thewayne: (Default)
First, the car strangeness. The transmission seems OK, so crossable body parts crossed.

I listen to LOTS of podcasts when driving, sometimes lots of music. Depends on the mood. Yesterday, I was working through my short backlog of Intelligence Squared US podcasts through my car stereo when suddenly the sound died. Initially I thought maybe the podcast had been poorly produced and the audio had dropped from the recording. Nope, car battery had died! And this battery was about a year old! If I lived in Phoenix full-time, I might have accepted it as a dead battery, but not up here. I had been planning on finishing up and leaving soon, but that was definitely out of the question. Fortunately, after letting the car sit for another half an hour or so it started up.

I think the thing that killed it was that I forgot to turn the headlights off and the key was in the accessory position. I normally run with the headlights on all the time, so I'll have to be a little more mindful of that. Still, I'll get the battery and alternator tested today, just in case.

I've been working on clearing out the storage locker to eliminate $45 from our monthly expenses, and to just get rid of a bunch of crap and a lot of books that I have no interest in reading again. And I found two little treasures: Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings, and National Lampoon's Doon. I have to admit that I carefully cut out the very first page inside the cover of Bored of the Rings: it had a scene that does not appear in the book that was sort of a bodice ripper of a dark elf seducing Frodo, and I was afraid that my parents might throw it away if they saw that page.

I wonder when I bought it? First publication date is 1969, but I know I didn't get it when I was in the second grade. Still, mid '70s? Must've been something like that.

If I can work on my storage locker for a couple of hours daily, I think I can finish clearing it in 2-3 weeks. Lots of stuff to throw out, lots of books and stuff to take down to Alamogordo to a thrift shop, and then other stuff to bring up to the house. The thrift shop is only open until 3:00, so usually it's work on locker, then next day go to thrift shop to drop stuff off, then work on locker.

Then I have address our "library" in our house in order to clear out the storage pod in our front yard that we had to get after The Great Tree Incident of 2012. Once I can get rid of that, aside from saving another $65 a month, I can get our handyman up here and we can clear some scrub oak from our back yard which I suspect may be harboring a tick colony: we found one on our poodle Dante a couple of days ago. But I have a feeling that, while I might be able to clear the pod before the snow starts this year, the scrub oak won't get touched before next spring. Maybe I can get an exterminator up here in October to spray it down before the snow starts, but they're going to need a long hose.
thewayne: (Default)
Thanks (and thanks a lot!) to [personal profile] stardreamer ;-)

1. You currently own more than 20 books:
When I was in primary school.

2. You currently own more than 50 books:
Before I graduated high school.

3. You currently own more than 100 books:
What a ridiculous question. There have been years that I've bought more than 100 books, though not recently

4. You amassed so many books you switched to an e-reader:
I didn't switch to an e-reader because of having so many books, but because of being a computer guy and wanting to investigate new tech. Started with a Palm Pilot, went to an iPad, went through a couple of Nooks along the way. Never messed with a Kindle because of a dislike of Amazon's control over the Whispernet.

5. You read so much you have a ton of books AND an e-reader:
Definitely. And now buying a vast majority in ebook format vs dead tree editions. But that's mainly because we're likely to be leaving the country in a few years and I DO NOT want to be shipping a proverbial, if not literal, ton of books if I can get rid of them. I have so many books that I loved when I was young, and treasure having read them, but have absolutely no interest in reading again.

There's a saying/story/whatever, it could actually be a Zen koan, about a person with a huge and impressive library. Someone asks the person if they've read all of those books. The reply is "Of course!" Or the reply is "Of course not!" Though my collection falls in to both camps, I think I want to be in the latter.

6. You have a book-organization system no one else understands:
Not really.

7. You're currently reading more than one book:
I frequently have multiple books in process, though sometimes books get started and never finished. I think the record holder is Don Quixote, I really should download a Gutenberg copy and add it to my phone.

8. You read every single day:
Most certainly.

9. You're reading a book right now, as you’re taking this book nerd quiz:
Simultaneously? Not hardly.

10. Your essentials for leaving the house:
This is not a simple question. If I'm doing errands locally that do not involve a sit-down meal, it's just me and my cell phone and perhaps a camera or two. If it involves going to the observatory or down the mountain to Alamogordo or further but not a long-distance trip, then add in more camera equipment, my iPad (always loaded with books), and maybe a book and my traveling game collection. A long-distance trip requires further analysis before packing is determined.

11. You've pulled an all-nighter reading a book:
I suppose, but very rarely and when I was much younger.

12. You did not regret it for a second and would do it again:
I probably did not regret it but also probably would not do it again at my age.

13. You've figured out how to incorporate books into your workout:
Like Star Dreamer said, workout?

14. You've declined invitations to social activities in order to stay home and read:
No. It is very rare that I would decline an invitation to a social activity.

15. You view vacation time as "catch up on reading" time:
No. I will always take books with me while traveling, but vacation is to have fun and photograph. When we went to Germany/Czechoslovakia in '15 I had LOTS of ebooks on both my iPad and my Chrome laptop, plus many more loaded in my Dropbox account as I knew I'd have lots of airplane time. But aside from hotel room time, I didn't spend a lot of time reading -- too much to see!

16. You've sat in a bathtub full of tepid water with prune-y skin because you were engrossed in a book:
Nope. If I'm in a tub, I'm soaking because of either sore muscles or sick lungs. I prefer showers. How my wife is willing to risk reading fanfic on a laptop in the tub is beyond me.

17. You've missed your stop on the bus or the train because you were engrossed in a book:

18. You've almost tripped over a pothole, sat on a bench with wet paint, walked into a telephone pole, or narrowly avoided other calamities because you were engrossed in a book:
No, and people who don't pay attention to what they're doing and commit such acts should be publicly ridiculed.

19. You've laughed out loud in public while reading a book:

20. You've cried in public while reading a book (it’s okay, we won’t tell):
I don't think so, but possibly.

21. You're the one everyone goes to for book recommendations:
I have given recommendations before. The mother of a friend was a grade school teacher, and a student asked for some science fiction recommendations. Friend came to me. I made up a list, funneled it back, and later received a thank you note from the student!

22. You take your role in recommending books very seriously and worry about what books your friends would enjoy:
If asked, yes, I would take it seriously.

23. Once you recommend a book to a friend, you keep bugging them about it:
I wouldn't bug them, but I would ask them.

24. If your friend doesn't like the book you recommended, you're heartbroken:
I wouldn't be heartbroken, but I would be curious and would like to know so as to make a better recommendation. To each their own.

25. And you judge them.
Not hardly.

26. In fact, whenever you and a friend disagree about a book you secretly wonder what is wrong with them:
Not hardly.

27. You've vowed to convert a non-reader into a reader:
One year for my brother's birthday, I bought him a $25 book store gift card. He was heavily in to air brush and showed some talent. I thought he could get some magazines or a book on technique and learn some things. He doesn't read. He can read, he chooses not to. It went unused for ages, my mom finally gave it back to me and I got myself something. There's a line attributed to Mark Twain: The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

28. And you've succeeded:

29. You've attended book readings, launches, and signings: Yes.
Yep. Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Leslie Nielson, Sir Terry Pratchett, to name a few.

30. You own several signed books:
Yep. Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Leslie Nielson, Sir Terry Pratchett, to name a few.

31. You would recognize your favorite authors on the street:
Some of them. Some I would hope not to as they are deceased.

32. In fact, you have:

33. If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, you'd choose your favorite writer:
Probably not.

34. You own a first-edition book:

35. You know what that is and why it matters to bibliophiles:

36. You tweet, post, blog, or talk about books every day:
No. I talk about them often with my wife, but I wouldn't say daily.

37. You have a "favorite" literary prize:
No. I respect several, but I wouldn't call any a favorite.

38. And you read the winners of that prize every year:
Not really.

39. You've recorded every book you've ever read and what you thought of it:
I've started getting more consistent at doing that.

40. You have a designated reading nook in your home:
No. I wish I did, but I do not.

41. You have a literary-themed T-shirt, bag, tattoo, or item of home décor:
I have a few t-shirts. My favorite item is two USB flash drives that look like library card catalog drawers from the Unshelved Kickstarter drive.

42. You gave your pet a literary name:
Heh. Yeah, I'd say Dante is a literary name.

43. You make literary references and puns nobody else understands:
Oh, most certainly. And my wife has become a bit of a punner.

44. You're a stickler for spelling and grammar, even when you're just texting:
I do my best. My grammar is not perfect, but I do my best with spelling. Having a browser underline spelling errors certainly helps.

45. You've given books as gifts for every occasion:
For many occasions, yes. Every? No.

46. Whenever someone asks what your favorite book is, your brain goes into overdrive and you can't choose just one.
No. Too many different categories that have great books. Plus, tastes change. I loved Douglas Adams 30 years ago, now I view him as a one-trick pony who could have been so much more.

47. You love the smell of books:
Well, sorta. But not enough to prevent me from dumping most of my physical collection to clear space.

48. You've binge-read an entire series or an author's whole oeuvre in just a few days:
Definitely. But only for smaller series, say less than a dozen books. If I can't easily carry the entire series without a box, forget it. I've binged the Vorkosigan series, and very recently Elizabeth Moon's Vatta series in preparation for her (now released) new book.

49. You've actually felt your heart rate go up while reading an incredible book:

50. When you turn the last page of a good book, you feel as if you've finally come up for air and returned from a great adventure:
There have been books that I've read that were that good.
thewayne: (Default)
6/29 Too Like The Lightning, Ada Palmer (hf)
6/18 Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (hf)
6/15 The Obelisk Gate, NK Jemisin (hf, abandoned)
6/14 All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (hf)
6/12 A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers (hf)
6/9 Guardian, Joe Haldeman

5/24 Through Five Administrations (ProjG), William Crook
5/20 In The Merde For Love (P), Clarke
5/16 Swords and Deviltry, Fritz Lieber
5/9 Master & Commander, Patrick O'Brian

4/28 Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale
4/26 Alien Plot, Piers Anthony
4/26 Infinite Dreams, Joe Haldeman
4/22 To The Vanishing Point, Alan Dean Foster
4/17 Victory Conditions, Moon
4/16 Command Decision, Moon
4/13 Engaging the Enemy, Moon
4/11 Marque and Reprisal, Moon
4/8 Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon
4/6 A Year in the Merde, Stephen Clarke (p)
4/5 There Is No Darkness, Joe and Jack Haldeman

I've started doing some coding: (P) means physical copy, all others are ebooks. (ProjG) is from Project Gutenberg, and (HF) is Hugo Finalist. I only coded the novels even though I also read all of the novellas, novelettes, short stories, and Campbell nominees.

Like Movies, going from oldest to newest reads.

There Is No Darkness. Love me some Haldeman, and getting both brothers together is all the better. A novel set in a far space-flung future of a school traveling around, educating its student inhabitants. Quite a story, quite a commentary on culture.

A Year in the Merde is yet another Stephen Clarke comic French travelogue romance stories. They're lots of fun, lightweight reading. It's the first in the series about Paul West, a Brit marketing specialist who goes to Paris to consult in establishing a French chain of English tea rooms. It's a fish out of water series that's fun and weird, has a bit of a Pink Panther feel to it.

Elizabeth Moon's Vatta series: Trading in Danger, Marque and Reprisal, Engaging the Enemy, Command Decision, and Victory Conditions. Elizabeth Moon does an excellent job of writing space war. First off, she's an ex-Marine. She knows military training, procedure, and protocol. The books revolve around the Vatta family and their space shipping empire. Their daughter, Ky, is soon to graduate the space navy academy when a scandal gives her the choice: resign her commission and leave silently, or face a full courts martial an be stripped of her commission and thrown in the brig. She resigns. As she is a rated captain, her father gives her an old beater transport with a fairly simple task: take it on its final trade run then take it to the breakers and sell it for scrap. Buy tickets for the entire crew to come home. Of course, nothing can possibly be that simple. VERY bad things happen, enough to fill five books. I re-read them as Ms. Moon has released the sixth book of the series and I wanted to refamiliarize myself with the story, even though she insists that isn't strictly required. I'm very glad that I did as I had forgotten so much, and it is really an excellent series for the genre. Lots of character growth, lots of interesting space battles. She handles Newtonian motion in zero-G without getting bogged down in details like David Weber does in the Harrington books: some people like that, I tend to gloss over it. Anyway, definitely and enthusiastically recommended. The new book is Cold Welcome, it's book 1 of the Vatta's Peace series. She's on LJ at and her web site is at She has a second space series known as the Serrano Legacy and an interesting magic/fantasy series known as Paksworld. Since I'm now finished with Hugo reading, I really should get ahold of Cold Welcome, though the new Charles Stross Laundry book should be arriving today....

To The Vanishing Point by Alan Dean Foster is one of his that I'd never heard of. An LA family has rented an RV and is driving to Las Vegas for vacation when they pick up a woman by the side of the road in the middle of the dessert. And their life changes forever! [cue ominous music] I've been a big Foster fan for a very long time, though I won't claim to have read everything he's written, nor do I try to, but this one is weird. The woman has one job in the world: to keep reality from unraveling. And now the family, through the act of picking her up, is part of that effort and has to see it through to the end. If they fail, reality falls in to chaos, perhaps forever. To be honest, this was not my cup of tea. It had interesting elements, but I just didn't care much for it.

Infinite Dreams, another Joe Haldeman. In this case, it is a collection of short stories. Lots of good stuff, too many to talk about specifics.

Alien Plot by Piers Anthony is another collection of short stories. I started reading Anthony ages ago: Xanth was a young series, I read the Bio of a Space Tyrant series, the Incarnations of Immortality series, the Blue Adept series, and I doubt I'll read anything else by him. I stopped reading him probably when he finished Incarnations of Immortality, I'd long-since stopped reading Xanth by then. And after reading Alien Plot: yeah, I think I'm done with him. My tastes have changed and there are a number of authors whom I really enjoyed when I was young that I just don't care for anymore.

Catch Me If You Can is Frank Abagnale's autobiography. He is an amazing person who evaded the FBI for years and has a Tom Hanks/Leo DiCaprio movie made about him of the same title detailing his exploits. He was an amazing hustler, an expert at acting like an airline pilot to cage free rides around the world, cashing bogus checks to fund his lifestyle. He figured out how to exploit weaknesses in the banking system, including how to make his own checks with magnetic ink to maximize the time it took to detect the forgery. Everything finally crashed down on him in France, where he spent several months in a horrible prison. He was released to be transferred to a Swedish prison for a year where he found out that he was about to be bounced from country to country where he'd committed fraud, unless a Swedish judge revoked his passport, in which case he'd be immediately flown to the USA to stand trial, and they wouldn't extradite him from there. When the plane came in for a landing at La Guardia, he exploited his knowledge of aircraft to go to the bathroom, remove the toilet from the floor, and escape. The service hatch frequently popped open on landing, triggering an idiot light in the cockpit, and it happened often enough that it was ignored. It wasn't looked in to until the plane had taxied to the terminal, at which point Frank had run across the airport and was long gone. I'd read this before and it is an amazing read. He never committed any violent crimes, just fraud. Highly recommended, and it'll probably put a smile on your face. Frank is now consulting to show businesses how to protect themselves against fraud and social engineering as he pretty much created that industry.

Master and Commander is the first book in the sea-faring series by Patrick O'Brian, which I had never touched until now. I quite enjoyed it, and now have a greater than zero understanding of nautical terms. Very good stuff, but I won't be pursuing the series very diligently. My wife has some of the Hornblower books, I might check in to those, and we'll see what my free/cheap ebook newsletters pop up.

Swords and Deviltry is the first Fafhred and the Grey Mouser book by Fritz Lieber. Classic sword and sorcery stuff, I devoured all of them when I was a teen and in my 20s. While it was fun to re-read this book, I have now re-read it and have no desire to re-read any more of them.

In The Merde For Love is the continuing adventures of Paul West in France by Stephen Clarke. Paul is now working on establishing his own tea shop in Paris, and trying to find love. Fun stuff, an interesting perspective of France and Paris.

Through Five Administrations by William Crook is a very unusual book. Crook was a Washington, DC policeman who was part of the protection detail for President Abraham Lincoln, he was not on duty the night that Lincoln was assassinated. This book is a memoir of his work in the White House of his work with Lincoln and the four subsequent administrations and their families. Quite an interesting perspective on the politics of the day, also an interesting alternative take on how English usage has changed over the last 150 years. And it's free online and for ebook readers through Project Gutenberg.

Guardian, another Joe Haldeman, is more fantasy than science fiction except that it deals in alternative universe theories of time/dimension travel. It starts right around the time of the Civil War and revolves around a woman and her son and their life that ultimately leads them to the Alaska Gold Rush. There's no hard, gadget-based, sci fi in this, so I lean towards classing it as fantasy with sci fi concepts. Very interesting stuff with some exploration of Alaskan myths. Haldeman lived there as a kid with his family for several years.

Now we get in to Hugo stuff!

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers is the second volume following A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet, which I read in late December. I really like Becky Chambers' writing, I find her description of the general environment to be kind of evocative of Firefly and Douglas Adams. This book is loosely a continuation of the first, but only loosely. At the end of the previous book, a mature AI dies and is reset and can't really continue where she's at as it distresses everyone around her. So she's put in to a body that does a remarkable job of simulating a human and goes off to live with a junker/tech who can help her adapt. Every other chapter is back-story of the tech, which is an interesting story device. The whole book is huge amounts of character growth, which I really liked. It's all about the AI re-learning who she is/was and learning to be a better person and the junker reclaiming part of her past. Very fun stuff, and I'm quite looking forward to the next book. The first book was self-published and could have benefited from some editing rigor. This book shows much more polish. I really look forward to seeing what Ms. Chambers comes up with in the future, she's on my Will Buy list.

All The Birds In The Sky by Jane Anders is a mix of science fiction and fantasy. A young girl learns that, in certain circumstances, she can talk to birds and apparently she's a witch. A young boy, who's more or less a tech genius, learns that the girl can provide him an alibi with his parents to make it look like he's being active outdoors. Years past and lots of things happen, including the ecological collapse of the planet. It's a bit of a downer, but very well crafted and quite interesting: I really enjoyed reading this book and it well-deserved the Hugo nod.

The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemison is book 2 in a series and I was not impressed. And I hate to say it, but I abandoned this book. I didn't want to, but she did was I've learned is an increasingly common literary trope: second person writing. You do this, you do that, you look there, you say this. That really put me off. But that wasn't all, it was just the story itself that did it. The story was too dependent on the first book to understand the environment and what was going on. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Regarding second person, when I got to the short stories I was reading one that was published in Uncanny called If You Stay Here You Shall Surely Drown, and it is also written in second person. I didn't mind that. It was more the story than the perspective of the narration that put me off. Besides, a story will be in last place, and if I like other books more, it won't take much to be knocked to the bottom.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee was, excuse the profanity, absolutely fucking amazing. Space war plus Chinese dynastic stuff plus Chinese mysticism. Wow. It wasn't strictly speaking magic, but nigh unto. The empire and its armies/fleets strategies and tactics are based on calendrical cycles and geometry. Sort of the ultimate expression of horoscopes and feng shui. Geometry will determine battle formations, and breaking an enemy's formation can determine victory. Lee does not get bogged down in the numbers, which I appreciate. The core of the story is an officer sent on a special expedition to suppress some calendrical heretics which threaten the stability of the empire. To overcome them, they must resurrect the greatest traitor the empire has ever scene, who is also the greatest general. His consciousness has been preserved even though his body was destroyed. And since she suggested it, she gets to host him. And the heretical rebellion turns out to be much more than it seems. This is the first book of a series or trilogy, I'm not sure which. And it is really, REALLY good. This was a page turner for me, I look forward to reading more of them.

Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer was another WOW book. Palmer is also up for a Campbell award for Best New Author, and I think she stands a solid shot at it. Solid future earth science fiction, but also very different. It's also very hard to describe. It has a feel of Cory Doctorow, in that countries are no more, people can now identify themselves in multiple ways as member of multiple groups. This determines voting blocks and elections for leadership. It's kind of complicated. For example, one group controls all air car routing, another controls everything concerning space travel and anything outside of earth's atmosphere. Another with law enforcement between major clans. There is no longer such a thing as capital punishment. If someone commits murder, or even multiple murders, they're stripped of all affiliations and sentenced to manual labor as a Servitor for anyone who will have them. The people who have them working for them give them food for their labor: if they don't work, they don't eat. It's more complicated than that, but like I said, it's hard to describe and it takes a long time for it to be fully explained in the book. The plot of the book is a theft takes place. Each of the major clans publishes a list of their projection of what the vote results will be in the next leadership election. Very important stuff. The theft is from one of the most respected papers. There's no blackmail, no murder, just stealing a piece of paper. But it sends ripples throughout the world of the ruling elite. And as the book progresses, it turns more and more sordid. Very much looking forward to future books in the series.

Simply put, Too Like The Lightning and Ninefox Gambit are the two best books that I've read this year, and the year's just half over. Absolutely amazing. It makes me kick myself repeatedly that I haven't bought supporting memberships for Worldcon in the past, but I'll definitely get them in the future! Just too much good stuff, and too many authors to look forward to!
thewayne: (Default)
I knew I read Cixin Liu's Three-Body Problem last year, but I couldn't find a record of it! What's worse, I couldn't find a copy of it on my computer! The reason why I was looking for it is that I'm reading the Hugo Finalists for the Worldcon voting and his third book in the series is nominated, unfortunately I haven't read the second, but I think there's a considerable time lapse between the subsequent books.

Fortunately I found email evidence of when I read it (9/26), so here's an abbreviated mention of it.

This book, the first of Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, revolves around a strange and immersive video game that runs multiple generations resulting in total destruction of the game environment because of three suns have unpredictable and unstable orbits. It's actually a four-body problem because you also have the world that the game takes place upon: eleven other worlds in the system have been consumed by the suns. The culture survives incineration by dehydrating themselves and the husks being stored in deep underground vaults, waiting to be rehydrated some day when society has recovered.

It's a strange book that ties China's cultural revolution to modern times to extraterrestrial contact. Cixin Liu is an amazing writer with something on the order of eight Chinese Hugo awards to his credit. This and the third book of this series, Death's End, are translated by Ken Liu. The second book, The Dark Forest, was translated by Joel Martinsen. To cite Wikipedia, "The work was serialized in Science Fiction World in 2006, published as a book in 2008 and became one of the most popular science fiction novels in China. It received the Chinese Science Fiction Galaxy Award in 2006. A film adaptation of the same name is scheduled for release in 2017. ... It won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel and was nominated for the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel."

And that brings my 2016 total to 48 books read recreationally.
thewayne: (Default)
It is truly one heck of a deal.  Work by Asimov, Bradbury, Ellison, Clarke, Zelazny, and many more.  You can spend as little as a dollar and get eight books, but if you pay the full $20, you get FORTY ebooks, and anyone can pick up a free app with 31 short story by the 2016 Nebula nominees.

The sale is available for another 13 days.  A portion of sales go to the SFWA Givers Fund, but you can also select from a list of charities.

You can't beat that with a stick!  You can't.  It's a web site, it's an HTML text file, it's just ones and zeroes.  Well, you could beat your computer with a stick, but where would that get you?  You'd end up with a broken computer, and that doesn't help anyone.

thewayne: (Default)
1/2 Miniatures: The Very Best Short Fiction of John Scalzi
1/5 Twenty-Sided Sorceress 1-3, Annie Bellet
2/11 Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson

1/06 Sing
1/07 Hidden Figures
1/25 The Founder
2/11 Resident Evil: Final Chapter
2/19 Lego Batman 3D
2/21 The Great Wall
3/07 Logan
3/27 Beauty and the Beast (2017)

I figured that if I could consistently do this quarterly that it would be a lot less work than trying to do everything early next year!

This new release by Scalzi is a collection of some of his short work, in some cases, very short. Lots of fun stuff if you like Scalzi, including a multi-part work about going back in time to kill Hitler and what the repercussions would be. Fun stuff.

Twenty-Sided Sorceress, 1-3. This collection of three books: Justice Calling, A Murder of Crows, and Pack of Lies is a YA series about a woman living in a town of witches and werewolves who just happens to be a sorceress, a type of practitioner who is not trusted in the magic community. The reason for the mistrust is fairly simple: when a sorcerer/ess kills someone, they can suck their power and add it to their own (except for weres). Jade Crow is keeping a low profile, running a comic book/game store, when Bad Things Start To Happen. Most of it is because of her ex-boyfriend, a sorcerer who trains up neophytes then kills them to suck their power, decides it's time for her to die. She escaped before he thought she was ripe for the plucking. This was an impulse ebook buy and a lot of fun, though a tad Mary Sue-ish. The characters were decently-done, and you definitely don't want to mess with Jade when she has her mean on. When I can find a collection of the subsequent books I'll probably buy them, but I'm not going to actively seek them out. These three books set up the confrontation, but the battle with the ex won't be for another book or two at least.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. I don't normally read RomComs, though I do occasionally like them in the movies. Something about the description of this one intrigued me, so again, impulse buy. It's a contemporary setting in rural East Sussex about a retired English Army Major whose brother has an unexpected heart attack and dies. The Major has been alone for several years since his wife died, has never gotten along particularly well with his sister in law, and his son is a rather alien financier in The City. He's rather staid in his ways, and things come to a head with his brother's death. The Major's grandfather was a war hero in India and was awarded a pair of Churchill fowling pieces for service in rescuing the family of an Indian prince. The guns, as a matched set, are worth a very respectable amount of money. And his father, upon his death, gave each of the boys one of the shotguns, with the understanding that on the passing of one brother, the gun would be returned to the other. Alas, he didn't explicitly spell that out in the will. And the sister in law, and his son, know the guns are quite valuable and are trying to press the Major to sell his piece along with the other and split the proceeds. But that's just one story thread. The real 'Last Stand' is the Major slowly falling in love with a Pakistani woman who runs the town's shoppe. She is also a widow, and also a tremendous lover of books. Except for skin color and people talking, they are an ideal couple. The story of their relationship, and the difficulties in their getting together, is very well woven (IMO). What I found most interesting is that this is Helen Simonson's first published novel! Her second novel was released earlier this year and is not a continuation, which I'm both glad and not happy with. The book is in development as a movie, and I think it should be a lot of fun if they do a good job.

Sing. While it is a new year, I would class Sing as one of the better animated movies that I've seen in the last year. Excellent story, and amazing character acting. And it's sitting on the coffee table in front of me, I expect to watch it again soon.

Hidden Figures. What a movie! While there was no chance it would win the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, it certainly deserved the nomination. It tells the story of black women, mathematicians, working on the space program to launch the first American (man, of course) in to space and later the moon landings. Just an amazing movie. It definitely felt time-compressed, but lots of movies have to do that to cover the key points of the material and to get them in to one movie.

The Founder. Again, what a movie! But I also cannot blanket recommend this movie to just anyone. It's the story of Ray Kroc and the founding of McDonald's, though it might be more accurate to describe it as the theft of McDonald's. Kroc was a literal traveling salesman, selling milk shake mixers to drive-in restaurants. It wasn't exactly making him rich, then he receives a major order from two brothers running a little restaurant in California. He drives out there to see why they needed so many machines, and in a contrast to the slow and messy teen hangouts that he had been selling to, he sees a clean operation where people line up to order at a window and are handed a bag with their burger and fries. It blows his mind, and he talks the owners in to letting him franchise the operation. The dark side of this movie is that Ray is a pretty evil and conniving person, ultimately taking even the name from the founders. He was quite a slime ball, at least as shown in this movie, so it's hard to know how much is accurate and how much exaggeration or just pure fiction. I've been a fan of Michael Keaton for a long time, and he does an outstanding job of portraying Kroc.

Resident Evil: Final Chapter. Guilty pleasure movie. I've seen all of the Resident Evil movies and own the first couple, and just had to finish out the series. And it stays true to form: lots of zombie blasting, the evil Umbrella Corp., etc. A good wrap-up for the franchise. Basically a pretty decent shoot-'em-up, nothing terribly deep here. Basic popcorn movie with very good stuntwork and fight choreography.

Lego Batman 3D. Another guilty pleasure movie. I hadn't seen the previous The Lego Movie, but I had friends recommend it. And there was a certain silly vibe of this movie that really resonated with me. One evening while my wife and I were in Phoenix for the renaissance festival, we went to the movies. And in this case, the plural is accurate: she once again saw Star Wars: Rogue One, I saw Lego Batman. Lots of fun, pure silly. I absolutely loved the villains saying Pew! Pew! as they fired their blasters! AND as a bonus, I got a Lego Batman bag of Lego parts, which I haven't assembled yet. I think it's for the Bat Wing. Lots of good call-outs to the Adam West TV series and the previous live movies. And I expect I'll buy it, it'll be a good 'too sick to work' movie for watching when suffering from brain death and unable to sleep.

The Great Wall. Lots has gone on in the last few years with Caucasian actors appropriating Asian roles, but that's not really the case here. This is an original work with Caucasians in addition to Chinese casting. Yes, Matt Damon is a star, but he's not the only hero in this film and not remotely the best hero. The director, Zhang Yimou, denies the 'White Savior' trope, and I agree. The Washington Post critic says Damon is "heroic, but also clearly a foil for the superior principles and courage of his Chinese allies." It's a basic monster movie, but with some good twists. Lots of fun, I've seen it twice and will consider picking it up. It's not a giant monster movie, but the monsters are quite good. Amazing stunts and mass battle scenes. Right now it is one of four movies to make more than $100million in China while not making that much in the USA. While it made good money in Asia, it's considered a loss in the USA excluding the aftermarket of digital sales and broadcast.

Logan. Granted, I only saw eight movies in the first quarter of the year. This, hands-down, is perhaps the best of the bunch. For an X-Men movie, sort of, it's a fantastic story and does an excellent job of wrapping up Hugh Jackman's and Patrick Stewart's roles as Wolverine and Professor X. VERY gritty, VERY violent, it definitely earned its R rating. There's not much to say about the movie without giving too much away because it has a heck of a story. There's obviously a 'rescue seemingly innocent young child from bad guys' that's seen in the trailers, but it's so much more than that. If you're a fan of Jackman's and Stewart's X-Men movies, this is an absolute must-see. And as a bonus for me, it's initially set in El Paso, so a lot of the scenery was very familiar.

Beauty and the Beast (2017).
I was whelmed. It was a decent enough movie, and the visuals were stunning, but it just didn't grab me the way that I expected to be grabbed. As much as I love Emma Watson, she's not a singer: they autotuned some or all of her songs. The saving grace for me was the animation of the transformed household items and their voice-acting, but also Kevin Kline. You just can't go wrong with Kevin, and his song is truly touching. Plus, he can sing. After seeing him in Pirates of Penzance (the movie, sadly not the actual production), boy is he a great comic actor! Granted, his role in this movie doesn't have much in the way of comedy, but still, he excels. Still, I wanted more and the movie just didn't deliver, and I can't really put my finger on what didn't work for me.
thewayne: (Default)
The Coming, Joe Haldeman
Dial M for Merde, Stephen Clarke
The Drawing of the Dark, Tim Powers
The Finishing School series, Gail Carriger
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMasters Bujold
I, Iago, Nicole Galland
Jam, Yahtzee Croshaw
The Last Defender of Camelot, Roger Zelazny
Lock In, John Scalzi
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
Mogworld, Yahtzee Croshaw
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
Those Who Hunt The Night, Barbara Hambly
The Worlds Trilogy, Joe Haldeman

Most of these books did not release in 2016, and I’m specifically including re-reads. Again, in alphabetical order.

The Coming, Joe Haldeman. Interesting take on the alien invasion/humans from the future motif. His depiction of a future USA badly affected by climate change and environmental ruin is not a pretty picture.

Dial M for Merde, Stephen Clarke I went in to a book store looking for Clarke’s books, they looked them up on the computer and we learned they were in the travel section. WTF?! Some of his books are indeed travel-related, but they should probably be under general fiction. I finally got the first book of his Merde series. I’ve been side-tracked and haven’t made much progress on it of late, but off-hand, I’d say Dial M is better.

The Drawing of the Dark, Tim Powers. I’m not much of a fantasy guy, much less historic fantasy, but Tim Powers does an amazing job with this book. This may well become a regular re-read.

The Finishing School series, Gail Carriger is definitely among the best that I read this year. Very fun romp of a YA series.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMasters Bujold. While I will (very briefly) hesitate to say that pretty much anythng by Bujold is deserving a Best nod, this is a great book in the Vorkosigan series.

I, Iago, Nicole Galland. Excellent alternative take on Othello. Shakespeare’s characters, by the nature of the plays that they’re in, are kind of shallow when it comes to knowing their motivations. You may know more about the historic characters that are often used, but not always. This is one heck of a study of Othello that doesn’t excuse what Iago does and doesn’t change the play, but it does give a lot more depth to the setting of the play.

The Last Defender of Camelot, Roger Zelazny. While most of what I read was fairly recent, and no others were short story collections, Last Defender is a heck of a collection of short stories from an excellent master of times past. The title story is one of my favorite short stories of all time.

Lock In, John Scalzi. Lock-In Syndrome is a real thing and doctors have figured out ways to communicate with locked-in victims. But in this case a new virus causes a huge explosion in the number of lock-in patients, and technology rises to the occasion and develops technology that allows communications and telepresence mobility for them, all spurred by government incentives and public pressure after the President’s wife falls to the illness. I don’t know if Scalzi is planning on more novels in this line, I think they could be good if he takes his time releasing them.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers. This is, I think, definitely one of the best books that I read last year. It’s a really amazing debut novel that at times feels like Firefly, at other times more like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I really like her work and look forward to reading more of it.

Mogworld and Jam, Yahtzee Croshaw. Yahtzee is, as demonstrated by his work, really weird. One might say he’s an Australian Douglas Adams, but with a better work ethic. If I were to rank my Best Of list, these two would trend towards the bottom, but they’re still remarkable stories.

Seveneves, Neal Stephenson is another definite Best, but that goes for all of the Stephenson books that I’ve read. I hope to read more of his work soon.

Those Who Hunt The Night, Barbara Hambly. I’m not a huge fan of supernatural horror, but I loved the concept that vampires are being murdered and only a human can help them. The fact that he’s a former British agent who is now a college professor made me all the more intrigued.

The Worlds Trilogy, Joe Haldeman. My wife had a teacher (or possibly friend, I don’t remember) comment that you can’t trust a writer to write believable aliens if they can’t write believable women. This is always a problem that I’ve had with Heinlein. It might be a product of the times that he grew up in, or perhaps it’s just my taste and observation. Be that as it may, I think this trilogy out-Heinlein’s Heinlein. The female protagonist is resourceful, powerful, and feels a lot more real than RAH’s heroines. I’ll still re-read RAH occasionally, but I’ll be thinking of Maureen O’Hara when his women appear.
thewayne: (Default)
10/16 Baen Free SciFi Stories 2011
10/22 The Drawing of the Dark, Tim Powers
10/26 Baen Free SciFi Stories 2012
11/03 Baen Free SciFi Stories 2013

11/11 The Purloined Poodle, Hearne
11/15 Egg and Spoon, Gregory Maguire

12/02 Etiquette & Espionage, Finishing School 1, Gail Carriger
12/04 Curtsies & Conspiracies, Finishing School 2, Gail Carriger
12/07 Waistcoats & Weaponry, Finishing School 3, Gail Carriger
12/10 Manners & Mutiny, Finishing School 4, Gail Carriger
12/14 The Coming, Joe Haldeman
12/18 Mogworld, Yahtzee Croshaw
12/20 Jam, Yahtzee Croshaw
12/21 Monstrous Fellowship, AO3
12/24 The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
12/30 The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

I’ve known about the Baen Free Library for a long time. They used to include CDs in the back of high-value writer hardbacks, such as David Weber. I even hosted CD contents on my web site, an act that was sanctioned by Baen. Well, I was surfing their site looking for a particular book (which I didn’t find) and came across these short story collections. I’m a sucker for short story collections, as witnessed by reading three of them in one month. While I can’t really comment on any in particular, they were all fun reads.

The Drawing of the Dark was a very cool story, basically talking about the Ottoman invasion of Austria, and stopping the Turks required a very important item: beer. Excellent story, I don’t recall if it was part of a series that I should be looking for.

The Purloined Poodle is a short novella set in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. While I read this series, I was unaware of this particular publication until a friend of mine turned me on to its impending release. As it turns out, it was already out, and I snagged a copy from iTunes and devoured it before my friend got his. Fun stuff if you like the Iron Druid series.

Egg and Spoon is by Gregory Maguire, the writer who brought us the alternative tale of The Wizard of Oz called Wicked. This particular book is sort of a Disney swapped princess tale where a peasant girl in Russia accidentally swaps places with a princess and a Faberge egg containing not just an image of The Thunderbird, but the actual Thunderbird itself is lost. So it’s a double adventure with both girls trying to fix things, along with guest stars such as Baba Yaga and Rasputin. A very fun read.

The Finishing Girl Series by Gail Carriger was a tremendous amount of fun. The series is steam punk set in Victorian England in a reality that encompasses werewolves, vampires, and other fun things. The heroine is from a middling status family and is quite the tomboy when she’s sent to the finishing school based on the recommendation of a friend of the family. As her tomboy antics are kind of getting out of hand, it seems like an easy thing to do. The school itself is a very large zeppelin that floats above the moors of England, never in a fixed place. And the “finishing” is more of a fatal kind: graduates are destined to be assassins or intelligencers, using the wiles they gain in their education to facilitate their assignment. I am not, broadly speaking, a steampunk fan, it just never hooked me. But this series I absolutely loved. Carriger is a wonderfully light writer, and I definitely want to check out her other books. I got the first book for $2 and immediately after finishing it I bought the next book from iTunes until I had read all four. As I understand it, this particular series is a closed episode, but Carriger has other series of similar flavor.

The Coming, by Joe Haldeman, is very cool. Take a somewhat despotic and run-down USA where people still live and work, add to it a promise transmitted from the stars that aliens are going to land at the Johnson Space Center on a certain date in the near future. The question is: are they aliens from another planet, people from our future coming back to save us, or a hoax perpetrated from another country? LOTS of interesting things going on in here, very good read.

Mogworld, by Yahtzee Croshaw, is very different. One of my wife’s co-workers recommended it to her for me, so she bought the paperback and I got it for my birthday. Unbeknownst to my wife, I already had an ebook of it, so I pretended to take the paperback to DC on my annual pilgrimage when I was actually reading it on my iPad Mini. Regardless of what format you read it in, if you’re a fan of computer fantasy games, there’s lots to like in this. It revolves around Mog, and unfortunately it’s hard to describe without giving away lots of good things that are best discovered by the reader.

Jam, also by Yahtzee Croshaw, is very strange. The scenario is a bit of a loser who can’t get his life together is sharing a second floor flat in Australia with some friends, wakes up very late one day, to discover a red jam covering everything as far as the eye can see up to a depth of over 2 meters. His flat-mate is about to go for a run, though it’s hard to see how that will happen with the stairs filled with goo. Well, it turns out, to the detriment of his soon-to-be-former roomie, that the ooze is carnivorous. No one knows where the goo came from, though an American weapon system gone wrong is a popular conjecture, and the book rapidly becomes a survival at all costs farce. Communications are out, utilities are out, and the only way to move around seems to be from roof top to roof top and forget ground floor shops for looting! Survival seems a tenuous proposition until the stalwart team witnesses a helicopter crash nearby and pull a nattily-attired woman and her extremely buff male companion from the wreckage. The woman is from the CIA and clearly is the commander of the man, the CIA connection only firms up the theory that it is an American weapon run amok. This is a very bizarre book, but lots of fun. It makes you think about what would happen to you in similar circumstances.

Monstrous Fellowship is not a book, per se, but a very long fanfic available on Archive Of Our Own (AO3). Take Terry Pratchett’s book, Monstrous Regiment, and populate it entirely with characters from The Hobbit. It has all of the elements of Tolkien but with Sir Pterry’s light sense of humor. An excellent read, and AO3 has direct download of epub and mobi formats for easy reading on the tablet or device of your choice.

The Wee Free Men, this time by Terry Pratchett, is the first of the YA Tiffany Aching books, and it is such a wonderful addition to the Diskworld series. In fact, the last book that Terry completed before his passing was the final Tiffany Aching story. In this story, young Tiffany, the daughter of a sheep herding family in The Chalks, learns that she is destined to be a witch when her youngest brother, who can walk and is perpetually sticky, is kidnapped by the Queen of Fairies. She is aided by the Wee Free Men, a group of Pictsies, a bunch of 4” tall Scottish picts who believe that they died and are now in heaven. Their group was bonded with Tiffany’s grandmother, who passed a few years previous and was the previous witch of The Chalk. Will they rescue the sticky brother and defeat the fairy queen? Well, of course: you’re not going to have a downer ending in a Pratchett YA novel. The entire series is a wonderful read, and if you’re a Diskworld fan and haven’t read these, you’ve really done yourself a disservice.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the debut novel by Becky Chambers and is a trilogy. I know the second book is out in paperback, I’m not sure if the third has been released yet. This book has a lot of ‘feeling like’ elements, mostly Firefly. Known space is not quite as authoritarian, but it still has a Firefly vibe. A young woman joins a ship that ‘punches’ through space, in the process it is building hyperspace routes. The young woman has a past from which she is hiding. The ship is full of non-humans, so I guess it would look more like Farscape as far as visuals is concerned. She signs on as the ship’s accountant as they need to be better organized for them to get a better class of contracts and more profit. Needless to say, her past begins to mess with the ship’s working. It’s really an amazing read, and I’d have to say one of the best books that I read last year. Becky’s writing paints amazingly vivid pictures of what is going on and you can almost see it in cinegraphic detail in your mind as you go along. It would definitely make a fantastic movie or two, no doubt about it, and I’d be there opening day if it ever came true.

All said and done, 47 books read recreationally last year! That’s definitely a record. Losing your job half-way through the year and finding an amazing series certainly helps.

I plan on posting a 'favorites' list after I do my last post of movies seen last year.
thewayne: (Default)
7/? Ready Player One, Ernest Kline (rr)
7/? The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross

8/07 The Worlds Trilogy, Joe Haldeman
8/09 Hype and Glory, William Goldman
8/11 Redshirts, John Scalzi (rr)
8/15 All My Sins Remembered, Joe Haldeman

9/11 Pawn Gambit, Timothy Zahn

Huh. A rather uncharacteristically sparse list for three months, considering that none of them were particularly long books. Barely two books a month. But on with talking about them!

Ready Player One is becoming a regular re-read for me, it’s so much fun. I remember reading it when it came out in ‘11, though I didn’t get it until our Great Drive of ‘12 from a bookstore in Portland, Maine. If you haven’t read this and you frequented arcades in the ‘80s and played early RPG games on old platforms, I suspect you’ll like it. It’s a near-future dystopian set in the USA where after the oil ran out, the national and pretty much the world economy collapsed for most people. There’s still the super-wealthy, but most people live in pretty depressing circumstances. The main character, Parzival as his online-avatar is known, lives in a high-rise stack built of mobile homes in Oklahoma. He attends school via virtual reality as do most people in the world. This VR has replaced the internet and is known as The Oasis. Things continue until the man who created the Oasis dies and leaves an interesting will: the entirety of The Oasis will be given to a person who is able to complete a series of puzzle quests. The problem is that another company, a classic mega-corp with evil intentions, is creating an army to brute-force the puzzles. It is up to Our Hero and his Intrepid Friends to save the day with better instincts and sheer pluck. It is a very good read and I highly recommend it. A film is in production, directed by Steven Spielberg, and is slated to release spring of next year.

The Nightmare Stacks is the latest Laundry Files book by Charles Stross, a British writer living in Scotland. Awesome books if you’re a fan of Cthulhu mythos and British government bureaucracy. Lots of fun. I hesitate to recommend this book as a starter as his books build on the previous ones and it’s a very complicated story line. Regardless, the book is great if you’re a fan of the series as it’s a full-on incursion from Fae and only a vampire can save the world.

The Worlds Trilogy, by Joe Haldeman, individually known as Worlds, Worlds Apart, and Worlds Enough And Time, follow the adventures of a woman from off-planet by the name of Maureen O’Hara. She’s in New New York taking a year or two in an Earth university, when she’s caught up in a revolution of amazing proportions. Her adventures are very entertaining, perhaps not the right word, but it serves. I would actually say that this book is Heinlein-esque but better than Heinlein for making, for me, a believable strong young woman. I very much liked these.

Hype and Glory by William Goldman is a two-part memoir. William Goldman is a very well known script doctor and writer. He’s best known for writing the book The Princess Bride and also the screen play. He’s written quite a number of other screenplays and has won quite a number of awards. The book is about his experience being a judge, in the same year, 1988, he judged both the Cannes Film Festival and the Miss America contest! The first part, Cannes, gives a nice insight as to how a film festival is judged. And there’s no doubt that someone like Goldman is qualified, even though he’s not a “critic”. He knows exactly how films are made and how good scripts are built. The judges meet frequently during the festival to discuss their opinions of what they’ve seen up to that point and slowly build consensus as to who gets what award. Needless to say, problems arose and some compromises had to be done. Still, an interesting insider view. The second part, the Miss America show, had some fascinating aspects. First, it was held at our current President’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. His description of Atlantic City confirmed that it is a place that I never want to visit. For example, he went to a concierge to ask where the nearest book store is, and the reply was, “Like, porno mags?” Not only did the staff default to porn, there were no decent book stores in the area. The rules were completely replaced for this year and the judging was divided in to two parts. The first part happened off-camera in the days before the televised event, this was the panel that Goldman was on. The on-camera judging was done by telegenic stars such as Joyce Brothers, Eva Gabor, Deborah Norville, George Peppard, etc. So Goldman and the other off-camera judges did their evaluations, and their evaluations were totally ignored by the second group of judges when it came to show time. The big problem was that when they redid the rules, they didn’t account for what would happen if there was a tie in judging, and there was. The result was many minutes of dead air when the emcee was at a loss as to how to fill the time, the judges didn’t know what to do, no one knew what to do. Eventually the winner was announced: Gretchen Carlson, Miss Minnesota, who went on to Fox News greatness. As I recall, she wasn’t in the top 3 as scored by Goldman’s judging group. Very interesting book.

Redshirts was another re-read for me, John Scalzi’s take on a self-aware Star Trek setting where the non-bridge crew become aware that their mortality rate when on away missions and paired with bridge crew is very low. They then work to improve their odds. It reads sort of like a combination of Galaxy Quest meets Star Trek, lots of fun. I think I liked it better reading it a second time with a number of years between readings. I expect it’ll be a regular re-read, though not with the same frequency as Ready Player One or The Forever War.

All My Sins Remembered, another Joe Haldeman book, is the story of Otto McGavin, an Anglo-Buddhist and peaceful person. But the Confederacion need him as a spy/thief/assassin for their secret service as he has a mind that is adaptable and receptive to personality and memory overlays that make him ideal for infiltration and espionage missions. But the missions begin to take their toll. It’s an interesting book, and also a sad one.

Pawn Gambit by Timothy Zahn is a collection of short stories. Like many short story collections, some were great, some were just good. It contains a Cobra story, which is the stories that made Zahn a name in the science fiction community long before he started writing Star Wars novels. Pretty good stuff.
thewayne: (Default)
2016 was also a good year for books with 47 read! With few exceptions, they were mostly ebooks on my iPad Mini and few were short and few were re-reads.

3/08 Vietnam and Other Alien Worlds, Joe Haldeman
3/13 A Call To Duty, Manticore Ascendant 1, Weber/Zahn
3/20 Three Slices, Kevin Hearne, Delilah Dawson, Chuck Wendig
3/23 Shattered, Hearne

4/02 Expanded Universe vol 1, Heinlein
4/03 Staked, Kevin Hearne
4/15 A Call To Arms, Manticore Ascendant 2, Weber/Zahn
4/19 Standing Next To History, Joseph Petro

5/? Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
5/14 Those Who Hunt The Night, Barbara Hambly
5/22 The Forever War, Joe Haldeman (rr)
5/25 Dial M for Merde, Stephen Clarke

6/02 Bulldog Drummond, HC McNeile
6/16 The End of All Things, John Scalzi
6/19 Lock In, John Scalzi
6/19 Orbital Decay, Allen Steele
6/27 The Elskar Saga, S.T. Bende

I’m not going to talk about them all, because honestly, I really don’t remember a lot of details. Too much time has passed: I REALLY need to do these lists with greater frequency!

So jumping through the lists a bit, we’ll started with Kevin Hearne’s Shattered, the not quite most recent Iron Druid book. This actually came out in ‘15 – I found out that Staked came out: I picked it up, started it, and realized that I was missing a substantial part of the narrative – i.e. I was missing a book. I looked around and found my copy of Staked, apparently I’d started it, something happened and I put it down and forgot about it. I finished it, and that put me in a position to read Staked and get me caught up in the series.

Three Slices is a set of three short stories, including a Hearne Iron Druid story, and they all include cheese as a main plot point. All three stories were quite fun.

Standing Next To History by Joseph Petro is, I guess, an autobiography. Petro is now a retired Secret Service agent who served on the Presidential Protection Detail during the Reagan administration. It was an interesting book. I learned of it many moons ago and acquired a used paperback of it, it sat around for ages and I finally dedicated myself to reading it. I learned a lot about the PPD and the way they work is quite interesting. If you have an interest and an opportunity to acquire this book, I’d recommend it. It’s a fairly quick read.

Seveneves is Neal Stephenson’s latest mega-work. I personally think he is incapable of writing a story that is under 400 pages. The story starts in contemporary times and is fairly straightforward: something causes the moon to explode. No one knows what, it just happens. Initially it just cracks up in to a few large pieces, then an astronomer realizes that this spells the end of the Earth. He starts working the math and proves that in just a few years that the end result will be the larger pieces will smash in to each other, producing smaller pieces, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum, and those pieces orbits are going to decay and eventually superheat the atmosphere and incinerate the surface of the planet. The book then becomes a race against the clock to get as many people in to orbit to produce a viable population to eventually repopulate the planet. Chaos ensues. I found it to be quite a read. While I’ll chide Stephenson for producing mega-tomes, but he really does superb long plots.

Those Who Hunt The Night by Barbara Hambley was an interesting read. I don’t normally go for vampire fiction, I’m not by and large a horror fan but the premise was interesting. Set in Edwardian London, an Oxford professor who used to be an agent for the Crown, is forced to help the vampires of London figure out who is murdering them. I liked the concept of a person so utterly out-classed by the supernatural being the only one who can save them. All in all, a good read.

Joe Haldeman’s Forever War is one of the earliest science fiction books that I can remember reading, and it is always on my occasional re-read lists. He gets Newtonian physics in zero-G correct, he gets Einsteinian relativity right: it’s just a great read. It was written as sort of a rebuttal to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and I think it’s every bit as good, if not better. One of these days I really need to re-read the rest of the series.

Dial M For Merde. I’d never heard of Stephen Clarke before, and I don’t normally read mysteries. But the blurb for this one caught my attention, and I have to admit that the title definitely was one of the reasons that I spent any time reading the blurb. The protagonist is a Brit running a catering business in France (!) and gets caught up in a Green Peace/smuggling ring revolving around a very upper class wedding? You would almost expect Inspector Clouseau to drop in. It was a lot of fun, and the food descriptions were fantastic, as were the descriptions of the French countryside. I really should look for some more of his books.

Bulldog Drummond. In all my years of reading things like Doc Savage and The Shadow, I’ve never read things like Drummond. So I finally did. It was interesting and fun, I may continue the series, but it’s not a priority.

Lock In. This is a new series by John Scalzi, best known for his Old Man’s War series. Lock In is an actual syndrome (which has had some recent developments!) where people are in what looks like a coma state, but they’re actually fully aware of what’s going on around them. They’re incapable of responding to stimuli. The recent development is that doctors and scientists have been able to map subtle changes in blood pressure and pulse and gotten locked-in patients to answer yes/no questions! Pretty amazing stuff. ANYWAY, in this book, a disease has swept the world and resulted in a lot of deaths. It initially appeared as the flu, and people thought little of it as lots of people get the flu. But there was a second component – if you survived, a year or two later there was a chance that you might develop this locked-in syndrome! It became quite a catastrophe requiring a major change in the work force with all of these victims requiring more medical care. The world responded when the extremely popular First Lady of the United States became a locked-in patient. Eventually roboticists and cyberneticists developed remote units that again allowed patients freedom. This book revolves around on such patient who becomes an FBI agent involved in an investigation of the murder of locked-in patients. I found the story quite interesting: it’s been optioned for a television pilot and has two audiobooks: one read by Wil Wheaton, one by Amber Benson! Recommended.

Orbital Decay is an Orwellian book set in a not too distant future. A space station is being constructed by ‘beamjacks’, zero-G welders, and a module currently attached is being run by three men who are unacknowledged to be part of the NSA. Eventually it becomes known that when everything becomes fully operational, the module will be able to suck up EVERY electronic conversation in the United States to allow continuous eavesdropping. A small group of the beamjacks cannot let this stand and begin making plans to get around management and expose the government plans….

The Elskar Saga. I apparently have the occasional need to read some YA trash, and this was my itch being scratched. A young American college girl finds herself attracted to the hunkiest hunk at her college in Wales, turns out he’s a Viking, as in part of Odin’s army, an assassin destined to fight in the battle of Ragnarok. And Loki’s taken an interest in her, apparently she has a role to play in said battle that no one has foreseen. It was pulpy YA teen romance fantasy pulp (yes, I said pulp twice), mindless popcorn-chewing silliness. Still, I read it. Lots of silliness, interesting take on the Odinverse.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
1/5 Othello, William Shakespeare
1/20 City on the Edge of Forever, Harlan Ellison
1/22 The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett
1/31 I, Iago, Nicole Galland

2/8 Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMasters Bujold
2/17 They Eat Puppies, Don't They?, Christopher Buckley
2/27 The Last Defender of Camelot, Roger Zelazny

I’m going to take January slightly out of order: since I only read four books that month, it isn’t too difficult to follow along. I started with Shakespeare’s Othello for an unusual reason – I had heard a podcast reviewing a book called I, Iago that revisited the play from the perspective of Iago and that fascinated me, so I thought it best to re-read the play and downloaded it from Gutenberg. I’m not going to comment too much on the play as it is fairly well-known except to mention the innocence of Desdemona and the self-torturing nature of Othello. For the most part I love Shakespeare’s language, I have to admit that sometimes it’s a bit obtuse. But this is where I absolutely love reading books on my iPad Mini: if I don’t know a word, highlight it and if I’m connected to WiFi, I can get a definition and dig deeper if I so desire.

Galland’s book is a very interesting exploration of Iago’s overwhelming desire to be his own man and to rise above his station that leads to his destruction and that of Othello and Desdemona. It becomes quite a tragedy, a ‘rocks fall from the sky, everyone dies’ sort of thing: the only core character that survives is Cassio, and he’s maimed. It’s an amazing alternative viewpoint, akin to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Moving on, City on the Edge of Forever. As you may know, Harlan wrote one of the most famous scripts for the original Star Trek series, the City on the Edge of Forever. However, this is not just a reprint of the script: it is a reprint of ALL of the scripts that were submitted, altered, and what was finally shot, which bore very little resemblance to the original! His first submitted script just didn’t fit Rodenberry’s view of what Trek should be: it featured a crewman selling drugs on the Enterprise! A mishap occurs, a crewman goes crazy, time-travel mayhem ensues. It bore very little resemblance to what ended up being broadcast. Harlan has all sorts of stories of the power struggles between him and the production/network powers until he finally gives up. He received an award for the show, which is almost funny in its irony. Now, the script he wrote was quite interesting, but Gene and the network just couldn’t cope, so they rewrote and rewrote and rewrote until it was theirs and that was that. I can fully sympathize that Harlan did not get his vision realized, but that’s sadly the way it goes. He was pretty bitter about it, and apparently still is.

The Color of Magic is the first of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and introduces a recurring semi-hero, the sort-of wizard Rincewind. He only knows one spell, sadly it’s one of the spells of creation, and if he ever casts it it will destroy the world. It’s also jealous and won’t let him learn any other spells, so he’s kind of worthless as a wizard. He’s also a very skilled coward, which makes him an excellent survivor. Personally, I don’t think this is remotely one of the better Discworld books, but it’s a good enough introduction to the series as you learn about Rincewind, the Luggage (which should be capitalized), the Monster Dimension, Death (also capitalized (which is also sort of a pun)), and many other interesting things. For my money, the best Intro to Discworld Books are Guards! Guards! and Weird Sisters. Guards introduces the Watch, the 6’ tall dwarf Corporal Carrot, the estimable Commander Vimes, and the fearsome Lord Ventinari (whom I always thought should be played by Alan Rickman). Weird Sisters is just an awesome book and provides a great counterpoint to the pomposity of the wizards of Discworld.

Of these four books, I, Iago was the only print book. With the exception of Othello, the rest were purchased via an ebook newsletter that I receive every day.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Bujold is the most recent Vorkosigan book and has been eagerly anticipated. It’s been a few years since the Ivan book and since Cryoburn. This particular book taking place directly after Cryoburn and is concerned with Cordelia and the aftermath of the death of her husband, Count Aral Vorkosigan. Jole was a friend and former underling of Aral during his days as a military officer: Jole was also an occasional secret lover before Cordelia entered the picture, which made for some interesting complications. Quite a book, I liked it every bit as much as Ivan’s book. I thought Cryoburn was a little weak, but overall I think the Vorkosigan series is fantastic science fiction. Some people dismiss her series as not serious sci fi because it’s more people-driven stories than reliant on tech, I think that’s just fine. Her stories rely on people being clever and outsmarting their opponents rather than having some overwhelming tech advantage, though sometimes there is such an advantage in play. I quite like her work. We got to see her at a Dallas convention where she was a GoH and read a couple of chapters from Cryoburn, I think that was back in 2009. She’s not a ‘book-a-year’ author, but I’m OK with that as she writes excellent quality and I’m willing to be patient.

I really should re-read Gentleman Jole.

They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? is a book by the son of conservative icon William F. Buckley, Christopher. I really like Christopher’s work, it usually has a political angle, but he's not dogmatic about it, and he does very interesting stuff. This particular book features a lobbyist manipulating the news to try to create a war with China to force the government to buy a weapons system that they really don’t want to buy. It becomes an introspective character study where ultimately the main character finds himself in an unusual way. I can’t say it’s my favorite book by him, that would probably be Thank You For Smoking, but it is interesting and was fun.

The Last Defender of Camelot is a collection of short stories by Roger Zelazny, the writer who brought us The Chronicles of Amber and Why Johnny Can’t Speed, one of the first short stories in a Car Wars/Autoduel-type universe. This collection goes all over the place in genres. I’m very fond of the title story, Last Defender features two members of the court of Camelot in a modern setting having to rise to the occasion one last time to defeat an ancient threat. It’s a story that I like to re-read every now and again. I believe it also has a Half-Jack story about a cyborg. I really like Zelazny’s short stories, and I think this is a good exemplar of his work of that type.

These three books were all physical copies. So for January and February, the score is 4 physical, 3 digital. It’ll be interesting (at least to me) to see what the final tally is! I know I’ve read a lot of books this year and a lot of those are digital.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Normally they have a free book every day, now they've got all ebooks (standard mix of formats) and videos for $5. I just bought two on Mediawiki, the open source software that powers Wikipedia. Packt's books are mainly about open source software, but they have tons on SQL Server and other more closed systems. Well worth digging in to if you're interested in programming.

This is apparently going through the end of the year. Not too shabby.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Like many who blog, and many science fiction/fantasy readers, I’m a voracious reader and have been for pretty much all my life. I remember going grocery shopping with my mom back in the ‘70s to a place called Fed Mart and occasionally getting a book for $0.25 or 50 cents. I specifically remember getting a copy of Fred Saberhagen’s The Dracula Tape with this campy vampire photo cover. Later, as a teen, I’d ride the bus to the mall, which had both a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton. And science fiction and fantasy each had their own area in the store.

It was around that time that I had the realization that books were coming out faster than I could read them.

Later on, Walden became Borders which were squashed by Amazon, B. Dalton and other stores adopted their parent company name of Barnes & Noble and mostly moved out of malls to mall pads and much larger stores. I’m actually very sad that most malls no longer have book stores.


My wife and I were at a Barnes & Noble at the mall in Las Cruces last week. As usual, I cruised the new SF releases. There were a couple of things of mild interest, but nothing of sufficient interest for me to buy. I decided to review my Looking For Books list on my phone, and as expected, I didn’t find anything.

Which lead me to another realization: not only do books come out faster than any one can read them, but now there are so many books and authors, that if your tastes deviate too far from the mainstream, the odds of you being able to find specific authors stocked in stores diminish greatly!

Personally, I’d prefer buying a book in a store rather than ordering it from Amazon. The money supports local jobs and helps the local tax base. Yes, it costs more, but usually just a couple bucks. But I’m finding that more and more, my authors just aren’t stocked. Sure, I can count on the latest by David Weber or Jim Butcher or Cory Doctorow or John Scalzi or Charles Stross, and Terry Pratchett was always either in SF/F or YA.

But Alex Bledsoe? Wen Spencer? Lynsey Addario? Jasper Ford? Josh Vogt? John Lampshead? NVBL (not very bloody likely)

Now, this is a two-way problem. I’m learning of some of these authors through free short story ebook collections that I’m downloading from Baen and such. The authors in these collections are already established, and they’ve now added me as a wider market. And I’ve decided that the fact that I can’t find them in book stores doesn’t matter a bit because of the way that I found them in the first place – ebooks.

I have far too many books, as does my wife. And eventually we’re going to have to move, perhaps internationally. And I absolutely do not want to move all those books! So I’ve decided, with very few exceptions, that pretty much all new book acquisitions for me are going to be ebooks. For example, this month I’ve read all four volumes of Gail Carriger’s YA steampunk series, The Finishing School. The first one was made available from one of my discount ebook newsletters and I bought the rest from Apple’s bookstore. But I think I’m going to try to buy more directly from publishers as I’d prefer to have direct epubs so that I have a file that I can back up. While I don’t think Apple will ever go away, you never know what is going to happen with DRM. And if I like a book and want to share it, I can give it to my wife for her to read. That’s perhaps the only thing that I like about the Kindle platform: the ability to lend books.

Anyway, enough of a rant. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow and a trip to DC to prepare for.

G’night! Or g’day! Whatever your current geographic solar situation pertains!
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Yesterday I took my mom to do her grocery shopping. I didn't want her doing it alone as it's bloody hot out there -- right now, at 7:45am, it's over 95f. At the second grocer that we went to, I parked next to a Mazda Miata. Nothing unusual about that, it's a VERY common car that's been around for ages, at least 20 years. It honestly wasn't in very good shape: it had been banged up and equipped with a roll bar, so the owner apparently did some racing of some sort in it.

Personally, I'd love to have one. I've driven one, and it was crazy fun. And the roads where I live, on top of the mountain, would absolutely be a blast in a nice little convertible sporty car. And it's fairly inexpensive.

But that wasn't the cool thing. The cool about this car was that it had historic license plates.

Not a remarkable car, but it was old enough to qualify for historic plates. That, in and of itself, is not difficult -- the vehicle only needs to be 20 years old. I have cameras older than that.

Still, I was amused.

* * * * *

Just now I came across something interesting. I'm in a weird place right now, and by place, I mean mental headspace. I'm at my parents, in this blistering heat, and I'm having to deal with the fact that my dad has cancer. Well, I'm an information junkie, so I'm doing what I do best: organizing information. I'm scanning lab reports and such to PDFs as they come in, such as the full workup for his emergency room/hospital stay, and providing them to other doctors as needed. When my immune system went on permanent vacation seven years ago, I started learning what I could about my condition and possible long-term problems that could result. And I really don't know anything about cancer, just the odd bits that you get from TV, so I went to one of my favorite bookstores and got two books. One that I got I had learned about from a radio/podcast interview with the author when his book won the Pulitzer Prize, it is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He is a cancer physician and researcher, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, and a staff physician at Columbia University Medical Center. He is also a Rhodes Scholar. In other words, a smart cookie.

But my second interesting bit of random strangeness isn't about the book per se -- it's about what was in the book.

When I bought the book, used, I noticed a bookmark in it. Nothing unusual about that, but it wasn't my preferred bookmark. Kinda stupid how a person may have a standard for bookmarks, but there we are. Today I have to take my dad to one of two (or three) doctor appointments this week, and I decided that I needed to start reading this book, so I put my preferred bookmark in it. And while fanning to where the sub-standard bookmark was, I noticed a piece of paper. Fanning back to it, I saw it was a boarding pass. Thinking it was a boring domestic flight, I looked at it, and it was decidedly not boring. The person in question flew from Copenhagen to Amsterdam in late September. I thought that was cool, but then again, I'm the weird guy who has standards for what bookmarks he uses. Then I found a second boarding pass, this was a few days later, flying from Copenhagen to Newark. I was a little disappointed in the second trip -- Newark is a pretty scuzzy airport IMO, but sometimes you have to fly where you can, not where you might want to.

The bookmark also had an interesting characteristic: a receipt that showed the purchase of the book in question at the Phoenix airport, Sky Harbor, in 2011 for $18, the cover price of the book, and the first paperback edition was August 2011, so in all probability the receipt was for this particular book.

The question is: are the receipt and the boarding passes related? There's no name on the receipt, except the clerk who rang up the sale, and oddly the boarding passes don't have the year on them. The receipt was mid-September, the first flight was about a week later, the second about five days later. And if they are, when did the book go from Phoenix to Amsterdam, though it may have stopped somewhere first. Presumably it made that trip the day of the sale -- one doesn't go to airports to buy books -- but there is no physical evidence. I'm curious if the book went, more or less, directly from Phoenix to Amsterdam, or what significant intermediate stops were made.

And then there's the fact that I bought the book in Phoenix. So presumably there was a flight from Newark to Phoenix, and the person then ultimately sold the book to the bookstore where I got it. Coincidentally, when we flew back from Berlin to Phoenix last July, we also went from Berlin to Newark, then on to Phoenix.

I am tempted sore to look up the name on the boarding pass. I suspect there is a high possibility that if I were to search, I might find the person in the Phoenix area. Possibly in my vague local area, since the bookstore is only 2 miles from my parent's house.

Is there a point to this? None whatsoever. But they are interesting artifacts that appear to show a book that has been to another continent, then back to Phoenix, Arizona.

Originally, I was going to throw the boarding passes away. But now I think I'll keep them and try to work them in to a role-playing game scenario. I occasionally run a spy game, and they could be an interesting prop.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
2015 was a weak year for books, counting only 18, which is the same number that I read in 2014. The number is a little vague as that included Charles Stross' collections of the Trader Wars series which is like 6 books and soon to be growing. This year I'm already over 18 and the year isn't half over yet.

12/30 Lest Darkness Fall and Other Stories, L. Sprague de Camp
12/19 The Liminal People, Ayize Jama-Everett
12/12 Warrior Women, Edited by Paula Guran

11/27 Clockwork Lives, Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart
11/21 Scribe From Shadows, Moira Moore
11/? Brave New Girls anthology

10/2 Knight Moves, Walter Jon Williams

9/22 Forgotten Suns, Judith Tarr
9/11 The Shepherd's Crown, Terry Pratchett

8/28 Starfarers, Vonda McIntyre
8/23 Crossfire, Nancy Kress
8/21 The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, Barry Hughart (re-read)
8/8 Clockwork Angels, Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart

7/11 The Annihilation Score, Stross

4/17 So, Anyway, John Cleese
4/1 Twinmaker, Sean Williams

3/15 The Revolution Trade, Stross

2/? The Trader's War, Stross

I'm not going to talk about all of them, but a few deserve mention.

The Trader's War series by Stross is interesting. I think it could be argued whether it is science fiction or fantasy. It's sort of contemporary, beginning with a woman who is in modern times, finds a locket with a complicated Celtic-like knot pattern, she stares at the pattern and finds herself in another world with a splitting headache. Turns out it's a mutation that allows her to pop between worlds, and she's part of a noble family and she's also long-thought dead. The problem is that the second world is pretty thoroughly pre-Renaissance (Christianity didn't take hold there) and she's determined to drag them kicking and screaming in to the 21st century. It's a somewhat grim read but still quite interesting, definitely a political intrigue book.

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart are FANTASTIC if you like Chinese historical fantasy. Master Li has a slight flaw to his character and is a private investigator. Number Ten Ox is rather strong and quite fond of Master Li. Their first adventure has them saving the children of Ox's village who have all fallen quite ill and will require divine artifacts to save them. And it gets more weird and fun from there. I read at least the first two of them ages ago and was delighted to find all three collected in one ebook volume. HIGHLY recommended.

The Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives books are quite interesting. Very much YA targeted. It's an alternate world where steam and alchemy is king, and the Clockmaker rules the land. Well, at least one of the lands. Turns out there's lands across the sea that supply necessary alchemical reagents that they must trade with. The second story was quite good: sort of a Canterbury Tales where a woman has to go on a quest to fill a book with traveller's stories. It melds quite well with the first book. But it's the authors that are the interesting bit: Neal Pearte is the drummer for the rock band Rush. Rush worked with Kevin Anderson and produced two books and a Rush CD, Clockwork Angels, that's a lot more interesting when you also have read the books.

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett was a heart-breaking read. Not only was it the end of the Tiffany Aching/Wee Free Men YA series, it was the last Discworld book written by Sir Pterry. I was practically crying all through the book. It was a marvelous finale to Sir Pterry's career, and I am so happy that I got to meet him at a convention in Phoenix a few years ago. A lot of people don't care for the Tiffany stories, but I think they're quite wonderful, and it's a series that I'd love to re-read as the Pictsies are huge amounts of fun.

And John Cleese's authorized autobiography, So, Anyway, is great. It focuses mainly through the early Python years. I particularly enjoyed his education and his early years working for the BBC. I've read other books about Monty Python and his time there, and I have a better understanding of why he left after the third season. In an afterward for the book he talked about the reunion show that Python did a few years ago, and at one point he was waiting in the wings to come on and he thought to himself, “Why am I here? I don't want to do this.” Just like when he left Python, he thought that they were done as the third season was, in his view, highly repetitive of the first two seasons. And I think he was correct. In an interview with him that I heard, he talked about he considers himself a writer/performer, not an actor. He loves performing the things that he writes, but doesn't enjoy working with other people's material so much.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
This is a heck of a package that is heavy on the classics: Roger Zelazny, George R.R. Martin's Wildcards, Alfred Bester, Isaac Asimov! In the case of Zelazny, it has both short story collections and the third series of Amber books that were written by John Gregor Betancourt, which I haven't read. I started reading Zelazny' The Last Defender of Camelot, and I'm so happy that I did because I had forgotten what an incredible wordsmith that he was. I was re-reading his Amber series last year and I honestly don't think that it represents his best work, but people will like what they will like.

(personally I copy them in to Dropbox and can load and read them from my desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet)

The bundle is available for both Kindle and ePub formats, is DRM-free, and is available for the next eleven days, so basically through the end of the month. The charities for this bundle help support SFWA's The Givers Fund, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and the Children's Miracle Network Hospital's Extra Life fund. Currently the highest tier for all the books is only $15.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
12/25 The Bloodline Feud, Charles Stross

8/1 The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross

7/? The Reluctant Swordsman, Dave Duncan
7/? Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
7/? The Martian, Andy Weir

5/27 Monster Hunters International, Larry Correia
5/21 Cauldron of Ghosts, Weber/Flint
5/3 Hunted, Hearne
5/2 Trapped, Hearne

4/30 Tricked, Hearne
4/27 Hammered, Hearne
4/14 Raising Steam, Pratchett
4/7 Hexed, Kevin Hearne
4/4 Hounded, Kevin Hearne

3/8 The Deaths of Tao, Wesley Chu

2/24 With a Little Help, Doctorow
2/20 Animal Farm
2/14 1984

It was a weak year for my consumption of the printed word, mainly because of school: I don't include technical reading in this list, it's purely recreational. '15 reading will be likewise complicated by our trip to Europe, but that's OK. I'll have my laptop and iPad loaded up with ebooks for the hours spent traveling from A to B and back again.

SO, some recommendations:
The Kevin Hearne/Iron Druid series is very good urban fantasy. A friend turned me on to it as we're both from the Phoenix area and the story starts based in Tempe with recognizable landmarks. I ate these books like popcorn, I'd go through one typically in less than 48 hours. The story revolves around the Last Druid, he's over 2,000 years old and the rest were hunted down and killed by the Romans who were actually doing the work of vampires. The Druid has been hiding from a member of the Irish pantheon because The Druid stole a sword. Things come to a head when another member of the pantheon reveals that The Druid is living in Tempe. Chaos ensues. Fun stuff.

Andy Weir's The Martian is quite interesting. He published the book online, sort of crowd-sourcing the fact-checking and had many NASA and aerospace engineers providing information. It revolves around a man who is part of a Mars mission, who, after a freak wind storm, is presumed dead and the mission is aborted, the rest of the crew returning to Earth. But he's not dead, and he has to figure out how to survive and get himself off the planet. Very compelling and it will be made in to a Major Motion Picture, perhaps coming out in '15, but I'm not certain on that one.

You'll notice Charles Stross on the list twice. Rhesus Chart is continuing The Laundry series about a secret British government organization who is tasked with keeping Cthulhu at bay. Having worked in government IT off and on for 30 years, it's quite relatable for me and lots of fun.

The other Stross book, The Bloodline Feud, is an omnibus collecting the first two books of a series called, IIRC, The Merchant Princes. It's contemporary, might be called Urban Fantasy, about people who have a genetic trait that allows them to jump between World A and World B with the aid of a focus, sort of a Celtic knot pattern. World A is us, World B didn't have an American Revolution and the USA is multiple kingdoms. The merchant families who can do this world hopping have figured out that they can make a lot of money by taking drugs cross-country in B, popping them in to A, and delivering them to dealers. So they're in the transport business. Then along comes a woman, Miriam, in A's Boston who just lost her job and finds out she's not just an orphan, but she's actually about the level of a Duchess in B and long-lost. And she can hop. I've been meaning to read the series but just hadn't gotten around to tracking down the books when, before Thanksgiving, I found they were reissuing them collected in to larger trade paperback volumes. Very cool stuff, I'm early in to the second volume and things are going to get VERY complicated for Miriam.

Monster Hunters International was also recommended by the friend who turned me on to Hearne, but this one I was not too impressed with. It felt too Mary Sue-ish, and I'm kind of tired of books where the solution to any problem is more firepower. It was OK, it's hard for me to be more excited than that about it and it's not a series that I plan on continuing.

Dave Duncan's Reluctant Swordsman is the first in a series that is heroic fantasy but also combines world hopping, in that a guy from Our Earth gets plugged in to the body of a warrior in a fantasy milleu. Duncan writes very good HF, I quite enjoyed his King's Blades series. I should read more of his stuff.

Zombies vs Unicorns? Very fun stuff. A collection of short stories that alternate between a zombie story and a unicorn story, with some nice snark commentary between as links. Very entertaining read. I got it as part of an ebook collection.

And it looks like it finally started snowing again, we've been waiting for some nasty weather for a couple of days, I guess it's finally arrived.

thewayne: (Cyranose)
11/19 The Big Lebowski
11/21 Thor: The Dark World
11/22 Free Birds
11/25 Dr. Who: The Day Of The Doctor
11/26 The Book Thief
11/28 About Time
11/29 Rush
12/8 Hunger Games: Catching Fire
12/21 Hobbit 2: Desolation of Smaug

12/2 The Lives of Tao, Wesley Chu
12/19 Tor SciFi Sampler 2012 ebook

Read more... )
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Movies Read & Books Seen, August through October

10/31 Ender's Game
10/19 Captain Phillips
10/4 Gravity
10/2 Don Jon
9/23 The World's End
9/7 Percy Jackson/Sea of Monsters
8/26 The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
8/18 Paranoia
8/16 Elysium
8/9 Wolverine
8/2 The Heat

10/12 Directive 51, John Barnes
10/4 Ender's Game
9/5 Norse Code
9/5 finished Vorkosigan

Read on for detailed commentaryblathering:
Read more... )

Having said all that, it looks like my reading of fiction is going to be severely curtailed for the next few months. Too much education-related and hopefully job-expanding reading to do. Of course, if Weber or Bujold or Doctorow or Sir Pterry come out with a new book, that's all subject to change.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
7/18 Red 2
7/14 Pacific Rim
7/10 Despicable Me 2
7/7 Lone Ranger
6/30 Monsters University
6/25 Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon)
6/19 The Great Gatsby
6/9 Now You See Me
6/8 Epic

6/30 House of Steel, David Weber
6/25 Death's Daughter, Amber Benson
6/10 The Human Division, John Scalzi

Read on for commentary
Read more... )

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