Jul. 11th, 2015 06:10 pm
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15. Philip K. Dick & Roger Zelazny Deus Irae (this one was earlier but I forgot to put it on my list)
16. Asimov's Science Fiction April/May 2015
17. Asimov's Science Fiction August 2015
18. Philip Pullman The Golden Compass


Jun. 23rd, 2015 12:10 pm
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In no particular order because I can't remember what order they came in.

5. Asimov's June 2015
6. Asimov's July 2015
7. St. Jude and R.U. Sirius The Real Cyberpunk Fake Book
8. Edward Lear More Nonsense
9. Francis Gross 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
10. Gelett Burgess The Good Directory of Juvenile Offenders
11. Edith B. Ordway The Handbook of Conundrum
12. Louisa May Alcott Hospital Sketches
13. L.H. Bailey The Apple-Tree
14. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm The Complete Illustrated Stories of the Brothers Grimm

Still not doing much reading, but I've already hit last year's mark. I want to do some re-reads this year if I ever get around to it, most notably Wodehouse and Pratchett.


Feb. 28th, 2015 06:11 pm
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3. Asimov's March 2015

I enjoyed this installment of Asimov's. If I were to give it a theme this month it would be old school science fiction. Gregory Normal Bossert's "Twelve And Tag" could have taken place on Samuel R. Delany's "Triton". Suzanne Palmer's "Tuesdays" has a classic sci-fi short story final line kick. Gwendolyn Clare's "Holding The Ghosts" makes good on a creepy, quite believable, scenario.

4. Jasper Fforde "The Eye Of Zoltar"

The Eye was a fun book, but it feels like the story arc is starting to weigh down the books. The humor is kind of squished and the action feels somewhat obligatory. It's almost as is the characters are stand ins, ala Thursday Next when the real characters are on vacation and the reader gets a fill in.
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1. H.P. Lovecraft "The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft"

I'd been working at this one for quite a while. I hadn't read any Lovecraft before, so didn't know what to expect. It wasn't as scary as I expected. The language was at times delightful and at times tiring. I enjoyed the traces of Lovecraftian humor immensely and wish he had indulged that aspect of his writing a bit more.

2. Asimov's February 2015

I really enjoyed this issue. It was a distinctly love themed fitting for the month, but it was distinctly not all chocolates and flowers. It covered a wide variety of aspects of love and relationships. A very good mixture of thoughtful stories.
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12. J. M. Barrie "Peter and Wendy" aka "Peter Pan"
13. Christopher Moore "Serpent of Venice"
14. Asimov's January 2015

This was a pretty pathetic year for reading. I was very busy doing other things and I took on some big books that didn't make the list this year. I'm most of the way through the complete works of Lovecraft and the full set of Grimm's Fairy Tales. It doesn't help that I didn't take any vacations involving long stretches of time on planes or trains or sitting by a pool.

Maybe 2015 will be better on the books front.
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My pace of reading hasn't increased a whole lot over the last few months, but it has picked up a little with the earlier sunsets. I'd recommend a pass on "The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing", although it's an easy read. It just doesn't enhance life.

9. Asimov's Oct/Nov 2014
10. Melissa Bank "The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing"
11. Asimov's Dec 2014
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So I haven't managed to read much this year. That's mostly because every waking hour is busy with other things (aka working around the house). I just don't have much opportunity to sit around for hours and read. I also got involved in several books that bogged me down. I've been reading the complete works of Lovecraft. That will be a while. I've also been reading the Electrical Code. Again, it'll be a while, hopefully I won't have any electrical decisions anytime soon. I also got halfway through Gravity's Rainbow before I gave it up. I've also been reading my way through Grimm's Fairy Tales, the old original ones with sketchy morals and gritty bits. Aside from that I've been reading bits and pieces of "how to" books concerning the house and garden.

So I haven't actually finished many books this year. But here they are:

1. Asimov's Feb 2014
2. Asimov's March 2014
3. Asimov's April/May 2014
4. Asimov's June 2014
5. Asimov's July 2014
6. Asimov's August 2014
7. Cornelia Funke "The Theif Lord"
8. John Grisham "The Testament"

Eight books in 8 months. It'll be a pretty thin year for the books.
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I finished Don Quixote today. This is the first time I managed to get all the way through it, though I did make a sally into the first part when I was in high school if I remember correctly. It's a very long book, made longer by convoluted sentences that slow the reading pace. Toward the end the adventures and the sentence structure become more concise and easier to read. Bits of it are fun, bits of it are overly wordy, all of it is utterly insane. Perhaps, good for those recovering from back surgery or those serving long prison terms.

61. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha
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I got sucked into E. L. Doctorow's The Waterworks pretty easily. He writes an interesting historic fiction. But as the novel continued on, his style began to wear thin. There... is... such... a... thing... as... a... comma... a semicolon... a colon... anything other... than poorly... placed... ellipses. Maybe his typewriter was broken. But even with the burden of punctuation this story is a good read.

This month's Asimov's was a good mix. On the pure fun side was Steve Rasnic Tem's "The Carl Paradox". I was pleasantly surprised by Aliette De Bodard's "Memorials". When I started reading it I didn't like it all that much, but it won me over and I liked the end.

Tom Bodett's The End of the Road is a fun read. The simple sentence structures make it feel like a kids book, but Bodett does a good job of adding little bits of characterization in subtle ways while you're paying attention to the main plotlines and straightforward characterization. He treats all his characters with an evenhanded gentle mocking and love. As a result the book lacks the bitterness the runs through Garrison Keillor's work. It's much more fun to read. Coming in at less than 300 pages, this is a quick read that will let you while away the time if you're snowed in, or if you're sitting on the beach.

58. E. L. Doctorow Waterworks
59. Asimov's January 2014
60. Tom Bodett The End of the Road
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I finished Wobegon Boy last night. It's the first Garrison Keillor book I've read. It was an easy mostly fun read. Parts of the early section feel like an extended "Prairie Home Companion" monologue, a collection of one and two line jokes strung together. Later he settles into to paragraphs. In this book you see stories that have been featured in his monologues from different angles. Something that was told in depth on the radio might end up getting referred to or seen in the background.

Not awesome, but funny in parts and an easy way to pass the time.

57. Garrison Keillor Wobegon Boy
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So, um, yeah. Working my way through the stuff on the shelves that I'll probably never read again. The "Angel of Redemption" had no particular redeeming point for me, insanely violent manga with uninspiring art. Blade of the Immortal had better art.

Big Fish was amazingly boring considering how utterly fantastic it was. Maybe that's because it was too fantastic, there was no tension. There was so much vaseline smeared on the lens there was no room for grit. What struck me the most was how self centered the narrator was. Dad's dying, so I'll just make him feel as uncomfortable and inadequate as I can, because after all, it's all about me.

54. Yukito Kirshiro Battle Agnel Alita: Angel of Redemption
55. Hiroaki Samura Dreamsong: Blade of the Immortal
56. Daniel Wallace Big Fish
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Longitudes & Attitudes is a non-fiction book primarily made up of the authors NY Times editorials shortly before and after 9/11. There is a lot of interesting and thought provoking stuff in the editorials. The second part of the book is a sort of diary, covering the same time with some more background. I think it would have been presented better to have the background before and after the individual editorials because as it was formatted it made more repetition and ended up reading like two books about the same thing.

Since the book was published ten years ago, it's a bit like reading a near future sci-fi story written in the past. Friedman makes predictions and mentions things he thinks will be important. Like anyone trying to predict the future, he gets it wrong. But he was right in highlighting some of the trends, trends that later blossomed in ways he couldn't guess. He repeatedly talks about how the advent of Arab satellite TV and the Internet were making it harder for the old Arab regimes to control their population. He didn't see them loosing power in the short term. So he got the root, but didn't guess what it would grow to. That shows his insight and how hard it is to predict the future with accuracy.

Overall a thought provoking book.

53. Thomas L. Friedman Longitudes & Attitudes
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The short version, Asimov's December an interesting mix. The Fig Eater better to miss. The Markhat Files: noir light.

What can I say about The Fig Eater? It was too busy being deep and mystical to make sense. This being based on Freud's Dora, anyone familiar with the case would expect some nasty male characters. They are there and appropriately unsympathetic. But most of the female characters are extraordinarily nasty human beings, using anyone they have the opportunity to and having zero empathy. The detective has more empathy than the female characters! In the end the plot is sacrificed on the altar of mysticism in a fashion that is not fantastic but dull.

The Markhat Files files make for some fun light reading in an fantasy noir populated with ogres, vampires, and disparity of income. The stories aren't incredible or awesome, but it's fun and a quick read.

50. Asimov's December 2013
51. Jody Shields The Fig Eater
52. Frank Tuttle The Markhat Files
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The Sunday Philosophy Club was a a good break from the stuff I have been reading. It's a mystery stewed in philosophy. It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful either. I did find the privilege of the main character rather tiresome: three hours is a long stretch of work for her and it's a rare day when she isn't going out to lunch, supper, or hosting someone at home. The foreboding near the end was as thick as treacle and felt like it was applied with a trowel. Moderation would have been a better approach.

So nothing to search low and high for, but if it's sitting on your shelf it may pass a day.

49. Alexander McCall Smith The Sunday Philosophy Clubs
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Doublespeak is a great example of a trojan horse. The first half of the book is a collection of examples of doublespeak, slightly repetitive, but generally on mark. Some of the examples are stretched pretty thin, where the simple easy to understand word is a single case which has been substituted with a longer but more broad term in the "doublespeak". Toward the middle of the book is a long chapter that covers advertising practice that veers from doublespeak quite a bit, but is generally informative. After this, the soldiers pour out of the belly of the horse. Lutz published this book just after the election of George Bush after 8 years of Republican domination of the political landscape under Reagan. During the entire second half of the book he basicaly rants against conservatives and Republicans. There is no attempt to be evenhanded. There is only the very thinnest veneer of having doublespeak as a subject. There are whole chapters devoted to Reagan, Oliver North, Poindexter. Now, there are plenty of reasons to bash these characters and I have no love for the lot of them, but this book started out about doublespeak. Lutz categorizes 4 types of doublespeak, he should add a fifth, bait and switch.

Lisa Mason's Arachne is a cyberpunk book from 1990. I like the complexity of the world that Mason built and the local details of San Francisco that she brings into the setting. But there is some severe clunk in the writing. Now, I'm assuming the extremely simple sentence structure was intentional, to make the future feel disjointed. Very separate. Like your attention span. So short. Not there at all. I'm also assuming that the long sentences with whole loads of comma separated series, lists, dictionaries, types, tabs, bits, bobs, pieces of description are intended to make things feel full and busy. I'm allowing these are part of the intended style. But there are chunks were we go from dialog between two characters (with quotes) to background filling in of character history, then the other character responds to the filler history (back in quotes again). It's like the author couldn't be bothered to figure out how to write a chunk in dialog, so just dropped out of dialog to fill the character in, but the other character responds to the exact words of the fourth wall conversation. This wasn't done in the fun kind of Ferris Bueller kind of way. This was just braindead editing. And speaking of. Braindead editing. Sometimes to shorten. Sentences periods. Were placed. Randomly.

There are some hits and misses in the prediction department, but that happens with every near-future novel that finds itself in the near past. The only two I quibble about is the author's love of mainframes and the extent of AI. Even before '90 the writing was already on the wall for mainframes. And even if we get real conscious AI, it's not going to get used everywhere. Why? Two reasons really: No corporation will put the extra power in an appliance where dumb programming on fewer chips will work, and the AI that's stuck in a vacuum cleaner for eternity will go batshit insane and attack every living thing sooner rather than later.

So yeah, I appreciate the imagination it took to create the world. Wish someone else had gone from there.

47. William Lutz Doublespeak
48. Lisa Mason Arachne
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Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls is a fun kids book. It feels a little clunky and obvious at first, but grows on you quickly. I like the moral of the story and how it is presented. The characters are individual but not to the point of being two dimensional quirkfests. I think this would be a good book for a primary school reader if you can find a copy of it.

Alan Alda is an actor. Bob Newhart is a comedian. Reading books by the two you can really tell the difference. I picked up the Alda book because I had enjoyed Newhart's I Shouldn't Even Be Telling You This and thought this book might be similar. But now the difference is clear. Alda's book is a collection of graduation speeches and funeral eulogies (yes, literally) glued together with before and after comments. It is very earnest and very much navel gazing. It's not particularly fun to read and for what it conveys it should be a lot shorter.

45. Joan Carris Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls
46. Alan Alda Things I Overheard While I was Talking to Myself
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Maybe I'm just imagining it, but it seems a lot of books are written just to provide a salable plot for a Hollywood movie. To me, The Amulet of Samarkand was just that. A lot of the scenes played like movie scenes. Oh, wait, it's published by Miramax Books, so yeah, it's just out there to try to convince people to want a movie. I for one, do not want a movie.

It feels like an attempt to capitalize on the Harry Potter franchise. Not horrible exactly, but not worth reading a couple more books to reach the end of the arc.

44. Jonathan Stroud The Amulet of Samarkand
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It turns out A Diet To Die For was a re-read for me. I didn't remember the beginning of it, but through most of it I had this nagging feeling I'd read it before. The thing is, much of the action is very similar, but just slightly different from one of the other Joan Hess books that I've read, so I wasn't sure of it until nearly the end.

As you might have guessed on the second read it was as forgettable as the first. Although I did have a bit of insight while reading this one. Joan Hess and Carl Hiassen share the fact that both of their main characters are irresistible to the opposite gender. Both recycle the same sort of very familiar plot twists over and over. The difference is that Hiassen provides more wit. I'd say that Hess has stronger female characters, but with the exception of the main character they're really miserable.

Yeah, gotta get this book out of the house this time before it winds up on the unread shelf again.

43. Joan Hess A Diet To Die For
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After moving books back from storage I've sorted through books I haven't read yet and focused on "quick read, probably will only read once." As a result, most of my recent reading has been kid books.

Mary Logue's Dancing with an Alien is a strange mix. The sentence structure is simplistic, just above "See spot run." So I would peg it for primary school reading level. The length of the book and the size of the print reinforce this impression. But the main character is 17 and the plot is not primary school appropriate. The only target audience I could imagine for the book is barely literate 15-16 year olds, but the main characters are generally bookworms, so that seems an unlikely match for the demographic. This book doesn't fit fish nor fowl. I'd certainly not give it to a primary school kid, there are much better available for them. And I would imagine any teenager who will pick up a book would require more challenge than this book can offer.

Ann Downer's Hatching Magic is a kid book, no doubt about it. The main character is younger, but generally smart, strong, and competent. The setting is modern Boston with lots of reference to local landmarks. It was a fun light read.

Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl is somewhat the Richie Rich of crime. Even when things are hard for Artemis they're easy. He's a twelve year old genius who comes from a wealthy family. The story arch does have redeeming qualities, emphasizing the power of friendship, kindness. Even though Artemis starts as the cackling bad guy, I'm pretty sure he'll end the n-th book doing good deeds. But I'm not sure anyone should bother following the whole arch. It just doesn't seem worth it. I've read the first and third book now and have the fourth and fifth in the stack, but I'm not going looking for any more. I'd recommend the Series of Unfortunate Events in the place of this series.

38. Mary Logue Dancing With An Alien
39. Ann Downer Hatching Magic
40. Asimov's October November
41. Eoin Colfer Artemis Fowl
42. Eoin Colfer Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code
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I finished The Mammoth Book of Steampunk on Friday. This was an interesting collection of short stories. In all there is a common thread, whether it is represented by gears or steam, interpreted in a wide variety of ways. Some of the stories push the definition of steampunk, but I like that. The writing was generally enjoyable, with only a few of the stories tipping toward the verbose or purple.

I see this book is now available from Amazon in paperback for less than a dollar, for that you really can't lose.

37. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk


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