User Profile

MH Thaung

mhthaung@ramblingreaders.org

Joined 1 year, 2 months ago

Pathologist, educator, also writes tiny stories and speculative fiction. Scottish-born (hence @mhthaung@mastodon.scot), now lives in London. Reading tastes vary, depending on how much of a break I need from academia. Mainly speculative fiction, some mystery (going through a Golden Age phase), and chunks of science- or society-related non-fiction. She/her.

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MH Thaung's books

Currently Reading

Ai Jiang: I Am AI (Paperback, Shortwave Media) No rating

Powerful, disturbing and well worth a read.

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This novelette packs an effective punch as it shows us a frightenly plausible future. The short length is perfect as it emphasises the sense of running out of time, and the tension is high throughout. Main character Ai is sympathetic if somewhat remote (understandably). It was almost painful witnessing her make decisions that we (the readers) knew would make everything worse. But those decisions made perfect sense in the context.

Overall, powerful, disturbing and well worth a read.

Mark Kistler: You Can Draw In 30 Days (2011, Da Capo Lifelong Books) No rating

Non-intimidating introductory lessons

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I’m one of those middle-aged adults who “has never been able to draw”. Unusually for me (where “learning to draw” is concerned), I quite enjoyed each lesson here and wasn’t tempted to bail out partway through the course. I think that’s because the material was 1. non-intimidating, 2. encouraging, 3. introduced a fairly small amount of technical knowledge. This last might be viewed as a negative point: and I suspect some topics such as shadows were not strictly correct. But on the other hand, you might argue that beginner lessons introduce concepts in a simplified way that can be expanded/refined with future study.

Overall, a decent starter course that’s whetted my appetite to learn more.

T.M. Baumgartner: Shift Happens (Paperback, Speculative Turtle Press) No rating

Pleasant urban fantasy

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I enjoyed this urban fantasy by a new-to-me author. There’s an interesting premise of people sometimes becoming shifters, with MC Angela being a “probation officer” who guides them through the process. Unlike many other urban fantasies, shifting is neither hidden nor widely practised: it’s more “acknowledged but not spoken of in polite society.”

Angela was a likeable character, although with a bit of a too good to be true “saint complex.” It’s a refreshing change that she isn’t tortured by internal conflicts and secrets, but perhaps that also made her come across as a bit bland. The other characters were pretty much as described on the tin, with no surprises (no hidden agendas) once we’d met them. The jerks remained so all the way through, as did the friendly, supportive side cast.

The writing was smooth and the read easy. Despite some dangerous challenges (there are deaths, so I wouldn’t …

Roger Zelazny: The Magic: (october 1961-October 1967) Ten Tales by Roger Zelazny (Positronic Publishing) No rating

Classic novella collection, maybe more for the completionist than a new reader

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I’ve enjoyed reading Zelazny’s works after borrowing Nine Princes in Amber from my local library some forty years ago. Some of the novellas in this collection of ten were old friends, and I enjoyed revisiting them while discovering new-to-me works as well.

Setting each work in perspective, the novellas are interspersed with brief commentaries, author’s notes and explanatory notes. (I didn’t pay much attention to the last. On the one hand, they might be handy, but on the other they felt rather condescending.) I liked learning more about the context (eg what else was being published at the time, and by whom).

Zelazny’s protagonists are unapologetically exceptional. We don’t (generally) follow them through a story that challenges their abilities. The opposition they face is not usually from equally competent people. Instead, they may strive against forces of nature (as in “This Moment of the Storm” or “This Mortal Mountain”). Their …

Bit dry, but a good starting point for further reading

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This is an exploration of how Victorian innovations, development and men (I use the term intentionally) laid the foundation for ongoing science and technology.

I admit I found the first half slow going. The events and personalities came across as facts and lists rather than the (I would imagine) exciting, maybe even scandalous, clashes that would have played out at the time. No doubt The Royal Society played a hugely important role in fostering and challenging ideas, but its internal politics make dry reading from this vantage point. I found myself dipping in and out rather than reading from start to finish. This was easy enough to do with each chapter’s focus being on a different technology.

I enjoyed the later chapters more, especially about telegraphy and attempts to fly.

Each chapter ends with a list of cited references, which will be a useful resource for further perusal.

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T. Kingfisher: A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking (Paperback, 2020, Argyll Productions) 5 stars

Fourteen year old Mona is a baker but she is also a not-very-powerful wizard - …

Fun adventure for young readers

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This was a quick and fun story that I think would appeal to young readers. The plot was straightforward and clearly explained: a bit too clearly for my tastes, with heavy-handed social commentary, but then I’m certainly not young! I liked that Mona had a good relationship with her aunt and uncle. She did came across as younger than her stated 14, especially in the medieval-ish setting. She struck me more as an observer and pushed around by circumstances (and other people’s actions/decisions) than having her own agency, which added to the “young” feel. The gingerbread man was fun.

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Arkady Martine: Desolation Called Peace (Paperback, 2022, Pan Macmillan) 4 stars

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with …

Solid space opera

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I read A Memory Called Empire earlier this year and really enjoyed it. In this sequel, I was curious to see how the author would handle the mysterious aliens, who we previously hadn’t seen on page.

We see this story from multiple points of view. While I liked getting different perspectives, they felt rather contrived in terms of answering questions raised by the previous PoV character. I also felt there was a lot of characters standing around being told (or overhearing) information by other characters. Sometimes I was put in mind of “messenger speeches” in Greek drama, where important events are recounted to the actors (and audience) by a messenger, rather than being played out on stage.

There was a sex scene which… felt unnecessary and didn’t (in my opinion) contribute in any way to the story, and I could have done without as much angst-y interactions. (Or perhaps, since …

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With the end of the year approaching, ALL my novels are just 0.99 each in your favourite ebook store - until 31 December!

After a light-hearted read? Start with The Diamond Device, a romp with mismatched buddies racing to foil a bomb plot. https://books2read.com/mhthaung11

Or for a slower, more thoughtful pace, give my A Quiet Rebellion trilogy a go. Murder. Secrets. Infectious paranormal powers. https://books2read.com/mhthaung1

Boosts much appreciated 🙏🏽😊

reviewed Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire (InCryptid - Ghost Roads 2012, #1)

Seanan McGuire: Discount Armageddon (2014, Constable and Robinson) 4 stars

Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science. See also …

Entertaining urban fantasy

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This urban fantasy is the first book I’ve tried by this author. I found it a fast and entertaining read.

I enjoyed the narrative tone that didn’t portray Verity and her problems too seriously. The light style made it easy to accept improbable aspects of the background and decisions that were (to my thinking) downright peculiar. There were interesting backstory snippets, but I didn’t feel terribly invested in the characters. In particular, I wasn’t keen on how the love interest developed: their encounters felt unnecessarily contrived (but you may remember I’m not big on romance anyway). There were also a lot of different mythical creatures/people/entities which at times just felt thrown in randomly. Perhaps they’ll return in later books.

Entertaining urban fantasy, though I’m not rushing to pick up the sequel.