Sunday, November 01, 2015

[insert effective post title here]

Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum by Gavin Francis.  I'm not going to finish this, although I very easily could-- it's not very difficult or taxing, every medical reference dumbed down to a ridiculous degree.  There's very little reason for me to finish it: the stories the author shares from his practice aren't particularly different from other medical memoirs; he does tie in art or literature references in each section, but it's not an especially deep examination so does not add substantially to the book.  There are numerous illustrations, but they aren't labeled or cited in-text-- just a list of illustrations at the end of the book-- which detracts from their impact.
I'll add it to my library because I have it, but I cannot recommend for purchase under any circumstances.

Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History's Great Personalities by Claudia Kalb.  For some reason, I thought the author was male; I dunno, maybe something about the voice.
There are few situations for which this would be an appropriate title. If readers are interested in the mental health of the celebrities included in this work, they would do better to read the biographies from which this author quotes (extremely) heavily.  If readers are interested in accessible works on brain science and mental health and have not yet read anything of the kind, this might fit the bill. If the reader has already read one or more pop science works, this will be unnecessary and unenlightening. 
There isn't anything actually wrong with this book, per se; it just fails to add anything of value to the shelf.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.  This is far from my usual fare.  There has rather more violence and gore then I usually choose for myself but the storytelling, the little drops of information doled out with perfect timing, kept me reading.  You think you know what's going on and have developed a theory, and then the author gives a little bit more information and you want to go back and reread whole sections. Except you don't want to because it will delay you from reading on.  Highly recommended.

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal. I feel like most of this book was scene description.  Yes, a big draw for this series is the historical setting, but there's, like, a normal amount of period detail and then there's this: every room described, every building, every outfit.  Not too very much actually happened plot-wise; that is, stuff happened, but if you took out the insane amounts of room descriptions, you'd probably be left with something more appropriate to a short story or a novella.
I don't remember the previous books being quite like this.  I didn't notice any glaring consistency errors, which I do remember being a problem in previous installments.
The next installment will be The Queen's Accomplice, but I don't feel compelled to read it.

And now media, because I'm in full-on knitting-Christmas-presents mode.  I can binge-watch and get through half a sweater on my morning off.  I have so far this fall made a purse, a sweater, and a pair of socks.  Still to go: a hat, another sweater, and maybe mittens.

Death in Paradise, season 4, with Kris Marshall.  I found a place to watch these online instead of waiting to pay for them through Amazon.  Huzzah!  I also see that IMDb has (empty) placeholders for season 5.  Most excellent.

William and Mary with Martin Clunes and Julie Graham.  I did not discover this on my own; I checked it out for someone and went "oo!"
I really liked this actress in Bletchley Circle, but this role was not a good choice: the character wasn't written particularly well (are we even supposed to like her?  there's little about her to sympathize with) but still could probably have come off better from a different actress.  All in all, not a great use of my time.

Note to self: previews from William and Mary that I should look for:
Life on Mars
Brideshead revisited (but just to ogle Jeremy Irons!)
Dirty tricks

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

assorted nonfictions.

The Making of Home: The 500-Year Story of How Our Houses Became Our Homes by Judith Flanders.  In the (admittedly unlikely) event that I pick this back up, I'm on page 88.  This is interesting and enjoyable and overdue and someone else has a hold.  The odds of me checking it out again are low because I constantly have too many things to read and should not at all be attributed to the quality of this book.

The one thing that I dislike is that the illustrative photos are clumped in glossy photo sections instead of being near the text, and the pictures are not even in order.  That annoys me a fair bit.

Knits for Boys: 27 Patterns for Little Men + Grow-with-Me Tips and Tricks by Kate Oates.  Warning; warning.  Danger; danger.  This book contains errors.  After I started my pattern, noticed things were asymmetrical, got confused, looked online, and found corrections for (so far) 6 of the 27 patterns in this book, I talked to my nonfiction selector and our copy of the book has been weeded.  It's really stupid, because the mistakes seem small enough, but if you are new to knitting it would be unclear what to do instead, and even if you are not-new to knitting, it takes a couple rows before you (I) realize(d) something is off.

Monday, October 05, 2015


How Right You Are, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; narrated by Ian Carmichael. This wasn't a good audio recording, at least (or especially) for driving-- the narrator's accent was just strong enough, and he spoke just fast enough, that any slang or regional words were almost impossible to pick up.  He also didn't distinguish between characters; they all were narrated exactly the same.  Only listened to the first half of the first disc.

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; narrated by Frederick Davidson.  Pretty sure I listened to this story, although by a different narrator.  Yep.  Fortunately, I figured out how to plug my phone into the library's car.  Unfortunately, I had thought to but forgot to download any back-up titles.  So I Pandora'd it the rest of the way home. 

I came across this while preparing for my PNBA panel and wrote it down: "'Poorly written' often seems to mean successfully written to achieve an effect that some readers admire but that this particular reader dislikes, finding it too sexually arousing, too descriptive, or too literary." 
Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Making choices: What readers say about choosing books to read for pleasure, p.7

I feel motivated to search through the blog for times when I've used the descriptor "poorly written."  I feel like, on the occasions I've used it, it was to describe a story with an unorganized plot, characters with no depth, terrible grammar, or some other fault which is not a stylistic choice and which is detrimental to the success of the book.  I could be deluding myself on that point, and, although I feel like I want to go and find some instances, I'm still too tired from last weekend to do it right now. 

Speaking of last weekend, here's what I brought home from the conference:
I managed to haul everything in and divide it up into separate sections: Juv/YA (ARCs and pubs intermixed); published adult material, possibly to add to the library; adult ARCs to divvy up among staff; and stuff I'm keeping (ARCs and pubs intermixed).  The stack for me to read through before moving the books on to other homes is 23 titles, a stack over 2 feet high.  Currently a third of the way through the first one, which is already promised to a coworker as soon as I'm done.

The important thing to remember about the PNBA tradeshow, should I go again in the future-- or if you are interested in going-- is to schedule Monday off.  Fourteen-hour days-- plus, you know, showering and flossing and such on either side of the 8am-to-10pm scheduled events-- even just for the weekend, is very tiring. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015


I forgot about the last meal and author talk.  Therefore, notes while I'm eating:

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  This will either streak across the sky in glory or burn horribly.

That's it, as it turns out.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Audios and etc.

Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse; BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatization.  This carried me very nearly all the way down to Portland; it was the perfect length.  Additionally, I quite enjoyed it.  I hadn't really noticed that it was a dramatization (with full cast) when I picked it up-- I just know Wodehouse short stories are good in the car, I needed CDs because the library vehicle doesn't have an aux-in port, and the total length was very close to right-on.  So I didn't really expect the sound effects, multiple voice actors, etc., but I enjoyed them quite a bit. 

Dying for You by MaryJanice Davidson; read by Angela Gulner, Devon Sorvari, and Aimee Castle.  I downloaded this (from OverDrive) yonks ago for another solo car-trip around the Sound.  OverDrive calls this a collection of novellas (although they certainly seemed short-story-ish to me; I guess I'm not totally clear on the difference-- I thought it was a question of length, and these certainly aren't long).

Because both OverDrive and Amazon don't include this little piece of information, I'll mention the story titles individually:
The Fixer-Upper and Paradise Bossed: these two are linked-- side characters in the first are main characters in the second and vice versa.  These are fairly accessible to Davidson readers-- the characters in the first story have similar traits and personalities to characters in some of her books, and she recycles characters into the second story, so it's easy to get up to speed with who's who.  These 2 have a female reader, which I don't normally enjoy, but she was ok.  What was interesting to me is that while I was listening to the reader, I was conscious of how I would have read the stories differently were I reading in print-- not major differences, but for some reason just conscious of where I would have put certain sentences' inflections, etc. 
Witch Way: I did not like this (female) reader at all.  It probably didn't help her that the story had ridiculously few dimensions.  The main female character acts far younger than her stated age, and neither character is exactly bright.  But how else are you going to get 2 characters into a relationship in such a short story?
Drifwood:  I quit about 5 minutes into this one, because I got home sometime in the middle of Witch Way and the quality of this collection is not enough to make me find time to try to listen when outside my vehicle.
A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander.  The main character lost alot of her backbone in this installment, I thought, and as a result I'm far less interested in her.  Since I've now got gobs of ARCs battling for my attention, I don't think I'll feel compelled to pick this series back up anytime soon.

I saw at a publisher's table today that Jim Butcher has book one of a new series out.  It looked like a maybe-steampunk not-our-world fantasy (?).  Anyone laid hands on that?  I'm reluctant to give it a try without a really good recommendation.

undifferentiated characters

Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh.  I only got a handful of pages in, and I don't care about the character used to introduce the story.  This series is officially dead to me.

A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander.  The male character, carried over from book one, gets a little more personality in this one.  However, there are two supporting characters who are shallow, similar, and whose names start with the same letter.  Why?  OK, I'll try one more.

The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth.  The blog post does not apply to this title.  I didn't get very far, though; I read several great reviews for this, but had started this as I was entering my Jim-Butcher-induced funk and this is darker than what I needed.  Maybe some other time?


The very short list I'm prioritizing.  Whether or how many I actually get to... I've already started to new book by Bee Wilson and loving it. 

The Triumph of Seeds (nf) by Thor Hanson.

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac by Sharna Shields.  Well, I was interested in this, but in googling the title on my phone to find the author name (rather than dig through my program), I see at least one obviously and pretty negative review.  Now I'm not sure what I want.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.

The Corpse With the Diamond Hand (series entry; author says you can start mid-series, but I'm more likely to start with the first title, whatever that may be) by Cathy Ace.  I ate lunch with this author and she is an utter delight.  She is excited to Skype with book groups.  Your peeps will love to listen just for her accent and sass.

Before the Wind by Jim Lynch.

Need the Frank Einstein series (Jon Scieszka) for the boy.  I'm so out of touch with Juv fiction.

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz. I don't think I've ever read anything by this author, under any of her names, but this is a stand-alone.

Ancient Places by Jack Nisbet.  I was also reminded of his earlier nf, The Collector, which I checked out but didn't get to about a year ago.

I had-- and purposely passed up-- the opportunity to pick up a nf/memoir(?) by Felicia Day, You're Never Weird on the Internet.  I saw it, revved up my geekiness, flipped through it, and put it right back down.  She uses all-caps to add emphasis... about twice per paragraph.  Why did no one tell her?  I cannot handle that.

If I were still in YA, I would be really excited about Richelle Mead's stand-alone, Soundless.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


This is a pile of things that I saved out for myself after last year's PNBA in Tacoma.  At this exact moment next week, I will be nearly home from this year's PNBA in Portland (and I'm presenting!)

In light of the fact that, over the course of a full year, I have tried to pick up each of these multiple times, I think it's time to give up.

Slip of the Tongue: Talking about Language by Katie Heagele.  Theoretically I really liked this book, but I only got to page 39.  It's conglomeration of reflect-y/memoir-y essays and not focused enough for me.  Next!

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria.  Didn't get very far on this one-- only the prologue and little piece of the first chapter.  Too many topics are covered just in that little space-- what is the thrust of this book?  What is the main focus?  Which parts of what's being told will turn out to be important? 

Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy.  I think I tried to start this on a few occasions.  The premise seems cool and the author was pretty awesome in person, but it's in present tense, which is always distasteful to me, and it's just weird enough that even I'm not sure where it will go.

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg.  This is a very awesome nonfiction, and I actually made it halfway through.  I think I put it down to read something light on vacation, and the author/researcher is following more than one family and it made it difficult for me to pick back up.

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos.  Heard great things about it, read great reviews, never cracked it.

The Carry Home:Lessons from the American Wilderness by Gary Ferguson.  If you're looking for an author to come talk for a program, may I suggest this guy.  I was really wanting to read this, despite the melancholy topic-- plus it's memoir/nf-- but didn't get to it, but I think that's just because it was toward the bottom of the pile.  I'll actually keep this on my shelf; it sounds like a great one to cuddle up with this winter. 

Across a Green Ocean by Wendy Lee.  Why did I save this for myself?  I don't know.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Series and serious

The Lost Colonies of Ancient America: A Comprehensive Guide to the Pre-Columbian Visitors that Really Discovered America by Frank Joseph.  How far did I get, about page 25?  I just can't take this author seriously: he quotes heavily from trade magazines, and all his photo credits list Wikipedia.  Cool topic, but find a different book.

The Execution and half of The Ultimatum by Dick Wolf.  This, combined with wherever I ended up in the Jim Butcher series,put into a two-week funk.  In the case of this series, there is an awful lot of plot, which is almost enough to carry it along.  Characters are fairly well-developed, enough red-herrings to keep the reader guessing.  What killed it for me is how poorly-integrated any needed information is.  It wasn't too bad in the first one, but the more conspiracies the author brings in, the more information needs to be set up, and he just cannot do it.  Super bummer.

White Night, Small Favor, Turn Coat, Changes, Ghost Story, and half of Cold Days by Jim Butcher.  These are very quick reads, because they are so repetitive... depressingly so.  The reason this series (well, let's call it from Turn Coat onwards) contributed so heavily to my funk is because the characters are all in a bad situation, several of them have made stupid bad decisions, and they author can't pull them out while keeping to the story arc in less than at least 3 more books.  I guess I'll wait for those books to be written before giving them another shot.

And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander.  Not too bad for a series opener-- we get a pretty good idea of the setting and the main character.  I consider it a problem that the possible-love-interest-turned-bad-guy and the possible-bad-guy-turned-love-interest were virtually identical.  I'll give book 2 a shot, hoping that the remaining characters gain a little more depth.

Monday, August 17, 2015

emergency content: i, part 2

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  I do not like this book.  For one thing, I thought the main story was presented poorly, with the author jumping around and giving the story out of order, which was confusing.  For two things, the author incorporated similar stories, but either I did not see the relevance, or in some, I felt he had not given enough information.  Some of the time it felt like he just needed to fill up pages.  For three things, I did not like the character at all.  He was stupid and doesn't deserve his own book.
I have no problem with the writing style, though (besides the jumping around).  There was nothing complicated to try to understand, although his descriptions were somewhat lacking.  It certainly isn't higher-level writing.  I can't believe I've had to read this for multiple classes; it's so terrible.

Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw.  For a story based on a few minor historical points, it didn't actually go into too much detail about any established facts, thus bypassing the danger of getting it wrong.  Without those details, it didn't have a necessarily specific sense of time-- there is a span of a few hundred, or at least one hundred, years when it could be set.
Other than that ambiguity, I don't have anything negative to say.  The author's style had the characters speaking in a more current-day vernacular than anything historical.  I didn't enjoy it-- it took away form the historical setting-- but it was a stylistic choice.

Invitation to Seduction by Vicki Thompson, Carly Phillips, and Janelle Denison.  This was a compilation of three short-ish smut stories (each by a different author), hinged around one central item.  As far as general smut goes, they were rather more tasteful than one expects.

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris.  I'm working my way through the Banned Books List.  I didn't have any problems with this book, which was about for the 9-year-old level, I would think.  I think this book did a very good job-- it was straightforward with facts and didn't argue for or against any sensitive points: it just presented the topics.  It later encouraged the reader to talk to an older family member or friend.  It has drawn pictures but no great amount of detail.

Monday, August 10, 2015

summer-long post.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, actually by Marie Brennan. I got not very far at all.  The author was going for (what we image is) an historic feel, but missed the target style.

Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen.  I got this last September from a regional author at the tradeshow.  She was very nice, which made me want to read the book, and also made me reticent to do so: she was so nice; what if I really dislike the book?  So I began to read this very slowly. 

The first part of the book is very good. The character has a realistic voice and the author does a good job of creating realistic scenarios that explain odd phrases or scenes in the play. Later, the book jumps to the same time as the play. This portion doesn't read as smoothly. The author tries to interweave the lines with the main character's narration but it doesn't quite jive. I stopped shortly after the jump forward in time.

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston.  I started this a long time ago and immediately put it down.  Something about the writing style was all wrong (although I no longer remember specifically what).

The Poisoning Angel by Jean Teule.  I can't tell where this is going.  It's totally not gripping me and I'm not motivated to give it more than a handful of pages.

Death Masks and Blood Rites and Dead Beat and Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher.  Many parts of these books are very repetitive: characters and settings are we introduced in every book. It would probably be OK for someone to pick this series up anywhere in the line.

The Intercept by Dick Wolf.  I have seriously check this book out at least four times. I really wanted to read it but I was afraid it wouldn't be very good-TV writing does not guarantee that book writing.
There were some parts of the book that were a little jerky; perhaps a stronger editor could've helped with that. I'll be looking for book two right away.

Hinterland with Richard Harrington.  This is really dark. Coming off of  Death in Paradise, I wasn't expecting something so purposely gory.  It's also really odd format: the episodes are each like an hour and 20 long.

Monday, July 20, 2015


I have another wine-and-books program coming up, so I did a little speed-reading, just a bit at the front and in the middle of each.

Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes.  This was requested by a patron whose tastes are eclectic but always good.  I was... not quite worried, but maybe worried, since first person voice is a bold choice for such a major character.  But the voice seemed realistic, believable, to me; I don't say it seemed "authentic" because I'm not a WWII buff so I don't feel qualified to evaluate the authenticity in this case.  Should be a great read.

The Love Book by Nina Solomon.  The writing starts out very passive, I think so as not to make any one character stick out.  But it doesn't work to have five main characters-- all the women are equally shallow, unimportant, and interchangeable, indistinct from each other.

Your Face in Mine by Jess Row.  The lack of quotation marks makes the reader think more, reevaluate, interpret, re-read.  I thought it would hurt the writing but instead it adds a layer of depth.  I can't say if it works in a sustainable way through the entire book. 

Juan de Fuca's Strait: Voyage in the Waterway of Forgotten Dreams by Barry Gough.  I gave this one a stab, as it was suggested by one of the winery staff (they have a wine named after the Strait).  This one would be of real interest to readers interested in an academic examination of the history of the area but is not right for this program--it seems quite a bit more dense than necessary, nearly inaccessible, and requires far too much concentration in ratio to content. 

Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett.  This had a Jim Lynch/Highest Tide sort of feel.  It has the necessary depth for this program and might be a good book club book, but for some reason not quite what I'm looking for for this.

Monday, July 13, 2015

are there any spaces missing?

because I have to either use the 4-year-old laptop, which can handle the internet but has a crappy keyboard, or I can use the 8-year-old desktop that has a decent keyboard but can't handle having two browser windows open at the same time.  Just trying to save a draft of thisfreezes it up for about 3 minutes. But I'm not yet desperate enough to commandeer various technologies and make Frankenstein's computer.

Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril by Jim Butcher.  As it turns out, these are an ideal read-alike for Charlaine Harris' old series (and probably her new one, which I haven't tried yet).  I'd seen it on read-alike lists, but from the description I thought people were just lumping paranormal series together, but in fact, the storytelling, structure, and characters all have similar elements.
By the third book, some things are starting to get rather repetitive (describing the main character's car, and how it came to look that way, the first time it shows up in every book for example).  The third book also seems out of sequence.  I checked Fantastic Fiction, Novelist, and Wikipedia to be sure I hadn't missed a book or four in between: characters are referred to as if we had seen them before (we have not), and then the adventure that brought them all together is shared with the reader through a dream.  I strongly question the wisdom of that piece of story organization.

Orange is the New Black, season 3, with Taylor Schilling. Dear Netflix: in future, please film the entire run of whatever you plan to produce before releasing it.  Or, perhaps release one episode a week (like TV!) so viewers can't binge-watch the whole thing too quickly, inflicting longer wait times on ourselves.
I made this season last a whole week-- way longer than I took to get through season 2.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


ah, I can't believe I failed. I even have a back-up post of old content all typed up and ready to go.  Still, half a year of keeping to my goal isn't too bad.  

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.  Another winner.  I didn't really intend to, but I read this while also re-reading The Martian for book club, and they went really well together.  Oo, what about a book club where you read a fiction and nonfiction pairing every month?  Of course, I understand two books a month is kind of a lot for some people.

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh.  The series information is depressingly repetitive.  Give your readers a little credit, Mary.  Or perhaps it's depressing that enough series followers need such a heavy reminder every time.  I'm not sure which it is, or which is worse, but I'm ready to officially quit the series after this one.

The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan.  I started this one anticipating something pretty good, based on reviews.  I was figuring it would be something rather like Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids series.  It was not, or at least, not the part that I read.  This is a shining example of male authors who cannot write female main characters.  The thing that really bothered me about the way the story was structured is that the main character is telling her story in first person after the fact, after everything has happened.  Hindsight is 20/20, and the character has a vested interest in telling her story to the reader her way, explaining herself and her actions. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

BBC medias.

I did a lot of knitting, a lot of frogging, and now some hand-piecing for my very first quilt (!).  So, some media:
(Technically separate but I'll call them the) Spy on the... series, with David Attenborough:  Trek: Spy on the Wildebeest, Bears: Spy in the Woods, and Elephants: Spy in the Herd.
and also Nature's Great Events (6 episodes), with David Attenborough.
These are nice enough.  Mostly I just like listening to David Attenborough while my hands are busy and having pretty nature images to look at when I glance up.

Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice with David Tennant.  Not only a different narrator than the above, but a two-part/two-episode thingy instead of stand-alones.

Death in Paradise with Ben Miller and Sara Martins, Seasons 1 and 2.  I'm delighted that this series goes through several more seasons.  I'm disappointed that I can't find a place to watch them online.  I'm resigned to the fact that, like Primeval, there will be a near-complete turnover of actors/characters.

Mysteries of the Unseen World with Forest Whitaker.  I wouldn't recommend this documentary; I would assume most people are already familiar with most of this content.  If they had expanded, given each topic its own episode or something instead of smushing it all into one 39-minute show, it would have been worthwhile.