February 28th, 2010


Books 5 - 10

I read a lot of these on a plane, using a kindle, which I liked way more than I thought I would!

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (ebook) - I did not like this one. Maybe because I have actually read a lot of naval fiction or because I did not like the way dragons were done in this story, but i just could not suspend reality to read this book in the way that I normally can with fantasy novels. Also I did not like the main character. Maybe the other books in the series are different? I just thought having a crew of people riding a dragon like a british naval ship was ridiculous. And the dragons all speak english? I usually like these kinds of book but I did not like this.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - SO GOOD. Suspenseful and engaging and interesting. I read this in two days. It reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale, which I also loved.

Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (ebook) - The best part about reading this book (which was very interesting, just like the first one) was reading the section about how ineffective airport security is WHILE going through airport security.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (ebook) - I wanted to read this after hearing this interview with the author on the radio. The author herself sounds like such a fascinating person, and the book did not disappoint.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett - Fascinating. I found it hard to believe this was a true story at some points, this was such a strange story. I want to know what is happening now, though!

Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyre Ward - I picked this up from the "February" book display at my library, hoping it would be at least okay, with short stories. UGH. I would NOT recommend this one. Uninspiring and bland.
Eric and Sookie kiss

No. 9 for 2010

Title: Guilty Pleasures
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Rating: 5/5
Book: 9/50 (18% completed)
Book in personal challenge with niun: 6/50 Fantasy, 5/50 Mystery and 0/25 Classics
Pages: 306 pgs
Total Pages 3,591/15,000 pages (23.94% completed)
Next up: Worst Case by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

This was a good read. The main character, Anita Blake, has a sense of humour that I can connect with. The plot moved quickly and the pace never slowed. I will definately be reading more of this series!!

xposted to 50bookchallenge, 15000pages and bookworm84

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(no subject)

 I was reminded of two other books that I read earlier this year, but had forgotten to put in my count.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians:  The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

My husband and I have a practice of reading everything our daughter does, if only to keep an eye on what sort of writing she is consuming.  Sometimes, doing this produces some delightful discoveries; sometimes, it is a real chore.  Reading this book, well, it wasn't "taking one for the team," like reading the Twilight series was, but it was definitely more chore than joy.

Percy (Perseus) Jackson has more problems than he can even begin to address.  Odd things keep happening around him, usually things that end up with him being expelled from school.  His step-father is a drunken, gambling jerk who treats his mother like garbage.  And he is about to discover that he is the son of one of the Greek gods.  Thankfully, there is a place he can go, a sort of summer camp for demi-gods hidden away in upstate New York.  Of course, the children of Mars insist on tormenting him, but that might be survivable were it not for the fact that someone very powerful is intent on destroying him and everyone he loves.  What is a young Olympian to do?

If you think you already know the answer, you're probably correct.  

Rick Riordan is a good writer, whose prose flows nicely, but this work is too obviously influenced by Harry Potter.  No surprise, really, as both sets came out of Scholastic.  

Don't get me wrong, this is a good young adult book, but it is no more than that.  Unlike Lois Lowry's The Giver or Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy, there is no real meat, no attempt to thematically challenge its readers.

Books Read:  3 / 50

Pages Read:  1,760 / 30,000

* * *

American On Purpose - Craig Ferguson

I generally despise celebrity memoirs and tend to avoid them like I would cholera-laced well-water, but Ferguson is one of the only late night hosts who has ever made me laugh with any consistency, so I decided to give it a whirl.  A very good move on my part.  This book is an utter delight to read, and it has substantially increased my respect for Ferguson.

The first lovely surprise is that Ferguson can write and write well without losing the unique voice that makes his comedy so enjoyable.  The second surprise is how utterly honest he is about himself and his life.  He does not flinch away from the parts where he was a complete ass to the people who loved him.  At the same time, this is not a self-loathing catalog of doom.  The third lovely surprise is how inspirational it is.  Ferguson manages to talk frankly about his struggles with alcoholism, and his eventual victory over that demon, without devolving into preachiness or self-help mantras.

Read it.  You won't regret it.

Books Read:  4 / 50

Pages Read:  2,048 / 30,000

(no subject)

A few more off the list:

1. Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. Suburban angst in the 1950s, with excellent character studies of husbands and wives.

2. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. Excellent book that weaves the lives of a 20th century woman with a 1950s housewife and author Virginia Woolf. Won the Pulitzer Prize.

3. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier. Civil War-era novel about wounded Inman, who travels home to meet Ada, his wife, who's incapable of keeping her farm operational until Ruby comes along. Beautiful descriptions of the country and decent characterizations, but the glacial pace makes this novel hard to finish.

4. Green Lantern: Willworld, by J.M. DeMatteis. I hated the artwork, but the storyline is interesting: Hal Jordan is (in a sense) imprisoned in his own mind and must relearn who he is in order to pass a test given to all Lanterns.

5. Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern, by Dave Gibbons. Guy Gardner needs some vacation time, but before leaving he must escort new Lantern Soranik Natu to her home sector and solve the murder of her partner. Special appearances by Bolphunga the Relentless and Ranx the Sentient City.

6. Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green, by Dave Gibbons and Keith Champagne. Mogo is infected with something that's causing the Lanterns who visit him to leave angry and hostile instead of soothed and relaxed. Guy Gardner is framed for the murder of some Lanterns and struggles to clear his name. I'm not sure if it's only me that sees this, but Guy often looks a lot like Thomas Hayden Church.

7. Green Lantern Corps: Emerald Eclipse, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Rebecca Buchman. A raging Red Lantern frees the Sciencells of their prisoners, leading to a hellacious riot on Oa; Sinestro meets with Soranik Natu and tells her of her parentage; Sodam Yat defends his homeworld against Mongul and the Sinestro Corps using his Ion power. I am dying to read Blackest Night now!

5-8 + an audio

5. The Shipping News - (2/13) - Annie Proulx 352p


Pultizer books are so hit and miss for me, and this was actually both.

At some points I was so bored, I wanted to put the book aside and never return. The last 1/3 was absolutely great.

The characters and the setting were very well done. The writing drove me batty. This is the sentence that started chapter 20. "Quoyle in Billy Pretty's skiff."

Hate fragments. Pulitzer loves them. Love personal pronouns. Proulx doesn't.

Anyway, the last third of the book made it worthy. I'm about to re-watch the movie, which I loved the first time I saw it.

6. Music for Torching - (2/20) - A.M. Homes 368p
5/5 (review behind the link)

7. From Dead to Worse - (2/27) - Charlaine Harris 302p

Hey, did you all know that Sookie is telepathic? Really, she is. She can read minds. She calls it a disability. She's telepathic. You know how I know this? Because this book mentioned it 175 times. And of course, I read the 7 books before it which also mention it quite a lot.

I'm just not sure book series (in general) should go on as long as this one has. This was by far the worst for me. Nothing new or interesting, basically bordering on ridiculous. Hey, we're having a gathering of our super secret supernatural community, did someone invite Sookie?

Sookie got splattered in blood (again), Sookie got a new body guard, again. Sookie saved the day, again. Everybody's indebted, blah blah blah. At least she didn't slut it up this book.

Anyway, enough ranting. I know better than to keep reading series when they get like this. I have one more book here, and unless it blows me away, I'm done.

8. The End Of Alice - (2/28) A.M. Homes 272p


Powerful. Disgusting. Disturbing. Fascinating. Compelling. Unputdownable. Funny? Yes. Shocking. Graphic. GRAPHIC. Unapologetic. Erotic. Brilliantly done.


I love dark books, but even I have a line, and I thought that line was pedophilia. I guess I was wrong. I LOVED this book. Homes is an astonishingly good writer, and I just cannot get enough. This book brings you right in and really never lets you go. The narrator was amazingly constructed and as awful as the things he did were, I couldn't help but root for him in the end (for his redemption, of course.) (Incidentally, this book was voted by Henry Sutton of the Guardian as having a top 10 unreliable narrator sharing the list with Holden Caufield, and the incomparable Patrick Bateman.)

There were parts I had to read through my fingers. Times I had to read paragraphs one or two sentences at a time, my stomach recoiling. It's like Homes is saying, look, this is part of life. Deal with it.

I'm in awe of her skill. This is my first favorite of 2010.

I'd love to be able to recommend this book, because it's so well-done. But to be honest, I'd be VERY cautious about who I recommend it too. If you love Chuck Palahnuik and American Psycho, you're probably safe.

Peter and Max A Fables Novel - Bill Willingham

(review behind the link)

My complete list can be found here

Caleb- snug as a bug!

Books read in February 2010

7. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #1 by Louise Rennsion (my review)
8. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (my review)
9. Grave Sight, Harper Connelly Mysteries #1 by Charlaine Harris (my review)
10. Dead Until Dark, Sookie Stackhouse #1 by Charlaine Harris (my review)
11. Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie Stackhouse #2 by Charlaine Harris (my review)

*I honestly do not have a best or worst read this month. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books!

Books read in February: #19-29

19. Sally Gardner, The Red Necklace: YA novel set in the early days of the French Revolution about a Gypsy boy who must save a nobleman's daughter from both the guillotine and the clutches of a villainous Count. Although it starts off slowly, the plot quickly becomes enthralling, and the writing is very good. My review is here.

20. Lauren Willig, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily: Sixth in the "Pink Carnation" series, which combines historical romance with espionage. In this installment, the setting moves from England to India, where the headstrong Lady Frederick Staines clashes with serious army captain Alex Reid. I enjoyed this installment in the series, with one significant reservation -- read more here.

21. Alicia Fields, Love Underground: Retelling of the Persephone-Hades myth, still set in ancient Greece, that explores themes of feminine agency. I was looking for a strong romance element, which this book did not deliver, but overall it wasn't bad. My review is here.

22. M. M. Kaye, Death in Kashmir: Entertaining mystery, in the tradition of Agatha Christie, set in Kashmir one year before Indian independence. My review is here.

23. Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory: Thought-provoking novel about the last priest in an unnamed Mexican state. The priest is cowardly, far from heroic, and nearly always drunk, but he still retains his faith; Greene thus raises some very interesting questions about religion, belief, and the state. My thoughts are here.

24. Alistair M. Duckworth, The Improvement of the Estate: A Study of Jane Austen's Novels: Collection of scholarly essays about Austen's novels. The thesis is that Austen uses "estates" as a metaphor for traditional social structures and morals that are under siege from dangerous external "improvers." My review is here.

25. Rafael Sabatini, Captain Blood: Swashbuckling pirate story, subsequently adapted as a film starring Errol Flynn. I think that really says it all! My full review is here.

26. Ann Aguirre, Grimspace: Well-written and absorbing science-fiction novel about a woman with an unusual gift and a ragtag spaceship crew that wants to use her for their own ends. Extremely well-developed characters and snappy dialogue make it worth reading, despite a lack of originality in the sci-fi elements. My review is here.

27. Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood: Short novel about Hazel Motes, a young man running away from his fate of becoming a preacher, who eventually decides to create the Church Without Christ. The style is vivid and the characters grotesque, which is just what you'd expect from O'Connor. My review is here.

28. Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta: Elizabethan play about a Jew whose property is taken from him by the governor of Malta. Enraged by this injustice, he concocts elaborate schemes of revenge that end in widespread tragedy. My review is here.

29. Mary S. Lovell, The Sound of Wings: The Life of Amelia Earhart: Biography of the famous female pilot, focusing primarily on her relationship with her husband, charismatic publisher George Palmer Putnam. Impressively researched, yet accessible to the casual reader. My review is here.

(Cross-posted to books and 100ormorebooks.)


The slogan of the modelers' magazine Traction and Models used to be "Knowledge is of no value unless it is shared with others." The arts of teaching and of scholarship is in presenting the knowledge in such a way that others will want to partake of it. That these are art forms is probably confirmed by the existence of multiple models of best practices, and that students and professors gripe about having to coexist with each other, and authors and referees routinely disagree. That doesn't stop practitioners from suggesting improvements in technique, or, upon occasion writing books to explain core concepts in a way more accessible than the textbook offers. (Why such books haven't displaced textbooks is itself an anomaly, but I digress.) I have on occasion hinted at my views about classroom technique, and devoted a number of posts to the class of economics readers I summarize as clever partial equilibrium tricks.

More recently, I've been following a conversation at Phi Beta Cons about effective methods of teaching mathematics. The conversation continues, with the continued false choice.
Getting a general notion of how mathematicians think may be interesting or useful to a small fraction of students, but I think most of them would be better served by actually doing some math themselves.
It's necessary to do both, as a linked American Heritage article about the folly that became New Math illustrates.

[Proponents] argued that math could be exciting if it showed children the whys of problem solving rather than just the hows. Memorization and rote were wrong. Discovery, deduction, and limited drill were the best routes to arithmetical mastery.

In practice, this meant learning how different number systems worked, that the number 9 in the decimal, or base ten, system would be the number 100 in base three. It meant learning about the set, a grouping of things: a beach as a “set” of grains of sand, for example. It meant learning the difference between a number like 7 and its representation the numeral, which could be expressed many different ways—21 minus 14, 7 times 1, VII.
The first sentence illustrates that practice, and organizing concepts, both matter. The second paragraph leads to the worst form of deconstruction: until you know the dimensions of the box, it is silly to speak of thinking outside the box. But the teachers didn't know the dimensions of the box. (The generalizations to Marxian or Freudian approaches to literary criticism are left to the reader as exercises.)

New math became a pejorative term. And because it was difficult to know if trying to understand the structure of math made it any easier, most teachers deserted discovery learning without any pangs.
In part, because they had not developed their intuition.

I wrote that previous post, and all of the preceding paragraphs, as a motivation of Book Review No. 6, Paul J. Nahin's An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i. It's been a long motivation, and -- my taste for light reading being somewhat idiosyncratic -- the review itself is going to be heavy going, even by my usual standards. You might want to skip to some other post with the observation that Imaginary Tale is useful at what it does, although its presentation is uneven.

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(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)