bunrab: (me)

So when we last met, I had mentioned that I was going to attempt to read one of the volumes in Daniel Abraham's current series; two chapters of that disabused me of the notion. It's definitely complicated enough that one would have to start at the beginning. And given the size of each volume - fatter than the volumes of Game of Thrones, for comparison - it would be far more than I want to take on at this time. So back it went to the library, unfinished.

lengthy book stuff )

Now under way: another Patricia Briggs, but this time a series I haven't read before, or even noticed existed before, which appears to include dragons, maybe - at the moment, at the beginning of the book, the dragons appear to be extinct. So that will be the next one I report on.

Also read a graphic novel that sort of counts as fantasy: Beasts of Burden Volume: Animal Rites - cute, not terribly deep, but the dog characters and the cat are sort of cool.

Other things: took the euphonium to a Browningsville rehearsal and played it for about half the time, and there were moments when I didn't make a fool of myself. And saw "A Million Ways to Die in the West" with Larry, speaking of the West, and Seth MacFarlane's West is probably almost as fantastical as the books above, and from the first couple of measures of the score during the opening credits I was laughing, and I think I enjoyed it so much because so much of the humor was audio in one way or another, which is what I was paying attention to rather than the gross and tasteless poop jokes. From the snippets of Copland in the score, to "Mila Kunis" by way of "People die at the fair" and not forgetting the uncredited cameo by Bill Maher, I laughed a lot. I'll probably buy the soundtrack album.
bunrab: (me)

As I described in the previous post, trying to read 5 fantasy books by June 21. Well, I don't really have to try hard; I read enough that I'll have far more than 5 by then. The part that's a challenge for me is remembering to blog about them, and then writing a post that actually says something more than "I read this."

So today's book is Brazen by Kelley Armstrong. It's the newest entry in a werewolf-and-vampire series, a minor entry in several senses of the word, and a disappointing one. Its purpose is apparently to convince us that there's more to a particular minor character than there appears to be, and I didn't find it convincing.

First off, it's barely novelette length - there's not much story here, not even for the short length of the book. What brings the price of the book up to that of others in the series is supposed to be the illustrations - a whopping three of them, on glossy page inserts, none of them necessary and none of them at all useful in furthering the story nor in clarifying anything from the text. So, if you were to pay the list price of the hardcover (I got it from the library; I don't buy hardcovers any more), you'd be paying for a longish short story in which nothing gets resolved, with three glossy black-white-and-red illustrations with no action in them.

Spoiler alert )

If you're following Armstrong's series, there's no real need to read this, I don't guess, and if it doesn't make it to your library, you can nonetheless read the next one without having lost any major threads in the series arc.
Other recent reading )

Now tackling a much more substantial volume: Daniel Abrahams. It's apparently the third in a series - new on the library shelves; I often start series in the middle and then decide whether it's worth going back and reading from the beginning. I liked Abrahams' Long Price Quartet, mostly, so this has promise. Stay tuned.
bunrab: (me)

I just found out about this from [livejournal.com profile] avanta7, and though it started March 21, I believe I can read 5 fantasy books and blog about them by June 21. Um, I'm sure I can read them. It's the remembering to blog that's a challenge. So,

And here's the first book, which I happen to have just finished:
Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)
by Patricia Briggs
The start of a werewolf-and-vampire series I hadn't read before, by an author I hadn't read before. I read 2 of the series by accident last week, out of order, and decided they were good enough to go start the series from the beginning. Although I refer to it as a werewolf-and-vampire series, one of the things that makes it different is that our protagonist is a shapeshifter coyote, as far as she knows the only remaining one of her kind, which means that for supernatural company she's reduced to hanging out with werewolves. The story is told in first person singular, normally not my favorite voice, but Mercy's (short for Mercedes) voice is quite good, natural sounding, and has lots of humor, so that it works.
In reading this one, I see the first roots being laid down for the plot in the later ones I read out of order, and when I reread them in order, they'll have more depth because I will have the background.

I know, I know, werewolves, what a cliche by now, right? Does it help any if I remind everybody that I've been reading vampire fantasy since long before the current fad? That I started reading Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain series when she first started writing it, in the 70's? That I read Tanya Huff's Henry Fitzroy books long before anybody made them into a wretched TV series? (And speaking of TV series, I've never seen True Blood, so I have no idea of how much worse than the Sookie Stackhouse books it might be.)

Nonetheless, cliche or not, and the fact that I've been reading vampire stuff for 4 decades now or not, there was enough in this series that isn't common to all the books in the genre, that I am finding it well worth my time.

Stay tuned for book 2!


Sep. 15th, 2008 11:53 pm
bunrab: (Default)
Okay, so after the flu in the middle of August and then a week at Sally's inhaling dust, I couldn't stop coughing and I felt even more fatigued than usual; eventually I started thinking maybe there's fluid in my lungs, so I went to the doc. Apparently not fluid, just inflamation, so using steroid inhaler (as of this past Wed) to reduce inflamation; it's working a bit, I guess - still coughing and stuff, but nearly back to only tired all the time instead of exhausted to the point of not getting out of bed.

I got a couple of RL projects done - finally finished a couple of bedside rugs I've been working on for me and [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet, since cooler weather is coming and we may not want to step onto cold floors. I'll try to get pictures of them sometime soon. Started work on wedding gift for my cousin Jesse who got married last September - goal is to finish the stuff (quilted table runner and 4 placemats) and mail them off by the end of this month, a year after the wedding. Still cleaning up bits and pieces at old house; we buried Lamarck chinchilla who passed away this past spring and had been in the freezer, and I put a stepping stone on his grave - I'll take a picture of that, too, when I get a chance.

And there has been reading, as usual:

Book I did not finish: Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. Forty years ago I didn't make it ten pages in before giving up out of total lack of interest in figuring out who these characters were; twenty years ago I made it about twenty pages in; this time, all the way to page 27 before closing it again. I do not care enough about Hindu mythology and other mythology to follow who these characters are, who is an avatar of who else, who is on which side... I just don't care.

Book I didn't like: White Oleander by Janet Fitch. This was apparently a big bestseller and very popular with book clubs, and it reads exactly as if it were written to be a book club discussion subject, and I don't mean that kindly. Where some reviewer sees a "surprising journey of self-discovery" I see a protagonist who stays stupid the whole way through - she doesn't make the same mistake twice, but she makes new and dumber ones all the time, and never seems to wise up and stop approaching life as a manipulating but clueless slut. We're supposed to care about what she learns from each of her foster mothers, and compare them, but she doesn't ever seem to learn any rational kind of lesson. Even when her own mother gets out of jail, she isn't really happy. This book doesn't really have much of a plot; the character grows older but doesn't grow up; her mother gets out of jail but that's just a small paragraph amidst the general whining and indecisiveness. Bleah. I know thousands of people disagree with this evaluation of the book; clearly, many people are looking more for "emotionally gripping" than for "fast-moving plot and rational characters."

And for stuff I did enjoy: Watchers by Dean Koontz - not great literature, but a fast-moving plot and nice characters! This is the first Koontz I've ever read - somehow managed to not get around to any till now. This one features a golden retriever named Einstein, genetically modified to near-human intelligence, able to read and even converse in writing. Plot also includes a nastier genetically modified character, the Outsider, and along the way we are supposed to compare the Outsider and Vince the mob hit-man, and notice which of them is really less human and kills more people. That part is a bit obvious. But hey, it's a good story, and most of the characters are likeable, and there's a more-or-less happy ending.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This is a novel about a historian who is researching Vlad Tepes, who turns out to be an immortal vampire after all, sort of, only not. It's a very long book, and some of it was longer than need be - in almost a deliberate imitation of Victorian style, there is much more exposition, and jumping back from generation to generation, and words upon words, than is really necessary. Sometimes one can lose track of which generation is taking place - is it our female protagonist as a teenager listening to her father tell about his research, or the father listening to his mentor from a generation earlier, or is it 30 years later? We run through all sorts of minute historical detail from the 1470's onward. I admit to skimming in spots.

Smoke-Filled Rooms by Kris Nelscott - a murder mystery set during the 1968 Chicago convention, featuring a black, male, PI - written in the first person by Nelscott, which is one of Kristen Kathryn Rusch's pen names. So, quite a feat of characterization. Anyway, a decent mystery, though a bit of gory torture of the sort I really don't think could go unnoticed for so long. Much of the plot is timely enough given this election year. I'll probably look for the rest of the series.

The Apostate's Tale by Margaret Frazer - most recent in her Dame Frevisse series, and this one returns more to the priory (convent) after the last couple of very political volumes. The last two were almost entirely about English political uprisings and Frevisse's cousin Alice, and I was not crazy about them; I was glad to see this one get back to the day to day details of everyday life in the fifteenth century. Unfortunately, it's probably the last one, since it ends with Frevisse becoming Prioress, and also it's set in 1452, so any ten minutes now the printing press is going to come along and destroy the priory's book-copying business and only source of income.

Warning: I am going to attempt Twittering. No telling what may show up.

Now to go see if I can catch up on a couple of weeks of unread flist. Speaking of, Chas, your bday present will be in the mail tomorrow. [livejournal.com profile] richspk, speaking of addresses, I need your snail mail address. Email me, plz.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Rehearsals have started up again for the fall this week, so less reading now than in the summer; here's the last of the summer's reading:
FMy Big Fat Supernatural Wedding edited by PN Elrod - most of the stories in here are part of each author's series, and several are not understandable if you haven't been following the series. Oddly enough, the Jim Butcher is the opposite - the story features Harry Dresden, but it works as a standalone, BUT - if you read Small Favor and wondered where the heck Sigrun Gard the Valkyrie came from - why Harry seemed to know her - well, the short story in this book is where he first meets her.
FUndead and Unworthy - MJ Davidson - latest in her Betsy the Vampire Queen series. Wedded bliss does not automatically bring peace and calm to Betsy's life, especially since she's being haunted by the ghost of her late stepmother The Ant.
FThe Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog by Nancy Ellis-Bell - actually a macaw, not a parrot, and it's one of those problematic tales by someone who goes too far in turning over the running of their life to their pets rather than the humans being in control. I love animals too, but hey, the person who buys and pays for the house is supposed to be the boss over the little under-20-pound critters who share it.
FOn Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not Robert Burton MD. Wow, this one definitely is food for thought. What he discusses is the "feeling of knowing" that we have, and where in the brain it arises, and why. To give an example, we probably all at one time or another have been quite sure we put our keys in a particular place, and when they are not there, we get quite upset, perhaps even going so far as to accuse someone else in the household of moving them, because we KNOW where we put them down - we even remember the action of doing it. And then, later, when we find them in our jacket pocket, we suddenly remember oh yeah, we did change them - but that realization doesn't change the fact that before that, we KNEW, with the same certainty, something which wasn't actually the factual case. (This is where having pets comes in handy: when stuff isn't where you remember putting it, you automatically blame it on the cat, rather than on the significant other; this spares you the anger of the other person for being blamed, and spares you the humiliation of having to apologize to them later when you do find the keys. Every couple should have a pet to blame memory lapses on.) So Burton points out, that same feeling of KNOWING is involved in everything from religious belief, to political opinions, to writing history. The fact that we have a feeling of certainty that we're right does not actually have very much to do with whether we are right or not, and we would all do well to remember that any time we start trying to demand that other people change to do things our way because our way is right.
FThe Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less - Barry Schwartz - slightly older book (2004) but quite relevant; the consumer society of too many options causes less freedom and more depression than societies with fewer choices experience.
FThen She Found Me - Elinor Lipman - mildly humorous romance, one of the recommendations from 1001 Books for every Mood mentioned a couple posts back.
FHere Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations - Clay Shirky - less naively enthused about kids than Negroponte; includes both anecdotes about internet organizing and some sociological research on how the availability of social tools is changing how we each present ourselves, who we choose to associate with, and what social/political positions we're willing to stand up for.
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)
Okay. Let's see. The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison - latest in her Rachel Morgan series. Urban fantasy set in Cincinnati, our heroine is a witch, and demons are - well, not necessarily the enemy, and elves are, well, not necessarily nice people. This volume ties up a few loose ends, and introduces a cool plot twist. I really still don't like the character of Rachel's mother, though, no matter what good reasons she has for being nuts. Oh, and revelations about Rachel's father - surprising but I'm not sure I like that direction.

Have I already mentioned Where the Heart Leads by Stephanie Laurens? Yes, it's a Regency romance - but it's part of a series that features crime solving (murder mysteries and other crimes) as a major feature; in this one, not only our proto-PI, Barnaby Adair, but also our proto-police-detective, get a romance going.

Right is Wrong by Arianna Huffington. Even though I'm on the same general side of the fence, this book is a waste of time, because if one reads any political blogs at all, one has already read all of this. As blog entries, fine. As a book, it's incoherent. And repetitive and redundant. Preaching to the choir. People who disagree aren't going to buy the book, any more than I'd ever buy Coulter; people who agree, well, nothing new here, just a jolly bit of self-congratulatory feeling if you want to read somebody famous agreeing with you; and as for undecideds, well, I have the feeling that most people who are still undecided at this point are unlikely to buy or read hardcover books to help make their decisions. Will be remaindered the minute after the election, and have trouble selling even at $3.99. And I say this who agree with the general gist of the book.

Also a couple knitting books - possibly I'll go into detail on those some slow moment.

Pictures: jumping around a bit, here's toward the end of our trip; we're in Vienna eating pastry at a sidewalk cafe.

And here's one from Slovenia, speaking of pastry: Bled is famous for its cream cakes. We had some, and it was indeed delicious.

However, mostly what we saw in Bled was this: rain. And more rain. Frog-strangling rain.

That's looking down the street from the covered outdoor section of the very good pizza place attached to the back of our hotel.

I really do have to get these pictures up on a page so I can show you all of them without breaking anyone's fpage.
bunrab: (Default)
House stuff. Lots of details, boring to anyone who isn't paying for them and watching the contractors do them. We might be able to move in end of next week, or else the day after Memorial Day.

Music stuff. Likewise lots of planning details boring to anyone who isn't actively doing them. Culminating in Maryland Community Band Day tomorrow, at Montgomery VIllage Middle School. Followed, no doubt, by my sleeping straight through from when we get home Sunday night to when I have to shower and get dressed and head for rehearsal Monday evening.

Fidelity by Thomas Perry. Mystery/thriller, with hit man and plucky heroine. Well written, as usual. But much more exciting was the blurb in the back, announcing that a new Jane Whitefield novel will be out in January 2009!!

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures Volume 1 HC - the graphic novel version, really the first 6 volumes of the comic book; by Laurell K. Hamilton (Author), Stacie M. Ritchie (Author), Jess Ruffner-Booth (Author), Brett Booth (Author). Not too bad; mostly, I like the way the characters have been visualized, and most of the important stuff is in there. I wish they had just waited until the entire novel was finished, though.

The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness by Jeff Warren. Fun and science at the same time! Warren reviews all the states of consciousness involved in sleeping, more than you think there are. Includes the author's recounting of his personal experimentation with each stage of sleep, including ordering a NovaDreamer to help with lucid dreaming; sleeping in a cabin in the woods with no artificial light, not even oil lamps or candles, for three weeks. How to catch your own dreams. I've been reading a chapter before going to sleep each night.

Oh yeah, last weekend we saw my folks off on a cruise, leaving from a pier here in Baltimore, and while we were all together ahead of time, I had the chance to give my newest nephew his baby blanket.

That, by the way, makes 37 nieces and nephews (and 6 great-nieces and nephews).
bunrab: (alien reading)
The Jew of Home Depot and other stories by Max Apple. Most of the stories are about urban American Jews in ordinary situations somewhat complicated by misplaced loyalties based on judging people solely by whether they are the right religion (not necessarily Jewish, I should point out) rather than as entire people. The title story is amusing, but the one I liked best was the one that was nothing to do with Jews; it's about a Chinese-American girl who is 6 feet tall and unmarried, and decides that the only way to make her mother happy is to go trick Yao Ming into marrying her.

I am America and So Can You by Stephen Colbert. Well, it's Colbert. Best read in small doses, as in large ones it's grating rather than funny. That said, I thought the chapter on Science was hysterical.

Dead Over Heels by MaryJanice Davidson. Three stories in this anthology - the first one a pretty good one in her Betsy the Vampire Queen series; the second, an OK one in her Fred the Mermaid series, although Fred isn't in this one; the third one part of her werewolf series and a complete waste of time; no plot, predictable from the first paragraph, and the characters might as well not have been werewolves, for all that had to do with anything.

The electricians have the new ceiling fans and light fixtures mostly installed; the new washer-dryer gets delivered Thursday; I am soliciting bids from landscapers for getting rid of the Melting Flying Saucer Shrubs® and putting in trees and roses. Progress is being made! And I've packed 4 whole boxes of books!
bunrab: (alien reading)
This is mostly just titles - I might come back and fill in more details later, and then again, maybe I won't get around to it. I'll save the details for more exciting books.
No Nest for the Wicket - latest in Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow series (murder mysteries, humorous, featuring eccentric relatives, academia, and birds.)
Obsession - latest in Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series (murder mysteries w/ a child psychologist assisting police detectives, set in LA)
Several SF and murder mystery anthologies not special enough to provide details.
The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry - tales of child psychiatry in a sort of Oliver Sacks vein.
Stolen - one of the books in Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series that I had missed. Mad scientists/evil billionaire kidnapping werewolves.
Many Bloody Returns - anthology of vampire birthday stories, with entries from most of the big series - Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse is in there, Tanya Huff's Henry Fitzroy, etc. If you're following any vampire series, you'll want to read this anthology to get some of the fill-in-the-cracks bits of story.
A couple of books in Susan Rogers Cooper's Milt Kovack series that I had either forgotten or missed.
Jack Kerouac's On The Road - didn't like it. Much prefered the Jack London stuff I read earlier. I kept thinking, buncha repressed guys trying really hard to act heterosexual and screwing it up badly. I guess it was more interesting when it was new.

I'll get more reading done once our home is our own again - Cindy moves into her own apt. the 13th, and I will be relieved. Other people are a pain to live with, you know?
bunrab: (alien reading)
OK, OK, the reading continues apace.
Tail end of 2006:
Essential Dictionary of Orchestration, the by Dave Black, Alfred Publishing - Amazon.com review here - I was annoyed at how it was organized, and at how it included recorders and banjos as somehow essential to orchestrating, while not including Sousaphones or mellophones, which are far more commonly used in scoring pieces!
I'm the Vampire, That's Why by Michele Bardsley - Amazon.com review here - not very good as vampires go.

And on to 2007:
My Big, Fat, Supernatural Wedding, a short story collection edited by P.N. Elrod, stories of varying quality. I liked the Esther Friesner the best. Rachel Caine's blatant rip-off of Captain Jack Sparrow was funny for all that it was a rip-off, and led me to finally getting around to starting a series of hers that I've had recommended to me - see below. Elrod's own Elvis story was pretty funny, too. The authors who always annoy me, such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, continue to annoy me; no news there. I liked Jim Butcher's story, in which Harry Dresden is the best man at a wedding, but I suspect it would be totally incomprehensible to anyone who wasn't already conversant with the Harry Dresden series, and with Bob The Skull and Karrin Murphy. Worth taking out of the library, not worth paying $13 for a trade paperback for. And what's with so many trade paperbacks lately, anyway?? Blatant profit move from publishers. I'll hold out for mass market paperbacks at half the price, thank you very much.

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine. This is the first in her Weather Warden series; I happened to spot it on the library racks and grabbed it, since I had been recently reminded of the existence of the series by seeing her story in the anthology. It seems OK; a little bit long for the actual plot involved, but I liked a lot of the details about the weather. Could have lived without the details of the classic cars. Liked the Djinn. Don't know whether I liked it enough to pay cash for any of the series, but I'll certainly bother to look for the next one at the library.

Zookeeper, the by Alex MacLennan. The title is what made me grab this off the library shelf, but it's plain old non-genre fiction, full of angst about relationships and trying to figure out what the protagonist wants to do with his life, and wound up just making me feel angsty, despite the interesting details of his job. Too much time spent trying to control other people, not nearly enough tamarins and lemurs.


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