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)
I regularly grab large armfuls of stuff off the new books shelf in the library, on spec, to see if there are random authors out there I haven't run across who might be any good. This is particularly the case with murder mysteries - I read 'em faster than the authors write 'em, so I am constantly on the lookout for new series, or new to me, anyway.

One of the things that I've noticed is that there are more and more gimmicks in the mystery genre.
A long rant about gimmick escalation. )
One example of too many gimmicks, that I skimmed through and could hardly stand even the skim version: our protagonist spends lots of time drinking brand name liquor and talking about kinky sex with her neighbors, but still has time to have a really successful career! And she has a boyfriend who's a cop, and he doesn't mind at all that she constantly gets involved in murders and solves them for him! And she's going to be on a reality show! Which is supposed to be a bunch of women from whom the rich guy will choose a spouse, but really he's gay and it's one of the men in the house that he's going to choose! Only one of the guys is secretly straight and pretending to be gay in order to get the rich guy's money! Oh, and there's a guy who's secretly his son he didn't know he had! I'm pretty sure there were designer shoes in there somewhere too, but I couldn't hack even skimming more than the first two chapters and the last one.

And then there's the other bane of the random book grab, the self-published book. These show up on the library shelves, often because a local author has donated copies to the library. Where do I even start about the horrors of most self-published books? I won't even mention the lack of proofreading in many; that's just pitiful - but the stuff beyond typos and obvious grammar errors? The dialogue that clearly no one has ever tried saying out loud? The massive info dumps as filler? The continuity errors, oh gods, the continuity errors. Bad enough when it's just that the spelling of someone's name changes from Marjorie to Marjory, a little worse when someone's physical characteristics such as hair color change suddenly, or their background information changes. Then it gets to the point where someplace that we were told 2 chapters ago is a place our protagonist has never been, but suddenly he's familiar with it and has spent years there. Or there's dialogue and suddenly one of the characters who's speaking is someone who wasn't in the book at all until suddenly they were in the middle of this conversation! And then there's the really egregious stuff - the narration changes from third-person to first person at random times that are clearly accidental, not a deliberate viewpoint change to make something clearer. Or similarly, the tense changes for no reason, and a paragraph that was in standard fictional past tense is suddenly being told in the present tense, even though nothing else has changed. Or someone who was speaking standard English (albeit stiffly and without contractions or very unrealistically) suddenly starts speaking in a dialect, with the dialect spelled phonetically.

I've been sent a few such books by authors who see my name on Amazon; so far, there hasn't been a one of the self-published books where I'd be able to write a positive review.

Sometimes it really makes me question whether it's worth trying to read anything new. But in the next post I will describe a couple of books I liked, one with a gimmick that was a little bit gimmicky but the characters were likeable and the plot was good, so it worked; another that was self-published but turned out to be quite decent.
bunrab: (me)
The local library seems to have gotten a big shipment all at once from Prometheus, publishers of assorted skeptical stuff and also way-out-there stuff occasionally - people who are skeptical of the real world to the point of massive conspiracy theories, etc. The quality of books from them varies. Sometimes it's straightforward "my doctoral dissertation turned into a book" stuff, sometimes it's stranger than that. Anyway, I grabbed a few of them to look at.

First up: Radical Distortion: How Emotions Warp What We Hear - John Reich. First the totally obvious: people with extreme views on a subject don't like to hear contrary opinions. Then the slightly less obvious, with several studies: people with extreme views on a subject are more likely to rate neutral statements as being negative/against them/contrary, rather than neutral - holding extreme views makes one incapable of perceiving neutral ground. Many of the studies cited are actually from the 50s and 60s, not from current issues that are polarized, showing that this aspect of extreme views has been around for a while.
For example )
Next up: Second That Emotion: How Decisions, Trends, and Movements are Shaped - Jeremy Holden. This turns out to be mostly stories about how to use social media to spread propaganda - not as interesting as the title, and not even that informative - it's anecdotes, and no real studies showing whether what the author thinks made the "movement" in each anecdote work, is actually what fueled or spread it. It's just stories, no analysis. Waste of time.

Last from this batch: The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness - Giles Slade. It's the Kindle's fault that people don't talk to each other any more and are rude when they do. No, it's Amazon.com's fault even before the Kindle. No, it's the Internet's fault!! The author's thesis is that since we buy more stuff online now, we have fewer daily interactions that consist of saying "thank you" and "Have a nice day" with store clerks, and that's making us lonelier and ruder. My opinion: Um, no. For one thing, for most products, the percentage of people who buy them online is still vanishingly small - almost everyone still buys their groceries in a grocery store, and even if they order them online, they talk to the delivery guy. Likewise restaurant meals, haircuts, dentists, all that other stuff that CAN'T be done on the Internet - still far, far outweighs the commerce that is done on the Internet. I wound up chatting about this book with the guy next to me at a restaurant - the only seats left at the place across the street before a concert were at the bar, so we were squished together, and he had an e-reader, and we had a nice long chat about reading books (news flash: people who have e-readers still buy lots of hardcopy books too! The more you read, the more you buy!) and whether having a tablet to read on alienated you from other readers. Conclusion: no, if anything, e-readers seem to spark more conversations than carrying around a dead-tree book, if anything. So our joint conclusion was that The Big Disconnect is full of crap.

I also grabbed The Pickwick Papers in my quest to read a few more classics, but discovered that my tolerance for that particular type of humor is quite limited, and after 4 chapters I was too tired of those characters to continue. Oh well, I'll try a different classic soon.
bunrab: (me)
A Christmas Garland - Anne Perry. Novelette, Christmas-themes, annual, features one of her regular characters at a much earlier point in his life. Good mystery.
The Member of the Wedding - Carson McCullers. I sorta resolved at New Years to try and read a few "classics" this year, and since this was on the "classics" display at the library, I grabbed it. I have no idea why it's a classic. I am reminded once again, even in this relatively short novel, of everything I don't like about the style of "Southern" writers and of the whole southern-gothic-sort-of genre. Stories of family scandals based on ignorance, disease, and discrimination, will just never be my cup of tea, I guess. And our protagonist is actually too young for this to be coming of age, nor does she particularly come of any pieces of wisdom from the incidents. I guess it's a good description of the intense but scattered emotions and lack of logic typical of a girl on the brink of adolescence, but so what? Not that interesting.

Tried a bit of chick lit, since it involved a bookstore; I thought that might make it interesting. It didn't, and I didn't finish The Book Lover by Maryann McFadden. I stopped at about the second point where I was mentally shouting at someone, "Why the hell do you people keep lying to each other on the spur of the moment for no logical reason???" Life's too short.

Now reading: Rage is Back - Adam Mansbach. Very, very funny. It's told in the first person, and some of it in New York City dialect, if that's the right word - our protagonist is the teenage son of an absent father who was a famous graffiti-writer in his day. Said son, unfortunately named Dondi, is quite intelligent, and has only recently been kicked out of what he refers to as the Whoopty Whoo Ivy League We's A Comin' Academy, which he was attending on a "What the Hell, Let's Give a Clever Young Colored Boy a Chance to Transcend His Race Scholarship."
Here's an excerpt from where I just reached, in which our narrator's reappeared father has described an alleged entheogenic serum from a talking tree, and our hero is deciding whether to listen to him:

I'm taking the time to acknowledge this out of respect for you, the reader, because I hate stories with fuzzy internal logic. Kids who've grown up on Harry Potter don't know any better, poor schmucks: the people in those books are constantly doing things that were impossible five minutes earlier. In a few years, you'll see. The Rowling generation's going to be the most fucked up yet. Whereas you could break into George Lucas's house right now, traipse into his study, and say, "Hey George, what exactly is a parsec?" and as soon as he finished taking his bong hit, he'd be able to explain. Probably before security arrived. Or take Tolkein: not only could J.R.R. have told you why they didn't just ride those giant fucking eagles straight into the heart of Mordor instead of walking, he'd have done so in High Elvish, or the Tongue of the Woodland Realm, your choice.

Yes!
bunrab: (saxophone)
Did you know that? If you weren't sure it was true, I'd be happy to send you some of the rabbit fur collecting in corners, as proof - yes, our dust bunnies are made out of real bunnies!!

I did some repairs to wooden toys this afternoon, with mending plates and angle brackets. An internet seller of rabbit play tunnels and such was going out of business, so I ordered some of the last of their stuff (half price!), and, as in previous orders, one piece arrived broken - which may explain part of why they went out of business. Well, no refunds or returns, so I put the tunnel aside for a few weeks. But finally decided that I needed a clearer living room floor, so it and a previous "play station" that had a leg broken off got fixed. We had previously tried gluing the broken leg, but it didn't hold up for long. Metal mending plates should be able to withstand a four-pound rabbit. I traded around who has what kind of tunnels and toys - now Chippy chin has the smaller play station, since the Funnybunnies didn't like it so much; the Funnybunnies have a second litter box to chew on and scatter around; Fern has the refurbished large play station, instead of a tunnel where she can hide herself too much; and the repaired tunnels are now what's between cages - one between Fern and Funnybunnies, one between FBs and Gizmo, and one between Gizmo and the big plastic bin that keeps the hay and Carefresh more or less safe from rabbits. Fern actually seems to like the new setup - she jumped up and down and up again from the new tunnel, and perched on it for a while, which she hadn't when it was in her cage; she had only ever gone under it.

Wednesday MVCB had just a library work session, not a rehearsal, so I didn't have to bring my bari sax. So I emailed my teacher that I was gonna bring my soprano sax for my lesson instead, and then bungeed said soprano onto the back of the bike and rode over there, instead of using the cage. Great weather for it. A big accident on I-95 diverted me onto an exit I wasn't familiar with, so I even got in a little wandering around on strange roads. And after lesson, most of the staff of the music store where I take my lessons had to come out and admire the bike; I am not sure they previously believed me when I said I rode, as they've only ever seen me when I've had to be carrying 30-something pounds of nearly 4-feet-long assymetrical bari sax, which does NOT work on bike. (I have calculated that if I were 6 foot 2 inches or taller, and weighed at least 200 lbs, then I could carry the bari back-pack style and it would not significantly screw up my balance, center of gravity, or wind resistance. But as I am 5'4"...) My Evolve fish carrying a wrench was their favorite of all my assorted stickers and stuff. Then I ran a bunch of errands, since I had a couple hours before the band session. Had to carry the sax in to various places, since I couldn't just leave it bungeed to the bike; it's not a super-expensive sax, but I still don't want it stolen. Luckily, a straight soprano in a grey plastic case looks pretty innocuous. Silver Diner at LakeForest Mall (avoided rest of mall). Gaithersburg Library. CVS. Then Stedwick Community Center. I wasn't expecting Steve - but he decided why should I have all the fun, and rode his bike out to join us, so then we could ride home together - which we did entirely on back roads, no highways at all, during the very long dusk at this time of year. Lots of lightning bugs everywhere; it's so neat to ride through a whole flock (?) of them on a bike! We stopped at the Double T in Ellicott City, on Route 40, for supper. I was pleased to get an overall 60 mpg on this most recent tank, including as it did the stop-and-creep caused by the traffic accident, and the slow riding behind what seemed like every cement truck in Montgomery County.

I told Perry, if rain will kindly hold off on Wednesdays, he can expect me to bring the soprano to lessons for the rest of the summer. Gonna work on some Baroque oboe concerti!
bunrab: (alien reading)
So, I read this book called How to Read Novels Like A Professor, which turned out to be great - imagine a course on literature, except instead of concentrating on all the boring stuff, he concentrates on bestsellers and genre fiction. And he's funny. He starts out by telling us how the first two sentences of the book can already reveal exactly how much effort and attention we'll have to put into reading it. Several chapters are spent on discussing the unusual narrative techniques of modern novels - as a contrast to Victorian novels, explaining too why those were written the way they were, and how much something can change from that and still be considered a novel. We have the usual discussion of POV, and what the limitations of first-person are, and so on. He uses a lot of examples, including Agatha Christie mysteries, and the aforesaid Dickens. Mostly, when he discusses Dickens, he talks about Great Expectations, which I didn't like and never finished; he doesn't mention my favorite, A Tale of Two Cities, at all. And he spends a lot of time trying to justify reading Joyce's Ulysses, leaving me totally unconvinced - I'm still never going to read it. On the other hand, some of the books he discussed were ones I had not previously considered, that he made sound downright interesting - see more on that below. Others, well, no - he spends a lot of time on Fowles' The Magus, which I read while I was in college in the 70's, and didn't like at all, and the very points that I didn't like are what he does like about it: how "clever" it is, where you have to *work* at figuring out what's going on. And when I read it, I kept thinking, this is an awful lot of effort for very little story; there's not enough plot under the cleverness, and if I want to do this much work while reading, I'll read a textbook and get a good grade for it, thank you very much. So, not everything he considers interesting is attractive. Nonetheless, an excellent book; the writers on my flist would probably enjoy it, too.

One of the books he used in illustrating POV was Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible which I had heretofore ignored. But his description of multiple third-person non-omniscient POVs sounded interesting. So I went and took that out of the library next, and wound up reading it through in only two sittings - it was that interesting. And going in knowing what to expect, the multiple POVs, some with limited information, were not too much work, and were quite enjoyable. Lots of story in there; it's not just character and cleverness.

I also finally got around to reading Koontz's Odd Thomas and one of its sequels, Brother Odd, books which illustrate yet another POV - the *unreliable* first-person narrator, as Odd himself describes himself, comparing it to the POV in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I don't think I would have focused as much on how the unreliable-first-person POV affects the story had I not recently read the How to Read.... Anyway, I liked the first one, didn't like Brother Odd as much, mainly because of the excess of "Forbidden Planet" woo-woo - I didn't like "Forbidden Planet," for that matter, and for that matter, I hate "The Tempest" - I think it's the stupidest play of Shakespeare's that I've ever read, character and plot-wise. (Great language, but stupid.) Despite the "things man was not meant to create" vibe, though, I enjoyed a lot of the book, especially the Russian character.

Now off to more crocheting and some herbal tea.
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: (alien reading)
Bunch more library books to return, so here you go:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House by Charles Osgood - a collection of campaign humor, or, as the subtitle puts it, "Humor, blunders, and other oddities from the presidential campaign trail," from the 1948 elections (Truman v Dewey) through the 2004 elections. Some of it is indeed more odd than funny. And some of it sadly reminds me that Richard Nixon, crook and bigot though he was, was at least more intelligent than Shrub. Easy to read bits of at a time - this was my bathroom reading for a couple weeks.
Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black - sorta disappointing, as Black turns out to be one of those "oh, organized religion is nonsense but I still believe in God" types, afraid to cross the line to atheism. Parts of it are funny, some are sorta blah; his accounts of his "spiritual" experiences with hallucinogenic drugs are both religious copouts and sad. But there are funny bits as well as stuff that would never have been printed if it wasn't Lewis Black saying it.
A Song For You by Betsy Thornton - a murder mystery grabbed randomly off the shelves in an effort to try more authors I haven't read before; verdict: it's OK. Features the daughter of a past-her-prime hippie mother who was a singer in a band, and the remaining members of the band, all old and worn out. And a murder from the old days, as well as a current one. A decent resolution, adequate writing, not super-exciting but I would try more books by her if I happened to run across them.
The Good Neighbors, Book 1: Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh - fantasy graphic novel, mainly YA, as that is what Black writes when she writes regular books. Coming-of-age and our protagonist suddenly discovers that she can see people others can't, who turn out to be faeries, or "good neighbors." I like the artwork, and there's a good mix of panels where something is happening with the apparently mandatory panels where nothing happens except that some feature of someone's face or clothes gets enlarged. I like our heroine's group of goofy friends. Ends in mid-plot, sort of cliff-hanger, as the title might indicate. Things Are Not What They Seem!

More later - gotta get to band rehearsal early to hand out some more music.
bunrab: (liberal values)
With all the news about John McCain not knowing how to send email and never having been on the internet, I wonder, does anybody know, has John McCain ever been in a public library?
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
Baltimore Symphonic Band played at another retirement community this past evening. To recap the week in music:
BSB played at enormous retirement community last Tuesday
MVCB had rehearsal Wednesday
We had tickets to a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert Thursday
No music Friday; we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
TubaChristmas on Saturday
MVCB played at a senior center in Silver Spring on Sunday

Monday we didn't go to rehearsal; instead, we, with Cindy, went down to DC to the Library of Congress, where [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet and I carefully examined the Gerry Mulligan exhibit and did some research in the Music Reading Room in the Madison building, while Cindy went and did other stuff. We also bought several CDs, though none of holiday music, in the LOC gift shop.

This past evening, Tuesday, BSB played another concert at another ginormous retirement community.
Wednesday, another MVCB rehearsal. Saturday, dress rehearsal in Bel Air for the BACB concert, which [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet is playing in. This coming Sunday, MVCB concert for me, Bel Air concert for S. Next week, BSB concert at a hospital on Tuesday, BSB concert at a shopping mall on Wednesday (and xmas tree lighting in Montgomery Village but I don't think we'll make it to that.) So there's the immediate future taken care of!

The retirement community Tuesday evening (yesterday, in current terms here) served punch for the band.

We put Cindy back on a plane this afternoon. Now we can go back to feeding the pets their proper diets, and my computer settings will stay where I put them, etc.
bunrab: (alien reading)
From the Baltimore Sun, Wednesday Feb 8:

Library Patron 'borrows' way into prison )

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