bunrab: (me)

Recent reading, at least as told on my Goodreads account:


4 of 5 stars
Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
First person unreliable is a difficult voice for an author to pull off, but Gregory not only manages to do it well, he makes it seem as though that's the only possible way this story could have properly been told. The insertions by "G.I....

Neptune's Brood

4 of 5 stars
Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
Warning: even a one-sentence summary of this book is a spoiler if you have any idea what I'm talking about in the first place. So let me preface that spoiler sentence with this: if you find the financial industries (roughly, banking, in...

Dragon Blood


Share book reviews and ratings with Kelly, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

bunrab: (Default)
The heart stuff first: yes, I did go to the doctor's the next morning, just to confirm that it was a real episode and what I felt was what I thought it was, and test the device just to make sure nothing's wonky with it. And indeed, yes to all of that. And they raised my dose of Coreg again, now all the way up to what it "should" be - I had previously been taking only half the full dose, for years, because it made me so tired and because nothing much was going wrong and the Coreg wasn't helping my blood pressure that much over and above all the other meds I take - the Diovan or enalapril, the diuretics, etc. And for years, that was fine. But now, it appears that I need it for the anti-arrhythmic effects as well as the antihypertensive effects, so full dose it is.

a couple more paragraphs of whine )

Now, books. Part of moving is, I have to de-acquisition a LOT of books.
whining about why I have to give up a few )
One of the things I'm doing is reciting a mantra that goes like this: "The library has this book. The library has this whole series. Every library in Maryland and the surrounding states has this whole series!!" That mantra is useful for a lot of the murder mysteries and some of the science fiction. Of course I am not giving up the Lois Bujolds - I want to be able to reread any Miles book on any spur of the moment! - but the mantra helped me get all the J.A. Jance out the door, because, really, libraries are very good about murder mystery series. And a bunch of Steve's vampire collection that I still had - since vampires have been more popular these last 10 years than they were when I first started reading them or when I turned Steve on to them, more libraries have them, more used book stores have them, and more of them are available as e-books. So I don't need to keep most of them. (The complete Yarbro St. Germain series stays. Don't try to talk me out of that one.)

Another way to get rid of books )
Some of the reading I've done this past 6 months has been new stuff, and there's thoughts on that.
Reading and rereading gets tiring )
So that's the process. I am trying to remember to record all the re-reads on Goodreads as I go along, and also the library books I have been reading interspersed because a body can't read 100% fantasy series 100% of the time. If there's still any of you who I haven't found or haven't found me there, well, I'm easy to find.
bunrab: (Default)
Since connie doesn't have a computer, let alone wifi so we can use our notebooks, I couldn't post from her house. Thank goodness for coffee shops!

we had a great stay in Katy with Pam and Dan! As we were leaving Wednesday a.m., Pam gave us a HotShot water heater for our tea, and pillows! Which, you will recall, are one of the things we forgot to pack. So now we have pillows.

The drive to Austin was straightforward enough - we don't need GPS for that one. We stopped at Mikeska's in Columbus for a quick bite to eat (and enough of a dose of rural Texas to remind us why we wouldn't want to live there).

To a large extent, who we see during the short amount of time we're in Austin is determined by who is willing to come to far south Austin. The RV has a mileage charge, as well as paying for gas (it's been getting between 11 and 12 mpg), and also, although it is small for an RV, there are still many places we won't even try parking (condo complex parking lots, for example). And as usual I've overestimated how much energy I might have - after a few days of driving, I needed to sleep till 11 a.m. And we can't stay in Austin longer - one of our stops is in Oakland, CA to visit my brother, and he and his family leave the next day on vacation, so if any of the trip got pushed back, we'd miss them. So, this is a whole bunch of excuses to say, I'm sorry, we are not going to be able to see everyone in Austin. Our range is pretty much from Connie's in Oak hill to the parkking lot in Westgate Mall (at Ben White & S. Lamar). Thank you so much to the people who have been willing to drive down here to get together! We've given the short tour of the RV (well, there really isn't a long tour one can give of a 19-foot RV) to Jerry & Kathy, and Susan & Scott. We got to see Anita and Dana for a few minutes, as they live near Westgate Mall and dropped over here for a bit just before I started this post. (Yes, they are close enough that it wouldn't have been any trouble to drive there, but remember I mentioned our unwillingness to tackle crowdede condo complex parking lots? Case in point. We'd never have made it through there to their condo.)

Tomorrow morning, we leave Austin and plan to get as far as Van Horn. There's a KOA there, so I should have wireless, and since there's not much else to do there, I probably will sit around playing Farm games on FB. The 21st century is certainly weirder than I ever thought it would be. None of the science fiction writers got it right, that we would be doing everything with our cell phones (including camera) and looking at Lolcats online - the power of the World Wide Web, devoted to lolcats and trading imaginary farm animals.

I need to mail a few things - postcards, etc. Next post Friday night!
bunrab: (Default)
First, some tea reviews:
Ginger Bread Cookie from Teavana http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5282 Thanks, Chas! Yummy tea!
Smoky Earl Grey from Fortnum & Mason http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5276 Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] parelle! This is one intense tea! (Other one to be reviewed soon!)

And some of my other recent tea reviews:
http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5375 Pomegranate Oolong from Harney & Sons
http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5332 Ginger Peach Black Tea from Let’s Do Tea
http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5327 Starry Night from Liber-Teas

And some book reviews on Amazon.com:
The Enthusiast by Charlie Haas - read the review here: The Enthusiast
Monster by A. Lee Martinez - read the review here: Monster
As usual, you might have to scroll down through several reviews to find mine. And as usual, if you like the reviews, please click the little Yes button! Thank you.

Other recent reading:
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage: there's a cute visual pun on the cover - in place of the word "the" in the title, there's an elaborate tea tin, looking like it's from an era when the French went in for Chinoiserie - and the French word for tea is thé. The book is a bit superficial, but fun, and let's hear it for beer, bringer of civilization!

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris - latest in the Sookie Stackhouse series, a bit too much blood, gore and torture - catering too much to the Anita Hamilton fans? Lots of action, but some of it totally unnecessary to the plot. If you are a reader of diverse and sundry fantasy and SF and have read Miller & Lee's Liad series, you can compare Sookie's accidental marriage to Eric with Miri accidentally marrying Val Con - both have knives. I didn't bother to do an Amazon review of this one because (a) there were already 493 reviews of it on there, and (b) my review would have been more negative than not, given the aforementioned blood and gore and torture, and the loyal fans don't want to see any negatives.

Coyote Horizon by Allen Steele - 4 connected novellas in his Coyote series, ties up some loose ends but creates others with its semi-cliffhanger ending.Won't make much sense if you haven't read the earlier books - but I do recommend them; it's good, straight-forward SF. Many people have compared Steele to earlier Heinlen (before the porn) - but Steele's politics are more nuanced and complex than Heinlein's rabid take-no-prisoners libertarianism.

Now the request: I can read Latin, more or less, as long as I don't have to get the tenses right, but I can't generate grammatically correct Latin. And there's two things I really want to make needlework samplers out of.
(1) Rust never sleeps.
(2) I know it's in here *somewhere*. (As in, someone asks whether we own such-and-such a book or object; our reply is that we do own it, but haven't the foggiest idea of where in the house or garage, packed or unpacked, it might be. This is pretty much our family motto, and has been, since the day we got married. So, I want Latin for something equivalent to "I know it's in here somewhere" although to sound euphonious, you might have to be a little elastic with the exact wording - I know that these objects are located within somewhere? Anyway. Something like that.)

Book time

Apr. 2nd, 2009 03:22 pm
bunrab: (Default)
How to Live on Mars by Robert Zubrin - this isn't nonfiction, and it isn't a novel - it's a fictional piece written in the form of a nonfictional guide. Got that? Imagine one of Heinlein's libertarians carried away that one teeny step further into totally amoral greedhead, and then have that person volunteer to show you around Mars. Quite a bit of real science in it. Any fan of science fiction OR of popular science should like it. Single favorite bit: the "photo" on page 194 of "the founding of the Free Martian Republic." You'll recognize some of the faces right off, and be able to figure out others with just a bit of research.

Now to head for the library again!
bunrab: (alien reading)
I have this whole bunch of graphic/comic stuff I'm returning to the library, and I thought I'd tweet each of them, while we were in the car on the way. But it turns out I have more than 140 characters to say about each. So here I am, sitting at one of the library's computers, before returning the books.

Let"s see. The first two, Locke & Key and Johnny Bunko, have some tweets that"ll show up, so I don't need to say too much more about those. L&K is a good fantasy, lots of content, nice spooky premise. I actually look forward to the next volume of this one. JB is confused about who its audience might be - it claims to be a book of serious career advice, that happens to be done manga style, but it seems as though people reading manga want story, not advice. Luckily, the story is pretty funny - magic take-out chopsticks!

Para by Stuart Moore - I wanted to like this one, because it's got lots of text - some pages are illustrated text, rather than cartoons with words. And the starting premise is good - an alternate history where the Supercollider in TX turns into a big radioactive pit... and it's some 20 years later and researchers want to find out exactly what happened. The FBI is hampering their efforts. Unfortunately, for my tastes, it turns into paranormal bullshit, woo-woo pseudo-science. Despite that, though, I have to say I actually liked the UFO guy as a character - he has a nice sense of humor about his own endeavors. And the nasty FBI agent turns out to have her good spots. Drawing style: realistic tending toward dark, lots of grey-blue; aliens are stupid-looking. And the frogs never do get explained.

WE3 by Grant Morrison - reminded me a lot of Dean Koontz's Watchers. Three weaponized animals - a dog, cat, and rabbit - escape the termination of their project. I love how they have bits of speech; I was sad that the bunny was the one that died; I liked the ending. Style: colorful (the shell armor looks like a cross between pastel easter eggs and water lotuses, crossed with pillbugs).

The Book of Lost Souls by Straczynski and Doran. Fantasy, dark; not always sure who the good guys are. The episode with the battered woman- interesting. And the hired killer, who finally gets his - good. Still, though, sorta woo-woo in here about tortured savior and how people are "saved." But I like the Road.

Also read: Aya of Yop - couldn't get into it; teenage angst is teenage angst even if it's in Cote d'Ivoire - just as pointless as Ghost World, to me. Not enough story. And Megillat Esther, which I had seen reviews of - sort of a must-do, if one is of Jewish background. It does a nice job of pointing out some of the ridiculousness and some of the repetition-but-with-contradictions that occurs in many bible stories.

OK, now to take these over to the return desk.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Let's see. First, Gaslight Grimoire, an anthology of Sherlock Holmes fantasy stories (sort of) - which I've done an Amazon review of, but it's not posted yet; I'll provide a link as soon as that's posted.

Speaking of which, could some of you go read my reviews for The Magicians and Mrs. Quent and Grease Monkey and Life Sucks, click on the little Yes buttons for my reviews, and maybe even add comments to the reviews? Thanks!!

Speaking of graphic novels, which the last two mentioned above are, I continue my efforts to decide whether graphic novels count as real books for grown-ups, not just comic books with too much self-esteem. One of the funniest is Rex Libris: I, Librarian by James Turner, which is an intergalactic space opera featuring a librarian who will go to any lengths to recover an overdue book. First published as 32-page comic books, this book is a collection of 5 of those, which comprise a complete story arc. Great dialogue, good characters, fun light-science-fictiony plot. Don't miss out on meeting Rex's boss, Thoth! (Especially funny to me since I have recently been to see a bunch of Egyptian mummies at a museum.)

The source of the amigurumi lemur is a book called Tiny Yarn Animals by Tamie Snow. Of no interest to anyone who doesn't crochet, but if you do crochet, you gotta try a couple of these critters! The lemur is the cutest, of course, but the beaver is also tooo cute, and if you're a fan of Kitsune in Japanese stories, then you'd like the little red fox.

OK. Off to band rehearsal in Essex. Tomorrow: saxophone lesson. Note to self: must buy more La Voz reeds; Bill's here in Catonsville doesn't carry La Voz bari reeds, despite that it's a large store; the much smaller L&L in Gaithersburg has a much better selection of reeds, as well as a fantastic repair department. So tomorrow is Gaithersburg on the way to Montgomery Village rehearsal!
bunrab: (Default)
Stalking the Vampire by Mike Resnick - second in his series about PI John Justin Mallory; I liked it better than the first (Stalking the Unicorn) - it made more sense as a mystery, if one can say that about farcical fantasy. Anyway, John Justin, aided by ex-military Winifred Carruthers and 90-pound cat-girl Felina, have to determine why Winifred's nephew seems to be turning into a vampire. This winds up involving several funeral homes with odd names not to mention the Vampire State Building. This is definitely the other Manhattan.

The Anteater of Death by Betty Webb. Who could resist a title like that? Not I, certainly. I hadn't enjoyed what little I'd read of Webb's "Desert" series, but this is a new series, taking place in a small zoo in California. It's still not a great book, or a great murder mystery, but it's OK, and the details about the animals and their care are interesting enough and funny enough to make up for the stereotypical nasty rich people who populate the surrounding town. Among other things, we get a giraffe giving birth, as well as the banana-obsessed anteater giving birth. Spoiler: neither the anteater nor the butler did it.

The Handicap Principle by Amotz and Avishag Zahavi. Probably the most boring pop-science book I've read in a while, partly because very little has been done to turn it from academese to pop. Excessively long to convey a fairly simple idea, the authors insist on dragging EVERY possible feature of an animal into play as a handicap for mating competitions, including, for pete's sake, why men have beards and women don't. The authors claim, you see, that it's because men fight a lot, and having a beard makes it easier for other men to grab them, so by displaying one, a man is claiming that he can win any fistfight, even with the handicap, thereby making him a more attractive mate. Women don't have beards because they don't get into fistfights. Honest, the authors say this!! Also, besides dragging their premise to absurd lengths, the book has crappy illustrations that do nothing for it. Would be much improved by editing out the more outrageous half of their claims, and filling the space with photos of the animals and some side-by-side comparison illustrations. Also including more rodents, perhaps overlooked here because so many of them aren't flashy and aren't terribly dimorphic in size and therefore would be difficult to stretch into the authors' thesis.

Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin. Known for her work with livestock animals, Grandin here adds pet animals to the mix, discussing how improving our pets' lives by considering their evolutionary environment can also improve our own lives. Some of it is redundant stuff from her other books. The chapter on cats is interesting - a good explanation of why, although cats and dogs are both "domesticated" animals, a cat is a lot less domesticated than a dog.

The Van Rijn Method by Poul Anderson, edited by Hank Davis - a collection of some of the Van Rijn and Falkayn stories, nothing one hasn't read before, but with introductions to each explaining a little more of the big picture of Anderson's future history. Also, at the end, a very good timeline showing how the Polesotechnic League develops and dissolves and the eventual development of the Empire period of Ensign Flandry.

The Fourth Time is Murder by Steven Havill - grabbed at random off library shelves, looking for more to read, this turns out to be a recent volume in a long-established series. It takes place in the Southwest - New Mexico, near the Mexican border - but is NOT, thank goodness, another attempt to be a Hillerman clone. (I get tired of those - all the Hillerman wannabes who toss in a Navajo and a mention of Navajo religion, and then expect that we'll all enjoy their books just because of that, regardless of how superficial or unrealistic it otherwise is.) Main protagonist is a woman under-sheriff. Plot is based around a financial scam we only slowly find out about; side plots include illegal immigrants, perhaps unavoidable given the location.

The Golden Age of Novelty Songs by Steve Otfinoski. Although it hits most of the high points, I can't entirely agree with a book that devotes almost an entire chapter to Alvin and the Chipmunks and only a couple of sentences to "Camp Grenada." And in the chapter about Christmas novelty songs, he doesn't even MENTION "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" - hmph! Includes photos, and does include things you might not instantly think of in the novelty song genre - Cheech and Chong, and William Fries (better known as C.W. McColl), along with the ones you would instantly think of - Napoleon XIV, Homer & Jethro, The Chad Mitchell Trio (my favorites! for their song "Lizzie Borden.")

There, now I'm only a couple weeks behind on the news.
bunrab: (alien reading)
First, some "real books" -
Living With the Dead by Kelley Armstrong. Her Women of the Otherworld series features various types of supernaturals living hidden in plain sight among humans. In this volume, several of the threads that have each been the subject of a separate book previously - the tabloid reporter, the rogue werewolf, the wizards' corporations, all get pulled together around a commune of clairvoyants and a completely ordinary human personal-assistant-to-a-celebrity whose celebrity gets murdered. If you like the series, you will like this one; if you haven't read any of the others, this is definitely NOT the place to start, since much depends on the reader already knowing about half-demons' powers, werewolf pack structure, etc.

Sojourn by Jana Oliver. Subtitled "Time Rovers, Book 1." Time travel agents of a private corporation have to sometimes drag the paying customers back from the eras they've gone to. Cynda has to retrieve someone from Victorian London during Jack the Ripper's spree - while also battling the fact that the company she works for is going bankrupt and trying to strand her away from her own time, to save money. And then there's the factor even Cynda didn't know about: the mysterious Transitives, who can change their appearance at will, though they have no other special powers. This serves as an OK murder mystery (one of the Time Rovers; although we're given some insight into the Ripper murders, the novel doesn't take on the issue of who did them or what his real motivations were) and a bit of Victorian romance. I started the sequel, Virtual Evil, but haven't finished it yet - it seems less interesting (for one thing, we're still in 1888 - no new time period, new characters not as interesting.)

And then there's a bunch of
Graphic novels/comics
Those of you who think you're not interested in graphic novels can skip this bunch of books - though you should think again; some of the best new science fiction and fantasy is coming out as graphic novels rather than plain-text novels. And other stuff.

Cryptozoo Crew, Vol. 1 by Allan Gross and Jerry Carr. Very funny - Tork and Tara Darwyn search for everything from cave monkeys to the abominable snowman, in a collection of several episodes of this comic book. No particular continuity from episode to episode - this is not a graphic novel - though once found, the cave monkeys do show up again as background characters in subsequent episodes. A lot of puns. An awful lot of very bad puns. The last episode features space aliens, with a funny epilog.

Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon et al. A complete waste of the time it took to read it. Only worth looking at if you are a fanatic who must have every single Firefly item ever marketed. As a graphic book, it's a complete failure; the characters go unexplained, the plot is patchy to nonexistent, no background is provided, so we have no idea of what the pretty people in the drawings are about. The brief text introduction provides no useful information in that regard. Impossible to follow what might be the plot unless you've seen the movie, and difficult even then.

Bram Stoker's Dracula works quite well as a graphic novel. Stoker's original words are used; this isn't simplified. The drawing style is rather manga, with big heads and huge round eyes, but surprisingly, I didn't find that offputting. Catching Renfield, burying Lucy, and the death of Quincy Morris are all quite nicely done. In short, this is an arrangement of the original that carried most of the proper characterization and plot elements, and could indeed serve to draw younger readers in to the idea of reading the book. (Unlike, say, a recent graphic version of Merchant of Venice that I read, where the language was simplified, often right into totally inappropriate 21st century idiom, and where the contrast between the modern dress of the characters and the ships that were at risk rendered the plot less comprehensible, rather than more.) Heh - a first-rate estate agent is always prepared.

American Born Chinese - Gene Yuen Lang. Very nicely done semi-autobiographical graphic novel, mixing portions of everyday Chinese-American schoolchild with the WASP schoolchild he wishes he had and episodes of fantasy drawn from traditional Chinese myths and legends, to illustrate the problems of coming to terms with being a minority. All of which makes it sound terribly serious and sententious, and it isn't. It's a nice story, plot moves right along, neat characters, and I love the Monkey King stories. Not only is this a good story, it's one I don't think would work as a plain-text novel; it really does show the advantages of the graphic novel form to certain kinds of stories.

Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes. Subtitled "a comic-strip novel" rather than a graphic novel, each chapter of this book is a separate little two or four page episode, some of which don't seem to be connected at first. The different stories eventually twine together. As in a real mystery, a few threads are left unresolved. The characters include the comic book critic, the pompous would-be poet, the schoolchildren, the visiting niece, Leopold & Loeb - yes, Leopold & Loeb. You'll recognize the little kid David - if you've ever seen any of Clowes' work at all, even just illustrations in weekly free papers, you've seen the fuzzy-sweatered kid with no expression.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Finally! A genuine post instead of a bunch of tweets!

First, the best book I've read in the past month is The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett - it's a really original fantasy. My Amazon.com review is here and as ever, I'd appreciate it if you read the review, voted Yes for it, and commented on it if you have the time and willingness to do so.*

Then, books that I tweeted, but haven't mentioned in more detail:
Salvation in Death - JD Robb, latest in her Eve Dallas series, not bad, has to do with a televangelist who suddenly goes honest.
Bones and Obsession - Jonathan Kellerman, latest in his Alex Delaware series; Alex and Milo sound more alike than ever, both of them frequently leaving any personal pronouns off the beginnings of sentences; the new sidekick that Milo acquires in Obsession shows some promise as a character.
The Best of Michael Swanwick - anthology of short stories, some of which I had already read when they appeared in SF magazines; perhaps the most famous is "The Feast of St. Janis."
A graphic novel of Thor based on the comic books of the same name; the book uses up quite a bit of space on the set-up of why Thor is coming back, and a lot of it is pretentious panels that show almost nothing. Thor establishes a new Asgard - hovering over a farm in Oklahoma. There are some good bits in here, such as when someone from the town wants to deliver an invitation to the residents of Asgard to attend a town hall meeting, and has to first install a mailbox under Asgard, so he has something to deliver it to. Also the scene where the gods come to the town meeting - that's where the quote "What unfortunate day's events are not made gladder by cake?" comes from.
Manga Shakespeare Julius Caesar - worst in the series so far; the artwork is so ugly it makes it nearly impossible to tell the characters apart. And having the characters wearing togae in one scene, and then put on zoomy helmets and hop on motorcycles, is so wrong. I can't see where anyone would ever be drawn to a deeper understanding of Shakespeare or toward reading more of his plays, from this presentation; if anything, it'll drive new readers away.
Cretaceous Dawn by L. and M. Graziano - sorta like Jurassic Park, except it involves the scientists actually being dumped back in time. A couple of characters seem real; others are cardboard, but overall it's readable. Manages to involve a turf war between OSHA and ONR (Office of Naval Research) and a couple of crooked physicists, to give more interest to the modern end of things. The entomologist gets the girl.
A Very Private Enterprise by Elizabeth Ironsides - from the cover illustration, and even the back cover blurb, I thought this was going to be a historical mystery, but it turned out to be modern, far too British for me to understand what was going on, and it had a totally implausible ending where after everything is over and one person is left packing up, the real killer just wanders in and confesses.

And a few I hadn't mentioned at all yet:
Stat-Spotting by Joel Best - lightweight, but good summaries. Perhaps his best chapter is the idea of knowing benchmarks - there are about 300m americans, 4m babies born each year in US, 2.4m die each year and a few other general ones - so that you can recognize totally bogus stats (like one claim I heard, from a relative, that there are 150 million abortions a year in the US - oh yes, 50% of every man, woman, and child in the country had an abortion last year? Really?)

Free-Range Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee - a lot about her daughters. No sense anyone who doesn't knit or haunt yarn shops reading it. It's humorous, but only for yarn addicts.

Ageless Memory - Harry Lorayne - a reminder of the old trick of putting absurd images to things you need to remember. I used to do that and then didn't and now Lorayne has reminded me that it works.

A Just Determination - John Hemry (not Henry) - well-written and fascinating, and at the same time way too much detail of every sentence needed to launch a ship or start a court-martial. He's best known for a particular mil-fic series, which I haven't read and which this isn't in. This one has a touch of Young Adult coming-of-age stuff in it, but it isn't juvenile. I liked it. Our boy is a newly minted lawyer (well, that's not what they call it, but that's what it is) on a battleship on a supposedly peaceful mission. Which of course goes awry. Warning: unless you're already deeply into Navy stuff, you'll spend a while getting straight about the difference between Captains and Commanders and whatnot, and the exact chain of command, and who isn't on the usual chain, and more of that nature.

Gaaah, and there's still a short stack of books here - I'll include the 4 remaining in a second post, before this one gets big enough to invade a small nation.
bunrab: (alien reading)
some of which must return to library Thursday. So I'd better mention 'em now.

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent - amusic, sometimes superficial. He makes an interesting case, in his chapter about the SCA, for the way the SCA manages to create nerd jocks, unlike most nerdy groups.

Recovery Man by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - latest in her Retrieval Artist (Miles Flint) series; all the books in this series are seriously good crime fic/mystery fic as well as quite acceptable science fiction - a far more serious blend of SF elements than, say, J.D. Robb. I like the way she does really alien aliens. And I like the dry sense of humor that sneaks in occasionally. This volume has far more to do with Miles' past history/personal life than any of the previous ones. One of the things I like best is how realistic the characters are - even the nasty-guy Recovery Man has some sophisticated thoughts and thinks about what he's doing, not an all-evil-all-the-time-just-because villain.

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. Well, of course, RVs/motor homes/campers are a lot more common now than they were in 1960, and the interstate highway system is a lot more complete (even in some of its deteriorating-infrastructure state), so some of the book is a bit dated. But it's still interesting, especially the postscript about the Kennedy inauguration - coming up as we are on the Obama inauguration, which, you will recall, is more or less a local event where I am; yes, traffic and security and whatnot for DC does stretch all the way to our area.

I had briefly mentioned Odysseus on the Rhine but didn't say anything about it, and I should. It's a sequel to The Odyssey and before you go "ewwww" please listen when I say it's quite nicely done. I've added a review to Amazon.com, which should be posted within a few hours. (And if you read it and like it, besides the Yes button, could you possibly add a comment? I'm a glutton for comments, and they keep Amazon from thinking that it's the same few fans all the time. Thanks!)
bunrab: (alien reading)
Book list:
The 133 books that for one reason or another I saw fit to mention in my blog this year )
Not all of those were books I liked. The ones with asterisks are the ones that I guess I'd characterize as my "favorites" for the year. Hmmm, two science fiction, one historical fantasy, one fiction classic, and two nonfiction - not bad! One thing I was pleased at was meeting the goal I had set for myself back at the beginning of the year, of reading a bit more nonfiction, and rather fewer murder mysteries; there are only 30 books on the list that are mysteries, and considerably more nonfiction than last year! 48 of them are nonfiction - an average of nearly one a week! I feel so intellectual.
bunrab: (Default)
Okay, some Amazon.com reviews - read 'em, click the little Yes button, you know the drill:
This Might Not Be Pretty (a Stone Soup comic strip collection) by Jan Eliot
Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred - already mentioned this one; it's on my "favorite books this year" list.

Briefly in tweets I quoted from A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell. It was written about 10 years ago, so the chapter on the internet is overwrought and out of date. And the chapter on Martha Stewart is just plain weird, has nothing to do with the rest of the book. But nonetheless there's some interesting reading in some of the chapters, particularly about how the rise in mobility (more and more individual transportation) contributed to the world being ruder.

From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell - a re-release of the first Inspector Wexford novel. From 1964. I've never gotten around to reading any Rendell before. Eh. I could see the plot twist coming a mile away. And I find the whole thing too British for me. In order to read the story smoothly, one has to be familiar with the British school system, and with the whole "this neighborhood in London automatically conveys such-and-such a social and economic class" thing, which is not information I've ever cared to internalize. I know a lot of people don't mind it; it's a personal thing to prefer novels set in places where I know the milieu.

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, that's an 8.) Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. Very, very funny book. Especially the chapter on why Chinese food is "the chosen food of the Chosen People, or, The Great Kosher Duck Scandal of 1989." The history of General Tso's Chicken, the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world, and a comparison of the McDonalds model as Windows and the Chinese restaurant model as Linux. I bet almost everyone on my flist would find something to enjoy in this one.

Michael Chabon's The Final Solution - a short book that, although it never mentions the name, is clearly meant to be a sort of alternate-history "Sherlock Holmes lives to a ripe old age in rural England." A quick read, nice enough, and the parrot is a nice character.

Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone and Neil Googe - another graphic novel, this one a very loving send-up of old-fashioned comic books, the kind from the 1940's through 1960's, with a touch of how counterculture and Goths and Postmodernism took over from those. The plot is set in the town of Tranquility, where all the retired maxi-heroes (someone must have a copyright on "super-heroes") live. And the young African-American female sheriff who gets to try to keep the whole town calm. Probably MORE fun reading for someone my age, who read all those '60's comics books at the time, than for younger people who don't have that whole context.

Oh, and of course The Eight by Katherine Neville, already mentioned that it was in progress. Finished it. A bit silly and complicated in many spots - requires a willing suspension of disbelief for the fantasy element that sneaks in, as with any magical/religious object that exerts mysterious powers over people, even though otherwise set in the "real world." And quite a bit of the whole Freemasons/Rosicrucians/gigantic historical conspiracy wingnut stuff as part of it. Good fun, though, and I liked many of the side digressions, such as the tale the 18th-century chess player tells of meeting J.S. Bach. On the whole, a bit non-sequitur-ish, as the mystical power of the chess set at the end has nothing to do with how it was introduced at the beginning, but nonetheless a good adventure thriller, sort of "what if Indiana Jones were a woman working for a big-8 accounting firm in the 1970's?" with a whole bunch of French Revolution and other international travel thrown in.

Okay. Gotta go change clothes for yet another band Christmas concert tonight. Whee. "Sleigh Ride" till our lips fall off.
bunrab: (alien reading)
I have been sick for the last few days, with something vaguely flu-like and an overlay of ragweed pollen allergy (hay fever) to add to the fun. So I haven't done much, and I am once again behind on reading my flist. Sorry! And, the pile of books on the desk has just been stacking up, without me doing much about it. So here's some bookblogging to try and catch up:

Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh - his premise is that being a packrat and being overweight are psychologically related, and some of his already published books about getting rid of clutter can also be used to help you lose weight. Interesting premise, some food for thought (pardon the pun), but of course, no one's going to de-clutter OR lose weight just by reading a book.
Saturn's Children by Charles Stross - a fast-moving space opera, read my amazon.com review here.
Life Sucks by Jessica Abel , Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece - a graphic novel about vampires, read my amazon.com review here.
Dark Watcher by Lilith Saintcrow - fantasy involving witches, not a whole heck of a lot of plot and the characters are somewhat cardboard; it's there mostly for the romance, which itself is pretty lightweight. An easy read, but not something I'd drive out of my way to find.
1001 Books for Every Mood by Hallie Ephron - an interesting annotated list, read my amazon.com review here.

Thanks for checking out those Amazon.com reviews, friends! Keep the Yes buttons clicking!
bunrab: (alien reading)
First, stuff:
[livejournal.com profile] fadethecat, did you already know that the Maker Faire will be Oct. 10-12 at the Travis County Expo Center? Now you know. I suspect you will want to attend.

Then, some books:
I Love Knitting - Amazon.com review here though this was short enough to hardly count as reading.
Judge by Karen Traviss - Amazon.com review here - sixth and final in her Wess'har series. It's OK but not great science fiction; those of you in places outside the US and UK, you won't be unduly deprived of any great literature if the series never makes it to your distant shores.
I think I already mentioned Kluge, right? That was fun.
Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell - musings by a public radio commentator on modern American life. Eh. Some were amusing - the essay about what she learned from being in high school marching band, for instance; others, including the title essay, struck me as self-absorbed and shallow.

I have most of the mugs hung up in the kitchen! I have some pictures hung on the walls! I can see more floor space than I could a week ago! I still have a bunch more curtains to make, though, to replace what was here, most of which is definitely not to my taste. I've gotta take some pictures of the living room, now that it looks halfway like it should.

More about travel:
Found a bunch of my receipts and stuff from trip to Europe. The place where we ate the last night in Vienna was Cafe Bierbeisl Einstein, which I found the take-out service card from, which does have its own website: http://www.einstein.at . They have phone-in take-out, though I doubt you can get delivery here. And a souvenir picture of [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet from Postojna Caves - once we get the new scanner/copier/printer plugged in, I'll scan it for your viewing pleasure. And postcards from Schonbrunn Castle. And hotel receipts, and my receipt from the internet cafe in Pula, Croatia, and some scribbled notes that I need to match up to their proper photographs.

Stuff: our old copier died - well, it was over 10 years old and a cheap one to begin with, and had done excellent duty for something so small and cheap (I used to pick it up by its little handle and drag it to quilting classes with me, which made me a very popular attendee). We could have waited for a while to buy something new, as the old scanner still works, sort of, and the old printer still works, though slowly, but this was on way-marked-down, instant-rebate, net price $50 for the whole thing. Even if it turns out to be junk that breaks in a year, that's about the price per year we'd be willing to pay for such a unit. So when that gets plugged in, a whole bunch o' old-fashioned printed photos are gonna get scanned!
bunrab: (alien reading)
Crime fiction:
Holy Moly by Ben Rehder - Read my Amazon.com review here. (And clicky the helpful Yes button, plz.) Latest in his Game Warden John Marlin series, set in Texas.
Cockatiels at Seven by Donna Andrews - Read my Amazon.com review here. Latest in her Meg Lanslow series, and not as funny as the previous ones.

Science Fiction and Fantasy:
Sky Horizon by David Brin - Read my Amazon.com review here. Ick - young adult, full of teenage angst, highly improbable alien attitude.
From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris - latest in her Sookie Stackhouse series. I didn't review it on Amazon.com because 152 people had already done so. I actually liked it better than many of the reviewers did, though - I liked that it had numerous different plot threads, and a lot of ongoing issues were resolved, though by no means all of them - things were neatened up considerably, so that we can start in on some new plots next volume. Spoiler: Bob the cat finally gets turned back into a human.
bunrab: (Default)
Of All Sad Words by Bill Crider - latest in his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series of murder mysteries. Amusing if lightweight.

City of Pearl and its sequels, Crossing the Line and The World Before by Karen Traviss - science fiction series; there's a second trilogy also out that I'll probably look for. I stumbled across these by accident. They're not bad - strong milfic element, but mainly alien sociology, if you will - humans are NOT the good guys here. (At one point, one of the aliens says, in effect, "I've read some of your science fiction. The aliens always help the humans, or release the human captives, because they admire the spunky human spirit. I've got news for you: you're not spunky; you're obnoxious!") The third volume had a couple weaknesses - a touch of one of the romance genre tropes, where characters don't speak to each other and do all the wrong things simply because they won't ask the other person a forthright "What do you want to do?" I don't like this trope when it shows up in romance, and I like it even less when some of the aliens are supposed to be completely forthright.)

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely - this was fun, confirming all one's worst fears about how illogical we are, how easy it is for people to fall into cheating, how crappy our thinking gets when it involves money, how much more we cheat if a transaction DOESN'T involve money, and how traditional economics is full of crap. ([livejournal.com profile] elfbiter, this is sort of similar to The Failure of Logic except it discusses a series of shorter, but much broader, experiments.)

I'm sure there's been something else in there; darned if I remember what. We're still doing the unpacking-one-house, packing-the-rest-of-the-old-house thing, and we can never find anything when we need it. Camera recharger? who knows. Size 13 knitting needles? No idea. The curtain hooks we bought just yesterday? Disappeared into the morass.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Marvel 1602. Neil Gaiman as lead author. Very amusing alternate history. I am not the comix fan some people are, so there are probably a few references I missed (and am too lazy to google), such as who is Virginia Dare supposed to be, and why does she look like an elf? And [livejournal.com profile] bikergeek, there's a quick passing reference to the very problem of the "fen vs. mundane" mindset you were mentioning. In some ways, that's part of the theme of the whole book - in the end, it's the characters who are human, rather than superheroes, who fix the problem - Nick Fury and Captain America. Maybe not "average" human, but not superpowers, either. So being a superhero doesn't mean one is any "better" than a plain ol' human.

Other quick reads:
The Guild of Xenolinguists by Sheila Finch - loosely related short stories, all of which seem a poor imitation of Suzette Haden Elgin's linguists. The stories run to excessive reliance on emotion, and rather obvious moral messages.
Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell - although subtitled "The truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine" what this book is is an extended tutorial on how to conduct a properly double-blinded clinical trial; there's very, very little about the CAM "therapies" other than pointing out how poorly they've been tested.
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs - in which he proves that NO ONE, not the most dedicated fundamentalist, is actually following the literal word of the bible, and furthermore, no one *can* - partly because the language in it is so ambiguous; partly because many people are self-deluding as to how subjective their readings are. Very funny book.
Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias by Andrew Blechman - certainly reinforces my determination to never live in an "over-55" community; Blechman talks to many people who are happy in those communities, but the constant emphasis on golf and on sameness is depressing, and, he points out, this kind of age-segregated community violates a social contract, wherein older people recognize that their remaining future depends in part on providing education for the young.
bunrab: (alien reading)
A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark. Possibly the most annoying book I'll read this year - but I knew it would be going in; I just wanted to see whether the reviews I had read had conveyed an accurate impression. Sure enough, they have. Clark is a conservative English economist who thinks that it's your own fault you're poor if you didn't have the good sense to choose to be born White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And that the English class system is actually the ideal system for breeding the sorts of person who would be perfectly suited for taking over industrial capitalism. We have graphs that don't show what he claims in the text they show, mistakes of correlation for causation, switching of cause and effect, and a great many blanket statements with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
Countries such as Malawia or Tanzania would be better off in material terms had they never had contact with the industrialized world and instead continued in their preindustrial state.
Oh? While the rest of the world advances?
...there is ample evidence that wealth, and wealth alone, is the crucial determinant of lifestyles, both within and between societies.
And later on he goes to state equally blanketly that wealth, and the amount of stuff you can purchase as a consumer, are the main, if not only, determinants of how happy you are. Oh, and here's another one, wherein he manages to get things exactly backward:
...Europeans were lucky to be a filthy people who squatted happily above their own feces, stored in basement cesspits, in cities such as London. Poor hygiene, sombined with high urbanization rates with their attendant health issues, meant income had to be high to maintain the population in eighteenth-century England and the Netherlands. The Japanese, with a more highly developed sense of cleanliness, could maintain the level of population at miserable levels of material comforts, and they were accordingly condemned to subsist on a much more limited income.
He makes fun of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel and pretends that comparing wages and prices in Malawi in 2001 is not completely apples-to-oranges with English wages in 1800, as though subsistence farming were exactly the same in both, and the types of craftspeople needed, and products needed, were the same in both, and as though initial climate conditions, health conditions, geography, degree of urbanization, etc., were the same in both, so that he can prove that the English are superior in all ways. He feels that the only area where England historically was not perhaps perfect was in the area of intellectual property rights. Really. Enough of that. Let's change the subject, he's not worth continuing with.

The History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein. Very funny, though those who collect snowglobes may be a little offended at his suggestion that they are the ultimate form of kitsch. This would be a perfect secular winter holiday gift for many people. And the illustrations are the best part - the history of the use of snowmen in advertisements, the very first occurance of a snowman in artwork in recorded history, the world's largest snowman. He runs into feminist criticisms of snowmen, and also a giant French snow-woman representing revolutionary Paris. Perhaps my favorite illustration was the print of an anonymously-done fresco in Italy from 1403, the very first depiction of a snowball fight in recorded history. INcluding a lady in full dress being smushed in the face by a snowball.

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. A must for biology nerds; perhaps a skip for people who have no idea what a Hox gene is - although portions of the book are about gross anatomy, it's not just molecular biology. I should note that I have been reading this one at supper while [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet has been reading Napoleon's Buttons which is pop science about organic chemistry; we have looked really nerdy. Anyway, Shubin, the guy who more or less discovered Tiktaalik, the fish with wrists, is a good writer, and we hear lots about what it's like to go on paleontological expeditions, as well as how to give a skate an extra set of wings.

The Book of Ballads illustrated by Charles Vess. Introduction by Terri Windling. Various fantasy authors (and Sharyn McCrumb, who uses folk songs in her mysteries) pick their favorite Child ballads and construct some sort of back-story, and then Vess illustrates the backstory and parts of the ballad. Neil Gaiman chooses "The False Knight on the Road" and we see the boy at home with his elderly ma before heading off to school. Jane Yolen chooses "King Henry" which is one of my favorites of Steeleye Span's - oh, and in the back of the book, there's a discography of various groups who have recorded these songs, with Steeleye and Fairport Convention being the main suspects, of course. Sharyn McCrumb chose "Thomas the Rhymer." Midori Snyder chose "Barbara Allen" with perhaps the most complicated backstory. Elaine Lee chose "Tam-Lin" and I was least happy with the illustrations of that - not a style I liked at all. Anyway, there's several more, and if you are fantasy fan or folk-song fan or both (yes, I'm looking at you, [livejournal.com profile] angevin2), you will want to take a look at this book.

This is my Funniest edited by Mike Resnick. An anthology of "leading science fiction writers present their funniest stories ever" thereby proving that an author is not necessarily the best judge of what's funny. My favorite was Waldrop's "Night of the Cooters" but although it's funny, I don't think it's his funniest. Gardner Dozois' "The Hanging Curve" didn't even strike me as funny (and there's an intended pun there.) Anyway, there were enough good ones that it wasn't a waste of time, but not enough that you'd necessarily want to pay brand new trade paperback prices - used would be about right.

More later. Mostly, we've been doing house stuff - spent most of yesterday putting together flat-pack furniture in the new house; today and the next couple days, the electricity is off there while the electricians do the upgrades on the circuit box and attendant matters, so maybe we'll actually do some packing over here instead.
bunrab: (Default)
Read A. Lee Martinez' newest, The Automatic Detective - the review should be up at Amazon.com within a couple hours. Funny book.

Added a review at Amazon.com of A Guinea Pig's History of Biology, which I mentioned here a couple days ago.

As always, much appreciated if you go look at the reviews and click the little "Yes" buttons.


bunrab: (Default)

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