my view on the book. Besides, this is a novelization of the film, so I already know how things go.

I might as well comment and point out that I wasn't a fan of the movie - among other things, it really drags in the middle, where the protagonists go through a series of vinigettes that are only tangentally related to the main plot, or at least feel that way. Suffice to say, the novel has the same problem, and there's a slew of material that makes it feel like the overall story is on hold. It's arguably even worse than the film, because the film at least gave me pretty visuals to look at, but the novel can't manage that.

In that light, 3/5 seems a bit too high, but I can't call it "bad." I think in part because the movie left me feeling bored and exhausted. The novel, on the other hand, can be decent pulp sci-fi at times, at least when it's not doing action scenes, or doing the vingette stuff (also, Bubble's still cute, so there's that). Also, it really drums down on the Pearls being "noble savages," to use the term, so as cliche as that is, it does mean that "the feels" work better when it's revealed how and why their homeworld was destroyed by humans (because even in the 28th century, we can't go around without blowing stuff up). :(

Anyway, can't say I'm much of a fan, of this or the movie, but this at least was easier to get through.
 

Thaluikhain

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Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales (3/5)

Well this was a disappointment. :(

I picked this up in the expectation that it would be similar in form and quality to 'Twelve Angels Weeping.' And while it's certainly similar in form (short stories set in the Whoniverse, with the Doctor playing a minor role, if any), and arguably theme (fairy tales, as opposed to Christmas), it isn't similar in quality. Twelve Angels is probably the best Whoniverse novel (technically short story collection) I've ever read, while Time Lord Fairy Tales is bog-standard average.

It's arguably even worse than average. As the title suggests, the short stories are portrayed as fairy tales, all of which are based on real-world ones (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.) or ones that are new, or I can't identify the source of. Which sounds like a great idea, but the titular tales just aren't that compelling. I don't read fairy tales for high literature, but the purpose of fairy tales is usually to impart some kind of theme or moral. Strip them of their original context, and you lose something. And while transplanting them into the Whoniverse does allow for some wacky combinations, most of the time, it isn't really enough. For instance, the story of the Three Little Sontarans fighting off the Big Bad Rutan who destroys two of their three fortifications does have some wacky charm to it, but it's not enough to compensate for what's being lost in translation. Bar a few exceptions, all the tales here come off as being hollow. And while this is silly to ask, I'm left to ask what the context is. Like, apparently Earth developed tales on Cinderella for instance, yet across time and space, a real Cinderella did go to the ball with the help of the Doctor? Um, sure. Hardly the most bonkers thing in the Whoniverse, but it raises questions.

So, yeah. A letdown. :(
Every now and then I got bored and look at the Tardis fandom wikia, and then I come across some NuWho or EU stuff like that and then I stop looking at the wikia, cause, nope.
 

Hawki

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Malazan: The Fiends of Nightmaria (4/5)

This has to be one of the most bonkers novellas I've ever read, and no, that isn't an exagerration. What's weird is that given that I think Gardens of the Moon is one of the worst fantasy novels ever read, I'm astounded that I enjoyed this as much as I did.

Basically, there's a bunch of groups doing different things on the same night, all of whom are frankly insane in their own way, whether they be critics arguing who gets to be tortured first, a lizard person who can't speak English (or whatever language is being 'dubbed') properly, a demon who's grumpy at being summoned while having dinner in Hell (or this world's equivalent of it), and a group of thieves who can't count how many are in their group, and who counts as part of it. Who want the head of the thieves guild, and retrieve her literal head, mission accomplished.

Is there a plot? Yes. Can I relate it? No. Does that matter? Also no, because the ride is what matters. This being a novella where one of the last scenes is where some characters charge a demon-possessed mouse sitting on the throne, and you don't know if they win or not. You see, mice keep getting into the summoning circles in the crypts, which is why cats are kept down there, but cat's hair does a number on demonic summoning, so pick your poison I guess.

All the insanity inside, from a writing standpoint, the novella is really well written. Dialogue is sharp, witty, keeps things moving forward, etc. It actually makes me kind of jealous that Erickson can write this well, since over the years, I've tried to 'sharpen' my own writing, but it'll never come close to stuff like this. But that aside, writing is solid, and given the insanity going on everywhere, a bunch of fun.