Tag: reading

Entertainment & Joy


Enjoy life.

I read a lot. Novels, history, and political science. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts discussing writing and literature. The written word is my preferred form of relaxation and entertainment.

Reading is not my job, finishing novels is not my duty. I read histories and biographies because they provide me hours of entertainment and bring me joy. My primary reason for reading is not self-improvement, or professional gain. I’m not a paid reviewer or critic, and I have no responsibility to engage with any of the work. My reading and writing is strictly for my own pleasure.

Because of this I have no qualms about abandoning novels after a few chapters. I have no reservations about giving up on a series after a disappointing episode. I recently gave up on Tim Mason’s The Darwin Affair, a plodding historical mystery that lacked mystery and did not capture my imagination. I got a good halfway through the book and decided that spending time in that world did not entertain me and did not bring me any joy.  Sometimes I stop a series because I don’t like the aesthetic. Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books are fun reads but I don’t enjoy urban fantasy action. I read the first, found it fun, yet, not to my taste, so I moved on. I have no compulsion to slog through entertainment I don’t enjoy.

I wanted to talk about this topic because my social media feeds are currently overwhelmed with Star Wars negativity. Post after post about how much people didn’t like the new movie. Posts from people that hated the last five movies. My question to them is why did you go see it? You didn’t enjoy the last one so why put yourself in a situation that brings discomfort. Entertainment should bring you joy, it should relax you, or make you think, or enrich you. It should not bring you so much displeasure.

I don’t understand the mindset that causes an individual to consume entertainment that they don’t enjoy. Why force yourself to read novels you don’t like? Why sit through a movie or television show that doesn’t bring you joy? So you can post negativity about it? The truth is nobody cares. Nothing you have to say about it matters to anyone and most likely your opinion will not be seen by many.

Life is short and often filled with negativity. Do not wallow in it. Do not create more of it. Novels, art, film, plays, and videogames are all forms of entertainment. They are meant to bring joy. If you are not enjoying yourself move on to something that does entertain you. Life is too short to focus on things you don’t like and spread negativity.

There is so much great material out there. Find it, read it, watch it, post about it, share it with your friends. Find what you love and make that the topic of your posts and videos. The world does not need another negative take down of Star Wars or whatever the latest trend. Your time is better spent creating art and enjoying yourself.

Barbarian Book Club: 6 June 2019

Another month goes by and I managed to scrape by with seven books. How I yearn for the old days where I could spend all day reading. Sometimes finishing two novels a day. Being a husband and a father take up most of my time. I’m looking forward to retirement where I can spend my days reclining in an armchair, drinking tea, and devouring books.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. A modern western about two brothers sent to California to kill a man who owes their boss money. It had a few moments but overall disappointing. It came off as a Tarantino pastiche that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be serious or comically absurd. But it’s biggest sin was leaving out the most important character in any western. The West itself. Great westerns always make the land a character. The deserts, the mesas, the wide plains, and treacherous mountain passes. The land itself must be in the novel.

The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance by Paul Strathern A fantastic historical overview of the powerful Medici family that rose from modest means to being some of the principals behind the Italian Renaissance. Bankers, Patrons, Bishops, Dukes, Popes, and Queens, the Medici rose to the heights of European power. The books main focus is on the height of the family during the Renaissance, from Cosimo through Lorenzo, wrapping up with the eventual fall of the family into obscurity. Fascinatingly the book also focuses on the artists, poets, and writers such as Michelangelo, showcasing the massive impact on the artistic revival of the most illustrious Medici.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay Outstanding novel. My favorite fantasy read this year. My complete review here.

The Renaissance at War (Smithsonian History of Warfare) by Thomas Arnold The Smithsonian History of Warfare series is really good. Quick pocket size books filled with maps, charts, diagrams, and all sorts of great information for anybody interested in a more in depth look into historical warfare.

Landsknecht Soldier 1486–1560 (Warrior) by John Richards Quick chapbook on the famous mercenaries. The Osprey Publishing books make great research material for writers. I read this one in a few hours while watching some young guns qualify on the rifle range.

Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de’ Medici by Miles Unger I find the political history of the Italian city states during the Renaissance interesting and the Medici of Florence are some of the most interesting players of the era. Lorenzo the Magnificent being the best example of a Renaissance lord. A dark, brooding, complex man who was an expert and ruthless political player yet abhorred the process, pining for the freedom to tend garden and write poetry. I also enjoy biographies and believe that all writers should read biographies. Getting a deep understanding of great men and women helps one create complex believable characters.

A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay This was a audiobook re-read. Kay is one of the rare modern fantasy writers I enjoy reading and A Song for Arbonne is my favorite one of his fantasy novels. This one has great characters, set in a fantastic fantasy version of Cathar Provencal in the age of the Troubadours. It ends with a great medieval battle that doesn’t quite reach the heights in Return of the King yet comes close enough to make it memorable. I highly recommend this one.

Life Update 29July18

July has been a busy month. We are getting used to and learning how to do the whole parenting thing. It’s difficult, frustrating, exhausting, but oh so worth it when I get to hold her and she smiles. Of course, as soon as she does she also rips a heavy fart or spits up all her milk. alexjune2

Work is also sucking up a lot of my time and energy. I was given a new leadership position that takes a lot of effort and compounds my tasks on top of an already busy daily schedule. Any other time I would have considered this an exciting promotion but with a newborn at home and my tour coming to a close I find the whole thing burdensome and inconvenient. Luckily I have some great people working with me that are giving me a hand and keeping me motivated.

Writing

Not a lot in this department. I’m currently working on a short story, a post-apocalyptic gonzo type story inspired by Wild West frontier fiction, specifically Ernest Haycox’s Stage to Lordsburg. Besides that, I started work on a long-term project, right now I’m researching so I have a lot of books piled up waiting for me to have the time to read and take notes.

Keeping up with the Science Fiction and Fantasy world I dabbled in reading about the Worldcon stupidity this year. It just cements the fact that the professional SFF world is a constant dumpster fire and I want nothing do to with it. Bunch of losers.

Reading:

Finishing Robin Hobbs Liveship Trader’s Trilogy I decided to keep going with her Elderlings series and read through The Tawny Man Trilogy. I powered through Fool’s Errand which was fantastic but it kicked my ass when it came to emotional scenes. Now I’m halfway through the second book, Golden Fool, and reading a few chapters nightly.

alexjune3.jpgBesides the big novels, I’m reading a collection of Louis L’Amour short stories, a bunch of cool stuff indie stuff that I will reveal and review soon, and all the usual non-fiction articles and history that comes across my way.

Weightlifting:

Had a bit of a drop in my schedule, gotta admit it’s hard to stay motivated when you are getting only two to three uninterrupted hours at night followed by a ten-hour workday filled with annoying people. But now I’ve settled into the routine and managed to complete an entire week and get a short run in yesterday. The Navy physical fitness test is coming up in September or October so that means I need to start up my running, situps, and pushups so I can score an outstanding and get back to lifting for the rest of the year. I haven’t checked my maxes in a while, so once I hit four uninterrupted weeks I will recalculate and compare to my annual goal.

 

The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

ShipofmagicI don’t write a lot of full-length book reviews. I prefer quick updates on what I’ve read recently, short and to the point, enough to recommend and maybe spur some discussion, but not concise reviews. The only time I write longer pieces is when I come across a book that really captures my imagination, for example, last months The River of Doubt Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard, a fantastic read filled with danger and adventure rivaling any fictional account. Robin Hobb’s The Liveship Traders is a masterpiece of fantasy writing and I feel compelled to recommend it to all my friends who enjoy intelligent character driven fantasy literature.

If you know me and follow me on here you know that I believe Robin Hobb is the best Fantasy writer out there. I loved the first Farseer Trilogy, so much so that I’m listening to the audiobook version on audible with my wife. We are currently on the second book, and I’m enjoying the series in this format. But, when I finished the initial Fitz series I was a bit hesitant to go on with the Liveship Traders. It focuses on a different set of characters and unlike the Farseer books it’s written in third person with multiple point of views. I put off reading it for about two years, but when I finally started it last month I couldn’t stop. Fitz and the Farseers are fantastic, but The Liveship trilogy is the best fantasy trilogy I’ve ever read.

The massive trilogy is made up of Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny, each shipofdestinyhefty fantasy tomes. The Liveship Traders is the saga of the Vestrits, an old Trader family from the exotic port colony of Bingtown. Bingtown Traders are the old money elite, descendants of the original founders of the city, and unique for owning mysterious living ships made out of wizardwood. Ships that are quickened by the death of three generations of family, becoming living beings that have the memories and personalities of their past captains.

The trilogy follows the Vestrits, as their family Liveship, the Vivacia becomes aware after the death of the family patriarch. His beloved daughter Althea, who grew up sailing with her father expects to inherit Vivacia but her mother and older sister instead grant Captainship to her brother-in-law Kyle, a hard man who decides to take his meek son Wintrow onboard and lead the financially burdened family into the new burgeoning slave trade.  The events and decisions set off a chain of events that have massive consequence not only for the Vestrits but for Bingtown and the whole world.

Slave traders, sea serpents, pirate captains, pirate kingdoms, jungles, ancient cities, violence, and high seas adventure. This trilogy has it all and the best portrayal of dragons as ancient hyper-intelligent alien creatures I’ve ever read in fantasy. But for all the excitement Robin Hobb’s ultimate strength and what elevates her writing above other fantasy lies in her characters. The depth of characterization and growth is unmatched in fantasy. Her characters are living, breathing, beings that are often deeply flawed yet grow and learn as the narrative advances and they fight to survive through the difficult trials of Hobb’s world.

the-mad-ship-port.jpeg

Hobb’s characterization is often so complex that characters you love at first go on to fail and disappoint while characters that begin as despicable and nasty become heroic and intriguing. The greatest example of complex characterization lies in the trilogy’s primary villain, the pirate Capitan Kennit. Hobb’s writing is so outstanding that all Kennit’s despicable behavior is plainly laid out, his vile thoughts are revealed to the reader, yet somehow you fall for his gaslighting and begin rooting for him just like the characters in the book. Kennit is one of the most complex and intriguing villains I’ve ever read and an outstanding achievement.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy is outstanding, complex, fantasy, that left me wanting more. The depth of characterization is the best I’ve read in any modern fantasy novel and while I have ten more Robin Hobb novels to read in her Realm of the Elderlings setting I’m going to predict that this trilogy will reign at the top of my list of favorites for many years to come.

 

 

 

Barbarian Book Club: May 2018 Operational Report

Updates

  • 20180514_175547847502312.jpgIn preparation for the imminent arrival of my first child, I decided to grow a respectable mustache. It’s coming along nicely and I have faith that it will develop further.
  • I’ve been writing a bit here and there, nowhere as much as I should be, but overall I’m content with my current pace. I got to see the proof for Storyhack Issue 2, I read a few of the other stories and I’m happy that my weird little story will be in great company.
  • My weightlifting routine is going great. I just finished week 4 of a program that I’m loving, but haven’t mentioned because I’ve been waiting to finish a least one month in order to give an honest experienced opinion before I recommend it.
  • Even with my rough schedule, I did a decent amount of reading and listening to lectures.

Books Read

AscentmoneyThe Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson– A fascinating look at the history of finance from beads to gold to digital currency made through ultra complex hedge funds. This was a great read, similar to the commodity histories that have been popular but focused on the rise of finance and its interconnected relationship with the rise of the Western World. There’s some interesting stuff here that somebody like me who is quite financially illiterate found fascinating, such as the chapter on the Welfare States, Chile, the Chicago Boys, and the interaction between politics and finance.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb– I’ve said itShipofmagic here before, Robin Hobb is my favorite fantasy writer. I spent most of April and May reading this massive trilogy. It’s heavy, character driven, and vastly superior to any fantasy series I’ve ever read. I’m going to dedicate a full post to these books, but if you enjoy great fantasy written for adults pick up this trilogy.

The Appearance of Power: How Masculinity is Expressed Through Aesthetics by Tanner Guzy–  A quick read about style and aesthetics for the men, mixed with a bit of social critique of the poisonous modern idea that men should avoid style and just walk around like slobs. Not bad, but reads like an appendix to Jack Donovan’s work. I would of enjoyed and found this a lot more helpful a bit over a decade ago.