Books Read in January, 2020

2020. The new year. Another year to see what my reading for the year will be like.

Thus, as is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my January, 2020 reads.

Books Read in January, 2020

Foundation by Isaac Asimov (r)

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan

Hypnos by R.J. Blain

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (r)

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (r)

Doomsday Clock #12 (Comic)

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #2 (Comic)

Coriolis RPG Quickstart Set by Christian Granath, Tomas Harenstam, Nils Karlen, Kosta Kostulas, and Simon Stalenhag (RPG) (r)

Coriolis - The Third Horizon Roleplaying Game by Tomas Harenstam, Nils Karlen, Kosta Kostulas, and Christian Granath (RPG) (r)

The Herald of Day by Nancy Northcott

Coriolis - The Third Horizon Gamemaster Screen by Various (RPG) (r)

December, 2019 Locus

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

And that was the start of my reading for 2020. I have to say that this was an excellent month of reading in terms of the quantity of material read, especially given the last few months of reading, though it was not the most books I've read in a month. Regardless, my bookcases are stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ) still. The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan - This book is a non-fiction work, that covers a little known period of Roman history from the fall of Carthage to the death of Sulla the Dictator. In general, the tale of the Roman Republic develops in chronological order and allows the reader to follow the crisis that eventually would envelope the Republic. The book is a well-written account that keeps the reader's interest from the preface to the epilogue. This is not boring, stuffy, history. Author Duncan has extensively trawled the works of the ancient writers and pieced together a fascinating narrative that is comprehensively cross-referenced. This was a period of massive change, as the Roman Republic expanded into chaos and descended into civil war and eventually the formation of the Principate. This work records the facts that led to the fall of the Republic, but offers very little insight apart from a brief comparison to modern politics in the United States. The sources appear to have been taken at face value without questioning their motives or accuracy. This does not distract from the flow of the story or the ultimate outcome. The parallels to political life in Britain today are staggering! Overall, this book is a good overview of the Roman Republic before Caesar and Pompey came onto the scene. It is well-written, very thorough and highly interesting. I recommend this highly as a introductory text.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - The second book in the author's His Dark Materials trilogy, this book largely stands the test of time. It is hugely ambitious for a children's/YA novel, raising some deep theological concepts from the nature of innocence to the problems of organised religion to the perception of reality. That said, despite the accessible way in which this novel is written, a lot of the subtext is likely to go whizzing over the head of younger readers. As Lyra unknowingly finds herself sandwiched between two factions - the Magisterium in their crusade against Dust, and Lord Asriel who has now set his sights on destroying the being that they worship (known as the Authority) - the result is deeply original, but at times the novel feels as if the author's ideas are far too grand for the book. It's a bit of a smorgasbord, containing a bit of everything but its scope is so broad that it lacks finer detail. The reader catches glimpses of the bigger picture - of Lord Asriel's fortress and Mrs. Coulter's ever-growing greed - but there isn't enough room in the novel to really focus on any aspect. Of course, The Subtle Knife is a middle novel in a trilogy, and it shows, but its true purpose is to move the key characters into the places they need to be for the third book, The Amber Spyglass. That said, it isn't a bad novel at all, in fact, I feel it has a better pace than The Golden Compass, but the perspective does jump around a lot between the various important parties. This is not just Lyra's story any longer; Will, Mary Malone, Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala also are the focus of chapters and so the third person narrative flits between them and the various worlds that they travel to. The novel also ends on a very sudden cliffhanger, leaving it feeling incomplete as a whole. That said, while The Subtle Knife is not a perfect book, it is a strong sequel to The Golden Compass. While Lyra and Will often seem older than they actually are, both protagonists show noticeable growth and maturity as the story goes along. The twists and turns in their destiny are also compelling, drawing the reader in and leaving one wondering how things can possibly turn out okay in the third and final book of the trilogy. Highly enjoyable book, and I highly recommend it and the series as a whole.

The Herald of Day by Nancy Northcott - This novel is the first book in the Boar King's Honor trilogy. Though the author is someone that I talk to regularly through Twitter (and I consider her a friend), I had never read any of her books until this one. This novel has so many elements that I love in novels - mystery, magic, history, romance, and suspense. A wizard's fatal mistake. A king wrongly blamed for murder. A bloodline cursed until they clear the king's name... In 17th Century England, witchcraft is a hanging offense. Tavern maid Miranda Willoughby hides her magical gifts until terrifying visions compel her to seek the aid of a stranger, Richard Mainwaring, to interpret them. A powerful wizard, he sees her summons as a chance for redemption. He bears a curse because one of his ancestors unwittingly helped murder the two royal children known as the Princes in the Tower, and her message uses symbols related to those murders. Miranda's visions reveal that someone has altered history, spreading famine, plague and tyranny across the land. The quest to restore the timeline takes her and Richard from the glittering court of Charles II to a shadowy realm between life and death, where they must battle the most powerful wizard in generations - with the fate of all England at stake. There's action, intrigue, and love... all the elements that go towards making such a novel successful, and author Northcott has a way with her characters that not only endeared Miranda and Richard to me, but made the two of them come alive. The book also holds some interesting twists, and I have to say that I loved the book and will definitely pick up the second book on my next book shopping foray. Recommended.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - This is a novel that I really don't know what to say about, as I don't want to spoil the enjoyment of it for others. Set in the era of the New Zealand gold rush, The Luminaries is a great sprawling epic of a murder mystery, written by a very talented, contemporary writer in the style of a Victorian novel. There is so much to admire in this hugely ambitious book (it's some 800+ pages!), not least of which is the complex structure. As astrology is the key to understanding the overall circular structure, each of the twelve parts is prefaced by an astrological chart. At the start of the book a character chart highlights the personality types in each sign of the zodiac. There is also the interplay between the astrological chart with its twelve signs of the zodiac and the structure of the twelve parts themselves. Each one is half the length of the preceding one until the last chapter is barely more than a few paragraphs long. This book is beautifully written and the author has a sly sense of humour, particularly in her use of language that mimics the style of Wilkie Collins and Dickens. However, where Catton and Dickens differ is in terms of characterisation. I'm not going to spoil the end of the book, but will say that the reader is left with many unanswered questions. This may have been intention, but regardless, it may leave the reader feeling down and not really satisfied. That said, the book has won a host of literary awards, and is an excellent novel despite its faults. I recommend it for those who are fans of the art of literature writing.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 2 comics, and 0 graphic novels in January. Since this is the start of the year, it brings the year total in 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 8 books, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 2 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)

Friday Night Game Report - Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG Session 12

Last night, the Friday night gaming group continued their game campaign of the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG. You can read about the previous game session by following the link. This post is extremely long, so I've put it behind a cut for those who don't want to read about my roleplaying game campaigns.


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Friday night's session of the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG campaign was a pretty good one, with a little bit of everything happening. There was even a fight, such as it was, that allowed Peter to get a feel for the combat system ("This is great!" he said). The session didn't have a lot for Ellie's Zouma or Angela's Hafisa to do, but the two played the various NPCs the characters encountered and had a couple of heart-to-hearts back on the Ruby Flower. There are still a few matters to resolve on Aiwaz Station, and the matter of Peter's character joining the crew. Not sure how that will get handled yet, but I'm sure it'll be...interesting. :)

Overall, a really good session of the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG, and I'm looking forward to the next session of the game.

The Start of February

It's Saturday morning. The first of February. A new month.

The weather outside is relatively clear and partially sunny, and only mildly cold (if you don't count the wind chill). A nice change from most of January. I can't say I'm unhappy to see the back side of January, as to be honest, last month was pretty bad health-wise and to some extent weather-wise (though it's been a milder winter than most folks expected ::knock on wood:: ). I'm just hoping that this month is better than last month, especially health-wise. The early part of January was pretty decent, but the rest of the month wasn't all that great for multiple reasons.

I don't have much to say today as I'm in quite a bit of pain and have a few things I want to get done before the evening. That, and nap a bit this afternoon.

Getting Ready for Friday Night Gaming

Gaming this evening with the Friday gaming group is on.

I wasn't sure that I'd be able to run the gaming session this evening, due to the pain in my legs and feet, but it has become somewhat manageable today due to a day off from grocery shopping (see the previous LJ post) and the taking of medication and keeping my feet up. So gaming for tonight is a go.

I'll be continuing on with the Friday night Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG campaign this evening, and am looking forward to it. The Friday night gamers are quite looking forward to playing the game tonight, as mentioned also in my last post on getting ready to get back to the Coriolis - The Third Horizon game.

In the meantime, I need to get upstairs, take the hamburgers out of the oven, and eat supper.

Have a good evening, folks. :)

No Grocery Shopping Today, Sort Of

Didn't get out to do the grocery shopping today. My legs and feet are hurting too badly to have done that much walking. And to make things worse, my mother (who came over yesterday for various reasons) took my house keys, so I couldn't go out and leave the house unlocked. Fortunately, I was able to give the shopping list and money to spross, and he was kind enough to do the grocery shopping for me on his own. A bonus of this was that it allowed me to spend some time off my legs after medicating a bit, and then having a bit of time to prep the gaming materials for this evening's rpg session with the Friday night gamers.

Thanks, my friend! I really appreciate this. :)

Sunday Afternoon Game Report - Coriolis - The Third Horizon, Session 1a

The Sunday afternoon gaming group played on Sunday (the 26th of January), but due to medical appointments and their ramifications, I've not had a chance to blog about the game session until now. The Sunday players re-started their Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG campaign from scratch on Sunday. This post is somewhat long, so I've put it behind a cut for those who don't want to read about my roleplaying game campaigns.


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Sunday's game session of the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG campaign went pretty well, I thought, and re-started the game campaign with some familiar, but somewhat different, encounters and events to it. This first session was meant to allow the players to get a feel for their characters, interact with the three NPC crew of the ship, and experience a bit of the Coriolis station (and the game universe) in the process. Both Tammy and SteveR seemed to have a good time of it, and enjoyed the game session quite a bit, Tammy telling me that she felt the game session wasn't so frenetic and overwhelming as the game had been the first time I ran it.

Overall, a good first session "restart" to the Coriolis - The Third Horizon Sunday campaign. I'm looking forward to the next game session, for sure.

Getting Ready for Sunday Afternoon Gaming

Both the weather and my health have threatened to cancel today's gaming on this Sunday.

Mother Nature has dropped close to 12 cms of snow on the city since last night, and there was freezing rain mixed in there as well. To add to my personal misery, the sciatica has migrated to my right side and I am in serious pain today as I write this. However, the weather has not dampened SteveR's and Tammy's spirits, and we are going to game this afternoon. Hopefully, my back can take it.

The Sunday gamers and I will be re-starting the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG campaign from scratch today, and I', rather looking forward to this game. Hopefully, it will get my mind off my own health issues for the day.

Meanwhile, it's time to head into the shower, and then hobble upstairs to make some (late) breakfast.

Have a good afternoon, folks. :)

Happy Birthday, James Murray!

Today is actor James Murray's birthday. Murray is the gifted actor who played Stephen Hart for two Series of the Primeval tv series.

Here's wishing James Murray, who turns 45 years young today a very Happy Birthday, and a terrific year ahead!

We miss you, Stephen Hart.

Game Registration for CanGames, 2020

And so the gaming season is starting up again.

About a week ago, I received my notification from CanGames (2020) that they are looking for GameMasters and folks to run various other types of games, and the link to the form for submitting games for the convention. I took a look at the GM Forms, and they're essentially the same as last year's ones, with a few differences here and there.

I actually know what games I want to run at the convention this year, so I'll be submitting two games to run at CanGames in a few days. I'll be running one or two sessions of the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG as well as one or two sessions of the new, not yet released, Zorro: The Roleplaying Game, but all of this depends on a couple of factors that I need to take into account at the convention. Once I've got confirmation from the convention about the running times for the games, I'll be blogging that information up here, you can be certain. :)

CanGames 2020 will be taking place at the Rideau Curling Club over the Victoria Day weekend, May 15th - 17th, 2020, here in Ottawa. Quite looking forward to the convention this year. :)