Thursday, June 30, 2016

Program glance-throughs 2

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This is on my list because one of the wine descriptions struck me as being a good match for a non-book medium.  But this probably isn’t a good fit: selling a graphic novel to some of these folks would be a job of work by itself, much less a very …graphic… novel in such a far-out fantasy world.  I haven’t read any happy graphic novels lately, so I don’t have any ideas to sub in.

The second chances of Priam Wood by Alexander Rigby: Gaa, I had such high hopes for this, but the review is better-written than the book.  The writing has a pedantic feeling, all telling, with little sentence variation.  The first two chapters read like the set-up for a moralizing story, not exactly something to draw most readers in.  Leafing through, there’s so little dialogue throughout how will we hear from anyone except the narrator?  Sadly, this book really isn’t worth picking up.

Simone by Eduardo Lalo, translated by David Frye: Pretentious?  It’s hard to get into and is difficult to follow, but carries that quality of, if one were to suggest edits to the author, the author would respond along the lines of “you can’t critique my art; it’s ART!”  (as if there is no such thing as bad art or incomplete art.)  It is likely to not be accessible/enjoyable to the majority of readers.

Seeing red did not come in on hold in time to be reviewed.

Touch by Claire North: Just enough information is given out at just the right intervals.  I’ll run the blurb past my no-sci-fi reader at a branch.  I'm hopeful.

Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen: Oh, so much telling.  After a dozen pages, I’m not sure why I should invest in the characters and with the book being so short (and the margins so generous) I’m not sure there’s space enough to make me do so.  Also noticed a few proofreading errors even in that short space.

Untouchable by Ava Marsh: The pacing in the beginning of the story is very good, I can feel the suspense already.  But the writing is all short sentences, too clipped, with a bunch of fragments that would work better anchored.  Not quite.

The wake by Paul Kingsnorth: Ugh!  How could the reviewer have failed to mention the non-standardized spelling and the lack of punctuation!  A sentence at random: “it was the efen when he cum deorcness was gathered in and we was in the hus around the fyr with was a crocc of broth of lamb and baerlic and we was all eten this with the good baerlic loaf what odelyn macd well and we was eten with micel lust for the daeg had been long”  (p.59).  Library Journal lets me down again.

The winter people by Jennifer McMahon: Very nice sentence variation and other writing conventions.  A few characters, all with enough depth to be engaging, and touching on a few genres to appeal to a wide audience.  A strong possibility, although I’m not sure about a match. 

The winter war by Philip Teir: I cannot tell what this is trying to be.  The blurb on the back says it’s “funny, sharp, and brilliantly truthful,” but no matter where I jump to in the book, it reads like an exposition.  There’s little dialogue and we don’t seem to be following any particular person, and certainly not getting inside anyone’s head; we just sort of bobble along the ceiling, watching.

I was still waiting for a third of the books to come in, so I went out to the New shelves and swiped some titles I remembered as having good reviews.

If I fall, if I die by Michael Christie: Excellent first scene.  The writing is very engrossing, sweeping the reader along.  It fills several needs—family issues, coming-of-age-type story, and book-group-type book.  Lots to talk about, about how everyone is messed up in a different way and how one’s issues affect the people around one.  This is a very strong book, but if I use Piece of Mind, that’s two books out of six hinging upon non-neurotypical storylines, which is too much.  I could have flipped a coin between these two, honestly.

In another life by Julie Christine Johnson: readily accessible style.  Appropriate for the quasi-fantasy/sci-fi I usually try to sneak in—with the success of The Time Traveler’s Wife and the Outlander series, time travel isn’t as “out there,” nor as hard a sell, as it used to be. 

Since I was still most desperately missing a suspense-type novel, I also made read-alikes lists for the two suspenseful novels from previous programs still successfully circ'ing: The devil's detective by Simon K. Unsworth and Spring tide by Cilla and Rolf Borjlind.
Almost everything listed as a read-alike for The devil's detective was similarly hell-centric; none were dark paranormal or suspense with another background.  (Suggestions were Sandman SlimThe scarlet gospels, etc.)  With one exception, all readalikes for Spring Tide have circulated very well, some more than 150 times, and don’t need a boost from being presented in a program—and would likely be a repeat for a number of attendees.

Inherit the dead, edited by Jonathan Santlofer: “Novel-by-committee,” what a wonderful description.  The writing (I sampled several chapters, each by a different author) fits pretty well into the typical hard-boiled genre: terse, dark.  A definite possibility.  70 lifetime checkouts, though, which is more than I like.

The dead run by Adam Mansbach: The writing is very appealing, has a very unique voice, but is also very rough and might not have a wide appeal.  Useful for sure in another setting.

Between summer’s longing and winter’s end by Leif G.W. Persson, translated by Paul Norlen: The writing seems too dry, kind of clinical.  I think the author was going for a police-report sort of feel (?) but it just feels clipped.  Just the facts.

Devil’s Garden by Ace Atkins: It reads like a suspense but the setting (time period) gives it something different from most.  Unfortunately, I can’t find a reason to care about any of the major characters presented: they are all flimsy, shallow, generic “bad guys” without apparent redeeming features.  

The final pull is The Bollywood affair, Inherit the dead, Touch, Piece of mind, The daughters, and The long road to the deep north (which, for some reason, I didn't write anything down for.  I think I picked it, becoming desperate for an historical novel by a male author.  The international setting is also a plus.).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Program glance-throughs 1

I was recently preparing for a program that includes book talking six books to adults.  I keep a list throughout the year as I order and then try to narrow down a short list of books that 1) will largely appeal to a wide range of readers, 2) represent several genres, 3) include a nice balance of male and female authors,  4) include a nice balance of male and female main characters, 5) are well-reviewed, and 6) have not yet circulated too many times.  It is certainly a challenge, but if the books aren't perfect it doesn't matter too-too much, because the program involves wine.  After the first or second book, I'm not sure how much people even notice.  Below is the batch of contenders and my impressions from speed-reading a limited number of paragraphs. 

The books are organized alphabetically, because surely some organization is needed, but that isn't necessarily the order they were reviewed in, so I apologize for any continuity breaks.

I have to break this post into parts because blogger is complaining about the number of applied tags.  

The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel:  It’s 26 pages before there is any dialogue from anyone else.  That's plenty of time for the main character’s voice to get established and her emotional state is strongly conveyed.  But it would be hard to maintain.  Paging ahead, there are whole chapters without dialogue or any other input from other characters.  It would be hard to be inside someone else’s head that long.  It tastes like teenage angst.

All the birds in the sky did not come in in time to be reviewed.  Maybe next time.

The beautiful bureaucrat by Helen Phillips: This starts off good but then—and this might be more the fault of the skipping and speed reading—it gets weird, in an uncomfortable way.  I kepy it on the table as a wild-card option but did not have to use it. 

A Bollywood affair by Sonali Dev: I’ve taken The Bollywood Bride home at least three times without ever actually reading it.  This is interesting and could be a good match (international cultural information, romantic storyline).  It's a toss-up between this and The decent proposal.

The core of the sun by Johanna Sinisalo: There is a lot in here to wade through: chapters from different points of view, transcripts of interviews, chapters from in-story books, text from pamphlets, letters, etc..  This fantasy world is a rather bigger jump than the more paranormal Touch.  Not a good choice for this kind of program.

Darkness the color of snow by Thomas Cobb: The writing is quick-- short sentences and fast-moving paragraphs, but it fits with the storytelling.  There is some strong language.  The book description makes it sounds like a suspense read, typical of the genre, but leafing through it I’m not getting any of that.  It reads more like a problem novel with a cast of male characters.  It has some nice elements, but nothing grabbing, nothing out of this world. 

The daughters by Adrienne Celt: A little mythology, or may magical realism, like Sarah Addison Allen.  The sentences flow and pool like water, not choppy or clipped.  A better pairing, I think for the Malbec (“intense,” “sultry,” with “depth”) than the Tempranillo (“spicy,” “flashy,” “full”), although either would do.

The decent proposal by Kemper Donovan: A lot of character set-up in the first few pages, more telling than usually preferred, but it hooks.  I’m personally interested, and it will do a good job fitting the general romantic/women’s fiction—What Alice forgot was hugely popular last summer.

The good liar did not come in in time to be reviewed.

The heart by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor: Present-tense writing, never my fave, but the book gets off to a great start with complex, artsy but accessible, understandable language.  No quotation marks, which makes it read differently, makes one read differently.  Certainly a novel with potential, but not a good fit for the wine I had it pegged for, which is described as spicy, flashy, full, and sharp.  This book is more compelling, powerful, dark and deep.  A good book, but not a good match.

The last witness by K.J. Parker.  I’m not sure how I felt about the last of Parker’s books I read, but they both were well-reviewed.  I think the writing makes it not widely appealing—vague, no exact place or time period, not very many names (some people never named, sometimes just an overabundance of pronouns).

Love, love by Sung J. Woo: An appropriate family-saga-centric novel, accessible, enough characters, each deep enough to appeal to a wide range of fiction readers, but I think The decent proposal will fit the bill better this go-round.

Man tiger by Eka Kurniawan: More magical realism?  Did I write down anything else on my list?  In my quick perusal, it feels like it’s all telling, and the sentences feel pretty uniformly short; not an engrossing read.

Minnow by James E. McTeer II: This is wonderful; it’s magical realism and an engrossing read—the language is captivating.  It also fits into the coming-of-age/self-discovery spot.  I ended up not using it this time because non-real universes can be a hard sell, and I picked a different one.  Still a great choice!

Morning and evening by Jon Fosse: My, this is a tiny book.  The premise from the back of the book is intriguing; unfortunately, it’s not a good thing in a small package.  There are no quotation marks but a fair amount of dialogue, making it difficult to read.  There are commas, but no periods.  Sentences bridge paragraphs, leaving off mid-thought and starting on the next line without capitalization.  The characters have no voices.  Accessible only to a narrow group of readers.

My name is Memory by Ann Brashares: I’ve had this one on lists for over a year and never quite work it into a program, although I couldn’t recall why.  The sentences are jerky and short, which strikes me as extremely odd for a story about an overarching, ancient life.  It’s hard to fall in to. 

Nakamura reality by Alex Austin: Plenty of people, including some of my coworkers, seem to enjoy novels that are supremely depressing.  This has so much angst and depression.  It’s like reading a Lifetime Original Movie.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover: An interesting start, but the New-Adult angst is strong with this one, and unappealing in general.  It’s more of a YA-feel.

Our endless numbered days by Claire Fuller: the synopsis makes it sound interesting, but it starts very slowly, too slowly.

Piece of mind by Michelle Adelman:  This is excellent.  It hits the high-notes people are looking for in books about the differently-abled—which is actually the same thing as what we’re looking for in most other problem novels: what is going on inside someone else’s head?  This is good like Border Songs, avoids the pitfalls of A Desperate Fortune.  The main character is shown in a realistic (or at least believable), understandable way, without being whiny.  She’s relatable: we all have trouble prioritizing sometimes, we forget direction, we understand these struggles, but how scary would it be to have to deal with that all the time?  Family issues, self-discovery, wonderful.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Netgalley grabs

Wicked intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt.  I read a really good review for this (on Smart Bitches) but the depth of the review makes it almost unnecessary to read the book.  It was fairly enjoyable, although I found the speed with which everyone's problems were mended to be a bit too simple-- the equivalent of having a good cry and being cured of PTSD or something. 

The book also takes time away from the main story to introduce several characters and problems that will make up the rest of the series but didn't much add to this book. 

League of dragons by Naomi Novik.  If you like the series, you'll like this book.  Honestly, I'm glad we're done.  There's a finite number of times the reader can remain engaged by the same basic plot device.  More character growth would have helped the series phenomenally.

Crowned and dangerous by Rhys Bowen.  It seems apparent to me that I skipped one somehow: I can't find a note for Malice at the palace, nor does the description sound particularly familiar.  It affects the reading of this book hardly at all, however.

This was fine, along the lines of what is typical for this series.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Working on the rest of the hoard

Paying for it: A comic-strip memoir about being a john by Chester Brown.  I was expecting something a bit... more from this, although upon reflection, why do people write memoirs?  Because they have an experience few people have had, right?  This certainly qualifies.  Given the subject, though, I was anticipating there would be something more in the way of... something with an opinion, at least.  The narrator expresses a few thoughts about the industry, and he includes a few thoughts by friends included in the story, but there isn't really anything here in the way of "this is right/wrong because" or "we need to [do action] because [reason]."  Of course, if the author had included such thoughts (assuming he has such a position), he would certainly have alienated potential readers, but considering the size of the potential audience, and how the lack of position also leaves a (perhaps equal?) number of readers dissatisfied, it seems silly to leave it out.

Curious minds by Janet Evavovich and Phoef Sutton.  This is being marketed on the author's name-- which is the biggest thing on the cover.  The title isn't much of a sell.  This is absolute fluff, which has its place (like, on beach chairs with tequila sunrises nearby), so don't look for anything by way of character depth or development.  

...not that you'd expect a ton of character depth from this author, but something would be nice.  As it is, the characters are mere plot devices and their actions can all be chalked up to "the story needed them to" rather than having any actual personal reason for any of their actions.  Beware: it sets up for a series.

Every anxious wave by Mo Daviau.  I've checked this out several times.  While the description sounds awesome, I had real trouble getting into it: a portal through time appears in your closet and you set up a business around it, no questions asked?  Your geeky friend creates a computer program to control it, and we gloss over that in literally one sentence?  That's a whole book right there!  I couldn't get beyond that.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Streaming x-files (4) in the background

Of moose and men: Lost and found in Alaska by Torry Martin and Doug Peterson.  The second half of the book description on Amazon makes it pretty clear that this book has religious themes, but I don't recall that from the description on Net Galley.  (Likely I just missed it.)  So I thought we were going for more of a travelogue-style of thing: plentiful enough on the market, but this one got off to a pretty good start in the first scene.  But the religious thoughts felt pretty shoe-horned in, not a natural extension of the work.  It felt forced.  And it is the template for every chapter: humorously-told welcome-to-Alaska story (over-the-top, but that's the storytelling style and pretty consistent) and them a poorly-incorporated Bible lesson.  It might be candy for some readers, but I'd like to see 1) similes and parables and such make sense, and 2) it would probably work better if the "what God taught me" was interwoven with the chapter material and not a literal tag-on at the end of the story.

The author's friend and roommate is a pretty major part of most of the stories, but there isn't a word of explanation as to how they met or what they're doing in  Alaska together until pretty far through the book. That seems like a pretty major oversight in the story telling. 

A cabinet of philosophical curiosities: A collection of puzzles, oddities, riddles and  dilemmas by Roy Sorensen.  What am I reading?  Does anyone think this makes sense?  This feels like a guy who is using the biggest words possible because he wants to seem important or intelligent, regardless of the fact that they don't make hypotenuse.  It's like when Joey used the thesaurus function on every single word in his essay.  Paragraphs are strung together, related only very loosely.  And it's 659 pages long, without any addendum-- or answers. The riddles are said to have their answers at the back of the book, but they are conspicuously missing from the ARC.

Reading this is like a fight, trying to tear meaning from each sentence and hold that meaning in balance while trying to string together enough sentences to get to the core thought.

The x-files, season 3, with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  It's pretty ridiculous that various government and military groups are supposed to be conducting tests on the American public.  You couldn't pick a worse group of experimental subjects--especially in the general population, where you can't control or even account for any other factors.

Mulder does a lot of gun-waving.  He points that thing at all kinds of people he doesn't really intend to shoot. Very bad practice.

I love it when they bring in the geek squad, and especially the torch Frohike carries for Scully.  You can do worse than a slightly weird guy who is crazy about you.

The new artisan bread in five minutes a day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  I've just finished baking my second batch of bread, a second recipe.  With my food allergy, it is pretty hard to find bread I can eat; I don't particularly like dropping $6 on a loaf of bread I don't really like and which will likely get poached by my family. These breads are like making beans from dried-- the amount of actual time spent on the project is minimal, it just takes planning to allow enough time to complete everything.
One thing I don't like is that, considerably frequently, under a recipe it will direct readers to another of the authors' books for more types of whole wheat, pizza doughs, etc.  Self-promotion is one thing,  but this seems excessive. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The cache

Breaking wild by Diane Les Becquet.  This was pretty good.  I like that we have an adventure/survival story focused on female characters, and the action does not revolve around rescue by love interests.  The two female characters, however, were not adequately differentiated for me; it helped that one was written in first person and the other in third person. I'm sure that they were meant to be similar so their connection would be more understandable, but they were too similar somehow and I had trouble keeping their back stories straight.  Not superb, but worth a read.

Thunder and lightning: Weather past, present, future by Laura Redniss. I was going to say how strikingly similar I found this to the Marie Curie graphic novel I read a few years ago, but it turns out it's the same author, so maybe that's a little more understandable.  I apparently didn't comment on that one at the time, so I can't link to an earlier post.  :(  My general comments apply equally well to both graphic novels, however.

This isn't so much a graphic novel about (nonfiction topic) weather as it is a collection of artworks inspired by snippets of stories or factoids related generally to weather.  The reviews make it seem like we're going to be really getting into weather, plus it won a science award; you'd think there'd be more... science.

The artwork is nice, quite a bit more focused and less (a certain messy quality that I associate with people who say "you can't critique my art; it's ART!" Like, I'm sorry, eyes should be level).  But I don't really think of this as a "graphic novel" like stories with points and plots and also illustrations.  This is more like a published collage or something.

Grunt: The curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach.  This book right here has been the major reason for my delay on this post.  I didn't know what to say.  Then I knew what to say and I was sad about it.

I was super excited when I heard this was coming out.  I love Mary Roach!  She's such a nice lady!  and Gulp!  and Stiff!  Excellent works!  Then, at a multi-system library staff event, I heard that the Everett Public Library was hosting Mary for a talk.  Plus, it was a library event, so it was free!  I was so amped!  Then, at the same meeting, another librarian had a print ARC of Grunt  I was drooling at, and when I got home, I remembered about NetGalley, which totally had it.  So maybe I was a little too excited to start with.

First, I read the book.  Comments in a minute.  Not super great, but I was still excited to go see Mary in Everett.  But my driving buddy cancelled on my the night before, I couldn't find anyone else to go with me, and I wasn't excited about having to drive  6+ hours round-trip by myself and getting back about 2am.  I-5 at night?  I'm rural now.  I've maybe been to Everett twice.  Nope, no-go.  So that had me sad for about a week. 

I have super-loved Mary's last couple of books.  She does a great job of illuminating little side areas of topics perhaps considered not appropriate for polite conversation.  She strikes the right balance of humor without being disrespectful. 

Guys, her balance was way off in this one.  Trying to be too funny, she came off as crass.  She also didn't flesh out the topic areas very well; the best way I can describe the content for this book is mostly "phoned in."  Maybe it's something about how examples and cases were presented, I don't know, but it didn't feel so much "here's the best example I can give you, reader" and more like "here's the first example I found."  It's still a good book overall, just not great, and not what I would think of as Mary-quality.  The mechanics are flawless, as always, sentence variations very nice and balanced, and you know those are big areas for me.  I'd give it maybe a 7 out of 10.

footnote note: Like her other books, there are footnotes in this one quite a bit.  I loved the footnote function in the ARC-- tap on the footnote number and it takes you to the notes compiled at the end of the chapter.  Wonderful!  There are finished-product eBooks that don't have this function.  (This is the reason I can't read Pratchett on my Nook.)  Thank you, NetGalley and/or publisher people!  A great reading experience!  The only thing is, if the footnote overflowed onto a second page, the "go back" function wouldn't take you back to the main text, just the last page you were on-- page 1 of the footnote.

Buying a bride: An engaging history of mail-order matches by Marcia A. Zig.  I went a little crazy when I went onto NetGalley to get  Grunt.  I hadn't been on for ages, and it turned out to be a bit like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach.

The blub for this seemed to market it more as a readable nonfiction, popular history type of read, but it's pretty academic.  There are alot of footnotes (which don't conveniently link back and forth), alot of dates, and the writing style isn't terribly engaging-- it's pretty dry.  It's not completely inaccessible so might be good for average readers very interested in the topic, but the prospective reading population is going to be fairly small.

Ransomed jewels by Laura Landon.  I don't know what made me nab this galley, but I didn't get very far.  It's so ridiculously over-dramatic!  It feels like every action, every emotion is at the farthest possible extreme.  It seems like every trope or cliche-- the pet verbs, the thinly-drawn typical characters-- are all present and accounted for.

I did participate (ages ago now) in this year's Edible Book Day.  I tried to get people into it at work, but there wasn't a great deal of buy-in.  My entry got eaten, though.  The Unbearable Lightness of [Scones].  Recipe found here and has replaced my go-to scone recipe.

Friday, April 29, 2016

good day: sunshine

I know what my delay is: I'm part-way through several books that I don't particularly want to finish, but neither do I want to commit to quitting.  I'm going to try to finish some on way or the other this weekend.

Eagle in exile by Alan Smale.  The ending of this book was so much better than the first in the series. They stand together and, although the story obviously has room to continue, it's ok to stop and wait a few years for the next installment. 

Like the first book, this one suffered a bit from the gaps between activities.  This book spans a few years, and of course not every day is notable, but the gaps between events worth noting felt very empty.  Maybe it's the character's angst, the story's underlying foundation that he never really has any good days.

The x-files, season 2, with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  Season 2 is only memorable in its level of grossness-for-the-sake-of-being-gross.  I can't complain very strenuously, though, since I'm already halfway through season 3.

Quantum night by Robert J. Sawyer.  The main character in here is a little farcical, as some of this author's philosophically-bent characters tend to be.  I think the author creates some of these characters just to see how out-there he can make them. Maybe it's a thought experiment.  In any case, they end up being not very real and so not very relatable.

Dukes are forever by Anna Harrington.  My husband asked me, "what does 'Dukes are forever' even mean?"  I said I have no idea.  It doesn't really relate to the plot.
I must have read a raving review that made me place this hold.  Raving mad, is more like.  This is awful.  After one conversation, the characters spend pages and pages ruminating on how stubborn the other is.  This is the theme throughout the book.  There's no realistic character development, and neither are extremely likable.

One the subject of ridiculous romance novels, I read a review today (starred, by the way; the reviewer loved it) in which the male lead is in a hurry to get back to the Indies to run his fair-trade cocoa farm, where I'm sure there are no slaves and everyone's paid a living wage.  The book is set around 1795, I think. Someone tell the Smart Bitches; I'd love to read that review. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

another friday

The x-files, season 1, with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.  I thought this was supposed to be by aliens. What's with all the fringe science and cryptids?

I had tried to watch this a couple years ago and for some reason couldn't get into it. Now, the glorious early '90s incarnate is more entertaining sometimes than the actual show. I guess I just needed to be further away from it, like watching TNG.

Red planet blues by Robert J. Sawyer.  This author's actually starting to get better. The writing was a lot less clunky and all of his previous work that I've read.  

Time and time again by Ben Elton.  This book sort of has three parts: at first, it seems like a stereotypical time travel story with expected plot parts and tropes.  Then the author tries to introduce something new, and it looks like the story will be full of missing details. Then, very near the end, the author resolves a lot of those issues but the ending comes out of nowhere and smacks you upside the head.  Overall, the book is interesting, but probably is most appropriate for people who like to read widely within a sci-fi, not casual fans.
While I was reading this, my husband recognize the author name (I had not before starting); I really like, make that love, a lot of the TV writing he's done. I think if I had known who he was before picking up the book, my expectations would have been way high, plus I would have been expecting a very different writing style. This may be another example of how TV writers have difficulty making the leap to a novel. It's a very different format.

Choose your own love story by Ilyse Mimoun.  I got this as an ARC probably at PNBA. It was very funny.  I went through a couple times, once as probably what I really would do in the situations and once as what I would do if I were smart.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson.  I have repeatedly read very good things about this author, but I can't read this: it's mostly made up of fragments interspersed with sentences that buck grammar.


The wild inside by Christine Carbo.  Ugh. This sounds great, but is an awful read.  The author wedges in too much backstory when it's more important to get us going with the character and the action; early in the book, it doesn't matter where the character grew up or what his home life was like. Those things don't make us invested in him.  The sentence writing is what killed it for me though.  Poor sentence structure, poor flow; I slammed the book closed for good when the character narrated he "could care less."  It didn't read as a colloquialism; it read as poor, unedited writing.

Clash of eagles by Alan Smale.  An alternate history with a premise I haven't read before? I'm on pins and needles for the next book.  I'm kind of trepidatious, though, because there is a third book projected for 2017 but book 1 didn't end well so I'm nervous about how book 2 will leave off.
To review book 1: certainly enjoyable.  A nice amount of detail and world-building without bogging down the story.  There are a good handful of minor characters who aren't distinct enough for me to keep straight, but they're more background, tertiary characters; the secondary characters are distinct enough.  One thing that bugged me was that, in the begging of the book, the story is day-by-day.  Then things shift and we get little installments every few weeks or months, little snippets.  This felt kind of clunky. 
The real downer that will make me tell you to wait on this book is how it ended: very depressing, angsty ending.  Yes, it is calculated to make the reader want to pick up the next book.  But that's a problem if all the books haven't been written yet.  Book 2 is in hand and pretty thick, so I'll let you know.

Tart and sweet: 101 canning and pickling recipes for the modern kitchen by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler. 664.0282.  I may need to have this book at home.  My freezer was so crammed after last summer's berry picking and the fall intake of zucchini and pumpkin that I need a better plan for this year.  This book is understandable and clear.  It makes it not seems so crazy or scary.  Highly recommended.

The devil you know by K.J. Parker.  I read a rave review of this, but I'm not so sold.  It's ok, mildly interesting, but the ultra-short format does the story a disservice-- there's barely enough time to get into the story and start to figure out the setting before it's over.  The story is told familiarly; I felt like the main character were a historical figure I was supposed to have a passing familiarity with, and use that to build on.  I spent quite a while confirming that, no, it's all made up.  That made me feel groundless, like the story didn't have a base.  The setting feels vaguely like first-couple-centuries Roman world, but there are no details, no world building.  The entire story is about a long con and a bit of philosophy.  Not super enjoyable for me.

Friday, February 26, 2016

happy Friday.

Gee, I already don't know if I'm going to meet my two resolutions for the year.  But I am definitely going to clean up and make consistent capitalization in book titles.  That, at least, is doable.  For everything else, all my plans keep falling through.

The memory weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick. Like A light in the wilderness, there is a good amount of incorporated historical detail.  Also like A light, there are storytelling flaws.  In this one, the pacing was off-- I seem to remember large chunks of time being glossed over.  There were also several events, which took place prior to the main part of the story, which were referred to throughout the book to add the backstory.  However, these were also poorly incorporated into the main story and were given out of order.

 I also didn't find the main character particularly sympathetic.  Her back-story wasn't strongly a part of a her character, and her choices and the situation she created for herself didn't exactly draw me to her.   I was interested in the story as a fictionalized version of a regional historical person.

Alex + Ada, volumes 2 and 3, by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn.  This was so great!... until the last quarter of the last book.  That was so rushed.  There was material in there for a couple more books easily.  Why rush the story line?

The ex by Alafair Burke.  Hmm. Not my usual fare.  There were some things that stretched credibility, but those sections definitely moved the plot along.  This was far more suspenseful and kept me on my toes much better than most in-genre mysteries I've tried.  The writing style is surprisingly clunky for the number of books this author has published; maybe she's so good at keeping the reader in suspense that not many people complain about how poorly the dialogue is woven into the narration.  I'd recommend it.

Bob the alien discovers the Dewey Decimal System by Sandy Donovan; illustrated by Martin Haake.  I discovered this while trying to find 020s in the catalog, and knew it would either be hilarious or hilariously awful  I read this and I formed a pretty firm opinion. Then I gave it to my second-grader to see what he would think. He read it to me, and a book that I had thought stodgy and pedantic read differently in his voice.  Still stilted, still not natural dialogue, but not as bad as it seemed when I read it to myself.  That was very interesting experience to me. His opinion, which I'll share with you because it's more flattering than mine, is that the book has a lot of good information but it is a little bit silly because there's no real reason for an alien and the illustrations are a little too cartoony.

People's pops: 55 recipes for ice pops, shave ice, and boozy pops from Brooklyn's coolest pop shop by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, and Joel Horowitz. (641.863)  Gah, another number I already have covered.  Well, I read this to steal recipes, not primarily to fill a spot (although I'm getting pretty worried about the survey and my 2016 goal.  I need to get on that!).  Stuff sounds yummy and I now have a good handle on the theory of frozen cooking.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

another nf that doesn't count.

Improbable Libraries: A visual journey to the world's most unusual libraries by Alex Johnson.  (027)  Ugh, I already had this Dewey decimal.  That was the whole point of reading this book!  I must have grabbed it accidentally while trying to get a 01*, which is turning out to be pretty difficult: bibliographies?  That will be challenging-- it isn't a cover-to-cover sort of read.  If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Improbable Libraries may be rather interesting for people interested in or new to libraries; I had seen most of that info before, although not so conveniently grouped in one handy volume.  And I definitely think self-serve library branches in town pubs are an idea all of us Yankees should embrace.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear.  I'm puzzled and nearly... distressed... and perhaps more so than makes sense, by the title: the character gives her last name throughout as "Memery."  I can't discover why the title has it with the o.  Maybe because it's her story, which she later publishes?  That seems tenuous.

Despite my discombobulation over the name(s), this book is fantastic.  So fantastic I had to restrain myself from using italics in that last sentence.  On a side note, it makes me want to initiate a discussion about how "steampunk" is used both to describe stories that takes place in Victorian settings, a la Soulless, and stories that take place in the same time period (and fantastical-based world) in the American West.  These are different and they deserve different names.

Star Trek Voyager, season 3, with Kate Mulgrew.

New dress a day: The ultimate DIY guide to creating fashion dos from thrift-store don'ts by Marisa Lynch.  (646.408).  I read the whole thing (ok, speed-read some of the entries, but my eyes touched them, so I'm counting it).  How useless.  There is very little actually-helpful information here.
1) She talks about finding items at thrift stores and such, but there is no discussion of what to look for or how to look-- how to see the potential in an item, what to look for in different types of material or different cuts of clothes.
2) She says vague things "take it in" as needed but doesn't give instructions for how to do so (except on instance where there are semi-helpful instructions for how to take something in under the arms).
3) The styles she models really only work because of her body type.  It is social acceptable fora very thin person to wear something that is flowy and has little definition, because it accentuates how thin she is ("see, it falls from my shoulders and touches no part of me on the way down!").  That type of style is generally unflattering on people of other body types.
4)  Many of her DIY methods won't stand up to a full day of wear, much less actual wear-and-tear of repeated use.  She suggests using packaging tape to "hem" a dress.  Yeah, so long as you never intend to wash it or wear it again.  She advises you add "straps" by safety-pinning (!) ribbon, lace, rick-rack, etc., to the front and back for your top.  Anyone with anything to cover knows that's a recipe for disaster.  Extra danger if you're likely to have small people barrel into you at waist height.  One safety pin and a bit of ribbon won't even hide a bra strap, much less withstand the loving attacks of young ones.  Maybe it works if you're just going to stand around and look waif-ish all day; I wouldn't know.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen.  I don't know about this.  But talk about ending on a literal cliff-hanger.  Odd, interesting. 

Undue Risk: Secret state experiments on humans by Jonathan D. Moreno.  I was hoping to fill my 170s, but no.  The writing is a little too taxing for something I'm most likely to be reading when I'm falling asleep, cooking, or keeping an eye out for-- or an eye on-- the boy.  I'm interested, but I don't want to, you know, work that much.

Also, and I don't know that I've ever noticed this before, the paper was really distracting.  In certain light, like under a reading lamp, it had an overly textured appearance, although it didn't feel like anything out of the ordinary.  It was actively distracting.

Strong female protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag.  I really enjoyed this, and I'm looking forward to catching up to current online.  Reading it as a graphic novel (I didn't know it started online first, at first), the quantity and rate at which information was given, particularly for world rules and character backstory, weren't great.  I thought a lot more could have been achieved by adding just a few more panels-- not pages and pages, but an extra one just here or there with additional content could have made the first part much easier to follow.  Having no color in the illustrations also made the world starker-- and more difficult to follow: there are a few pages where the main character is with some friends from school, and they are all thin-ish white-ish blonde-ish female college students.  They look too similar and it adds confusion.  Knowing that it's a web comic, I don't know how--or if-- it would change my original opinions at all.

They're not like us, volume one, by Eric Stephenson, Simon Gane, Jordie Bellaire, and Fonografiks.  Also a blonde female super-powered teen, but an entirely different story.  Both good and worth following.

Chaos on the Bridge with William Shatner.  I was fiddling around with some knitting, trying to come up with something from scratch that can act as something of a handle for my tablet-- I got a 7-inch Fire for a steal before the holidays, but it's a smidge too big for  me to actually hold (I guess my hands are tiny; my gardening gloves *are* children's size)-- and Netflix suggested this.  It was marginally interesting, but I don't usually care about behind-the-scenes stuff.  I would think, for fans who go crazy abut that kind of thing, it would be too short.  For me, it was something to sort of listen to while I tried to math on the fly.

And what was up with that crappy Western music for interludes.  How did that fit at all?

1491: New revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. I also gave this one a solid try.  Pretty interesting, but I couldn't get into it.  The author spent more time (during the early part that I was reading anyway) talking about why he got interested and various researcher disagreements than talking about the actual research. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

most of January, mostly.

Forensics: What Bugs, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid. (363.25)  This was very enjoyable.  It had a nice mix of older, more historical techniques and stories, and then newer developments and their initial cases.  It was not difficult to follow and also managed to avoid the same-old-same-old topics and stories I seem to keep running into.  Highly recommended.

The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human by Noah Strycker.  This seemed interesting, and I read a few pages on a lunch break, but then all this other stuff came in and I wasn't adequately engrossed.  There isn't anything wrong with this (that I saw in my short reading). 

The Librarians, season 1, with Rebecca Romijn.  These thoughts are numbered in the order of when they occurred to me.  They don't necessarily correspond to episode numbers.  

1.  Despite his impressive number of degrees, the Librarian is not a librarian.  (I'm pretty sure they didn't list an MLS among his degrees in the first film.  although the Wikipedia entry doesn't give the list, I'm pretty sure I'm right.). Neither do any of the new librarianettes have library science degrees.  It doesn't bother me when people come in and say "that librarian helped me last time" and they may be referring to anyone from a shelver to a clerk.  We all work in the library, the public sees us all as "librarians."  But in cases like this, this is a wonderful opportunity to use terms correctly thus encouraging others to do the same, rather than throw words around willy-nilly and contribute to the confusion.
2.  They collect stuff.  They go out to get the things.  When they use items from their collections, they use things. Stuff.  Realia.  They are curators; they work in a museum, not a library.
3.  This is Warehouse 13.
4.  And Cassandra is a clone of Fred.
5.  It seems like this series is kind of a big deal, although my impression of the size of the fan base may be skewed considering most of my friends.  I kind of can't believe that it would be popular among "regular viewers"-- it's so campy! The special effects are horrible!  In order to guess what's coming up (and feel good about yourself for doing so), you have to have a passing familiarity with historical and cultural references.

All in all, I'm terribly disappointed in the quality of this show.  I can't wait to watch season 2.  I'm disgusted with myself.

Wrinkles by Paco Roca.  This, along with Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, has me thinking about adult graphic novels that are purposefully sad and depressing perhaps to combat the idea that an adult graphic novel is still little more than a comic book.  I don't want to say "purposefully sad and depressing," perhaps; maybe it's more to do with consiously choosing a format that doesn't seem an obvious choice.  

This was a great graphic novel.  I did not enjoy it, but I don't think anyone would find it enjoyable.  Impactful, yes.  Fun, no.

Star Trek: Voyager, season 2, with Kate Mulgrew.  Ok, going into unknown things less frequently.  That's a good step.  It's just as well that I usually knit and really just listen to a show instead of watching it, because there's very little to see here: everything is shot in such dark scenes, mostly to hide the crappy effects, that even watching at night with all the lights off, it's very difficult to tell anything from much of the action.  I just listen for phaser fire and then wait for someone to put oh their Captain Obvious hat.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Show me the way to go home.

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe.  I was so looking forward to this, having loved What If?, but I am so disappointed.  The idea-- explaining complicated things using only the most common 1,000 words-- sounds very interesting.  But I was entirely unable to enjoy the diagrams and descriptions.  I think this is because, as a well-read person who occasionally reads the news and paid attention in school, I already know a little bit about all of these things.  So, rather than being able to learn about what the diagram is trying to show, I spent the majority of my time trying to figure out what exactly the author was trying to say and match it up with what (little) I already knew about whatever topic.  I tried to find a page about something I knew absolutely nothing about, but I have at least a few terms and concepts for each item.

He talked a little bit in the beginning about big words and how they aren't necessary for every situation.  I... have to disagree.  A big word serves a purpose: it condenses a multi-word idea into a time-saving space; it has a different connotation or weight than a similar, shorter word.  A big word isn't just to show off your vocabulary.  (I've been thinking about this for days.)  A week or two ago, in describing something that happened at work, I stated that a certain person "circumambulated the library." (Ha, blogger doesn't think that's a real word!)  I didn't say he "walked around," because "walked around" is only marginally more purposeful than "wandered around," which is rather aimless; "walked around" also doesn't describe a particular path but can involve going back and forth (though not to the same degree as "paced").  I didn't say he "circled" because that has a predatory air; he didn't "walk laps" because that denotes exercise.  I gave the matter thought and I used "circumambulated" because he walked in circles around the internal periphery of the building, with the emotional state I associate with circumambulation: a mostly-focused air, walking, neither striding nor shuffling, for the purpose of enjoying the walk.  It doesn't have a goal or a designated end point.  I used one word that accurately described his path, his method of movement, and the attitude he projected. 

tl;dr: I didn't enjoy it, for some reasons, although others really, really liked it.

Final Theory by Mark Alpert.  This was so deliciously awful that I couldn't disengage.  Kind of like the cliched car wreck in its addicting disastrousness.  Where to begin?  My list is in no particular order.

The dialogue was very stilted; it didn't sound natural at all.  Forced-sounding speech is very jarring.
Quite a lot of scientific information had to be conveyed, since it's a science-based story, and these facts were poorly incorporated.  Usually it was one character lecturing another for several paragraphs (see point above), although sometimes it was the main character remembering what he read in a Scientific American article or some such, and remembering all those details for us.
The ongoing action relied on ridiculous leaps; no one can have that many horrible coincidences fall into line in just a few days.  I'm a fan of fiction that requires me to suspend my disbelief, but this was completely implausible. 
There were a few scenes that were difficult-- the main action-bad-guy has little depth and he enjoys doing incredibly painful things to other characters.  Some of the descriptions were certainly cringe-inducing, and not in an enjoyable way (if that makes sense).  It wasn't interesting, it didn't add detail; it was over-the-top graphic violence for the sake of shock value.  (PCD, don't go there.)

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Nothing much.

We've all been home this weekend, so every attempt I've made to sneak away with a book has been futile.  So it has been a lot of movies, board games, and video games.  It has been nice to spend so much time in my jammies, but I'll enjoy going back to a regular work week soon.

Star Trek: Voyager,
season 1, with Kate Mulgrew.  Lesson one: stop going inside things.

Additional 2016 challenge: In addition to a 48-hour book challenge,  I'm going to challenge myself to make greater strides in my nonfiction survey. I never set an end-date when I started that project, and I occasionally pick up a few titles to add to it.  I obviously read rather heavily in a few chosen areas.  But in the years I've been tracking it, I've only read books in 23 of the 100 categories.  (I've read a lot more than 23 nonfiction books, but they tend to clump up, in the 610s, especially.)  And last year, I naturally (as in, without making any attempt at all) read eight nonfiction books.  So, my additional self-challenge for 2016 is to read my way through at least 15 more Dewey decimals.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 shall henceforth be remembered as The Manly Year

First, the count.  I would like to put it in a table, for purposes of comparison, but I can't make one fit.  We'll have push along as best we can.

books started: 108
books finished: 77 (71.3%)
among finished books:
fiction: 53 (68.8%)
nonfiction: 8 (10.4%)
graphic novel: 16 (20.8%)
among finished books:
by male authors: 43 (55.8%)
by female authors: 23 (29.9%)
by male and female co-authors: 11 (14.3%)

Look at those stats!  I typically read about 2/3rds female authors to 1/3rd male authors.  This year is upside down!  It's very startling to me, and the reason 2015 is The Manly Year.
I have a few books that I've started but haven't finished yet, but I haven't decided to put them down forever, so they aren't represented here (maybe 3 books total; I'll lump them in to 2016).

For comparison, here are 2014's numbers:
books started: 60
books finished: 43 (71.7%)
finished books that were fiction: 35 (81.3%)
finished books that were nonfiction: 7 (16.3%)
finished books that were graphic novels: 1 (2.3%)
finished books by female authors: 29 (67.4%)
finished books by male authors: 11 (18.9%)
finished books by male and female authors: 3 (7%)

For fun, I looked at which 2015 posts had the most hits.  The clear winner is this early 2015 post, for some reason, with 54 hits.  I just widdled on about an ancient sci-fi series that I would think would be of interest to very few.  Maybe one person really, really liked it?
Other contenders are my long, in-Hawaii post (49); a random assortment from March (48); this more recent list (46); and another February post, when I was apparently reading more than any other time this year (44).

As for my "resolutions," they were to 1) always have something to write on my "Currently Reading" mug, i.e., to always be actively reading something, and 2) to actually post them up here at least twice a month.  Neither was a complete success-- although I did pretty well always being technically reading something, I did have some periods of funk when not many pages actually turned, and I squeaked by with the minimum 2 posts most months, but utterly failed in June.

For this year, I'm going to challenge myself to complete a 48-hour book challenge.  It probably won't be on the official date, because that has never, ever worked out for me, but I've been toying with the idea for a few days of staking out a weekend on my own to go camping, just me, or picking a few mid-week days in November or March to grab an off-season rate at a BandB, and the more I think about it the more I like it.