WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/17

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I meant to write one of these last week, I really want to start doing them weekly. Sadly, I also do shift work and that Wednesday disappeared in a haze of fatigue. Here’s hoping I can start weekly from here.

Currently Reading

Right now I’m in the middle of reading Tarkin by James Luceno, one of the new canon Star Wars novels. I am enjoying it; this book tells a much more grounded story of Imperial intrigue and squashing dissent and rebellion than Lords of the Sith did, which I’m finding translates better to novel form. However, I wonder if I’m making a mistake by only having read the novels about villains thus far. I like getting into the heads of these characters, but ultimately it is giving the backstory of a man who destroyed an entire planet without batting an eye, because of how much he believes in a strong show of force to eliminate dissenter.

It still presents Tarkin with some interesting dimension, showing that he’s not wickedly cruel and sadistic, but ruthless and committed to his cause all the same. His involvement is a little more nuanced than simply being in on an evil plot to turn the galactic government into a dictatorship. I just can’t get completely behind him because he has no problem enforcing this dictatorship.

I like the book regardless and I’m intrigued to see where it goes. Tarkin and Darth Vader are currently being given a run for their money, which I hope will lead to more interesting developments as they become more compromised. I hope the implied rivalry between him and Vader comes to a head more as well. So far it’s been hinted at, but they’re cooperating just fine.

Recently Finished

Since my last entry I finished The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (review here). I must say, it did make me eat my words a bit. I said that it likely didn’t have any surprises for me, but I was wrong. There weren’t any shocking plot developments, but what I did find was a prominent personal connection with Holden, which made me empathize with him a lot more than I had before. The novel felt bittersweet by the end and I’m happy I read it. I took more away from it than I thought I would.

I also finished reading What If? by Randall Monroe (review here), which was a lot of fun to get through. I treated it like a read I would come back to periodically, but I enjoyed reading a lot of entries at once too. The humour was solid, but what I really took away was how much his explanations of physics and the laws of nature, when answering these absurd questions, actually taught me things I didn’t know before. It was fun and I know more about the world than when I started.

Lastly, I read through The Incredible Hercules: Dark Reign, which is the fifth volume in a Marvel Comics series about Hercules, which were originally published in the late 2000s to early 2010s. Once again I found they blend the mythology of Hercules with the modern, comic book interpretation of him very well, even dealing with how he’s always working toward overcoming the negative aspects of who he was in those old stories. The previous volume dipped a little in quality for me, so it was great to see it pick up again here.

Reading Next

It still feels as if I’ve got endless books to choose from, but I think I’m pretty set on what I’m reading next. I want to start and finish On Writing by Stephen King as well as Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett before the end of May. In terms of comic books, I want to read the two volumes of Hellboy in Hell — having recently acquired volume two — as well as the first volume of Hellboy: Weird Tales and Frankenstein Underground, which I just picked up for great prices used yesterday.

I hope to have all these books done before May 30th, when Stephen King’s new book Gwendy’s Button Box and Devid Sedaris’ new book Theft by Finding both come out. I want to finish those two new books as quickly as I can to get reviews written and posted, sot that I’m not just writing about older books. Looks like it’s going to be a bit more of an exciting few weeks for reading.

Book Review – What If? by Randall Munroe

WhatIfCover

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe is a book based on the “What If” blog on the author’s popular web comic xkcd. Munroe is a former roboticist for NASA, who went on to write xkcd full time after his contract ended. The “What If?” blog is where fans of his comic send him questions to arbitrate ridiculous scientific debate points, such as “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?” and then answering such questions as completely as possible using his own knowledge, academic research, and consulting experts.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – 2017/05/03

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

I’m still in the thick of things with Randall Munroe’s What If?, though I’m a little over halfway through it now. I’m pushing myself a little more to finish it, just so it isn’t lingering in the background too long. I’m still really enjoying it. While it’s humorous, there’s a lot more value in what I’m learning from it. One great section in particular covered the logistics of flying in the atmosphere of other planets and moons in our solar system. He also shares a rather uplifting twist on the lesson in the myth of Icarus, which is (paraphrased) that he never really saw it as a lesson about flying too high, but the ineffectiveness of wax as an adhesive.

I’m also in the middle of reading The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I was hoping I’d have it done by now, but completing something for a job application and a short road trip forced me to set it aside. I understand why it’s considered a classic, and I’m not having a terrible time reading it, but all the same I don’t like Holden Caulfield as a character nor a narrator.

I get that that’s largely the point with his character, unless you more closely relate to him, but I dislike him all the same. He’s a hypocrite who lays far too much blame on others rather than his own behaviour. At the same time I sympathize, because he’s clearly a deeply depressed person. As a narrator, I just dislike his style. He just ends too many sentences with “and all.” and all.

I see it’s significance in literary history, and I’ll be happy to say I’ve read it when all is said and done, but I don’t feel like it has any surprises in store for me. Before I was halfway in I felt I had a good handle on what the book is going for and while I’m a little optimistic I’m fairly certain there’s not going to be much more to it, other than what sordid activities he gets up to.

Recently Finished

I recently finished reading Sourcery by Terry Pratchett, the fifth novel in the Discworld series. I managed to power through it in four days, testing how quickly I could get through a book of that length if I applied myself a little better. Pratchett’s writing was great as usual — even showing improvement as he’s getting further in his series — I just found the plot a little too underwhelming. The structure is too similar to other books he’s told, where the main character travels along meeting new people and seeing strange sites while a cataclysmic magical threat grows in the background, until things eventually come to a head.

Incidentally, the book was elevated by its climax and conclusion for me, telling something legitimately poignant while also making me laugh harder than I ever have at one of his books. Also, having starred in three of the five Discworld novels until this point, I would have to say this was my favourite Rincewind story, despite my criticisms.

Reading Next

Once again I find myself unsure what I’ll be getting to next. I really want to push myself to finish off all the books I’m currently in the middle of. After that, I’ll like start On Writing by Stephen King, though I also want to start that new book White Tears by Hari Kunzru so that I can review a new release. Otherwise, I’ll likely start Tarkin by James Luceno to get more of the new Star Wars books under my belt.

If I can keep up the faster reading pace I will hopefully start writing one of these weekly.

Until next time. Happy reading!

WWW Wednesday – 2017/04/19

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WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

I’m getting further along in it now, but I’ve still got a ways to go with What If? by Randall Munroe. Still really liking it, although I’m a little disappointed to find I can’t fully appreciate some of the more math-heavy entries. I’ve never really had a penchant for it beyond the basics. One entry in particular I did really like though, which tackles that frequently occurring question “What if everyone on Earth jumped at the same time?” I won’t spoil his twist on it, but I thought it was answered quite humorously by giving us an entirely new problem that the premise creates.

I’m also in the middle of reading Hellboy in Mexico. I feel I ought to have finished it by now, but I’m more lax with getting through it since finishing the main series. The original idea for the one-shot “Hellboy in Mexico” was great and it’s a lot of fun to see it fleshed out. Basically, Hellboy has a “lost weekend” in Mexico in 1956 that spanned about five months. He spent nearly the entire time drunk, so doesn’t remember much of what happened. This book builds on that idea, giving us a collection of stories about what he got up to.

Recently Finished

In defiance of personal expectations I actually managed to power through all of The Dark Tower by Stephen King since my last entry. Not that it was particularly hard; the book was really hard to put down. Cliffhangers were resolved, plotlines wrapped up, and a lot of heartbreak and loss was had. It was unexpected how much I actually found myself grieving for characters after I’d put the book down. That doesn’t happen for me often.  The group is almost constantly traveling forward as well, which I like, encountering harsh conditions, hellish landscapes, and nightmarish adversaries. I don’t want to talk endlessly about it, so what I’ll say in closing is that this might be my favourite book in the whole series. It was a satisfying end. I posted a full review a couple days ago if anyone is interested in more of my thoughts.

I also finished reading the entire Hellboy series, which I feel quite accomplished about, since acquiring and reading the remaining seven volumes I needed had been a mission of mine for the last while. I was happy with how it all turned out, though I wish volumes had run together a little better. Volumes 10 and 11 are both collections of shorts that don’t occur chronologically with the main story, which hurt the pace a bit for me. The conclusion itself was epic, however, and a rather poignant end for the character.

Reading Next

At this point I have the reader’s wonderful problem of having so many books to read I cannot make up my mind. I’m leaning toward Tarkin by James Luceno to get more of the new Star Wars books under my belt, though I also want to maybe power through the Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger so I can say I’ve done it (I’ve owned a copy for years). As I think I’ve mentioned before I also want to continue Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series with Sourcery, On Writing by Stephen King, and Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Like I said, lots to choose from. Haven’t made up my mind yet, but you’ll know what I picked by my next entry.