12 squared is 144 - clif and the challenge of 2012
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Secondly (and far more important) is the 2012 challenge! Twelve is such a flexible number...twelve squared is even more so, being divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9. So one could read two categories of 72 books, nine categories of 18, or just stick with the traditional twelve categories of 12. I'm going to be daring and go with four big categories:
1. Science Fiction: Science fiction is my first love, and I've strayed away from her over the years. Oh yes, I give her a glance and lip service occasionally, putting up a Space Opera category, and posting on the Science Fiction fan forum once in a while... but there is so much really GOOD stuff out there... that I haven't read! 36 science fiction books will be a great start; some will be old favorites, Dune and 2001: A Space Odyssey and Foundation, but others will be finishing Peter Hamilton's, Alistair Reynold's, and Vernor Vinge's terrific hard fiction series. I will also introduce myself to Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman (two authors I've not read at all... see what I mean!). A lot of big thick hard books here... but I'm determined.
2. Fantasy: If SF is my first love... Fantasy is the alluring mistress that seduced me away during my early college years. Tolkien of course, but also Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, and too many others to list. Again, there's so much good stuff that I haven't read... George R.R. Martin tops THAT list of course (I HAVE read the first in his epic series thank-you-very-much), Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Erikson, Peter Brett, Robin Hobb... the list goes on and on. More big thick books here...
3. Military: All those years NOT reading SF & Fantasy (or at least not as much) were spent, in large part, reading military (both fiction & non-fiction) books. So why fight it, since I'm going to read the stuff anyway... Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O'Brian, C.S. Forester, Jeff Shaara, and assorted biographies and histories (most notably, I'm going to go after the Landmark series of Ancient Histories, probably starting with The Landmark Thucydides). Probably throw some W.E.B. Griffin in there for good measure.
4. Collections/Mystery/Group Reads: And of course, I need a catch-all category for those books that don't fit elsewhere. I have a number of older books from The Best American... series, and am going to try to read the newest eight books in the series published in 2011. I also have several collections that fit into my Science Fiction and Fantasy categories; The Very Best of Charles de Lint and The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois. Mysteries will include working on Rex Stout's enormous collection of Nero Wolfe stories, and quite likely throwing in the occasional Micheal Connelly Harry Bosch story. Lastly, I am determined to read a couple of the books listed for group reads (Oryx and Crake, The Windup Girl will both do double-duty for science fiction and group read, and then of course I'm always up for some Steinbeck...).
Whew! If you've made it this far... wow! I'm impressed and I hope that I can reward your effort with decent book commentary (I don't call what I do 'reviewing' so much as merely commenting on what I liked or didn't like about a story and whatever random connections happen to be triggered by the story). Looking forward to a good reading year!
Category 1: SCIENCE FICTION
1. Foundation Isaac Asimov
2. 2001 A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke
3. River of Gods Ian McDonald
4. Foundation and Empire Isaac Asimov
5. Halting State Charles Stross
6. 2010: Odyssey 2 Arthur C. Clarke
7. Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
8. Old Man's War John Scalzi
9. 2061: Odyssey Three Arthur C. Clarke
10. The January Dancer Michael Flynn
11. 3001: The Final Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke
12. The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
13. Second Foundation Isaac Asimov
14. A Talent for War Jack McDevitt
15. The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood
16. The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi
17. The Ghost Brigades John Scalzi
18. Foundation's Edge Isaac Asimov
19. The Last Colony John Scalzi
20. Snow Crash Neal Stephenson
21. The Atrocity Archives Charles Stross
22. The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham
23. The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham
24. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
25. 11/22/63 Stephen King
26. Ready Player One Ernest Cline
27. The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
28. Containment Christian Cantrell
29. Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
30. Ashfall Mike Mullin
31. The Walking Dead: Book 1 Robert Kirkman
32. Hospital Station James White
33. Apocalypse Z Manel Loureiro
34. The Black Company Glen Cook
Category 2: FANTASY
1. American Gods Neil Gaiman
2. Dracula Bram Stoker
3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Susanna Clarke
4. Sweet Silver Blues Glen Cook
5. The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes Neil Gaiman
6. The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman
7. Hammered Kevin Hearne
* The Screaming Skull F. Marion Crawford
8. The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch Joseph Delaney
9. The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane Joseph Delaney
10. A Fistful of Sky Nina Kiriki Hoffman
11. Urban Shaman C.E. Murphy
12. Soulless Gail Carriger
13. The Last Unicorn Peter Beagle
14. Bitter Gold Hearts Glen Cook
15. Poison Study Maria V. Snyder
16. His Majesty's Dragon Naomi Novik
17. Swords and Deviltry Fritz Leiber
18. Tricked Kevin Hearne
19. The Terror Dan Simmons
20. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Mark Hodder
21. Swords Against Death Fritz Leiber
22. The Fire Rose Mercedes Lackey
23. The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House Neil Gaiman
24. Dies the Fire S.M. Stirling
25. Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft Joe Hill
26. Preacher Vol. 1 Gone to Texas Garth Ennis
27. Fables: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham
28. Two Ravens and One Crow Kevin Hearne
29. Fables: Animal Farm Bill Willingham
30. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
Category 3: MILITARY
1. Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant Volume 1 Ulysses S. Grant
2. The Thirteen Gun Salute Patrick O'Brian
3. The Nutmeg of Consolation Patrick O'Brian
4. Shoulder the Sky Anne Perry
5. The Truelove Patrick O'Brian
6. Word of Honor Nelson DeMille
7. Cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson
8. Operation Mincemeat Ben Macintyre
9. The Wine-Dark Sea Patrick O'Brian
10. Gone for Soldiers Jeff Shaara
11. Pardonable Lies Jacqueline Winspear
12. The Commodore Patrick O'Brian
13. Pacific Crucible Ian Toll
14. The Yellow Admiral Patrick O'Brian
15. Blood Alone James R. Benn
16. The Hundred Days Patrick O'Brian
17. An Army at Dawn Rick Atkinson
18. Sharpe's Eagle Bernard Cornwell
19. The Crook Factory Dan Simmons
20. Sharpe's Gold Bernard Cornwell
21. Bluffing Mr. Churchill John Lawton
22. Sharpe's Escape Bernard Cornwell
23. Blue at the Mizzen Patrick O'Brian
24. Sharpe's Fury Bernard Cornwell
25. All Clear Connie Willis
26. Messenger of Truth Jacqueline Winspear
Category 4: Collections/Mystery/Group Reads/Books that don't fit into other categories
Link to reading list of collections & anthologies
1. Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories Max Allan Collins; anthology
2. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse ed. John Joseph Adams; anthology
3. Some Buried Caesar Rex Stout; mystery
4. The Best American Science & Nature Writing 2011 ed. Mary Roach; anthology
5. The Green Man: Tales From the Mythic Forest ed. Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling; anthology
6. Black Out John Lawton; mystery
7. Where There's a Will Rex Stout; mystery
8. Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction ed. Ian Whates; science fiction anthology
9. The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras J. Michael Orenduff; mystery
10. Black Orchids Rex Stout; mystery
11. The Best American Sports Writing 2011 ed. Jane Leavy; anthology
12. Gentlemen of the Road Michael Chabon; group read
13. Not Quite Dead Enough Rex Stout; mystery
14. The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 ed. Harlan Coben; anthology
15. The Greenhouse Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir; other
16. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes Chris Crutcher; other
17. The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy J. Michael Orenduff; mystery
18. Dissolution C.J. Sansom; mystery
19. The Face of a Stranger Anne Perry; mystery
20. A Dangerous Mourning Anne Perry; mystery
21. The Mezzo Wore Mink Mark Schweizer; mystery
22. The Very Best of Charles de Lint Charles de Lint; anthology, fantasy
23. The Diva Wore Diamonds Mark Schweizer; mystery
24. Ironman Chris Crutcher; other
25. The Silent Speaker Rex Stout; mystery
26. The Organist Wore Pumps Mark Schweizer; mystery
27. Burglars Can't Be Choosers Lawrence Block; mystery
28. The Burglar in the Closet Lawrence Block; mystery
29. Hit Man Lawrence Block; mystery
30. Hit List Lawrence Block; mystery
31. Hit Parade Lawrence Block; mystery
32. The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein J. Michael Orenduff; mystery
33. The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier J. Michael Orenduff
34. Hit and Run Lawrence Block
35. The Countertenor Wore Garlic Mark Schweizer
36. The Christmas Cantata Mark Schweizer
I'm going to use December as a double-duty month this year... since I've posed such a challenging challenge for myself for 2012, I'm going to start my 2012 challenge in December and also count any residual books that I'm finishing up (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) towards 2011 totals.
My first official read of 2012 then is going to be American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I've had a copy of this book on my shelves for some time, but was persuaded that it wasn't the best introductory Gaiman novel... so I set it aside. I'm happy to say that I'm 250 pages in and enjoying it very much. A little research indicates that it will have to go into my Fantasy category which is ok since I came up a little short on ideas for the 36 books I have set aside for that category.
>9 AHS-Wolfy: sometimes I get really frustrated that I can't read faster, or more efficiently, or that I have to waste time doing things like... work and talk to my family etc. And I have to be careful to slow down a bit and enjoy the book I'm reading... rather than rushing just so I can get to the next one.
For me that's always been one of the great things about good science fiction... sometimes you HAVE to take it slow, to digest and absorb the ideas. It's one of the reasons I've come back to making SF one of my super-categories for 2012. (that and I'm embarrassed when I have to admit to not having read Gaiman, Stephenson, Gene Wolfe, Vinge, ...)
Rushing to finish books is something I'm sometimes guilty of, especially if they've failed to grip me and I feel there's better waiting to be read on the shelves...
"No my dear. I was just wondering if you could settle an argument we were having over here. My friend and I were disagreeing over what the word 'Easter' means. Would you happen to know?"Sooooo, since I'm dawdling over Gaiman, my first completed title towards the new challenge and 2012 reading year is Foundation by Asimov; a classic, a reread (its been at least 35 years however), a very quick read, and a fitting beginning to my challenge. Sadly, Foundation doesn't hold up well at all. It's hard to understand how such an accomplished mathematician and scientist like Asimov was so completely unaware of the coming ideas of chaos theory and how it would make his theory of 'psychohistory' so completely improbable and even faintly ridiculous. Secondly, it's 10,000 years into the future... and Asimov can't imagine beyond the common use of tobacco products, blasters, and nuclear power??
The girl stared at him as if green toads had begun to push their way between his lips. Then she said "I don't know about any of that Christian stuff. I'm a pagan."
All that said (and I know it's been said in many reviews in far less kind terms than I have)... it's still a fun story, and one can see the roots and budding ideas of lots and lots of later authors. One can only wonder what science fiction will look like 70 years from now!
I'm not sure what to say or where to start with my impressions about this story. First of all, in the beginning, I found myself comparing it to Stephen King's The Stand and wondering if THIS story was what King was aiming for (not that King missed with The Stand but still...). But I've got to say that, IMO at least, in 200 years (assuming humans are still around and still reading) ... people will very likely not be reading King, but will still be reading American Gods.
My ex-pastor teacher friend asked me about the book when he saw me reading it this morning... I described it as mythological fantasy and described some of the plot and the symbolism. He is very open-minded and seemed interested but also a little alarmed. And I suspect perhaps even more so if I had described the ending.
In the end, this will be one of those books that I compare others to; replacing or perhaps joining those other stories that I've read through the years that I keep coming back to.
Don't know if you have come across William F. Love before or not. He wrote four books featuring Bishop Reagan, who is confined to a wheelchair, and his assistant Davey Goldman (a Jewish private detective). They are Nero and Archie very thinly disguised and I enjoyed every one of them. You can tell from the writing that he really admired Rex Stout.
It wasn't until years later that I became a mystery fan... after devouring all of the John MacDonald, Agatha Christie, Lawrence Block, and Robert Parker I could lay hands on in the ships library while in the Navy... and still many more years later before I remembered that my mother had loved Rex Stout, and that perhaps I should give him another try. I'm glad I did and look forward to years of reading pleasure following Nero's and Archie's adventures and exploits.
I'll look up those William Love books ...
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke; I was certain that I'd read this story before... surely... but I don't remember any parts of the story, so maybe not. And surely I would remember, because 2001 has earned its distinction as a science fiction classic. Clarke, like Asimov (and Heinlein, although Heinlein was more of an engineer), was a real scientist and, unlike Asimov, was far more interested in and imaginative about the details of how things would actually work in the future. His descriptions of space shuttles, interplanetary space ships and space flight, ground crawlers on the moon, etc are all magnificent and nearly spot on. And of course, somewhat tedious to those that just want him to get on with the story...
I found the ending somewhat ho-hum; I much more enjoyed the first 2/3rds of the book, and was, like millions before me,****SPOILER ALERT****seriously creeped out by HAL going psychotic (I think the movie voice helped here as I heard HAL talking in my head as I read; going to have to rent the movie now...).****/end SPOILER****
Of the big three, Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke, I'd always preferred Heinlein and Asimov over Clarke... now I'm not so sure. Really the only books by Heinlein that I loved were his juveniles... the rest are kind of blah for me (outside of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress maybe and The Puppet Masters); and Asimov... well you just have to be disappointed by how poorly his works read today. So I'm rearranging my order. Arthur C. Clarke is my new favorite out of the big three... woohoo break out the schnapps!
Asimov hasn't stood up on re-reading for me either, but I'm yet to try re-reading Clarke. Maybe I should!
I've actually got the first two Rex Stout novels somewhere. Should dust them off. (I know, I know, I say that all the time...)
However, I still count Starship Troopers and The Puppet Masters as two of my all time favorites.
Rex Stout was one of my mother's favorites... I tried a few when I was but a teen, never got into them. Now I enjoy them very much, so I'm sure, like many things, he is an acquired taste.
Dracula by Bram Stoker; After losing one member of their group, and on the verge of a losing a second; the intrepid band of vampire hunters finally chase Dracula out of England and back to his native Transylvania before abruptly ending the saga on the road to his castle. At that point, Stoker apparently got tired of the obnoxious Van Helsing (about 200 pages after I did) and wrapped up the final scene in about two pages...
A second hypothesis is that Dracula finally just died of sheer boredom listening to Van Helsing's incessant yammering and butchering of the English language (personally I think VH was just jealous that Dracula, a native of southeastern Europe, could speak perfect English, while VH, a learned Dutch physician, could barely make himself understood in the language)...
The beginning of the story was great, the middle was tedious and infuriating, and the ending was pretty good up til the abrupt completion of the story. Glad I read it, but won't be rereading any time soon.
Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories by Max Allan Collins; this is an excellent collection of true crime-written-as-fiction short stories featuring Nate Heller, Chicago PI in the 30's and 40's. Most are set in Chicago, with a couple in LA, Florida, and Cleveland. Heller has ties with the Chicago mob aka Frank Nitti (heir to the Capone empire), and also works several cases with Eliot Ness.
Collins is a superb writer, his settings and characters are terrific, and I loved the fact that his stories were based on real cases. Heller is a true anti-hero, likeable but flawed. My favorite story was probably Scrap which features Jake Rubinstein... later known as Jack Ruby.
if you like gritty, noir, PI stories, this is a great collection to have. I will be rereading these I'm sure.
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse ed. by John Joseph Adams; this collection of post-apocalyptic stories contains entries from Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Paolo Bacigalupi, Gene Wolfe, and several other 'big' names in SF & Fantasy. Go here for a table of contents and an introduction to each story.
As you would expect, most of the stories were superb... I could not pick a favorite, probably because, to avoid depression, I read the stories over a period of many months... but the King story was one that I went back and reread. Adams includes a reading list in an appendix containing a 100+ books (I've only read ~20 of them, but I came late to the genre), and of course we frequently have new additions to the list (The Hunger Games, World War Z, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Uglies, Life as We Knew It, etc)
Highly recommended for all fans of science fiction.
Post-apocalyptic fiction generally gets listed as a sub-genre of science fiction... but the more I read, and the more I consider, I'm coming to the conclusion that it stands alone as a genre. A list of favorite post-apocalyptic novels would be a terrific thing to have as a reference and resource... wasn't there somebody around here making lists and things a while back??
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; Well. Finished at last... I started this book in 2005... six years is about right for this rambling, meandering, compelling story. I'm glad that I didn't give up on it, and enjoyed the last quarter of the book very much (although I figured out the whole John Uskglass/Nameless Slave mystery fairly early on).
I will need to reread of course....
Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant Volume 1 by Ulysses S. Grant; an excellent biographical account of Grant's early military career and his Civil War experiences up through and including the Vicksburg campaign. I've always felt that U.S. Grant was a sort of overlooked hero of the Civil War, that his exploits and accomplishments were overshadowed by his unfortunate Presidency. Lincoln finally appointed Grant overall commander ONLY after trying nearly everyone else (and very nearly losing the war multiple times). Grant wasn't flashy, didn't have a pedigree, and was inclined to bend rules and take liberties.... but he got the job done. His account of the Vicksburg campaign describes overcoming incredible adversity, both in the field (poor terrain, ceaseless flooding, incredibly complex supply issues), and in his command (backstabbing generals and leaders both above and below).
Of course... Grant leaves out some of the perhaps valid criticisms of his style and campaigns... his drinking is never mentioned, and his failures tend to get blamed on subordinates. Overall however, I think Grant comes off very positively in this biography and I recommend it to anyone interested in the leaders of the Civil War.
Sweet Silver Blues by Glen Cook; for my 2012 reading I wanted to read some new fantasy/science fiction authors. Glen Cook has been on my radar for years... the Black Company books look good, I just never picked one up. This book, Sweet Silver Blues is actually the beginning of fantasy/mystery/PI type series. It's nothing too original... think Nero Wolfe/Elvis Cole/Spenser with elves and trolls... but it was a fun story and I'll likely continue the series.
Nero and Archie end up somewhere in the country at an exposition which includes orchids (the only reason Nero Wolfe will leave his townhouse) and livestock. Two murders plus a dead prize-winning bull ensnare them into a family feud turned murderous...
Not my favorite in the series so far... Stout is displaying his breadth of knowledge and anytime we see Nero Wolfe out of his comfort zone, it can be entertaining.... however this story just wasn't very...
May I suggest that you listen to him read some of his writings? Once his voice is in your head, all his stories are even better. The Graveyard Book is probably still available online for free through the the website he has for his juvenile works, but there are actually a lot of audio and video of him reading his works available online.
Oh! And he has (at least) two "collections" as well: Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors.
I'll be keeping an eye on your Collections list, as that is something I hope to focus on this coming year as well.
I'm enjoying both the 'collecting' of Collections to read and the actual reading of them (I've found that my attention span seems to be decreasing as I age... i.e. I tend to get bored more quickly with what I'm reading. In the past, I've compensated by reading multiple books at once... but I'm finding that short stories work as well). So far I have collected:
The Very Best of Charles de Lint
Year's Best SF 16
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection
The Last Worthless Evening: Four Novellas and Two Short Stories Andre Dubus
Dark Tomorrows, Second Edition Amanda Hocking
The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm I've already read The Coyote Road and loved it...
The Saga Hoard Volume 1 long term project maybe??
Tor/Forge Author Voices: Volume 1 & Tor/Forge Author Voices: Volume 2
The First Heroes: New Tales of the Bronze Age
The John Varley Reader
Cyberabad Days Ian McDonald
Pump Six and Other Stories Paolo Bacigalupi
The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft
Everything's Eventual Stephen King
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
Just So Stories Rudyard Kipling
The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon Washington Irving
I'll be adding the rest of the Best American series (there are seven short story collections published each year I think), a few more science fiction and fantasy collections, Troll's-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales and The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People (to round out Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling's terrific series), the two Neil Gaiman collections mentioned... plus any others that I come across that look good
whew, looks like I could do nothing but read short story collections for the next several years if I chose...
when you say 'worked on ships' does that mean you were in the Navy? I served from 1983-1985 on an aircraft carrier, and then for about 10 years as a reservist... mostly out of Kansas City in an intelligence gathering unit.
My dad had a story from a time he went on the sea trials for an aircraft carrier when he was working for the Newport News Shipping and Drydock Co. He was so lost in the bowels of the ship he had no idea where his quarters were located. Until they performed the anchor drop test. This is where they drop the anchor and then use a brake to stop the chain from going out. He discovered that he was located very near the chain locker.
Did you by chance watch the series on Showtime called Homeland? It was interesting how one person can collect information and then figure out what the bad guys plans were.
I'm jealous. You work in a library AND you've worked in merchant ships...
sleeping quarters on an aircraft carrier are all pretty much near something loud... my quarters were right under the flight deck... one of the arresting cables went right through our berthing space. Still... you got used to it (or were so tired you didn't notice).
my Showtime/HBO experience was limited to a short lived Game of Thrones subscription... I'll look for that program on Netflix though, it sounds interesting.
River of Gods by Ian McDonald; Wow! I had not read anything by Ian McDonald up til now.. this is a fantastic introduction to his work and a must read for anyone who is a fan of artificial intelligence stories. McDonald takes his time telling the story, weaving multiple story-lines together into an unexpected and compelling climax. This is what I want my science fiction to be... a mixture of gritty reality, realistic possibilities, and the jaw-dropping wow factor. I'll be reading the rest of this author's work.
I hope to finish this series of books in 2012... just in time to ask for the complete boxed set for next Christmas, and then to begin rereading them!
The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian; the previous book (The Letter of Marque) in this enormously entertaining series had wrapped up several ongoing plotlines and laid out several new ones for the dynamic Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin. Aubrey embarks upon a 'second' career as an English Naval officer as he and Maturin head to the far east to aid in the securing of an ally against the French... and one of the last hanging threads from previous stories is satisfactorily concluded. Maturin is not an enemy who ever forgets or forgives and when he takes his revenge... it is sweet indeed. Terrific story as usual.
After having read, absorbed, and contemplated American Gods and finding it a TERRIFIC place to start, I thought I might try one of Gaiman's Sandman stories...
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes Neil Gaiman; a collection of the first 8 Sandman stories... self-described by Gaiman as awkward and ungainly... if so, the rest of the series must be extraordinary! Reading a graphic novel is NOT like reading a regular novel (something that probably seems obvious to graphic novel veterans), you have to slooowwww down and absorb the images along with the story. I've not read many graphic novels (Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mainly) so I'm not very good at it... but practicing on the Sandman series promises to be very entertaining!
I've devoured Gaiman's works since I, too, 'discovered' him just a couple years ago. (And *I* did begin with Good Omens!) Let me recommend that you either get hold of some audio CDs or pull the files from the Internet of Gaiman reading aloud. There is NOTHING better than hearing Gaiman read Gaiman! The graveyard book is still available here and there are many other video clips online of him reading, too.
I never read it, so I didn't know! LOL Had to go check the "Look inside" at Amazon. Maybe I'll re-read, this time the book -- oh! better yet: read along with the audio.
lest my snarkiness towards this venerable and respected author and his writing give anyone the wrong impression.. I am very much enjoying this reread! But the world (and I) have changed a LOT over the last 50-60 years (or in my case 40 years). Rereading the books that we loved when we were younger gives us insight into who and what we are today...
Foundation and Empire Isaac Asimov; continuing the 12,000 years-in-the-future saga of cigar chomping, blaster-totin', space-faring men and women (yes the women also lovingly smoke cigars... much to the consternation of the men) as they attempt to unravel the mystery of The Mule and The Second Foundation.
I cannot imagine anyone reading this series for the first time having any flicker of comprehension as to why it was so popular and how it garnered a lifetime Hugo award... but again.. kids these days have little appreciation for The Beatles and Elvis... so there you are.
Halting State Charles Stross; The future of gaming? Used as a cover for espionage and crime? I loved this story by Charles Stross, set just a few years into a very realistic looking future. Others have commented on the somewhat unique 2nd person narrative style... I wasn't bothered by it at all, and in fact found it refreshing. There IS a lot of jargon and acronyms... difficult for the noobs to comprehend ;-) ... but I think it is well worth wading through to get to the outstanding story underneath.
The Nutmeg of Consolation Patrick O'Brian; ok ok, I'm not going to extol the virtues of this series again... this story, while not (IMO) one of the better books in the series, DOES advance the story somewhat. O'Brian's description of colonial Australia is disturbing and distressing. While I knew that Australia was founded as a penal colony, and that (like everywhere else) the natives were treated extremely poorly, I had no idea just how horrifying a place it must have been early on.
And after meandering along for pages and pages, the ending of the story is quite sudden and climactic with several new plot developments.
2011 reading wrap-up
2010: Odyssey 2 Arthur C. Clarke; What a brilliant story to start 2012 off with! It would only be better if it were actually 2010. I have to confess that I was thrown off a bit by the changed details from the first book until I read the forward and realized that Clarke had changed things to match the movie.
I remembered quite a few of the details of this story (unlike the first book, from which I remembered almost nothing except HAL); but I don't remember liking it nearly as much as I did this time. That bodes well for reading 2061 and 3001...
The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman; easily one of the best books I've read in several years... I wondered when I saw that a book categorized as juvenile somehow managed to win the 2009 Hugo Best Novel award, but after reading it I completely understand. Brilliant characters (I love how Neil Gaiman manages to insert himself as a character into his stories... or at least into the ones I've read so far) and plot, and a fantastically appropriate yet tear-inducing ending. When is the movie coming out!?
The Best Nature and Science Writing 2011 ed. Mary Roach; 27 essays ranging from illegal organ marketing to asking why killer whales attack and kill their trainers (because they're psychotic from being held in captivity... duh). I couldn't finish two of the stories; the one about the demise of songbirds in Europe.. people are capturing and eating them (it makes me angry just thinking about the few pages that I actually read), and the one about the callous way that our hospitals and pharmaceutical companies treat the dying, and their families (I had tears streaming down my face before I gave up and skipped it). Some pretty powerful stuff all in all, the obligatory half-dozen essays describing the ruination of our environment and how its going to get a whole lot worse, and a couple of mind-blowing ones about space and time. My favorites were probably The Love That Dares Not Squawk its Name about the lesbian albatrosses lauded by Barbara Bush for their long-lived fidelity (course she didn't know at the time that the mating pairs were both female)... and the The New King of the Sea which was about the proliferation of jellyfish in the oceans.
...I'm really sorry, but I couldn't resist!
@80 groan, :)
I enjoy reading authors who incorporate local landmarks, restaurants, taverns, etc into their stories. It's a tried and true writing device that attempts to connect the story to the reader by making the reader think about how cool it would be to able to go down to that same bar and order that same brand of beer... and when done well, it really works. Fantasy/Science Ficiton authors rarely get to do that since their worlds are so often imaginary... Kevin Hearne is one of those rare exceptions and has done a terrific job of exactly that in his Iron Druid Chronicles...
Hammered Kevin Hearne; third in the series chronicling the modern-day tales of Atticus the Iron Druid and his wolfhound Oberon. Loads of fun and humor... but far too many pop-culture references; in ten years this story will seem trite and outdated. And Mr. Hearne leaves us with quite the cliff-hanger as well, which, since his next story hasn't been released yet, leaves me a bit... anxious.
A good continuation for those who've read the first two stories.. still a recommended series for those who enjoy the genre.
Have you read any Jack McDevitt?
Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood; gritty realistic end of the world story told only as Atwood can tell it. We get to listen and watch as Snowman, one of the last 'real' humans, slowly goes crazy (-ier) reliving his life and the last days of humanity... saw the end coming, but that didn't ruin the story at all. Atwood, as usual, weaves social issues along with a healthy dose of science into the story. I thought there was far more humor in this story than A Handmaids Tale... but I read the latter many years ago and may not recall (or I simply may not have recognized).
I really like McDevitt's Alex Benedict series - I reread A Talent for War and Polaris recently and Seeker is on the shelf. I know what you mean about the maps and timelines - as the series continues, timelines would be particularly helpful. I don't listen to many books so I find it hard to imagine how you'd keep track of the story that way. Of course, I never was much of an auditory learner unless I was taking copious notes!
Oryx and Crake has been on my radar this month because of the group read (I never seem to manage to join those, either) but I haven’t felt motivated to pick it up. I don’t why I haven’t read it; I like Atwood’s work. Your review is another nudge in the right direction. BTW, I agree with you – not much humor in The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Green Man: Tales From the Mythic Forest ed. Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling; a diverse set of stories, many are absolutely amazing, and all of them get you into the forest in one way or another. I loved these stories... as I love the forest. The second book of this series by these two editors that I've read... this is one that I know that I will be coming back to.
Bell, M. Shayne: Sickly little Maurice Ravel meets "The Pagodas of Ciboure" - creatures out of French legend - on his grandmother's estate, and asks them to heal him.
Bull, Emma: The narrator, a girl with a taste for raves who doesn't fit in with either base kids or townies, is busy growing up in a Marine base town on the border of "Joshua Tree" National Park.
de Lint, Charles: "Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box" Twenty years ago, two painters walked into the woods covering the hills outside Newford, but only Frank Spain has returned to a world he no longer belongs to. How can he return when he only tagged along with his mentor in the first place? His mentor, who once said "Many times the only painting box I take is in my head."
and if I had to pick a 'most favorite'...
Hoffman, Nina Kiriki: The narrator's mother Meg and her prospective stepfather Vernon both work at keeping people "Grounded", Meg in a hospice, Vernon as a psychologist from his home in the woods bordering Silicon Valley. Tale relates Meg and Fiona's first face-to-face meeting with Vernon and his kids, as Fiona keeps looking for the snags of living among these fair folk.
Shoulder the Sky Anne Perry; second in her series featuring the Reavley family during World War I; the story has moved from England (mostly) to the trenches of France (and even a short visit to Gallipoli), and I can't imagine that anyone can write the horrors of trench warfare any better than she has. Lots of intrigue and possibilities of betrayal and treason...
After reading these stories (and several others) it is not hard to understand the horror and sheer exhaustion that Britain and France had when faced with Hitler and a resurgent Germany 20 years later.. and why they dragged their feet so much in confronting him.
Old Man's War John Scalzi; an updated version of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers with better technology (or at least updated), better characters, a better storyline, a better love story, and of course the potential for sequels... this was a reread for me, but I haven't read any of the sequels so I thought I would start over at the beginning (plus I recall really liking the story, so I didn't mind rereading on that account as well).
2061: Odyssey Three Arthur C. Clarke; third space odyssey novel, and the weakest one so far. Still a pretty good story if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to accept that South Africa became one of the world's leading economies (based on diamonds) after kicking out the Dutch exploiters... shrug... I guess the whole apartheid thing was big when Clarke wrote this story.
Anyhow, the whole story arc is moved forward, and, like all ACC stories, has a fairly trippy ending. One wonders how much he hung out with guys like Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman during the sixties.
I can't think of anyone like Sagan or Feynman today. It is a tragedy.
No Sagans or Feynmans may be why we STILL don't have flying cars.
An interesting conversation in my physics class today ... I pointed out that a teenager from the 1950's transported to modern day would have little trouble learning how to drive a modern car or truck. A student pointed out that they would have absolutely zero clue, however, in knowing how to make a phone call with an Iphone 4.
The Screaming Skull F. Marion Crawford; a short story that was reviewed by LT member psutto as part of the book The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories ... I went looking and found a kindle edition of the short story for $.99.
A very quick read... tense, brooding, atmospheric. An absolutely brilliant horror story and I won't ruin it by asking the question that I was screaming to myself by the story's end.
***SPOILERS*** for The Screaming Skull
WHO was he talking to?? Ideas?
I'm guessing that the old guy was going crazy with guilt, and was talking to himself.
The January Dancer Michael Flynn; a very 'chewy' science fiction story. Lots to ponder and wonder on... I liked the characterizations, and I especially enjoyed the narrative style (a story told by an old scarred man in a tavern to a harper ... who both happen to have parts in the story). Michael Flynn is not a new science fiction author.. and I've read and enjoyed Firestar, but beyond that I am unfamiliar with his stuff. Til now. Looking forward to the sequel.
The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch Joseph Delaney; this entire YA series was offered free for the kindle last summer... I grabbed all 9 (10?) of them and promptly forgot about them until they arrived in my inbox sometime in December. I've just read the first book and must say that I'm pleasantly surprised. A fresh, original take on the traditional 'apprentice' type story, and rather dark and creepy to boot. Nice that I have all (or most) of the rest of the series and I hope that the quality bears up as the series progresses.
And, as great I think the book is, I doubt that it has become part of the curriculum. She probably means she wants it pulled from the libraries.
this is a book that could fit in either the Mystery or the Military Fiction category, and since I'm putting Anne Perry's WW I series into the military fiction category, I'll record this novel into the mysteries category.
Black Out John Lawton; this WW II mystery novel manages to capture the exhaustion and dreariness of London during the last months of the war, the deadly machinations of the OSS/CIA and the NKVD/KGB as they jockeyed for position in post-war Europe, the horror of Berlin after the war, lots of great sex with multiple beautiful women (wait, that doesn't necessarily follow) ... needless to say that I cannot wait to read more about Inspector Frederick Troy. What a mishmash of nationalities, perversions, and motivations! Illustrates perfectly the horror AND the exhilaration of living through those times.
The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane Joseph Delaney; second in his YA fantasy/horror series; Delaney has created a brutal, horrifying, and unhappy world. The reviews for the next book say he ramps up the horror even more ... not sure how much more I can take. I do want to find out more about Tom Ward's mother, and John Gregory's past, so I'll keep reading the books ... but am wondering if anyone in these stories are ever going to get a moment of happiness. And there are ~10 of these books.
even so... these stories all score over 4.0 with quite a lot of reviews, and I don't disagree with those reviews. The characters are compelling, and the stories are terrific...
3001: The Final Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke; Four problems with the finale to this marvelous series...
- Clarke spends most of this last book airing his opinions and views on society (religion in particular gets harsh treatment), but the prison system, crime in general, genital mutilation, torture etc all are mentioned.
- Frank Poole is indistinguishable from Heywood Floyd. Little effort was expended on characterization...
- In 2061: Odyssey Three, Halley's Comet was visited. During that visit an exploration team discovered something... interesting and then had to leave for the main storyline's rescue mission. That's it. Never revisited, explained, anything. Clarke spent some time and effort setting that scene... and then forgot about it?
- I can't remember the 4th thing... Remembered!... Clarke basically repeats several parts, more or less verbatim, of earlier books. We get a third rendition of the Chinese landing and disaster on Europa, a second or third telling of Bowman's descent into Jupiter, etc.
anyway, he would probably have been better off just leaving the series at three books... although, the lingering questions would have chafed. I didn't hate it, but the ultimate resolution was distinctly unsatisfying.
Where There's a Will Rex Stout; another sort of "closed room" story. Stout isn't so much for imaginative plots as he is for characterization. The interplay and dialogue between Wolfe, Goodwin, the police, and the various clients is what I'm enjoying the most about these stories (along with Archie's sub-vocal commentary of course).
It isn't hard to see where we're going next in the story, and the only tension that I'm feeling is wondering how in the world Katniss & Peeta, from the poorest district in the Panem, are going to find a way to topple, to overthrow, this horrible horrible regime.... ok, yes I see the makings of a fine story there, and by all accounts the rest of the series doesn't fail to deliver. Perhaps I'm a little too sensitive ...
The reactions of many of my students confirms my suspicions... that they don't see the horrible-ness of life in this world, but rather focus on how cool it would be to be able to blow other kids away... legally!
A Fistful of Sky Nina Kiriki Hoffman; I'm not really sure how to describe this interesting fantasy. It's a coming of age story with some very unpleasant family undertones (especially with the mother)... most of which get worked out in the end. It combines a couple of different fantasy ideas, witches, special powers, scary creatures, all in a modern family setting. All in all I think I really liked it, and will read more by this author (although the sequel to this story apparently isn't very good at all and wildly diverges from the fantasy genre).
The Truelove Patrick O'Brian; fifteenth book in the series, continues the journey across the Pacific (with stops in the Hawaiian Islands) with an added distraction of a young woman on board... exposes a side of Aubrey/O'Brian that I don't particularly like, and only minutely advances the story.
still, O'Brian's cutting wit and dry humor resound throughout the book... which is a very large part of the attraction of the series.
on Stephen Maturin asking Captain Jack Aubrey about the phrase "batten down the hatches". You must remember that Maturin has traveled around the world multiple times in a wooden ship with Aubrey at this point in the series...
"'Tell me, Jack, just how would you explain the term battened down?'
"A piercing look showed Jack that although this was almost past believing he was not in fact being made game of, and he replied 'First I should say that we talk very loosely about hatches, often meaning hatchways and even ladderways - "he came up the fore hatch" - which of course ain't hatches at all. The real hatches are the things that cover the hatchways: gratings and close-hatches. Now as you know very well, when a great deal of water comes aboard either from the sea of the sky or both, we cover those real hatches with tarpaulins.'
"'I believe I have seen it done,' said Stephen.
"'Not above five thousand times,' said Jack inwardly, and aloud 'And if it also comes on to blow and rain uncommon hard, we take battens, stout laths of wood, that fit against the coaming, the raised rim of the hatchway, and so pin the tarpaulin down drum tight. Some people do it by nailing the batten to the deck, but it is a sad, sloppy, unseamanlike way of carrying on, and we have cleats.'"
Patrick O'Brian, The Truelove, or, Clarissa Oakes, pp.124-5
Word of Honor Nelson Demille; DeMille tells a fictional 'what-if' story about the uncovering some 15 years later of a Vietnam atrocity set in the city of Huế during the Tết Offensive. Infuriating in it's accurate portrayal of media coverage, popular and political reactions, and the military's desire to always cover it's own ass at whatever expense... one wonders how long until we start seeing stories like this coming out of the current set of conflicts.
I do know that I was reminded of my earlier remark about sometimes wishing that I had been born into the generation that fought and lived through World War II.... I have NEVER had that same desire about the Vietnam War era.
Second Foundation Isaac Asimov; the third book in the original trilogy... continues the saga of the hunt for the Second Foundation. 70% exposition, lots of different guys sitting around explaining everything from the science of brain scans to how their own particular theory must be the right one...
sigh... as I've mentioned before, Asimov sets this entire story some 12,000 years into the future, where apparently students still get out of school for summer vacation, women are supposed to be seen and not heard, and cigar smoking is what every middle-aged man does when he relaxes. I can't imagine, fifty years into the future, my own son/grandson (daughter/granddaughter) reading Peter Hamilton or Alistair Reynolds with anything close to the same disbelief ...
A Talent for War Jack McDevitt; Alex Benedict is essentially a space-faring librarian/researcher with an archaeology-loving uncle who mysteriously disappears... and leaves a mystery behind that Alex of course sets out to solve. This was an audio book that I listened to over a period of several months, so unfortunately I kind of kept losing the thread of just exactly where the protagonist was, and who he was talking to... I liked the story, and should probably pick up a copy and read it.
Urban Shaman C.E. Murphy; pretty standard stuff, girl finds out that she's got super-paranormal powers and must learn how to use them very quickly so as to prevent disaster in the form of various bad guys/gods. I liked the supporting cast, the setting and the plot of this story... the ending not so much (it was kind of drawn out... then bang, it's over with little explanation as to what exactly happened), but I'm hoping that the series will improve as it goes along.
I know exactly what you mean about Asimov -- obviously a brilliant guy, but apparently completely unable to envision social structures very different from those he grew up with....
I have very mixed feelings about C.E. Murphy's Urban Shaman series; somehow I always seem to want to like them more than I actually do. Of course, I've never been a big fan of the Native American mythology / fantasy cross. What I believe is the final book in the series, Raven Calls is coming out next month, but I still have to read the one that came out next year. Don't get me wrong - there are many things I like about the series, or I wouldn't have kept reading them! I'll probably finish out the series next month.
Have you tried Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series? Moon Called is the first.
Maybe it was the mix of Native American/Celtic mythology that was slightly off-putting in Urban Shaman... but still I liked the story a lot, she/he just needs to work on ending them.
Moon Called looks very good and I'll add it to my ever growing list of authors and books.
Cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson; absolutely terrific! Filled with laugh-out-loud moments...(apologies in advance for the language...)
“Ronald Reagan has a stack of three-by-five cards in his lap. He skids up a new one: "What advice do you, as the youngest American fighting man ever to win both the Navy Cross and the Silver Star, have for any young marines on their way to Guadalcanal?"
Shaftoe doesn't have to think very long. The memories are still as fresh as last night's eleventh nightmare: ten plucky Nips in Suicide Charge!
"Just kill the one with the sword first."
"Ah," Reagan says, raising his waxed and penciled eyebrows, and cocking his pompadour in Shaftoe's direction. "Smarrrt--you target them because they're the officers, right?"
"No, fuckhead!" Shaftoe yells. "You kill 'em because they've got fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword?”
and the story of Randall Waterhouse's wisdom teeth... "the only way to extract them is with a guillotine" ...
I can't wait to continue reading Stephenson's books. He has moved very close to the top of my list of favorite authors based on this book alone. But it IS long... and it is filled with a lot of exposition on arcane minutiae (much like Moby Dick and Melville's fascination with whaling*); those things didn't bother me too much.
Read it if you like math and/or physics, cryptoanalysis, WWII history, or a good story.
*it's not nearly so bad as Moby Dick, I promise ;-)
I too find it funny how Isaac Aismov's future predictions are pretty off with the small things, like still using paper products and all that cigar smoking etc., and the fact that there are no devises like cell phones (I couldn't help thinking when Hari Seldon was stuck on top of a dome in Prelude why he didn't just get out his phone?). He was, I think, spot on with the social aspect though, but he was always known for his social science fiction. Still a classic read though and I will be reading the whole Foundation series this month.
I also think that after reading Clarkes 2001, every other one was a waste of my time (especially the conclusion). But I may just be biased as I have always had a hard time with Clarke.
Still I suspect that listing Differential Equations as one of my all time favorite college classes sets me apart from the majority of my neighbors...
I am desperately hoping that the rest of his books live up to the standard that he set in this book; if they even come close, he will be my new favorite author.
Soulless Gail Carriger; a nice introduction to a Victorian steampunk world inhabited by vampires, werewolves and assorted other nasties. A bit romancy for me, but the erotica wasn't overdone **coff coff Diana Gabaldon coff coff** so it didn't detract from the story. This series seems to be pretty well regarded here on LT, so I'll probably pick up the next book or two and continue reading.
The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood; this is a terrifying sequel (sidequel?) to Oryx and Crake... for some reason, this story made the whole end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario seem way more real and possible... thus much more scary. I love her creativity with the God's Gardener's sermons and hymns, and even found myself wishing that, I too, could be a God's Gardener... the ending is satisfying and wraps up both books rather neatly, althoughhhhhhh.... there is still a potential for further books.
Very good stuff and highly recommended.
but yeah, the sex trade/exploitation, drug use, repressive government, etc. can be offputting (and was why I didn't really care for The Handmaid's Tale).
I did enjoy these two books a lot more... maybe because I've found that I like the whole (post)-apocalyptic genre more than I used to. But I still won't read The Road.
Operation Mincemeat Ben Macintyre; audible book that tells a true story about the deception of the Nazi government/German army as to the destination of the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Reads like fiction... particularly interesting was the post-war coverup efforts carried on by the British government. Since the deception involved a dead man posing as a British officer, a body was needed ... and the way the body was obtained was ... well I won't spoil the story for any one who is interested. Recommended for those who like spy stories and/or WWII history.
The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras J. Michael Orenduff; um well... this story owes a lot to Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr stories. More or less the same idea in a different setting. And it's the setting that made this attractive to me, and allowed me to enjoy the story. Set in Albuquerque, Hubert Schuze is a middle-aged anthropologist/archeologist who owns and runs a pottery store in the downtown district who also steals pots (half the book is filled with justifications of why it's NOT stealing exactly, but rather a blow against our corrupt and inept gov't... yeah I know...). Comes complete with attractive single female friend who Hubie drinks with every day, a corrupt but good-hearted policeman, etc. etc. The mystery itself wasn't deep, but I enjoyed the information on artifacts, pottery, the making of pottery.
The Last Unicorn Peter Beagle; a quest story with interesting characters. I couldn't help but envision Antonio Banderas as the talking cat, Liv Tyler as Lady Amalthea, and Peter Beagle as a modern-day Lewis Carroll ...
Black Orchids Rex Stout; Stout has truly hit his mystery-writing stride in this book ... two stories featuring black orchids; the relationship between Wolfe and Archie Goodwin deepens and matures, the dialogue, motivations, etc. This is an extraordinary pair of mystery stories written by one of the best of all time.
The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi; count me amongst those who love this futuristic, semi-apocalyptic, terrifyingly possible story. While the science may not always be realistic or accurate (I went looking for physics information on 'kink-springs' with no success), the genetic engineering ideas are tantalizingly real and, as I mentioned already, terrifying. Very grim, very brutal, but an ending with some hope...
** and add another to my list of group reads completed on time ...
The Best American Sports Writing 2011 ed. Jane Leavy; I almost set this book aside at about halfway through, as it seemed that is was mistitled... The Best American Sports Writing about the Worst in American Sports seemed more appropriate. Stories about hockey schools teaching kids how to fight, multiple stories about entitled male athletes, coaches, and schools mistreating women, athletes in trouble with the law, etc. interspersed with stores about extreme(ly crazy, IMO) sports... and several stories that I wouldn't necessarily even consider being about sports.
Links in the following paragraph take you to the original publications of the stories...
But then I read another story that I liked a lot (even though, again, I'm not sure it's actually about 'sports'); Gentling Cheatgrass by Sterry Butcher. That story convinced me to keep reading, and I'm so glad I did! Several inspiring, tear-inducing stories fill the second half of this collection. Old College Try tells the story of Darryl Dawkins and where he is now; Life Goes On is an inspiring story about the death of boxer Paco Rodriguez, and the good that came out of his death; and finally, perhaps the most inspiring of all The Courage of Jill Costello describes Jill Costello's refusal to succumb to the ravages of lung cancer.
Read this collection if you love sports and sports-writing, and if you don't mind alternating between being extremely pissed off at one story and unabashedly crying about the next...
Recommended for anyone looking for a new setting for old tropes.
The Tight Collar explores the idea of choking under pressure and the "stereotype threat". Fascinating stuff, and raises many important questions about how we raise and educate our children.
The Wine-Dark Sea Patrick O'Brian; this series is like conversing with an old friend... you might not see them for days or weeks or even years, but when you do, you can pick up the conversation as if you had never parted. Aubrey & Maturin make it to the west cost of South America (finally, it's taken them three books to get across the Pacific), and are finally headed home. Stephen Maturin has some mountain adventures involving Incas and Llamas.... Jack Aubrey continues to snap up prizes and cargo ... all in all another completely satisfying episode.
Poison Study Maria V. Snyder; the premise that opens this book grabbed me and before I knew it I was half way through. A teenage girl, slated for execution after killing a general's son, is spared in order to become the food-taster for the ruler of the kingdom. The second half of the story was pretty obvious in where it was going, almost too much so, in that you wondered why the characters were so blind. Still, another good start to a fantasy series that I will be looking to continue.
After some contemplation, I realize that this is another story based on The Stockholm Syndrome. I've mixed feelings about that ...
- I'm exactly halfway through (18 out of 36) my Science Fiction category with the completion of Foundation's Edge (sometime today most likely);
- approaching halfway in my Fantasy category with 15 out of 36;
- lagging behind but still ahead of the pace in my Military Reading category with 10 out of 36;
- and finally, surprisingly, I'm doing very well in the Collections/Mysteries/Group Reads category with 11 out of 36 (and that's NOT counting the 2 group read books which are collected elsewhere).
- Group Reads actually completed during the scheduled month include Oryx and Crake and The Windup Girl
- I only have one TIOLO read, The January Dancer
- best reads of the year include The Windup Girl, The Year of the Flood, & The Graveyard Book
- most disappointing reads have to be the Foundation series
Summer is traditionally a good reading season for me, so it looks like a potential blowout so far as my challenge goes. We'll see ... I'm pretty much through the easy rereads (Asimov & Clarke), and still have some pretty hefty books on my list (Stephenson, Hamilton, Reynolds, Martin, et.al.) that I want to get through.
Gone For Soldiers Jeff Shaara; The good: terrific fictional account of the campaign to take Mexico City and end the Mexican-American war. Very good portrayal of Winfield Scott and many of the men who would later become the important generals in the Civil War. The bad: way too much introspection. Each of the chapters is written from the perspective of whomever Shaara is portraying at that moment. So we get to hear their (fictional) thoughts, fears, remorse, anger, etc... over and over. Robert E. Lee comes off as insufferably pious. Santa Anna as nothing more than an arrogant fool...etc again.
Still, it's an important story written about a neglected chapter in the military history of the United States, and clearly outlines some of the causes of the Civil War fifteen years later
Pardonable Lies Jacqueline Winspear; Maisie Dobbs takes on several different clients in this third installment. Perhaps too many ... as the coincidences pile up, the story starts lacking a bit of credibility. Still, a very good continuation of the series and Maisie faces and conquers a few of her own demons. I particularly liked the looming sense of the second war building, while survivors are still grappling with the aftermath of the first.
His Majesty's Dragon Naomi Novik; read this on the basis of liking Forester and O'Brian ... while I liked the story well enough and will continue the series ... it's not Forester and O'Brian. Or at least not yet. My son snatched it up on the basis of talking dragons (he's on a kick where he's reading everything with talking animals... The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, etc.) and loved it.
The Last Colony John Scalzi; third and final (well not really, but Scalzi SAYS it is in the afterword) installment in the adventures of Jane Sagan and John Perry. This time, through a somewhat Machiavellian set of events set into motion by humanity's own government ... the pair must save the human race from the rest of the universe. Good story even if a bit contrived. Zoe's Tale is up next.
I enjoy teaching AP Bio a lot... I make it stress free grade wise (in other words, if you're in the class and and make a reasonable effort, you're guaranteed at least a B) ... so I get the kids that really WANT to learn about biology. As opposed to the local community college dual credit biology class where the kids who want the credit for doing as little as possible gravitate...
Pacific Crucible Ian Toll; this was an audio book, so I often had to go online to find maps of the battles. Fortunately, I was already pretty familiar with the basic outlines of the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway... so I didn't lose much. Toll does a lot of biographical background on the leaders of both sides which I enjoyed very much. Also, particularly interesting was the economic and cultural information on the two countries in the years leading up to the war.
Key fact: in the years of the Russo-Japanese conflict (1905-ish), Japan was well known for their humane treatment of prisoners of war ... Russians WANTED to be captured, more food and better medical care. Toll talks about the changes in the Japanese society and government that led to a very different culture later on.
The Commodore Patrick O'Brian; after an extended around the world tour, our characters finally make it back to merry old England and ... Jack Aubrey appears to be back on track insofar as the British Navy goes... family-wise and business-wise etc, maybe not so much. Stephen Maturin, like Jack, has problems to deal with at home, but always manages to come out with a positive result.
Stephen Maturin may go down as one of the greatest characters written in this genre (or in any genre IMO)... his wit, enthusiasm, self-analysis and self-doubt, and mainly his determination to achieve whatever goals he has set for himself... well... read the books. See if you don't agree.
Snow Crash Neal Stephenson; haha what a fun, inventive, story this was! Dated by it's pizza-delivery beginnings, the Metaverse as an inspiration for the future Second Life, and religious-cult inspired rich bastards seeking to control the world ... very much a product of the times. Enjoyed it a lot... does nothing to detract from Neal Stephenson being my new FAVORITE AUTHOR.
Gentlemen of the Road Michael Chabon; inspired by all the "unlikely duo" "weary-traveler" stories ... I liked this easy-to-read story well enough ... but it left me wanting a bit more. I couldn't help but be amazed at Chabon's ability with words; his descriptions, settings, and dialogue were quite inventive, and he never used two or three words where 20 or 30 would work.
BTW, if you're not aware of it, Stephenson has a book supposedly coming out this fall- Some Remarks, Neal Stephenson. I think it's a collection of essays or some such.
personally I only played around in Second Life for a few weeks ... however I spent 3 1/2 years in Everquest, and ~5 years in World of Warcraft ... so, thank you Neal for those influences!
I, too, was disappointed by Crichton's State of Fear and related comments - I haven't felt the same about his books since, although I'm a fan of The Andromeda Strain, too.
I've started Gentlemen of the Road and Chabon's word choice and syntax are a hoot - so far, that's been the most entertaining part of the book!
Not Quite Dead Enough Rex Stout; Archie's in the army, doing secret stuff and solving problems... and has been ordered to secure Nero Wolfe's assistance in a particularly sticky problem (Wolfe, always a bit contrary, isn't interested in helping... rather he's in "training" so as to join the army and take care of the Germans personally... this idea alone makes this book worth reading). This is a pair of shorter stories revolving around the above storyline... pretty good stuff although perhaps not as good as the orchid stories in Black Orchids.
The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 ed. Harlan Coben; one of the better collections in the series that I've read so far... although only a few of the stories are truly 'mysteries' in the sense of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout... they tend more along the lines of Lawrence Block, Mickey Spillane, or Raymond Chandler (which isn't a bad thing is it?).
Favorites include Audacious by Brock Adams; Clean Slate by Lawrence Block (a riff off of his John Keller stories); and of course a terrific story by Max Allan Collins writing Mickey Spillane's terrific Mike Hammer (I suppose only mystery buffs will be able to make sense of THAT sentence)...
all in all, a superb collection... I had some difficulty picking favorites, and, unlike some of the others in this series, no difficulty in finishing the book.
The Greenhouse Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir; what a remarkable and lovely book! One hardly knows how to describe it... I picked it up because of the greenhouse/plant growing motif, but it is so much more than that! A coming of age story, subtle and dry humor, life lessons; there's a lot here in a short easy to read story that I will put on my must read again list.
The Atrocity Archives Charles Stross; first in a series about a super secret British organization (aptly named "The Laundry") set up to investigate and fight paranormal crime... a sort of tongue-in-cheek conglomeration of The Ghostbusters and Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next stories... without the humor and puns... the best part was the afterword where Stross discusses the mixture of Cold War spy novels and H.P. Lovecraft-type horror stories.
And what is up with the British fixation on officious evil bureaucrats?? I noticed it way back when I was reading Dick Francis horse racing stories... Is it just British writing or do I not notice it in American authors because they describe something a bit more familiar?
The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham; have read this book probably five times and am always amazed at how much I enjoy it... I guess that's one of the definitions of a "classic". A quick easy read and one that any fan of the apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre is very familiar with.
Blood Alone James R. Benn; this series set in and around World War II localities started as an interesting but shallow mystery series focusing on a Boston policeman with family ties to General Eisenhower ... however the writing has matured, as have the characters, and this installment (third in the series) is set in Sicily during the allied invasion... and is terrific! Billy Boyle meets the Mafia while dodging German Messerschmitts and less-than-fervent Italian and Sicilian fascists. Great historical setting sheds light on facts about a less well known campaign.
Swords and Deviltry Fritz Leiber; the original unlikely duo fantasy story. I read this story a long time ago ... loved it then, and love it now. Leiber has a way with words ...
“The Mouser sighed. The moment had come, he knew, as it always did, when outward circumstances and inner urges commanded an act, when curiosity and fascination tipped the scale of caution, when the lure of a vision and an adventure became so great and deep-hooking that he must respond to it or have his inmost self-respect eaten away.”
― Fritz Leiber, Swords in the Mist
The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham; another very good story by Wyndham, and one I had never read. Creepy ... this one could have gone under horror as easily as science fiction, and had a very satisfying ending.
The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy J. Michael Orenduff; Dr. Orenduff is having some issues with his publishers, when I contacted him about the availability of his books on the kindle (first they were, then they weren't... at present they still aren't) he graciously offered me a paperback copy of this story (signed and mailed at his own expense) ... the second in the series. And I loved it! I had a few reservations after reading the first in the series (The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, see review above), but those little niggles were absent in this second book...
The Hundred Days Patrick O'Brian; and the saga marches on. I will admit that I will probably shed a tear when I finish this series. Aubrey and Maturin have become part of my reading culture ... but I DO look forward to starting over next year ... so there's that. I had hoped that there would be a bit more information and incorporation of the great events of this short, but very important, period of history (Napoleon's escape from Elba and the Battle of Waterloo) ... but still a satisfying continuation of the series.
Science Fiction (I guess ...)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams; I read this years and years ago. I didn't get it then ... and I have to confess ... I still don't. I remember being extremely disappointed when I first read it ... I guess I was expecting a science fiction epic in the vein of Asimov or Heinlein. This is almost certainly why I don't quite get Terry Pratchett or Jasper Fforde, and probaly why I waited so long to try Neil Gaiman.
Considering that over 20,000 library-thingers marked the story as part of their collections, and have given it a cumulative rating of over 4.2, and that it currently ranks as the 42nd most popular book on the site... it HAS to be me!
I also don't care for sugar in my tea.
Dissolution C.J. Sansom; ahhh the casual brutality of the middle-ages. A word out of line as to religion or the king ... off with your head after a session or two on the rack! I very much liked Matthew Shardlake, our flawed hero, and have the next two books in the series ...
11/22/63 Stephen King; just finished listening to this... am too absolutely stunned by the ending... see comments below.
I included the following novel in my Science Fiction category, and that's probably where it belongs ... but it could also very easily be considered historical fiction.
11/22/63 Stephen King; I was four years old in 1963, so I don't really remember any kind of national trauma ... but I do remember my mother sitting with me as I looked at the pictures collected in a commemorative book that they had. It was a big thin maroon-colored book, and I remember being just a little frightened by the pictures and the book.
Stephen King taps into that bit of history perfectly in this novel. It may be his finest work to date. He could stop now and go down as one of the finest authors of this (or any) generation. But of course, he won't ... or he can't ...
I didn't 'read' this novel; I purchased it as part of an audible subscription, but I'm quite certain I will have to find a paper copy at some point. The book was narrated by Craig Wasson, who was terrific (and who sounded a bit choked up himself at the ending ... an ending he must have read over several times before narrating it for the recording).
I haven't read every one of King's stories, and didn't like some of those that I did read. This story, however, must enter near the top of the list of my favorites. The 'easter eggs' (references to previous stories which he almost always includes) were terrific and provide reasons to reread.
Ok I'm done. I was moved, I was entertained, I was thrilled ... read it!
The Face of a Stranger & A Dangerous Mourning both by Anne Perry; introducing William Monk & Hester Latterly, one a police inspector without a memory, and the other a nurse recently returned from the Crimean War (set right in the middle of the Victorian era, circa 1856). Both are intelligent, personable (although prickly at times), and fed up with the Victorian class system in England. Very good mysteries, although the second suffered a bit from repetition ... Monk (or Hester Latterly) would meet someone (his supervisor, the 'gentleman' of the house, etc) , they would insult him or berate him, Monk would bite his tongue to refrain from making sarcastic biting responses, etc... repeat in the next scene ... Regardless, I liked the stories very much and will look for the rest of the series.
I'm classifying the following story as a Fantasy tale... but it's a stretch...
The Terror Dan Simmons; a depressing, endlessly repetitive, historical fictional tale with some mythological fantasy elements. Fictional account of the doomed Franklin Expedition searching for the fabled Northwest Passage. The first 2/3 of the book leaves you shaking your head at the sheer stupidity of many of the characters and being extremely thankful that scurvy is something that most of us never have to worry about... the story is underlain by a Lovecraftian horror type story as the expedition comes apart from both within and without.
However, the last third of the book made up for some of the tedium of the first part, which is why I give it four stars and can recommend it. I know that there are several LT-ers who enjoy arctic/antarctic explorations stories and this would be a perfect addition to their reading lists.
Tricked Kevin Hearne; continuing the saga of Atticus O'Sullivan the Iron Druid. This time he takes on the Navajo mythology (along with some residual leftover issues with his Norse encounter) with the aid of his druid-in-training Grenuaille , Oberon, Coyote (whose help is dubious at best) and assorted other characters. A very satisfying continuation of the series.
I enjoyed the Native American mythological elements that were used to explain "The Terror". Knowing going in that the entire expedition was doomed to be lost ... the fact that one man found a life that he didn't expect was a bit of a reward for the seemingly endless slow death of the rest of the expedition.
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Mark Hodder; an odd little story about Victorian England, Sir Richard Burton, and a time-traveling steampunk plot ... not sure if I agree with the PKD award ... but who am I to judge?? I did enjoy the story, once I got the threads and the plot together, and it did inspire an interest into the life and writings of Sir Richard Burton (I've put a biography on my list for next year). I'm not sure how quickly I'll look up the sequels though...
Military Non-Fiction; a book I've been reading and enjoying for years.
An Army at Dawn Rick Atkinson; THE definitive history of the American side of the Allied campaign in North Africa ... often when reading this, I wondered who the REAL enemy was. Certainly the Germans were the boogeymen that prompted the whole thing, but officers and politicians spent far more time and energy promoting themselves and cutting down their rivals than they did in figuring out how to defeat the Germans. All of which was paid for in the blood of the common soldier. A terrific historical account of the campaign from beginning to end ... followed up by the sequel The Day of Battle, in which I'm sure we'll see more of the same ... in Sicily and Italy.
And another Science Fiction book that will likely garner some award nominations ...
Ready Player One Ernest Cline; I should have LOVED this book ... unfortunately I purchased the audible version which was read by ... wait for it ... Wil Wheaton!! Now I don't hate Wil Wheaton, I read his blog, and I find him very funny in his appearances in the The Big Bang Theory... but I DID get very tired of his voice in this book. Great story with loads and loads of terrific gaming and media references. I guess I'll try a reread sometime, but I'm afraid I'll still hear HIS voice ...
The Mezzo Wore Mink Mark Schweizer; continuing the small town antics of the residents of St. Germaine and the Episcopal church ... this episode includes christian nudists, a long-overdue marriage, and a Thanksgiving pageant called The Living Gobbler. Cute and fun as always.
Military Fiction. I need to get through the Sharpe's series so I can pick up some of Bernard Cornwell's other excellent historical fiction. But he wrote so many ...
Sharpe's Eagle Bernard Cornwell; another of his earlier Sharpe's stories ... less polished but more gritty writing. Following the British campaign under Lord Wellington in Spain. Good stuff!
and a classic Science Fiction novel that I'd put off reading for far too long.
The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury; Absolutely brilliant! I attempted to read Bradbury as a youth ... was disappointed to find this story wasn't anything like Robert Heinlein's Red Planet and set him aside. My loss! Cynical and astute, Bradbury writes with a lot of anger in his subtexts ... I'll be reading the rest of his work.
On further reflection, it strikes me that Bradbury was writing science fiction for adults, whereas Heinlein, Asimov, et.al. were writing for kids. So perhaps I can be forgiven for not exactly 'getting' Bradbury as a youth. As it turns out I much prefer Bradbury's stuff (as an adult) to Heinlein's 'adult' works.
The Crook Factory Dan Simmons; an astounding fictional account (although the author claims that 95% of the story is based on fact) of Ernest Hemingway's time in Cuba during World War II. In the first 100 pages we meet J. Edgar Hoover, Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich ... Dan Simmons is extraordinarily talented and this is an extraordinary tale. Highly recommended for fans of Hemingway, fans of spy stories, or anyone who just likes an action-filled story set in an exotic location.
Swords Against Death Fritz Leiber; continuing the saga of Faffyrd and the Grey Mouser, this book is more a series of short stories with little continuity between them. Wandering and exploring the land of Lankhmar ... Leiber sets a high standard for swords and sorcery fantasy stories.
and more classic Fantasy that I'm going to categorize into my Anthology collection ...
The Very Best of Charles de Lint Charles de Lint; this collection will go down as one of my all time favorites. Table of Contents. Favorite stories include Stone Drum, In the House of My Enemy (weeping by the end), Old Man Crow, and The Field Beyond the Fields. Read this collection if you like urban/mythic fantasy and see if you don't love it as much as I did.
Sharpe's Gold Bernard Cornwell; Sharpe and his men are sent on a desperate mission to save the army and the war ... another pretty girl, another villain, and another successful mission completed. I didn't get into this one quite as much ... the whole 'save the army and the war' idea wasn't really very believable and when we find out the use that the money will be put to in the end ... well ... meh.
Still, it IS Sharpe and it's still a good story told with a modicum of historical accuracy. Military Fiction
The Diva Wore Diamonds Mark Schweizer; haha oh this is more like it ... reverting to the style of his more hilarious first few stories, this story tells the tale of the youthful Tribe of Issachar and the Vacation Bible school Bible Bazaar ... the performance of Elisha and the Two Bears, a recently discovered mini-opera (written by our Chandler-loving protagonist) which includes the grand finale The Munching Dance ... very funny stuff. Mystery
Sgt. Frederick Troy actually only plays a bit part in this book ... the real focus is on a young American spy (well more of a spy-handler) trying to keep up with a defecting German who is spying for the United States ... jumps around quite a lot in the beginning, had a hard time keeping up with who was who, but midway through it settled down and became a pretty good wartime, spy/crime story. Lawton has an interesting style, which I like, and I will continue with this series ... Military Fiction
Ironman Chris Crutcher; another in the series of stories with swimming as an important aspect ... I like Crutcher's books, however occasionally they edge into the unbelievable ... I know that he is/was a family psychologist and I know that he has seen and heard amazing and horrifying things, and that these stories are the basis for his books. But I hope that if I ever encounter a father like the one portrayed in this story ... I won't meekly back down like many of Crutcher's characters. Good stuff if you don't mind just a small bit of unbelievability. Other
The Fire Rose Mercedes Lackey; I've long been a fan of Mercedes Lackey ... but I confess that I haven't read anything by her recently. The Fire Rose is not a new story (written in 1994) but I came across it while browsing the science fiction shelves at my library, picked it up, read a few pages and ... well I liked it very much. It's the first in a series of course, one that she's apparently continuing to write, so I'll look for the next ... Fantasy
I'd like to complete this series so that I can start some of Cornwell's other terrific historical books. I know I know, I could just read those others anyway ... but I'm a bit of an OCD completist so ... maybe ... Military Fiction
The Organist Wore Pumps Mark Schweizer; another in a series of stories that begin to run together (running together doesn't mean I dislike the stories ... it just means I can't keep straight what event occurred in which book). This one is the 8th tale featuring Hayden Konig, small town sheriff and episcopal organist ... funny as always and a must for cozy mystery lovers. Fantasy
Blue at the Mizzen Patrick O'Brian; the LAST in the series (I know, there's an unfinished story still out there lurking around) and I won't lie ... there were tears streaming down my face at the end. What an adventure! The ending wasn't unexpected (the title of the book gives it away), but the way O'Brian presents it is very moving. The humor is, as always, dry and hilarious:
“Go and see whether the Doctor is about,’ said Jack, ‘and if he is, ask him to look in, when he has a moment.’Military Fiction
Which he is in the fish-market, turning over some old-fashioned lobsters. No. I tell a lie. That is him, falling down the companion-way and cursing in foreign.”
**on reflection ... this story did have one scene that is definitely memorable. Nero Wolfe is being arrested, and he gets physical with a police inspector (actually punches the inspector!). Ha! Wolfe is not nearly as helpless as he might like you to believe ...
to date I have read:
27/36 Science Fiction; still need to complete Judas Unchained, Revelation Space, Drowned Cities, & something by China Miéville ... Perdido Street Station maybe
22/36 Fantasy; working on Clash of Kings & Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books
23/36 Military Fiction/Non-fiction; finished the Aubrey/Maturin books so can make some headway on the Sharpe's series, as well as continuing Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs's series, Anne Perry's excellent World War I books, and I'd like to continue John Lawton's Inspector Troy series. Oh yeah ... I've got The Landmark Herodotus lurking on my headboard
26/36 Collections/Mystery/Group Reads/Books that don't fit into other categories; never any problem finding things to read in this group ... working on the Best of 2011 anthologies, several science fiction anthologies, John Steinbeck in September etc ...
98/144 leaving 46 books to complete by December 12 2012 (like several others I have timed the completion of my challenge to coincide with the end of the world)
with just over 4 months remaining ... and looking at my reading habits, I should easily complete the challenge.
Preacher Vol. 1: Gone to Texas Garth Ennis; gritty & rough, love the premise, will definitely have to follow up
Fables: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham; not sure why the main tough guy has to constantly smoke in these comics ... like this series better than Preacher, more sex and love the expressions and the vocab used by the Three Little Pigs ...
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft Joe Hill; amazing stuff! Note to self ... READ MORE JOE HILL! The most interesting thing about this graphic is the tie-in to Stephen King's Duma Key ... who had the idea first I wonder (and who stole it it from the other??)?
Containment Christian Cantrell; won't say to much about the premise of this book lest I spoil it; being born and growing up on an alien world ... discovering secrets about your parents, and your leaders ... terrific suspense with a shocking twist in the end.
Leviathan Scott Westerfeld; had this book on my kindle for ages, knew it would be good (it's Westerfeld after all), finally got around to reading it ... and now I have Behemoth & Goliath on my kindle as well ... steampunk during WWI ... terrific stuff
have a happy holiday!