The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I read some superlative reviews of the new Netflix version of A Series Of Unfortunate Events, and found a copy of The Bad Beginning on my shelves. I used to buy the first book in a series that all the Avid Readers were pouring over for my son, thinking he might also like them. Some he did, some not.

Although the book is easy reading, I loved that it was filled with vocabulary, both the word itself and an arch description of what it really means. Seldom do you read a book with so many words describing villainy in so many ways.

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The way these children loved books and libraries and reading endeared them to me immediately. Their own home “had an enormous library…a room filled with thousands of books on nearly every subject”.

Moving to the dirty, depressing home of their relation Count Olaf, they’re without books entirely in addition to the other privations of life with Olaf. Klaus says “I miss reading very much. We must go out and look for a library sometime soon.”

Next door lives a Judge who agrees to lend them a cookbook for a large dinner they’re to prepare. She has an entire cookbook section in her library. “There were shelves and shelves of them, on every wall from the floor to the ceiling, and separate shelves of them in the middle of the room. The only place there weren’t books was in one corner, where there were some large, comfortable-looking chairs and a wooden table with lamps hanging over them, perfect for reading.” Paradise! Particularly compared to the barren squalor they now lived in. They’re invited to borrow books at any time, which gives them a bit of happiness to hold onto.

The book contains a great deal of absurdity, beginning with every single thing about Olaf, continuing with a man with two hooks for hands, a banker who loves their fortune and vows to protect it while offering them nothing to hold onto, and a baby in a birdcage hanging in a tower window.

I understand after reading The Bad Beginning why the Avid Readers who came to the library loved these.

Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

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Once again a world in which almost everyone lives in space is brought successfully to life.

The format of the books which switches constantly between characters can be a problem when you just want to see what happens next to a set of characters, but cliff-hanger-like, you have to wait a few chapters for that story to continue. Those shifting views make it possible to create a believable society in the stars. You know how it all fits together and what lives are like in a way that wouldn’t be as effective with a single narrator point of view.

For someone like myself who has been reading and dreaming about societies with space travel for a lifetime, this is spectacular. It is not only a living breathing society, but the people are so varied and so well written that I’m able to root for strange potentially deadly characters like Clarissa Mao. I know Avasarala so well now, that I laugh out loud in all her chapters. And somewhere towards the end of the story I had tears in my eyes, and that isn’t something that I’d ever expect to see from a hard science fiction novel.

If you read my previous post about Babylon’s Ashes as I was reading it, I was wrong in how things would play out, but also right in a way. Onward, Rocinante!

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Reading Challenges For 2017

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While beginning my search for blogs and sites with Reading Challenges for 2017 I found a spectacular list from girlxoxo.com called The Master List of 2017 Reading Challenges.

I personally will be looking at the challenges for Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Children’s and Young Adult since those are where my reading interests lie. I may also start reading some Historical Fiction this year since I have become such a fan of Historical Mysteries, perhaps I can enjoy history in yet another fictional way.

girlxoxo linked to another site Reading Challenge Addict, so if you find yourself immersed in all of the possibilities of these challenges, you can get even more ideas.

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Note: I signed up for the Goodreads Challenge to read 50 books, and I’ve placed the Goodreads Widget on my sidebar. Let the reading begin!

Currently Reading: Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

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The most recent novel in the Expanse universe is Babylon’s Ashes. Released in December 2016, I’m nearly to the halfway point. As usual, many stories are told from a wide variety of viewpoints, so you always see what is happening in all sectors of the solar system, with all of the different players.

The self proclaimed Free Navy led by Marco Inaros has all but destroyed Earth and has taken over the Medina gate to the new worlds, capturing any colony ships that try to go through and commandeering their cargos and resources. They’ve gutted Ceres Station and are destroying ships throughout the system whose owners seem to oppose them.

The tenuous society which existed before with Earth and Mars well situated and the Belt stations barely surviving is gone, but it’s hard to see what will replace it since the supplies and resources for everyone are now dwindling quickly, with no way to even start producing enough to save those who remain. In many ways the war has just begun.

As I say, I’m not finished, but I could see it ending up with a small group who survives making their way through the gates and abandoning our system altogether. That would strand all of humanity on the thousand new worlds full of alien technologies which could activate and destroy the last of them at any time.

Let’s hope things don’t get that bleak, and that our hero James Holden can somehow get everyone to see they’re all one people who need to work together to survive.

Season Two of the Expanse starts on the Syfy channel February 1st. http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse

Sleep Well, 2016

This was a good year for books in my corner of the universe.  I wish I had done what people do, and kept nice little notes about what I was reading as I went along.

As you’ll recall, blogs were originally described as “online diaries”.  Although I like reading novels sometimes that are told in the format of a personal journal, I am not necessarily interested in reading or writing diaries.  Unless they’re garden diaries. Those are fascinating.

I think this blog needs a little more personality, or something.  One of the reasons I don’t write here often is because it seems as if has to be sort of formal. A “review” site.

The blog was started because an author whose books I love sent me an advance copy of a new book, and I wrote about it, but when the next in the series came out, the publisher asked the author to only send copies to “Book Review Blogs”.  Awkward for the author who had already promised copies to bloggers of not necessarily book blogs.

Anywho.

I created a Merlyn Perilous Goodreads account today, and I’ll link to it in the sidebar once I get it set up just so.

It was a little weird, the setup, as it had me check off a bunch of reading categories, then popped up pages of children’s and YA books for me to rate. No mysteries or science fiction or historical novels.

I was having fun, and only checked things I loved and had read, giving each five stars.  In my Facebook days, when I followed a ton of wonderful authors, I’d see them feeling bad that someone had given their book four or eek, three stars, and it made them feel awful.  As we know, Authors Are My Heroes, so it’s going to be five or nothing from me.

Look for a more casual Merlyn in 2017, more DOA-ish, more me-ish.

Happy Reading, Happy 2017

Merlyn Perilous

Dissolution by C. J. Sansom

Dissolution takes place during the period when Catholic monasteries in Henry VIII’s England were closed and often destroyed down to the last brick under the cruel supervision of Thomas Cromwell. The particular monastery of the novel comes under scrutiny because of a shocking murder. One of Cromwell’s commissioners who has been investigating the finances of the monastery at Scarnsea is found early in the morning in the kitchen with his head neatly severed.

Smaller monasteries have been taken over, but the larger monasteries still stand. Cromwell doesn’t want attention drawn to this larger monastery where the abbot was under pressure to “surrender” the monastery and all its lands and worth to the king.

Cromwell sends lawyer Matthew Shardlake, a dedicated Reformist, to solve the murder as quickly and quietly as possible. Accompanying Matthew is his ward Mark, an idealistic young man who has a way with women, and not so much respect for the Reformation.

They arrive at the monastery on horseback, just ahead of a snowstorm that soon isolates them in the monastery with a group of monks who find them to be frightening. It seems there are about five monks with access to the crime scene who also would physically be able to wield a sword and cut off a man’s head.

It turns out there are lights in the swamp at night behind the monastery’s crumbling wall, secret passages known to more than a few and two other murders that come to light as they investigate.

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Matthew is a hunchback, but he does so much horseback riding, and physically challenging chases through the monastery, he lets nothing stop him. He’s so aware of his appearance, and has suffered a lifetime of ill looks and insults. Yet his intellect, hard work and reform fervor have made him a close confidant of Thomas Cromwell, and he has Cromwell’s power to wield as he goes everywhere in the monastery, examining everything, asking bold questions with no fear that he will not be answered.

It was fascinating to see how the religious beliefs and practices of the monks looked to someone who turned away from the church and had nothing but contempt for it. Matthew screamed at someone for worshiping “a piece of wood”. He’s certainly not a man of even temperament, as he yells at his assistant often also.

If it weren’t for his self awareness, basic humanity, and desire to do the right thing, he might almost be unlikeable. But I do want to read more of his stories set in the awful times he lived in. It will be interesting to see how he treads carefully though the upcoming years.

C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake Page: http://www.cjsansom.com/Shardlake

The Matthew Shardlake Series In Order:

Dissolution 2003

Dark Fire 2004

Sovereign 2006

Revelation 2008

Heartstone 2010

Lamentation 2014

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Holden, with Miller’s ghostly direction managed to open the Ring Gate in Abbaddon’s Gate. Now thousands of worlds are within reach. The overcrowded solar system has an escape valve, and people can spread out among the stars, with plenty of air and water for all.

The nearest planet to the gates has been named Ilus by a colony of refugees from Ganymede. They commandeered their rescue ship and pointed it through the gates when there seemed no place else for them to go. Fiercely independent, determined to build a new life for themselves, they’ve been mining the planet which is rich in lithium and the ruins of a dead alien civilization.

mining colony

The infighting that always existed between Earth, Mars and the Belt still goes on. Earth’s UN is sending their own colony of scientists to this same planet to study it and claim it for their own. They call the planet New Terra. They don’t recognize the current colonists nor, thanks to some corporate string pulling at home, do they plan to let the colonists have mining rights.

As a shuttle carrying the new Governor and a first group of scientists land, the landing pad explodes, killing many on board, including the new governor. The Edward Israel, still in orbit, goes into high alert and sends a signal back to Earth that colonial terrorists have killed the first team sent to the planet.

Another ship, the Barbapiccola waits in orbit for the first shipments of lithium.

The trip from Ilus to home takes a year and a half, though communications take mere hours. The UN and OPA want James Holden to go to Ilus and try to reach a diplomatic conclusion. Miller’s ghostly self wants to go through the gate in the very worst way. Although Holden fears what Miller might do next, or cause to happen, he likes the idea of being a peacemaker, so they go.

While the Rocinante makes the journey, the head of Edward Israel’s security sends more scientists down to the planet and goes down himself to make sure their mission isn’t hampered and no one is killed. He runs a tight colony and never hides his suspicion of the “squatters” as the colonists are known to the scientists.

Just as the Rocinante arrives, a fight breaks out and security teams from the Edward Israel are killed. Murtry declares martial law. And planet itself seems to be waking up.

Holden’s efforts are wasted on the three warring groups, except for a scientist who develops an awkward crush on Holden.

As the planet wakes, it seems bent on destroying those on the surface. As they flee into space and the ships in orbit, the planet’s defenses begin to pull all the ships down towards the surface.