January 16th, 2011

pacificparlour

PUSHING THE LIMITS OF WISHFUL THINKING.

There is a Fourth Turning section at Cold Spring Shops, and sensible thinking along generational lines occasionally gets its due. On the other hand, there's Tom Osenton's Boomer Destiny: Leading the U.S. through the Worst Crisis Since the Great Depression. Book Review No. 3 is not going to be complimentary. Collapse )

Implementing that model in government, however, is harder.  I've griped about Utopian Wonkery(TM) before, but to suggest that the national government undertake such an exercise as a way of solving the budget imbalance, with Congress putting all its customary practices aside for the duration of an emergency, because Nextel shows a fire department allocating budgets in thirty seconds, is a bit much, even for a business writer.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
library

Book 4: Kraken by China Miéville

Book 4: Kraken: an Anatomy.
Author: China Miéville , 2010
Genre: Urban fantasy. Black Comedy.
Other Details: Hardback. 482 pages.

In Miéville's own words: "It’s a dark comedy about a squid-worshipping cult and the end of the world. It takes the idea of the squid cult very seriously. Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they’re not absurd."

The novel begins with the impossible disappearance of a perfectly preserved giant squid and its tank from the Darwin Centre at London's Natural History Museum. The curator in charge of the rare specimen, Billy Harrow, soon finds himself plunged headlong into a London that he never imagined existed; a London teaming with warring cults, strange magics, and deadly assassins.

I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft's mythos and so anything featuring giant squids being worshipped as gods was bound to attract my interest even if not a Lovecraftian pastiche. Of course, its premise of an ordinary chap suddenly discovering a hidden side to London, which proves a more complex and unusual place than anything he could imagine, also brings to mind Neil Gaiman's wonderful 'Neverwhere'. A hard act to follow though I felt Miéville confidently put his own spin on London's ongoing role as a nexus for strange religions and magical activities of all hues. He draws some on the real-life magical 'scene' though then whirls off into fantastical realms. There are also a lot of geeky in-jokes, not all of which I got though those I did were amusing.

The novel is bursting with fun, creativity and memorable characters. It took me a while to read it, which was mainly due to having a heavy cold and lacking the concentration needed to navigate Miéville's complex plot. I love London, having lived there for a number of years and explored its strange histories and byways, and it is really obvious that China Miéville also has a passion for the city and knows it inside out enabling him to give a sense of both its reality as well as this kind of fantastic tale.

I have a few other books lined up in the urban fantasy genre that use London as its base, though it is hard to imagine that they'll top Gaiman and Miéville.
{books} blue

book #01-02 of 2011: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides & The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevski

Title: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides [New York 2002]
Summary: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver-s license...records my first name simply as Cal." So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. [Source].
Review in 5 words or less: Captivating | Excellent characterization | A wonderful story about a family but also about self-discovery and self-acceptance | Must-read |
Personal Rating: ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ of 5.
Fake-cut to the review: Read me!



Title: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevski [Russia 1880]
Summary: The Brothers Karamozov is a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of erotic rivalry in a series of triangular love affairs involving the "wicked and sentimental" Fyodor Pavlovich Karamozov and his three sons–the impulsive and sensual Dmitri; the coldly rational Ivan; and the healthy, red-cheeked young novice Alyosha. Through the gripping events of their story, Dostoevsky portrays the whole of Russian life, its social and spiritual strivings, in what was both the golden age and a tragic turning point in Russian culture. [Source].
Review in 5 words or less: Very complex plot | Outstanding characterization | Characters have the tendency to ramble & the author loves to get off topic | Epic, beautiful story |
Personal Rating: ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ of 5.
Fake-cut to the review: Read me!
Random // Reading.

Val McDermid - Beneath The Bleeding

 


 
Val McDermid - Beneath The Bleeding

Summary from www.valmcdermid.com

Tony Hill, criminal profiler and hero of TV’s Wire in the Blood, is back in a terrifying psychological thriller from bestselling author Val McDermid. A city is mourning. Bradfield Victoria’s star midfielder has been murdered, bizarrely poisoned in an apparently motiveless killing. Then a bomb blast rips through the football stadium. Dozens lie dead, many more injured. Is it a terrorist attack or a vendetta against the Vics? Or something even more sinister? As he lies in a hospital bed, psychologist and profiler Dr Tony Hill struggles to make sense of the fragments of information he manages to gather. But his customary ally, DCI Carol Jordan, is being pushed to the margins of the investigation by intelligence services determined to prove themselves indispensable. It wouldn’t be so bad if Tony and Carol could agree about who they’re looking for. But even their relationship has its dislocations and dark places. Beneath the Bleeding sets Tony and Carol at odds as they have never been before, forcing them to ask questions of themselves they would never have imagined possible.
 



 
1 / 50 books. 2% done!


 
1603 / 15000 pags. 11% done!

Book Number 3 - Always the Baker, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

Published:  2010
Genre: Christian Romance
Pages: 288
Medium: Kindle e-book
Acquired: Free download from their limited popular offerings
Normal Cost: 10.00

Okay I am not getting lucky with the free romances. While this one was well written and the character portrayals were delightful, it was yet another book that switched halfway through. The first half proceeded like a normal contemporary romance. The second half become Christian focused. However, it was a much better treatment than the last book I read.
This book tells the story of Emma Rae Travis, an extraordinary baker who can't taste her desserts, and Jackson Drake, a businessman turned hotel owner. All of the characters fairly leap off the page with lives of their own. It is very easy to visualize each of them, from Fiona, the goth bakers assistant to Aunt Sophie, who has the beginnings of Alzheimer's. Sandra Bricker also has the right touch of humor for this type of romance. Another nice touch is that at the beginning of each chapter is either a recipe or a wedding tip. The story is sweet and a fast read. Even when the Christian emphasis is thrown in, it blends well with the earlier half of the book.
Now for the bad.... Alzheimer's, Diabetes and Ovarian Cancer are all part of the plot line in the book. Yet none of the difficulties of these very serious illnesses are focused on. They are used as backdrop without really recognizing how much of an impact they really have on people's lives. It would have been nice to see them treated with the seriousness they deserve.
Overall it was not a bad book and was a fast read over a couple of days at the gym.

Books Read: 3/50
Page Totals: 1036
Money Saved: 31.00
Book Stacks

Book 1 of 50: Warbreaker

Book 1 of 50

Title: Warbreaker
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy

Summary: (from amazon.com): Epic fantasy heavyweight Sanderson (the Mistborn series) pens a powerful stand-alone tale of unpredictable loyalties, dark intrigue and dangerous magic. To keep a treaty made long ago, the king of Idris must send his daughter to marry Susebron, the God King of Hallandren. Loath to part with his eldest daughter, Vivenna, King Dedelin instead sends his youngest daughter, tomboyish 17-year-old Siri, who struggles to make sense of the schemers and spies in Susebron's court. Hoping to rescue her sister, Vivenna joins a group of Idrian operatives with questionable motives. As Vivenna comes to terms with her magical abilities, resurrected hero Lightsong questions the role of the undead Returned Gods, who command Hallandren's mighty army of zombie soldiers. Sanderson melds complex, believable characters, a marvelous world and thoughtful, ironic humor into an extraordinary and highly entertaining story.

Comments: I am a relative newcomer to Sanderson. I've read his latest two installments in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series, as well as his first novel, Elantris. I love Elantris, so I was eager to finally read Warbreaker. To me, Elantris was a much better read. I think maybe I'm so used to epic fantasy series that a stand alone fantasy novel seems too... short. :) I thought the way the characters talked sometimes was too seemed to common... for example, "Come on, let's kill them." It just seems to plain. I found myself bored with the parts dealing with Vivenna and Lightsong, and trying to rush through to read about Siri and Susebron. The magic system of the world was new to me, as it was all based on breath and colors. There may be other books that use these for the magic system, but I haven't read them. Still... it wasn't enough for me to find it truly engaging. In short, this is the least favorite thing I've read by Sanderson. I would recommend it for those interested in stand-alone fantasy books or Brandon Sanderson (the book does end neatly with an opening for a possible sequel, but with closure to the plotline of this book).

x-posted to cmmunchkin
rory bridge

Book #2



Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 552

Book Blurb: "It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down."

Review: This book is amazing. It took me a long time to pick it up and read it, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. So beautiful. So tragic. It's been a while since a book has made me cry, but this one did.


2 / 50 books. 4% done!


1558 / 15000 pages. 10% done!

Cross-posted to 15000pages and personal journal.
  • blinger

Books 1 & 2 - 2011

Book 1: Priceless by Nicole Richie – 291 pages

Synopsis from bookdepository.co.uk:
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Thoughts:
This book was a definite improvement on Richie’s previous literary work (if we can call it that). For one, she refrained from including herself in the plot this time, which I really appreciated (it always feels far too much like wish fulfillment to me when the writer includes themselves in their story – probably a hang-up from my fanfictioning days – it was one of the things that used to drive me bonkers!). Moreover, she’d either taken a writing class or two or got a better editor because this one was not only better plotted but it flowed a lot more nicely. It did still feel a little ‘poor-little-rich-girl’ for my liking but even so it was an easy, rather engrossing read. There’s better literature out there – that goes without saying – but if you’re after some brain candy, it’s definitely worth a look.


1 / 50 books. 2% done!


291 / 15000 pages. 2% done!

Book 2: How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly – 552 pages

Synopsis from borders.com.au:
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Thoughts:
I’m not exactly a Paul Kelly fan and I can’t say I’ve listened to even a fifth of the songs discussed in this book, but I saw this book advertised on 60 Minutes (I think…) in mid 2010 and thought it sounded like a nice little read so put my name down for it at the library. Of course, it turned out to be huge and quite the monster to power through (not to mention not exactly desirable to take on the train because it weighed too much to carry from the train station to the office when I’m also carrying the laptop) but nonetheless an interesting read. I can’t say I’m now a super duper Kelly fan, but I did enjoy most of the stories he had to tell about how some of his songs came to be. At times, it got preachy (a lot of discussion about Aboriginal history/culture/rights etc, which whilst an interesting and important topic gets a little much when you’ve had it shoved down your throat since the moment you could read – the average Australian will know I’m talking about) but there was always the redeeming quality that he would eventually move onto the next song and topic. Of all the stories, I must say that my favourite (and I can’t remember which song it related to) was a conversation Kelly had with a taxi driver named Agamemnon which not only touched on the obvious topic of the Greek King of the same name, but on the idea of naming your children in general, a topic that strongly appeals to me as both a writer and a name aficionado. All in all, an interesting memoir.


2 / 50 books. 4% done!


843 / 15000 pages. 6% done!

Currently reading:
- Nobody’s Prize
by Esther Friesner – 306 pages
- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – 307 pages
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Second: The Reptile Room
by Lemony Snicket – 190 pages

And coming up:
- The Star King
by Susan Grant – 358 pages
- Jennifer Government
by Max Barry – 335 pages
- The Davinci Code
by Dan Brown – 593 pages
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