November 4th, 2013

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

What with one thing or another, I did manage to finish another book this weekend, that being Osprey Elite #141: Finland at War 1939 - 45. Here was a country forced into allying with Nazi Germany by the behavior of the Soviet Union, but by the end of the war they were fighting Germans, too, driving them out of Lapland and into Norwegian territory. Nice piece of history of a greater war...

October Reading: 168-192/200

Foxy: My Life in Three Acts by Pam Grier
Pemberley Ranch (reread) by Jack Caldwell
The Fall of the Hotel Dumort by Cassandra Clare
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
The Promise Parts 1, 2, and 3 by Gene Luen Yang
How to Entice an Enchantress by Karen Hawkins

I love Pam Grier. This is a hard to put down piece of writing about a very strong woman, however while reading about her ability to perservere I couldn't help but believe that Ms Grier has many personal problems that she really has not dealt with. I don't know if it can all stem from her sexual abuse as a young child though I'm sure that plays a large part. I suppose what I found so frustrating is that this beautiful, talented, strong woman keeps choosing men who care much less for her than she does for them.

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Oh if only all P&P fanfic can be as long and as well written as the works of Lucrezia. Sigh.

I've passed last years reading goal by quite a margin, however I'm not entirely pleased that it's because of the excessive amount of fanfic that I read this year--and have counted for 2013. There won't be any more of it counted for the rest of the year, nor will I include fanfiction in next years goal, which will still be 200 in an attempt to beat 172.
kitty, reading

Books #37-38

I'm a bit behind the pace but trying to catch up!

I'd be at 32 percent non-fiction for my reads this year if I don't read any more non-fiction at all this year; that's pretty close to my final goal for the year (1/3 or more of books each year non-fiction), and that feels good.

I'm planning to do mostly light and fun reading for pleasure for the rest of the year. I generally do try to pick books that are interesting or amusing, and preferably not a total slog. I will abandon a book if it bores or frustrates me. But I also sometimes read books for the experience of having read them (i.e. with some "classics") or for the information in them as much as for my own entertainment, and so I will tolerate some "slower" reads for that reason. But as we cruise into the holiday season and end of the year, I think I'm entitled to a little brain candy...

Book #37 was "The Killing Moon" by N.K. Jemison, first of a two-book series called "The Dreamblood" duology. At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. For one thing, fantasy isn't my favorite genre, so I'm pretty picky about what fantasy books I'll read. Secondly, the author's prose, at least in the beginning, was a little clunky to my ears. Whenever I see an author using either a cliche phrase or one of their own stock phrases too often, it puts me off and makes it harder for me to suspend my disbelief and get into the story. There were some problems of that kind in this book (example: the phrase "startling him badly" was used twice in four pages). However, if a story and/or the characters can draw me in, I can overlook it. (I find Kim Harrison, author of the Hollows series, is that kind of writer - I want to play bingo with some of her stock phrases she uses over and over, but I do enjoy the books.)

Anyway, Jemison has been lauded for her world building, and it IS good. She creates a unique magical system based on dream energy, as well as two competing cultures. The characters are definitely not one dimensional, and I really, really liked the relationship between the apprentice and master in this book. Spoiler:[Spoiler (click to open)]
The fact that one of the two characters I liked best won't be in the second book makes me hesitate to try the second in the duology.

Overall, I'm ambivalent about Jemison's writing style, but I'd recommend it as something out of the ordinary in the fantasy genre.

Book #38 was "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster" by Jon Krakauer, Randy Rackliff, Daniel Rembert and Caroline Cunningham. I understand why this was a best-seller and is considered a classic of adventure/outdoors literature. I found this book to be extremely gripping. I normally read non-fiction more slowly than fiction but this book pulled me in and kept me turning pages. It is the story of the worst season for deaths in the history of climbing Everest, told from the viewpoint of a journalist for the magazine Outdoors who was an up close witness to what happened. It's accompanied by photographs taken by members of the various expeditions climbing the mountain around the same time: May of 1996. Krakauer does his best to reconstruct what went wrong, which is always easier to see in retrospect. He gives some history of those who have climbed Everest to put that year in context as well. I understand that his story is only one version of the truth, but I think he tries very hard to make that clear, especially in the afterward appended to later editions. A journalist tries to report the objective truth, but when you're one of a band of people who are cold, exhausted and oxygen-deprived, in danger of dying at any moment if you don't keep heading toward safety, it's not surprising if people's accounts don't match 100 percent. The book has some grim details, so much that my husband would notice me sighing or gasping out loud as I was reading. But it's really compelling and thought -provoking. If there's one thing I think I will retain from it, it is the idea that the more complex a system (or an expedition or undertaking) is, the more things can - and will - go wrong. Highly recommended.
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Book #59: The 32 Stops by Danny Dorling

Number of pages: 165

"At the start of the journey, life expectancy falls by two months a minute", writer Danny Dorling states near to the start of his book, referring to the districts that you will pass through if you are travelling west on London's Central line from its western terminus.

This book revolves entirely around demographic and statistical information for areas of London located on the Central Line, talking at length about life expectancy, number of children living in poverty and average exam results. However, instead of just being in the form of an essay, the information is presented as a series of Vignettes about (evidently fictional) people living in varying conditions across London.

At first, I wasn't too impressed; each of the stories that featured in the book seemed to be about families arguing about things that I thought no one in real life would spend much time talking about, but after a while I started to enjoy the vivid way that life across London was portrayed, and how one group of residents can be rich and living in luxury, while people close by are living almost in squalor. The narrative style put me in mind of Michael Moorcock's Mother London, except set in modern times.

Politics are a strong influence on the entire book, and at some point it feels at though the writer is getting up on his soapbox, but throughout you can tell that a lot of research has been carried out, and there is an almost obsessive attention to detail regarding statistics.

Overall, I thought this was an okay book; it's probably not something that a lot of people would read for pleasure though.

Next day: Cathedral of Lies (John Pye)
Read or Die

Books 14 - 28

14) After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkein.Edited by Martin H. Greenberg. First Edition 1992, mass market edition 1994. 19 short stories in hoor of Tolkein by the likes of Peter S. Beagle, Stephen R. Donaldson, Patricia A. McKillip and dozens of other well know fantasy and sci-fi. Paul H. Kochner.

15) Master of Middle Earth: The Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkein by Paul H. Kocher. Fourth Printing 1981. If you wondered about Sauron and the Nature of Evil, The Cosmology of Middle-Earth, and who is the most misunderstood hero on Lord of The Rings? This is a series of essays explaining some of the background and thinking that Tolkein put into his epic creation – Middle-Earth.

16) American Gods by Neil Gaiman published by Harper Torch in May 2002. What do you when you're called Shadow, you just got released early from prison because your wife died in a car accident with your best friend/ boss? You get home as fast as you can and Mr. Wednesday and eventual y get hired as his errand boy/bodyguard. And end up on the most interesting road trip over America to rally a very divergent crew of forgotten old gods to fight the new gods.

17) Anno Dracula 1959: Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman published in 2012. In an alternative universe where Dracula does not get destroyed by Van Helsing and Crew, and vampires are out of the coffin, he settles near Rome after the Second World War and he chooses to marry again. The guests arrive like jet setters of the late 50's to Rome, only to be killed by The Crimson Executioner. Many of the characters were introduced in Kim Newman's other ANNO DRACULA series but I fell in without too much difficulty. The are so many cameos of real and imagined people, plus tons of references to books, music, theatre, and movies, that you have to read the annotations and smile. My copy also included the novella Anno Dracula 1968: Aquarius. The novella is a murder mystery set in 1968's London and Kate Reed helps the special squad of vampires set up to hunt their brethren who commit the most heinous crimes.

18) School's Out: School’s Out Forever Omnibus by Scott K. Andrews. 2007. What happens after a plague that targets everyone who is not O Negative. Where do you go if you are a survivour? If all you knew was boarding school, Lee Keegan heads back there after his immediate family, friends, and neighbours die. And then you have to make the real hard decisions while dealing with a crazy cannibal cult and your own power hungry peers.

19) Operation Motherland: School’s Out Forever Omnibus by Scott K. Andrews. 2009. Lee Keegan tries to find his father who is stationed in Iraq. But he encounters more problems with the American Armed Forces who want to Prevent Operation Motherland. A wild ride that was hard to put down. And one short story “The Man Who Would Not Be King”. This short story was grim yet sadly funny.

20) Children's Crusade School’s Out Forever Omnibus by Scott K. Andrews. 2010. With a tie in with another book from Abandon Books Post Apocalyptic Series, Lee Keegan takes the fight to the child snatchers based in London that have been terrorizing the English Countryside and snatching children for nefarious reasons.

21) Summon The Keeper by Tanya Huff. 1998 and Omnibus Edition 2012. Considering this book is set in my town Kingston Ontario was a bonus. Our heroine Claire Hansen and her cat Austin get summoned to The Elysian Fields Guest House and are left with the hotel with a particular pair of features – a woman frozen by a spell and a portal to hell in the basement. And Dean who is the cook/handyman is a pleasant isn't hard on the eyes either.

22) The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff. 2001 and Omnibus Edition 2012. Holidays are hard, especially for Claire Hansen when she takes her new boyfriend home. Unfortunately a mis-summoning of a boy angel and a girl demon makes for a hard trip to rectify this situation.

23) Long Hot Summoning by Tanya Huff. 2003 and Omnibus Edition 2012. The last in the series, this book takes to the particular hell of malls, heroes, and villains during a heat wave. And Dean has to deal with a egyptologist and the mummy queen he revived.

24) Coteries: A Source Book for Vampire The Requiem by Ken Blackwelder, Jacob, Klunder, Matthew McFarland, and Will Hindmarch. 2004. The why and wherefores of small groups of vampires surviving the night to night existence by banding together in small mobile groups based on purpose or goals. A good book to help set the mood for a game or spark ideas for stories.

25) Abney Park's Airship Pirates: RPG based on the Songs of Captain Robert Brown by Peter Cakebread and Ken Walton. 2011. This game system is based on the steampunk songs and world of Abney Park. It provides settings, social groups, history, biology, and airship pirates.

26) Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters. Illustrations by Eugene Smith. 2009. This mashing of a Jane Austen with a reality with sea monsters was bit odd but I enjoyed the subtle background action with the servants dealing with emergencies and monsters far better than the main heroes. I guess I should read the original to get a better idea of the diferences.

27) The X Files: Goblins (1994) and Whirlwind (1995) by Charles Grant for Quality Paperback Book Club edition 1995. Goblins has Mulder and Scully investigating some odd murders in a small town near an army base. Whirlwind takes us to American Southwest, where people are killed having been ripped to shreds. It was kinda nice to go back to this icon series with the wonderful intelligent chemistry between Mulder and Scully.

28) A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. 1981. These poems and drawings have wit and wisdom for all ages.

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