December 27th, 2008

Book 26 - 2008


Book 26: Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin - 250 pages

I picked up this book simply because it seemed like such a strange premise. Bascially, Jill McTeague would be ordinary if not for the fact that for four days of every menstrual cycle she grows a penis and becomes Jack. Because that so happens in real life! Of course, Prom's coming up (as I'm Australian and we don't have Prom's but Formals, of which the euphoria is not quite the same, I can't always quite relate to this Prom excitement!) and Jill needs a date. But with her 'cycles' coming closer and closer together, will she be Jill or Jack at Prom?? I think this book would have benefited from better character development. All the characters were very one-dimensional. They had one real goal and much beyond that seemed vague or put on for the sake of making them look deep. I think I could have got past the complete impossibility of Jill's cycles if the characters had been more fleshed out. On that note, there was no real explanation for why or how Jill had her cycles so it kind of left you up in the air. Having said that, there were so moments that impressed me, and certain characters who did seem to possess more than one dimension, but overall, it was a little flat. I am under the impression that this is the first of a series (aren't they always?) so maybe the series will improve. Here's to hoping!

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
26 / 50
(52.0%)

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
10,296 / 15,000
(68.6%)

Currently reading:
- From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology
edited by Lawrence Cahoone - 600 pages
- New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer - 563 pages
- Love, Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli - 316 pages
- The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 1: The Wounded Land
by Stephen Donaldson - 499 pages

And coming up:
- Eclipse
by Stephenie Meyer - 628 pages
- Sex with the Queen: 900 years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics
by Eleanor Herman - 295 pages
- Angels and Demons
by Dan Brown - 620 pages
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pacificparlour

EXCESSIVELY CREATIVE DESTRUCTION.

There are markets for products, and there are markets for corporate control. Markets for products determine which products will continue to be offered to consumers. Some products remain successful for a long time. Oreo cookies come to mind. Some products are failures. Edsel Ford is more than the name of a Detroit expressway. The market for corporate control determines what happens to the gains or losses from selling products. Losing managers get fired (absent clever accounting or government guarantees.) It does not follow, however, that succesful managers get to keep their jobs. Perhaps their staid products lose their appeal. Perhaps their strong cash position tempts more aggressive entrepreneurs who would like to deploy some of that wealth to develop new products. The right mix of staid and aggressive is difficult to characterize. We drive better cars and eat better food and post to the internet because somebody put money on projects that were by no means sure things. (Otto cycle engine? Watering troughs and collieries can't service it. Make milk safer by heating it? It spoils if it's not cooled. A computer on everybody's desk? There's work for ten mainframes, tops.)

Thus the 20th anniversary edition of Barbarians at the Gates: The Fall of RJR Nabisco is more than a populist tract about capitalist abuses, as Book Review No. 48 will argue. The protagonist of the story is an ambitious Canadian, Ross Johnson, who can't leave well enough alone, but he spends his working life in businesses that produce a mix of staid products that sometimes throw off piles of cash. he works his way to the top at Standard Brands. The name is vaguely Stalinist, and the product offering, including Standard margarine, Chase and Sanborn coffee, and "Baby Ruth" and "Butterfinger" candy, is Fifties bland. Boring, possibly on a glide path to oblivion. Mr Johnson arranges a consolidation with National Biscuit, now known as Nabisco. Although Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies continue to be standards, the company's original hit, Uneeda Biscuit, is these days a retro product. Again, there are opportunities to build bigger empires. Thus comes the merger of Nabisco with R. J. Reynolds, a company generating lots of cash from cigarettes. A pile of cash held by a manufacturer of a product in a declining market is a target for a raider, and also an opportunity for the management to diversify. Consider Philip Morris, currently only a tobacco products company, but at one time diversified into all manner of consumer products, so aggressively that a number of antitrust observers suggested it was using its tobacco profits to subsidize predation in other markets. A more charitable interpretation would recognize that the prospects for additional investment in tobacco were less promising than, oh, brushless shaving cream or beer.

Reynolds, however, was a staid Moravian company (the things you learn: also the etymology of Wachovia Bank) not interested in such things. Enter Mr Johnson with a wad of cash, and thus emergeth RJR Nabisco. And now the troubles begin: the Johnson business model, if there is one at all, is Not. The. Moravian. North. Carolinian. Way. Thus come struggles with the combined board of directors, and ill-advised product development, and a stable of athletes on retainer for promotional purposes, and falling stock prices.

Here, the market for corporate control goes to work. The management can take the company private and get out from under the pressure of the quarterly earnings report. But to do so runs the risk of putting the company in play, as others can offer to buy the stock. Enter Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and something called the leveraged buyout. A passage on page 235 of the book spells out the tradeoffs. On one hand, the firm that arranges the buyout might work with the management to improve earnings, later to sell the stock at a capital gain. On the other hand, the buyout provides earnings, called fees, to the buyout firms, the investment bankers, and the bond specialists. And the leverage can take the form of exotic securities including the so-called "junk" bonds (not always correctly collateralized, but sometimes graded as more risky than they truly are) and payment-in-kind securities (your interest is yet another bond, leading one wag to invent the subordinated perpetual zero coupon that pays no interest and never matures) and other financial exotica. And yes, people get hurt, particularly when the company hives off assets and fires people to free cash to retire the debt.

The focus of Barbarians, however, is on the human drama. There is no economic model spelling out an optimal trade-off between continuity and creativity. We rely on free agents to grope toward that solution. When those free agents are people with large egos, little previous experience with disappointment, and trophy wives to appease, bad things can happen. Often they do.

Thus the story. Anyone who has spent any time in a faculty meeting might draw some solace from the Biggest Transaction Of The Era bogging down over the minimum distance an employee must move to be eligible for a relocation allowance (hint: Winston to Salem didn't qualify, that wasn't the Moravian Way). God and Mammon might be at odds, with Mr Johnson giving the three rules of Wall Street (p. 492) as "Never play by the rules. Never pay in cash. And never tell the truth." That's after he got his comeuppance. The story hints at the comeuppance for the MBAs, something that has yet to run its course. And the Afterword (this being a 20th anniversary edition) reports that some of the trophy wives learned that they, too, were depreciating assets. (No spoilers here: but you might want to treat the book like a detective novel and keep a mental divorce pool as you go through it.) Great fun, if not necessarily the best (or the final) analysis of the market for corporate control.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops).

2008 Books 61-65

61. The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan – This is great new series from Scholastic. Heiress Grace Lin dies and leaves her relatives a choice: take a million dollars or receive a clue to find a huge family fortune. Orphans Dan and Amy choose the clue, along with several other not-so-nice relatives. The competition gets nasty and dangerous as Dan and Amy travel to Boston and then Paris to investigate a clue about Benjamin Franklin. I’m reading Book 2 right now; if you enjoy children’s literature and adventure stories, you’ll enjoy this series. Rating: Recommended.

62. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
– In book 4 of the series, Percy must return to Camp Half Blood and prevent the evil Kronos from using the Labyrinth to find the camp. I am still enjoying this series, although I’m wondering how many books there will be. Rating: Recommended.

63. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
– This book is wildly popular at my school. I was a little bit appalled when I read it because it was disturbing that such a negative, apathetic character was considered such a hero. I guess the book is so popular because it is definitely true-to-life in terms of middle school kids. Rating: Additional Selection

64. The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory
– Hannah Green and her father are Jews who have fled to England from the Spanish Inquisition. Hannah serves as a “holy fool” (she receives visions of the future) to both King Edward and Queen Mary. She also serves as a spy/companion to Princess Elizabeth. I am fascinated with British royalty and a fan of Gregory’s other historical novels (The Other Boleyn Girl, etc.). I plan to read both The Virgin’s Lover and The Other Queen (about Mary Queen of Scots) in 2009. Rating: Recommended.

65. How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Conner
– This is my new favorite children’s author. Her characters and stories are so unbelievably good with great lessons for kids that are presented in an authentic way (i.e. not too preachy). After her father leaves, Georgina, her brother and her mother are forced to live in their car. Georgina is very impatient with her mother to find them a real home, and decides to help get money by stealing a dog and returning it to collect the reward money. This book is a great conversation starter on being grateful, stealing, helping those who are less fortunate, etc. Rating: Highly Recommended
thinker

Book #44 for 2008

#44 - White Stains and the Nameless Novel by Aleister Crowley

GENRE OF WORK: British Literature (Fiction/Poetry)
YEAR PUBLISHED: 1898 (Orig.), 2008

***1/2

Description

"White Stains remains Aleister Crowley s most infamous work, his attempt at taking the Satanic/erotic decadence of Baudelaire and ramping it up to new extremes of degradation, sexual depravity and demonic frenzy. Revelling in filth, Crowley includes odes to sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus, rape, lesbianism, impotence, venereal disease, bestiality, sado-masochism, coprophilia, necrophila, blasphemy and devil-worship in this staggering, over-the-top compendium of eros and evil. This new edition of White Stains also includes Crowley s rare later volume, The Nameless Novel (1904), a rampant pornographic novella written to stimulate and amuse his wife. With a new introduction by Crowley scholar D M Mitchell, the book is illustrated with rare examples of Victorian erotic photography, making it a decorative document of fin-de-siècle erotica, as well as a unique compendium of Crowley's most outrageous and notorious literary output."

- Back Matter

Review

This volume is a compendium of two rare works by Crowley: his poetry collection White Stains, as well as a pornographic novella entitled The Nameless Novel. White Stains is comparable to "The Flowers of Evil", with two major differences. The verse is much less fluid and rather dry in comparison. What the work lacks in form, it supplements with content. Crowley goes far beyond Baudelaire's allusions to homosexuality and satanism, also touching on coprophilia, necrophilia, urophagia, and bestiality. The Nameless Novel focuses even more heavily on bizarre sexual fetishism, to a point where it is outrageously hyperbolic and almost humorous. Scenes are no doubt taken to extremes for no other purpose than to shock the reader. It is the sexual imagery of de Sade multiplied ten fold, with heavy emphasis on satire and mockery (clergyman and queens are shown as nothing more than the most fanatical perverts). The book will hold interest for Crowley aficionados or seekers of ribald Victorian smut, but it is not something you will want to read multiple times or on a full stomach.

BOOKS: 44/50
PAGES: 9796
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Books 49 + 50

49. Bonk by Mary Roach. 5/5. Really good stuff here. I really enjoy learning and reading about sex, as weird as that may sound. I am very open when talking about it, because I honestly believe that there is nothing to be ashamed of about it. I also have a very strong stomach when it comes to medical or sexual oddities, and I enjoy reading passages aloud to, say, my boyfriend or father, and seeing their reactions. (I guess I'm a meanie.) Roach does a wonderful job at portraying her amusement, bewilderment, and admiration for the sex researchers she writes about. I must admit, I was hoping to pick up some tips about sex because I am new to the whole scene in terms of actually DOING it, but I mostly learned that my sex life is pretty damn good as it is, and I should be grateful for having such a loving and understanding partner whom with I can communicate openly and comfortably with. On that note, this book really isn't a manual about sex, but more an interesting venture into the world of sex research - which is a much less written about topic. I appreciate that very much. It kind of makes me want to be a sex researcher, but alas, that would take science, a subject which I cannot comprehend at all.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book. It's funny and heartfelt and easy to read - plus you'll obtain some new, really interesting facts to tell at your next big party!

50. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. 2/5. This was Michael Chabon's first book he ever published, which was in 1988. I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I thought The Yiddish Policemen's Union was pretty okay, so I picked up this book before a long plane ride. Well...it is definitely his first book. It is basically the story of a man, Art Bernstein, in his early twenties who didn't have much character at all, though everyone around him was clearly defined. The book was written in first person, so we got a lot of observations about Art's friends, but not a lot of introspection. It was well written and easy to read, which is why I finished it, but I don't feel as though I gained too much from it, as I did with Amazing Adventures and Yiddish Policemen's Union. The praise on the back said that it was epic and legendary...but it wasn't at all. Granted, that review was from Playboy Magazine, so I suppose I should have taken it with a grain of salt. It just didn't feel too deep at all, which I had expected from Chabon, given the other two books that I read. Oh well. That all said, it was a good book and fun to read, and DAMN can Chabon write a good love scene. I've noticed that in all of his books so far - the love scenes always leave me feeling tingly and warm and fuzzy in someway.
Do I recommend it? No, but if I see you reading it or buying it I wouldn't tell you to stop.

I DID IT!!!

I read 50 books this year!!! I hope to do so again next year. I got about 8 or 9 books for Christmas, so I'll have a lot to read.

Review - The Cat Who Turned On and Off; Lilian Jackson Braun


The Cat Who Turned On and Off

Lilian Jackson Braun

Fiction; Mystery

 

Third in the series.  Qwill is still toiling at the Daily Fluxion, and after disappointment at the last two unglamorous assignments he’s pumped about competing for a prize in the paper’s yearly writing contest

 

A passing remark from a cabdriver one evening perks his interest in a part of town he knows almost nothing about, so he decides to check it out.  Referred to as “Junktown”, it sounds to Qwill like he’s going to run into the local ghetto, but instead is fascinated when it actually turns out to be a treasure trove of small antique shops.  Changing his place of residence seems to be a habit with Qwill these days, and he takes a room in one of the shops’ owners’ home – packing Koko and Yum Yum along, of course.  When he learns that the previous tenant died under mysterious circumstances and then another Junktown dealer appears to have a freakish accident, the old moustache starts a-twitching. 

 

 

Always fun, and I’m really enjoying going through these in order as well as reading these early ones for the first time.


raven

Book 124: The Chalice by Phil Rickman.

Book 124: The Chalice: a Glastonbury Ghost Story.
Author: Phil Rickman, 1997.
Genre: Supernatural Mystery. Ghosts.
Other Details: Paperback, 645 pages.

The author has woven together Glastonbury lore, both Christian and Pagan, into a well crafted, complex supernatural thriller based in and around the famous Somerset town.

Plans for a new motorway have increased the long standing bitterness between the local inhabitants and the hippies and New Agers drawn to relocate in Glastonbury. Into the middle of this Diane Ffitch returns home. Diane is the daughter of a local aristocrat and has often been dubbed Lady Loony due to her interests in occult subjects and her association with unsuitable people like bookshop owner, Juanita Carey. She'd been recently trying respectability; working for a newspaper up north and becoming engaged to a suitable man. Still she felt Glastonbury was calling her back and so left behind her new life to travel across country with a group of New Age travellers headed for Glastonbury. Also, drawn into the mix is writer Joe Powys, who had written a famous New- Age book about Glastonbury and now returned to write a new book highlighting his new found scepticism. The rising tensions in the town are enhanced by the possible existence of an ancient darkness - an anti-Grail or dark chalice to counter the energies of the fabled Holy Grail, long believed to be buried at Glastonbury. Soon the situation escalates to violence.

It was a remark in a review that mentioned that Diane Ffitch felt a strong connection to English occultist Dion Fortune that led me to get hold of this book, as I have long been interested in Fortune's life and work. It is obvious that Rickman shares a similar interest using quotes from Fortune's Avalon of the Heart to preface each part of the novel and allowing her a cameo or two. The supernatural elements remain subtle rather than heading into more overt horror territory though there were certainly times when the hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I'd place it in the spooky category of thriller. I found its characters well-drawn and realistic and easy to care about; so when some were in peril I found I became quite upset.

I enjoyed this book very much though sometimes the sheer number of supporting characters led me to needing to keep a few notes on who was who. As a long time visitor to Glastonbury I feel that Rickman did a superb job of capturing the ambiance of the town. While I think the conflict between the communities was somewhat exaggerated for the purpose of the book, I am sure there are long-time locals who shudder at the types of shops lining the High Street even if the tourist trade brings money and work into the community.

Overall a winner. In the New Year I plan on tackling Rickman's popular series of crime thrillers with a supernatural twists featuring Merrily Watkins, Church of England vicar and exorcist.

92 - 98








98. Living Dead in Dallas - (12/27) - Charlaine Harris 291p

4/5

uh oh ... this series is addictive!

97. Dead Until Dark - (12/26) - Charlaine Harris 304p

4/5

Since I watched True Blood it was impossible not to make comparisons throughout the book. I think they did a really good job with the material, and made it a little something "more" than the book offers. At times the writing is hokey, but overall it's a super fast paced, fun read. Looking forward to the next in the series, especially since I don't know what happens next.

p.s. as a side note ... If I were Charlaine Harris, I'd be super pissed at Stephenie Meyer ... I know there's a lot of standard lore about vampires, but some of Meyers stuff seems like it was lifted right out of Harris' head.



96. The Magus - (12/25) - John Fowles 672p


5/5

As a child of the 60's I grew up with The Magus lying around my house. I never read it ... never planned to read it. It was something that was always just there, like Lady Chatterly's Lover, Harold Robbins and some massive Michener tome.

My step-father and I often exchange books, and this showed up in a box. I read the reviews, and it sounded interesting so I decided to give it a go.

It is a spectacular and indescribable book (which happens to take place in 1953 ... the same year as The Bell Jar.) To give a synopsis does it no justice, so I will just comment on the experience of reading the book. This is not a fast or easy book to read. Reviewers had me thinking I could plow through it in two days, but it is LONG ... 668 pages. And it is not a quick read. But the writing is top notch. I laughed, I scoffed, I questioned ... What the hell? What. The. Hell? WHAT THE HELL? The book was utterly engrossing, and though it took me several days to finish, I must warn you that once you get to around page 450, it's very hard to put the book down, so plan accordingly.

It's a strange tale, and certainly only for the open-minded. It's a mystery in a sense, but not in a whodunit sense ... in a mysteries of the universe sense. There are tinges of war, history, philosophy, psychology, sexuality, a flare for the dramatic, and that mood that is created in novels written pre-technology ... pre-Google.

It's one of the best books I read in 2008 and anyone who considers themselves a lover of books, should absolutely give this book a read.




95. The Blind Assassin: A Novel - (12/20) - Margaret Atwood 544p

5/5

I was going to give it, 4.75/5 but I loved the last 200 pages so much it overrode what I didn't like ... which was most of the sci-fi story. I did like the bit about the blind assassin but that was about it.

Anyway, Atwood's writing is stellar, and I absolutely adore her sense of humor. Iris was amazingly lovable. Great book.



94. Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas (P.S.) - (12/20) - John Baxter 288p

4/5

Take one part memoir
Throw in some french tradition
Add a dash of humor
A bit of history
and saturate with a love and passion for food

Voila: Baxter's Immoveable Feast

This is a lovely book, fast and easy to read to read. While planning a Christmas dinner menu, Baxter weaves in all the above elements and tells a very charming tale of French Christmas.

There's even an element of suspense ... Will his French family enjoy the non-traditional meal?

It's a wonderful book for food lovers, and has left me with a hankerin' for Christmas dinner.


93. The Forgotten Man (Elvis Cole Novels) - (12/13) - Robert Crais 368p

5/5

Elvis Cole is everything Stepanie Plum is not ... In a very good way. Crais keeps developing Cole's character, and we get to watch him grow and it's rewarding for the reader, because it would be very easy to fall into a formulaic trap.

Plus, Robert Crais is HOT! :-)

92. Cellophane - (12/12) - Marie Arana 384p

2/5

The best thing I can say about this book is I'm so glad it's over. Wow ... The writing was good, but I didn't like it

My complete list can be found here
Bike

50-59

As life is a little less hectic, I have been able to read some more books, but won't be able to get to my target of 64. Still, Roddy Doyle's Oh, play that thing was a good read, with a great ambience of the USA in the 1920s and 1930s. I felt the ending petered out, but the main character was well drawn. The novel brought home the difficulties of life in the USA at the time of the Great Depression, as well as the everyday violence that has largely gone from society.
Then another of Terry Pratchett novels; Eric, followed by Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which was an excellent novel, with an intriguing mix of history and magic. A quick Pratchett; Moving Pictures which is a great parody on Hollywood. I seem to be stuck on the magic and fantasy because I decided it was high time to read Neil Gaiman's American Gods; another book that I would highly recommend. I had a change and read an odd book set in Australia called Alice Springs by Nikki Gemmell. As one can guess, it involved Aborigines and the relationship an Australian artist attempts to have with their culture, in the process of learnign about her culture.
From that book back to fantasy and magic; the Philip Pullman series of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I enjoyed them, despite some plot holes and the fact that the audience are probably female and younger than me!
So total pages so far this year; 19,783. 59 books. Pretty ok. I can perhaps manage a few more.

November and december reads...

Ok so in November I read a lot and completed my goal of 60 books. 

58.) Total Money Make Over by Dave Ramsey -- 223 pages

OMG...this book was well worth it.  If you are struggling financially this is totally the book for you.  I can't say more than that because I don't know what to say.

59.)  Revelation by Kate Brian -- 249 pages

As always a great book that I couldn't put down.  Love her work and can't wait to see what is in store with the next books.

60-62.) Marked, Betrayed, & Chosen by P.C & Kristen Cast -- 923 pages total

Loved the series...planning to start the new year with the next book.  Once I finish the ones I currently have started that is.  The authors manage to captivate you from the start.  Each book took me 2 hours.

63-66.) First Test, Page, Squire, & Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce -- 1198 pages total

This author never fails me either...only nine books by her that I haven't read and I can't wait to read them at all.

I also started Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange in November...

DECEMBER:

67.)  Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen -- 337 pages

Not my favorite but still captivating.

Currently Reading:

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie


Books Read:  67

Pages Read:  23232

Next years goal:  70 books
anti-smoking/cockroach sign

#54-The Book of Classic Insults

#54 is 'The Book of Classic Insults', ed by Tom Steele. Amusing, but a book I'd recommend you borrow, not buy. I had fun with it, chortling over dinner, and it was a very quick read.


Some favorites:

Katherine Hepburn on Sharon Stone:

"It's a new low for actresses when you have to wonder what's between her ears instead of her legs."



Bernard Levin, writing in the Daily Express about Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song:

"An American musical so bad at times I longed for the boy-meets-tractor theme of Soviet drama." *snorts*



Henry Adams, on polilticians:

"You can't use tact with a congressman. A congressman is a hog. You must take a stick and hit him on the snout."
(Can I, PLEASE?!! 0.0)


Tallulah Bankhead, religion:

As she put money into a Salvation Army worker's out-stretched tambournie, Tallulah Bankhead said, "Don't bother to thank me. I know what a perfectly ghastly season it's been for you Spanish dancers." *rotflmao!* 
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jimmy kick original series

Book #5: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

Title: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Author: Bruce Coville
Genre: fantasy

I remember seeing, a while ago, that someone was going to/wanted to read this book for 50bookchallenge. I highly recommend it, whether for this challenge or not. This book was a re-read for me, although I hadn't read it in a long time: I first read this book after being introduced to it by an elementary school teacher and perhaps once after that. I found that I still liked it as much as I did when I first read it.

The story focuses on titular character Jeremy Thatcher, a short-for-his-age sixth grader, who stumbles across a magic shop while running away from two bullies. There, he is drawn to a colorful marble-like sphere he sees on a display case, although "[h]e [wasn't] really looking to go home with anything"*. The shop's owner, Mr. Elives, tells Jeremy that it is in fact the sphere that wants Jeremy and not the other way around. Jeremy is understandably confused, but buys it anyway. It turns out to be a dragon’s egg.

When the egg hatches, Jeremy finds a strange companion in the baby dragon, whose presence is strange at first but then becomes a constant (and mostly reassuring) factor in his life. This is appropriate, because the story is about the influence the dragon has on him/in his life – for example, by causing him to try to understand a person he might not have taken the trouble to get to know otherwise and by boosting his (self-)confidence.

The characters in this story are its stars. Jeremy’s father Dr. Thatcher has some of the best (often meaning funniest) lines in the book, and some of the best (descriptive) writing focuses on or is about him. Miss Priest, a librarian, and Mary Lou Hutton, a girl in Jeremy’s class, also feature and have a lot to teach both Jeremy and the reader.

This book should be a quick read for most people. The target audience is middle-school-aged and therefore the chapters (all thirteen of them, plus an epilogue) are fairly short. But that does not take away from the quality of the story at all. In addition, the new afterword provided by Bruce Coville (on the occasion of the 20th anniversary publication of the book and the Magic Shop series, of which it is a part) is insightful and pleasant to read. The illustrations, when done by Gary Lippincott, are pencil sketches that enhance the work in just the right way.

I actually didn’t realize this book was part of a series until I picked up the edition I read for 50bookchallenge (published by Magic Carpet Books; amazon.com link here), which proclaimed it as such. The other books in the series are The Skull of Truth, Jennifer Murdley’s Toad, The Monster’s Ring, and Juliet Dove, Queen of Love. They are all standalones, but the reason they can be considered a ‘series’ (as far as I understand it) is that Mr. Elives’ Magic Shop features prominently in each of them. I will probably borrow any of these that are available at my library, but Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher will likely remain my favourite.

* from the front flap of the book's dust jacket
anti-smoking/cockroach sign

#55-Dream Work-Mary Oliver, poetry


#55 is 'Dream Work', a collection of poems by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mary Oliver. I've never heard of her before, but lately I've been ransacking the poetry shelves at Borders for new, eclectic stuff, so I tried it.

I liked most of the poems in this. They tend to be very dreamy, very contemplative and image-laden, so I would have to think them over for a while to figure out what I felt or thought about them. It's a slim volume, so it didn't take me long...I might get more by her. *muses*


Here's two of my favorites:


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pacificparlour

DOMINANCE SOLVABILITY AND MAXIMIN.

Steven Landsburg's More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdon of Economics makes Book Review No. 49 identify Yet More Diminishing Returns to Partial Equilibrium Anomalies. He does make use of a number of recent papers, many of which are published in highly-regarded journals. For the most part, the problems are variations on the prisoners' dilemma (in its common property version) with careful attention to the loss function. Perhaps it's a case of familiarity with the subject leading to my ennui. Somebody relatively new to economics well might enjoy the work.

On the other hand, perhaps it's my frustration with work that doesn't think through the model carefully enough. The argument that gives the book its title considers the behavior of a population with relatively chaste and relatively promiscuous people. The promiscuous people are more likely to be infected with social diseases. Thus, if the relatively chaste people loosen up, some promiscuous people will have flings with people that aren't contagious, and if the chaste people who get lucky are unlucky enough to get infected, they infect fewer people, in the limit dying alone. Dominance solvability, perhaps, but suppose the relatively chaste people have a loss function that places large negative weights on accidental pregnancies or getting infected or placing themselves at the mercy of manipulative people? That's all left out of the model.

The book ends with another provocative suggestion: give all your money to one charity. The supporting argument, however, seems ignorant of a simple indifference at the margin principle: the marginal utility of the last dollar donated to each charity is identical. It strikes me as simplicity itself that someone who places a positive valuation on hearing a Boston and Maine super Pacific in steam and the America's Cup returning to America and on flood relief and lodging for grief counselors might donate to more than one charity.

In the other chapters, it's Professor Landsburg being contrarian, sometimes extending arguments he offered in shorter form in his Slate columns. There might be some thesis ideas amid the essays and the sources.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

patrician

Book 46

Title: The Affinity Bridge
Author: George Mann
Published: 2008
Pages: 350
Synopsis: Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies above the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automations are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes. When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city.
Rating: 5/5
Review: A brilliant steampunk adventure, complete with plague ridden animated corpses, bizarre clockwork automations, ground trains and airships. The characters are delightfully Victorian with a slight twist as they are part of this alternative Victorian, loving Vernonica Hobbes and Sir Maurice... oh and the sinister 'Fixer' and Queen Victroria are utterly magical. Highly recommended for fans of the genre and for people looking for an introduction into steampunk, definitely looking forward to any more adventures. Perfect way to end the year!