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.

Books.

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.

2015
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. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Under the wire

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash.  A friend gave this to me, and I have to say it isn't one I would have ever chosen for myself-- it's literary (not genre), it's set in the south, and it's not a happy ending; I wasn't sure I'd be able to get into it, because the problem, the action, revolves around people who made bad decisions and now they have to live with the consequences, and that's pretty much all that can be said to happen.  My other criticisms for the book are that the time period is very unclear (some details come up that narrow the action down to about a decade, but before that-- and for most of the book-- it could be anytime with a 50-year period or more), and that the voices aren't adequately unique-- three characters have voices and tell the story, but they sound very similar to each other.  A 9-year-old boy, a middle-aged man, and an elderly lady should be more disparate.

But I did finish this book, and faster than many I've gotten through this year, and I passed it on to another reader as soon as I was done. Why?  At first, it was the very idea that someone had picked it out for me.  A friend, someone I think of as being a close friend, went out purposefully to find a book for me.  I honestly cannot remember the last time someone has done that.  (I do get a fair amount of the "I just read this library book and I think you might like it" from a few quarters, but to find a book for me?  just for me?)  So even though the first couple of chapters weren't my usual style, I went with it.  Also, I don't remember reading any reviews for this book.  I read so many reviews, hundreds every month, that I would be tempted to think that almost any book off the shelf would be vaguely familiar to me.  To find a book that I hadn't heard of-- even if it does broadcast within the first few chapters the main thrust of the action-- is a rare find.

Once those draws carried me through the first couple of chapters, I wanted to get the backstories.  The characters tell what is happening, but they also tell what happened 11, 30, 60 years ago, how the people who made those bad decisions came to be in the places they were and maybe why they made the choices they made.  It doesn't mean I have much more sympathy for them-- they still willfully made their choices, if that doesn't make me sound too cold-hearted-- but I understand a bit more why they chose what they did.

I usually like genre fiction because the setting and world- or period-details, when well-incorporated, interest me.  I usually like to see a fair amount of character development, which wasn't exactly overflowing in this book, although I occasionally will go in for a plot-based book, but again, that wasn't really the point of the book here.  I guess I'm having a hard time feeling like I can make my "reasons why it was good list" outweigh my "reservations about it list" except to say, despite those logical reasons, it was good.


Saga, vol. 5, by Bian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.  I'm... getting kind of tired of this.  I actually started this one, read it half way, and then left it so long I had to renew it... probably more than once.  The series started out as an amazing story set in a fantastic universe.  Now, it's about cramming in as much gore and other shock-content as possible.  Wikipedia says there are 31 issues, and no ending date is indicated.  Someone should read issue 31 for me (or the next collected edition, whenever that may come out) and tell me if it's worth proceeding.

Miss Felicity Beedle's The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett.  Along with Where's My Cow?, I think this should be called meta-fiction of the best sort.  Meta-fiction a la Redshirts and the like, where the characters leave their story and go out and interact with the author, has yet (among any of the books I've read) to actually be successful.  But this, a book that appears in another book, adds depth and realism to the fantasy world.  We won't have anything new about Sam Vimes, but here is a book he reads to his son, once Young Sam outgrew the cow book, and, if we can't see him anymore, we can read this, just as he does, and feel like maybe we can still find our way back there.

Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn.  The last book I started and finished in 2015, and it has me thinking that I need to go to work on Monday and cross out my suggestion for best book of the year.  It is this one.
It's a futuristic sci-fi story, but not so far in the future or so far away; it looks like our everyday sort of world, but with some cool technology.  The illustrations perfectly set up the scene for the story.  The drawings are soft and use gentle colors, so all the technology doesn't come across as too (f)rigid.  The characters are so well-drawn (I don't mean their pictures, I mean the depth conveyed, their personalities); the main character's loneliness is palpable.  This is the graphic novel I recommend most highly.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9, with Avery Brooks, et al.  Ooo, I really should have made entries season-by-season.  How can I sum up the entire run in a few sentences?

I didn't really expect to like this series very much; although I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, it will always be towards the bottom of the list.  The purpose of Star Fleet is to explore new territories, right?  To seek out new life?  We all know how this goes.  But they keep failing to do that.  In TOS, after the first season, they end up doing a bunch of diplomatic crap and aren't going into uncharted areas.  The same is true for TNG; they spend half their time escorting science vessels or going to study planets that were briefly reconnoitered by previous explorers.  And for DS9, they don't even go anywhere!  How much exploration can you do when stationed in one location, never moving?  Aside from a few forays through the worm hole, the entire series is about diplomacy and war.  They really missed an opportunity to explore the Gamma quadrant constantly, with missions based off the stations.  This is why I have always, from the beginning of my Trekker fandom, and will continue to advocate that Voyager is the truest series.

The "strange new world" they tried to shoe-horn in, the alternate universe, were hands-down my least favorite episodes.  With an entire unexplored quadrant in our backyard, why are we fiddling about with evil twins?

I did really like how the Ferengi culture was slowly introduced and expanded over time, first presented as a simplistic and backwards perspective and then given depth.  I like them quite a bit.  But I'm not at all sad to be done and on to V.

And I've proofread this twice, but there's been a lot of quiet celebration (me, alone in my house with the fire and books and a few champagne cocktails throughout the evening) so I apologize for any oversights.  But I can't think of a better way to end the year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

getting ready for the big count

Dr. Mutter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O'keefe Aptowicz; read by Erik Singer.  (617.092 )  One, a great book.  Two, a fantastic audiobook.  History of medicine, one of my favorite nonfiction topics.  There are kind of a lot of people, but the author does a good job of helping us keep them straight.  I love this reader.  I wanted to hear a little bit more about his surgical procedures and innovations, and could have done with less about his personal interactions with other doctors, and I could have done with a fair amount less of the politics and history of the school.  But I'm sure that information is of interest to many, and it certainly gave the story context.
I'm currently very cross at OverDrive, that (1) the narrator information is not easily findable in the record (you have to zoom in on the auiobook cover image to get it anywhere) and (2) when I search for more by him, I'm not convinced it's an accurate results list. 

The Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight.  I reread these so that I was recently armed with all details so as to best fully appreciate the last first time of reading a new Pratchett book:

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett.   Earlier this year, when I read about the author's death, I was a little bit sad but not very. But I recognized at the time that I would find a time when I would be sad. When this book came up on hold for me, that is when I realized I would never read a new book by this author for the first time ever again. I wanted very much to read the book quickly, to devour it; I wanted equally much to read it as slowly as possible.

I didn't actually end up enjoying this book very much. It didn't exactly wrap up the subseries, nor did it add to it instrumentally.  The writing itself felt very different from the style we expect from this author.  I don't know if other people were helping or if it was a result of his illness, but it sounded different and it reads different.  
I would actually suggest that series fans not pick up this one.

Fry's English Delight, and Fry's English Delight series 2, with Stephen Fry.  (428.1 x2)  I'm not sure if I should count this in my upcoming year-end totals as media (which I don't bother to count) because it appeared on a radio program, or if it's an audiobook: our OverDrive consortium currently only offers eBooks and eAudios, no music, video, or other multimedia.  I think I'll count it as an audiobook.
These are very fun, but are definitely for a specific type of listener.  I know alot of people who would be uninterested, or who wouldn't get the jokes.  Series 2 feels very short, but both have great content. 
series 2: It's most hilarious to me that the woman from the elocution school was the one who I had the most trouble understanding.

Jingle this.

Doc Martin, season 7, with Martin Clunes.  They should stop now. The last two seasons were messy, but they managed to end the season with something like a natural ending, that feels complete.


The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth.  The author is growing up a little bit. The storyline isn't as fluffy, as silly as the vampire series.  I really enjoyed this, and have suggested it to two coworkers.

The Carrot Purple: and other curious stories of the food we eat by Joel S. Denker.  I always feel especially betrayed when I specifically request a book for purchase and then it fails to live up to the hype.  
This book has quite a bit of interesting information, but only in tiny bits.  It includes way too many fruits and vegetables, and so each only gets one and a half to two pages, sometimes trailing a tiny bit into a third page at the very most.  It makes the information less memorable, actually, because it has no room to go into why those things happened.  There isn't enough time to become engrossed in the story of, say, the avocado, before it's on to something else.

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:
Fortysonething
Life on Mars
Brideshead revisited (but just to ogle Jeremy Irons!)
Dirty tricks