2021 Reading Diary Part 2: Summer Reading

JULY & AUGUST
CONTINUED FROM PART 1, 2021

Book 30: The Wryd Sisters (1988) by Terry Pratchett was next. It’s the sixth Discworld Mr. Pratchett wrote, but they don’t need to be read in order, and since book four, Mort, was the first Discworld novel he was satisfied with, I started with that and The Wyrd Sisters is my second to Discworld. It only took two days, and I’m now assured that future trips to Discworld will be full of fun, mischief, wittiness, absurdities, and mayhem. (Read between June 30 & July 2)

Book 31: The Path of Daggers (1998), the eighth The Wheel of Time book by Robert Jordan was next. At 672 pages, it’s one of the shorter Wheel of Times books, and I’m reading it at a steady pace of around 110 pages per day, and I’m enjoying it as much if not more than the previous books. After I finish this book, the end of the series will be in sight! (Read between July 3 & 7)

Book 32: The Aliens are Coming! (2017) by Ben Miller is next up. It’s an entertaining and fascinating exploration of – well – life, the universe, and everything. Ben explores the cosmology, the discovery and study of planets orbiting other suns; how life probably started on earth and its subsequent evolution, intelligence and what else on earth possesses it; and the hypothetical what, where, when, and how of alien life in and beyond our solar system. (Read between July 7 & 10)

Book 33: The State of the Art (1991) by Iain M. Banks is a collection of short stories and one novella, most set in his Culture Universe. For a change, I decided to read two books at once: this one and The Aliens are Coming!, and I started them both on July 7.  Well, I already had a pretty high opinio of Iain Banks based on the first two books of his I read, but after reading the stories in The State of the Art, and especially the novella the book is named after, my opinion just went up a lot – a real lot. (Read between July 7 & 10)

Book 34: Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History(2021) by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta was the next book I started. After reading about readers who juggle several or more books at once, I decided to give it a try.  It doesn’t really feel like I’m currently reading three books as none of them have long narrative structures. Instead, it feels like I’m simply reading a few random articles. And today seems like an apt day to read about the mishandling of a pandemic with South Korea today recording 1,275 Covid cases, its highest daily Covid ever, and New South Wales recording 38 new cases, the highest number in 14 months. Trump’s not to blame, but one things is certain: Covid isn’t done with us yet. Well, that was a pretty depressing if unsurprising read. (Read between July 8 & 16)

Book 35: Turn a Blind Eye (2021) is the third and penultimate book in Jeffrey Archer’s William Warrick series. I was hooked from the first page as a cliffhanger from the previous books was quickly resolved and then the plot immediately thickened and the stakes went up. Well, that was certainly a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down and fell a little behind with some work tasks as a result – but not too far behind. (Read between July 10 & 12)

Book 36: I Sing the Body Electric (1969) by Ray Bradbury is my next short story collection.  Sometimes I fail to connect to Bradbury’s writing, but other times I connect with it just fine. There were a few really touching stories in this collection that all shared the common themes of relationships, love, and family, and the families came in all shapes and sizes: some members biologically related and some not, and some made from flesh and blood and some – or rather one – not. (Read between July 10 & 21)

Book 37: Hyperion (1989) by Dan Simmons is a book that has been on my radar since I read the author’s horror novel Summer of Night (1991), which I loved, and Hyperion has a stellar reputation. It’s sequel, The Fall of Hyperion, less so, but I’m really not one to be swayed by the opinions of others too much, especially since Dan Simmons has proven himself to me to be an author worthy of my precious time. Update: I just learned that Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion were conceived as one novel. I again find myself reading three books at the same time – well not literally at the same time, as I am still reading the above Bradbury short story collection and Nightmare Scenario.

I’ve found I quite like the combination of a non-fiction book, a collection of short stories, and a novel. I just might continue with that combination for the forseeable future. It’s July 18, and I’m about 125 pages (20%) in, and so far it has most definately lived up to the hype. I’m reading something quite special. Hence, I’ll skip reading three books for now and focus on this and the occassional Ray Bradbury short story.  I finished the Ray Bradbut yesterday on July 21 and then I tore through the last 120 pages of Hyperion and can say with certainty it’s stellar reputation is well-earned. That’s not a book I will soon forget, and in the not-too-distant future, its sequels await. (Read between July 14 & 22)

Book 38: Cage of Souls (2019) by Adrian Tchaikovsky was next. I remember I looked at the first page soon after Cage of Souls was released, and for some reason that first page didn’t grab me and I opted for something else. This time, I made it to page two and from then until the end it was unputdownable.  How far into the future is it set? No one knows except Adrian. Ths sun has started its expanding as it nears the end of its life, that’s how far into the future it’s set, and after countless civilizations have risen and fallen, humankind has been reduced to one city and earth that no longer really wants them living on her, but as usual, humans are their own worst enemies. (Read between July 22 & 26)

Book 39: Death Masks (2003) by Jim Butcher, the fifth of his The Dresden Files series, was next. Today marked the beginning of four very busy and hot weeks, so I decided a nice and enjoyable quick and witty read was called for. And that’s exactly what I got. Although I wasn’t totally into the story early on, I soon became quite engrossed in the story, and it may be my favorite of the series so far. (Read between July 26 & 29)

Book 40: Winter’s Heart (2000), the ninth of Jordan’s The Wheel of Time books was next. I made pretty steady progress despite being busy with my summer camp. I’ve read online that many consider this book part of the series “slog”, several books in the middle of the story that are considered slow and hard to get through. That certainly hasn’t been my experience, and I was equally surprised to read the others have given up on the series while reading earlier books that I absolutely enjoyed.  (Read between July 29 & August 7)

Interlude:  I recently watched a BookTuber talk about the number of series he is in the middle of. I then scrolled through the series I have started but have yet to complete. The current number is 27, and that includes series that have not yet been completed by their authors ala Outlander and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, series of books which don’t tell one larger story such as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle, as well as sequels to books I have read.  Some of those sequels may not necessarily continue the same story and may not be required reading, but I am a bit of a completeist. Also, there are several series I am planning to start sooner or later.  With that list of 27 in mind, I decided to reduce it by one by reading the one remaining book in Peter Hamilton’s Greg Mandel series, and luckily, it’s a 100 -page novella, and then I might reduce that list further before starting on a new duology, trilogy, or series.

Book 41: “Family Matters” (2014), a novella by Peter F. Hamilton featuring Greg Mandel, the main character of his first trilogy of books. I read it over a period of about 18 hours. It was quite a interesting detective story with a twist. And that’s it, I’ve read all of Peter Hamilton’s Greg Mandel stories. Goodbye Greg! (Read between August 7 & 8)

Book 42: Billy Summers (2021) I wasted no time starting Stephen King’s latest, and it hooked from page 4 or 55, and then I cried at the end. That was one of King’s best, and after typing that, I discovered that The Guardian agrees. (Read between August 8 & 12)

Book 43: Blind Lake (2003) by Robert Charles Wilson was my introduction to the author’s work and mind. I caught a brief mention of it on YouTube and the premise sounded interesting, and I’m simply a sucker for a first contact with aliens story. But of course, there was more to the book than “humans meet aliens”, and those other parts were really the heart of the story with a mother and daughter struggling to move on from an abusive relationship while trying to make sense of the events surrounding first contact. I’ve heard good things about the author’s other works and I’ll be reading more of his works sooner or later. (Read between August 12 & 15)

Book 44: His Dark Materials: Lyra’s Oxford (2003) is a short story set two years after end of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I had trouble deciding what to read next, so with my list of unfinished series in mind, I opted for a return to Lyra’s world and to be more precise, Lyra’s Oxford. It was a brief but enjoyable return to her life and world, and I just might move the remaining novellas and short stories associated with the first trilogy up my TBR list. (Read August 15) 

Book 45: Randomizer (2019) by Andy Weir was next. Another short story as I was still undecided about which novel to read next. Andy didn’t disappoint with a tight story about quantum computing that I read in one sitting. (Read August 15) 

Book 46: The Dead Zone (1979) by Stephen King is one of the few Stephen King books I have not read. I remember seeing the film adaption years ago and as a result of knowing the basic story – I’m sure Hollywood made a few changes – I never picked up the book until today. I also haven’t read Cujo and The Colorado Kid, and I think that’s it. Having just finished The Dead Zone, I’m wondering why it took me so long to get around to. (Read between August 15 & 20)

Book 47: The Expert System’s Champion (2021) by Adrian Tchaikovsky wasn’t on my immediate TBR list, but on the spur of the moment, and because it is on my list of uncompleted series or duologies,  I decided it was my next book. (Read between August 20 & 22)

Book 48: The Colorado Kid (2005) by Stephen King was next. Another book that wasn’t on my immediate TBR list, but I thought I would continue in the safe hands and pen of Stephen King. I am definately one of his constant readers as he likes to call us. It was a quick and enjoyable read with quite an unexpected ending, and ending I never would have predicted! (Read between August 22 & 23)

Book 49: Crossroads of Twilight (2003) I decided it was time to return to Robern Jordan’ The Wheel of Time saga.  By August 25, I made more progress than expected, getting up to the 28% mark. The following chapter jumped locations and character viewpoints, so I decided to stop for a short detour in the form of a new science fiction novella  – see below.  The detour was but a day and then back into it. I know one BookTuber regards this book as his least favorite in the series. I’m not sure I agree, but the pace of the story has certainly slowed, and one main character I’m looking forward to catching up with has yet to make an appearance by the 53% mark. So far, the events of this book take place in other locations as the climax of the previous book too place, so we have progressed in time no further. Having just finished it, yes, I think I agree that that was the weaked in the series to date. I still enjoyed it, and I read it quite quickly, but in terms of big events and plot development, this book had fewer of both. (Read between August 23 & 29 at about 1 a.m.) 

Book 50: Light Chaser (2021),  a novella by Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth Powell, was just released, and I couldn’t resist diving in at the earliest opportunity. I’m a big fan of Peter F. Hamilton, but I’ve yet to read anything by Gareth Powell, so this kind of serves as an introduction to his work. Mmmm I didn’t love it, but nor did I dislike it. It just felt like the concept would would have been better served by a novel as opposed to a novella. It did make for an interesting quick read though and a nice break from Crossroads of Twilight. (Read between August 25 & August 26.) 

Book 51: The Fall Of Hyperion (1990) was next. I loved Hyperion, the first book – although in the author’s mind Hyperion is simply the first half of a conceived longer book. Given that, I probably should have started The Fall of Hyperion immediately after finishing Hyperion. Well, it hasn’t been that long, and the characters and events are still pretty fresh in my memory. After a couple of chapters, it’s good to be back with the motley crew of pilgrims. My immediate goal is to read as much as possible before the new semester starts on September 1.  (Read between August 23 & Sept. …)

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