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Anything Goes

Anything Goes by Theodore Dalrymple

A collection of the essays of Dr. Dalrymple -- many of which I first read online.  Many somewhat occasional.

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Jilted by his childhood sweetheart, Florentino Ariza waits 50 years to proposition her again at her husband's funeral.


Love in the Time of Cholera

Penguin Books, 1985, 348 pages



In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.


Seriously, dude, move on!


Cross-posted to bookish and books1001.




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The Inscrutable Machine goes into space, fights aliens and Mad Science.


Please Don"t Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon

Curiosity Quills Press, 2015, 353 pages



Supervillains do not merely play hooky.

True, coming back to school after a month spent fighting - and defeating - adult superheroes is a bit of a comedown for the Inscrutable Machine. When offered the chance to skip school in the most dramatic way possible, Penelope Akk can't resist. With the help of a giant spider and mysterious red goo, she builds a spaceship and flies to Jupiter.

Mutant goats. Secret human colonies. A war between three alien races with humanity as the prize. Robot overlords and evil plots. Penny and her friends find all this and more on Jupiter's moons, but what they don't find are any heroes to save the day.

Fortunately, they have an angry eleven year old and a whole lot of mad science!


Puppeteers, Conquerors, and Jovian colonists descended from Victorian supervillains.

Also by Richard Roberts: My review of Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain.




My complete list of book reviews.

Volatile Bodies

I had ordered a book called “Volatile Bodies” for my research paper and it arrived a couple of days after I’d already turned in the paper, but it’s an interesting read anyway. Elizabeth Grosz introduces to the reader Jacques Lacan’s idea of comparing the mind and brain duality to a Mobius strip in which both sides are the same side if you follow the strip around its various curves. She also has a chapter on Freud, which I skimmed because while Freud has interesting ideas he allows his metaphors to carry him away to speculative la-la land, and Nietzsche, who is always fun to read even when he’s wrong, and his idea that we are only as introspective as we are frustrated with reality; the depth of our internal being is directly related to our failures in the external world. He believed the new philosophy and psychology should always be focused on the external. I can see why he felt that way since he did so much of this thinking while laid up with one aliment or another, and I have to agree that most people do most of their thinking when things don’t go their way, but he doesn’t have to say it like that makes thinking a bad idea.

As for Grosz herself, when she is writing about her own ideas, she believes that the mind/body dualism in Western history is the source of Western philosophical and ideological degradation of women and wishes to come up with a new, liberating philosophy that is integrated with the body in a non-oppressive way. I actually think the oppression of women, minorities, etc., gives rise to the ideological justifications of oppression, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t develop philosophies that challenge the intellectual status quo. People need ways of making sense of the world so we can get on with our lives, and the better our sense of the world the happier and more productive our lives will be. I also think our male/female binary rose before mind/body dualism.

Of course, the world ‘better’ is vague. Do I mean more accurate, more optimistic, more progressive?

Yes.

I realize there have been studies showing that optimistic people have less accurate worldviews, but I am attempting to use those two words in more specific ways. When I say accurate I mean comparing our world view to the world itself, and when I say optimistic I mean thinking about how the world can be, especially if we push for more progressive politics.

She also asserts the position that meaning is inscribed upon our bodies above and beyond what our bodies are. How much of what we think of as ‘gender’ is really just ideological wish fulfillment? How much of our body is created by our culture?

My favorite example of our bodies being created by our cultural environment has to do with calorie counts. The more calories we ingest as children, the sooner we enter puberty. 150 years ago, your average American reached reproductive age about the same time they reached an age of economic adulthood. Most boys were going to be farmers or laborers and most girls were going to be their wives; in 1850 you could learn everything you needed to be a grown up by the time you were roughly 15 (unless you wished to enter “a profession”). But as our calorie intake rose, we entered puberty earlier, but at the same time our society and jobs became more complex, raising the age of economic independence. For the middle class, there is now a roughly 14 year gap between the desire to have sex and the economic ability to raise a child, hence a powerful disruption to our moral code.

Grosz argues that our body shapes are cultural rather than natural, for every body reacts to our environment which is more cultural than natural. Body building and anorexia are extreme examples of people responding to cultural pressures by obsession with control over our bodies. What does a natural body even look like anyway? Someone who never eats processed food, walks everywhere, and from time to time climbs a tree or a mountain or kills an animal with pre-gunpowder weaponry. Sound like anyone you know? Should we break out our old “National Geographics”?

Japanese Destroyer Captain, by Tameichi Hara

The war memoirs of Japan's "Unsinkable Captain"


Japanese Destroyer Captain

Naval Institute Press, 1961, 310 pages



This highly regarded war memoir was a best seller in both Japan and the United States during the 1960s and has long been treasured by historians for its insights into the Japanese side of the surface war in the Pacific. The author was a survivor of more than one hundred sorties against the Allies and was known throughout Japan as the Unsinkable Captain.

A hero to his countrymen, Capt. Hara exemplified the best in Japanese surface commanders: highly skilled, hard driving, and aggressive. Moreover, he maintained a code of honor worthy of his samurai grandfather, and, as readers of this book have come to appreciate, he was as free with praise for American courage and resourcefulness as he was critical of himself and his senior commanders.


An action-packed, if rather apolitical, memoir by one of Japan's greatest naval captains.




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more Cloak Society

The next two books of the trilogy by Jeramey Kraatz.  Spoilers ahead for the earlier book.

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Esteemed Civil War historian William C. Davis undertakes an ambitious task as he looks at the parallel lives of that war's foremost military leaders in his 2015 work Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee - The War They Fought, The Peace They Forged. From cradle to grave, Davis examines the lives of Grant and Lee, alternating between each of his two subjects, examining their childhood, their military education at West Point, their early military careers (including their service during the Mexican-American War), their lives during the lull between the Mexican War and the Civil War, their career advancement and military successes and failures during the Civil War, their historic meeting at Appomattox Court House that ended the war, and their post war careers and lives.



The scholarship in this book is outstanding. Davis promises in his preface that this work will not simply be a regurgitation of what others have written about Grant and Lee; wherever possible, the author undertakes to seek out source material, even refusing to place much reliance on Grant's acclaimed memoirs because of the lapse of time between their composition and the events they discuss. He neither fawns over his subjects nor makes shallow judgements about them, and he notes both their strengths and weaknesses in his analysis, but he does provide his own assessment of each man's character and ability. In particular, he hones in on the most controversial aspects of their character: in Grant's case his excessive drinking, and in Lee's case, reports of his mistreatment of his slaves, and he makes a convincing case as to why be believes that both of these were likely exaggerated by each general's enemies, though both subjects are not completely lacking in substance. He also notes each man's similarities, their differences, and how each evolved professionally and personally as a result of their their wartime experience.

The book covers a lot of ground in 493 pages, although the details of many of the major battles such as Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Cold Harbor or Petersburg are abbreviated. The book is very thorough on the details of what kind of person each man was, including his relationship with his parents and spouse, his manner of dealing with subordinates and delegating, his exercise of discretion in meting out wartime discipline, his relationship with his president, and the character strengths and weaknesses of each. The detail in the book includes learning what an extraordinary horseman Grant was, Lee's religious convictions, Grant's awkward relationship with his father, and Lee's semi-obsession with wanting his wife to be fat, to name a few topics. Both men eschewed pretension, both conveyed optimism, both were conscious and mindful of the plight of the soldiers in their armies and both seemed to have the ability to rebound quickly after military setbacks.

Davis writes very well and does a superb job of allowing the reader to know each of these men intimately. Occasionally he seems to offer an excess of superfluous detail on some subjects, but for the most part the information that Davis dishes up is very interesting. The section on the relationship between Lee and Grant after the war is especially fascinating.

This is an excellent book for anyone with an interest in American history or for those who love biography and who want to know more than just superficial details about their subjects. William Davis has done an outstanding job of chronicling the lives of these two historic giants. To write a book this well about just one of these subjects would be quite an accomplishment. For Davis to cover both lives so ably is all the more astonishing and speaks volumes about his tremendous talent as an author and historian.

Vonnegut and Bradbury recs?

Hi I'm looking for some recommendations for two authors Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury. I've heard a lot about them but I'm not sure where to start.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu

A Chinese novel of first contact and imminent alien invasion.


The Three-Body Problem

Tor, 2014, 400 pages



With the scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day, Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.


SETI during the Cultural Revolution; online gamers prepare to welcome our alien overlords.




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The Cloak Society

The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz

For his twelve birthday, Alex gets to go on a bank robbery.

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Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

The Dashwood sisters find husbands, because it's Austen of course.


Sense and Sensibility

Originally published in 1811, 409 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.



Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love-and its threatened loss-the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.


I've finally read ALL the Austens.


Also by Jane Austen: My reviews of Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.




My complete list of book reviews.

How to illustrate, book recs?

Hi I love drawing and I've always thought about illustrating a children's book

so I'm looking for some recommendations on some good 'How to...' books. I've looked on Amazon but I don't know where to start so I'd love some advice please. Thank you.
The so-called "biography" of cancer documents our successes and failures against the beast.


The Emperor of All Maladies

Scribner, 2010, 592 pages



Written by cancer physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies is a stunning combination of medical history, cutting-edge science, and narrative journalism that transforms our understanding of cancer and much of the world around us. Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist's precision, a novelist's richness of detail, a historian's range, and a biographer's passion. The story of cancer is one of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, arrogance, paternalism, and misperception, all leveraged against a disease that, just decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out "war against cancer." It's a story of science and scientists, of centuries of discoveries, of setbacks and victories and deaths, told through the eyes of Mukherjee's predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, who instructed her Greek slave to cut off her malignant breast, to the radical surgeries of the 19th century, to the first recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy, to Mukherjee's own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is a story of people---and their families---who soldier through toxic, bruising, and draining regimens to survive and to increase the store of human knowledge.

Riveting and magisterial, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments and offers a bold new perspective on the way doctors, scientists, philosophers, and lay people have observed and understood the human body for millennia.


The War on Cancer, like all unilateral Wars on Some Named Thing, is probably destined to be eternal.




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Author Thomas Fleming has no love for Thomas Jefferson, something he makes abundantly clear in The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson That Divided a Nation. Jefferson is portrayed as someone who was self-absorbed, filled with dreamy impractical ideas and notions, disingenuous and consumed with an irrational love of all things French, even to the point of overlooking the horrific violence that was an integral part of the French Revolution. Conversely, George Washington was a gifted and balanced leader who was an even-handed visionary, fair to friends and foes alike, whose wise stewardship set a proper course for his nation, all the while remaining oblivious to the slings and arrows of his detractors.



While both of these descriptions have much more than a kernel of truth in them, and while the author provides a factual basis for his strong opinion of each of his subjects, Fleming plays the role of both historian and judge of his subjects, rather than presenting the facts and allowing his readers to form their own conclusions. Having said this, Fleming gives ample examples of Jefferson's strong prejudices (in favor of France and against England), his constant undermining of Washington's presidency while supposedly being an integral member of his "team", his subsequent lack of respect for Washington's legacy (referring to him as "General", never as President) and his mismanagement of both diplomatic and military matters during his Presidency. Fleming is equally strong in his opinions of many of the contemporaries of the book's two main subjects, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Aaron Burr and James Monroe.

The strength of this book however is in its skillful analysis of the ongoing conflict between the office of the presidency and the institution of Congress, an issue that has continued to vex the nation throughout its history. Washington's vision of a strong presidency has been of primary importance in times of national crisis (as demonstrated by Lincoln and FDR) and has been abused at other times. Conversely, an imbalance in favor of the power of Congress has caused problems such as the watering down of any meaningful reconstruction following the end of the Civil War, and the rampant rise of debt and deficits. It is in the author's description of the contributions of Washington and Jefferson in shaping the roles of the Presidency and of Congress that is most intellectually engaging in this book. Fleming argues that a study of the presidencies of Washington and Jefferson is essential today because it provides an understanding of why a strong presidency is essential, and why a disproportionate devolution of power in favor of Congress can result in a loss of accountability, and a loss of any central focus in favor of multiple self-interests.

If I had been the editor of this book, I would have urged the author to pull back the reins on his strong personal opinions of his subjects. The facts speak loud enough for themselves to allow readers to reach their own conclusions, and it is important for historians not to become retrospective editorial writers. Aside from that criticism however, this book provides a great deal of insight into the complicated relationship between these two giants of US history, it compares and contrasts their competing visions for their new nation, it makes a strong case as to why one of those visions was vastly wiser than the other, and it makes an especially compelling case as to why all of this matters today.

Portuguese Folk-Tales

Portuguese Folk-Tales by Consiglieri Pedroso

A collection of Portugeuse fairy tales.  Folk variants, with a few where I think the plot got a bit garbled in the telling and not straightened out in the editing.  (Oral transmission. . . .)
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The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A classic of the children's book genre. . .

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Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A dystopia caught half-way between the traditional literary cautionary tale, and the traditional genre tale that treats the society as a villain to fight.
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Tunnel in the Sky

Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

One of Heinlein's juveniles. Though you've got to notice that it starts with a college course that has a final of being dropped on some planet -- and surviving. And bright kids can take it in high school.

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Up Front

Up Front by Bill Mauldin

This is a semi-humorous work about the war.

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Apr. 10th, 2015

Does anyone have any book recommendations for science fiction or fantasy novels that are reminiscent of Doctor Who?

A Medieval Home Companion

A Medieval Home Companion by Tania Bayard

This is an excellent book of its type, its type being medieval advice to a new bride.  A 15-year-old, who asked her 60-year-old husband  to be forbearing with her lack of ability.

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In his 2014 book entitled Presidents and Their Generals: An American History of Command in War, author Matthew Moten, a former head of the History Department at West Point, undertakes a thoughtful and considered review of the relationship between the Executive Branch and the US Military throughout the history of the United States, from the time of George Washington to the present. Moten explores the concept of civilian control of the military in all of its facets: what the relationship should look like in theory, how the relationship has evolved over time, times when the concept has operated effectively, and times when it has not. The product is a well articulated and well reasoned treatise that is informative, that seeks to educate the reader, and that is a pleasure to read for anyone with an interest in US history.



Moten takes as an ideal, the example of George Washington who, following the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, resisted the temptation of becoming a dictator and submitted control of the military to the elected representatives of the people. In the first section of the book, "Setting Precedents", he explores the challenging relationship between Washington and the Continental Congress in which sectional interests were forced to give way to national ones to bring about the collective defense of the nation. He next explores John Adams' attempts to address the need for and control of a standing army, James Madison effort to wage war in the nation's infancy, James K. Polk's difficult relationship with his generals, stemming from the collision of military and political goals, and Lincoln's efforts at finding the right general to lead the Union war effort.

In the next section, entitled "The Politics of Collaboration", Moten looks at examples of when Presidents and their generals were able to strike a reasonable balance between civilian control of policy and military control of the conduct of its operations. He explores the relationships between Lincoln and Grant (in one of the book's best chapters), Woodrow Wilson and John Pershing, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George Marshall. The last-mentioned chapter is especially informative in explaining the evolution of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an institution.

The final section of the book, entitled"The Perils of Partisanship", explores more recent relationships in which an imbalance has had adverse consequences for the nation. These include Harry Truman confronting the arrogance of General Douglas MacArthur, the minimization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in favor of the political goals of Lyndon Johnson and the power of Maxwell Taylor during the Vietnam War, the acquisition of disproportionate influence on the part of Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld's refusal to tolerate dissenting opinions from military advisors in favor of those that matched his own opinions during the second Iraq War.

Moten concludes with a considered analysis of the proper relationship between a President and his military advisors. He describes what he considers to be the ideal balance between the executive and the military (comparing it to the captain of a ship and his crew), adapting revered theories into modern times, and he makes some excellent proposals for reform which include replacing the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a National Military Council that is not beholden to its own branch of the service, but rather to the interests of the nation as a whole. He also makes a convincing case as to why retired generals should refrain from choosing sides in subsequent political contests unless they themselves are candidates. His conclusions draw from the lessons of history and are difficult to take issue with, in light of those lessons.



This is an excellent book that looks at both the trees and the forest that is civilian control of the military. It is a book that I had hoped someone would write, and it is written better than I had hoped. This book is very insightful and intelligent and is highly recommended for fellow history geeks.

The Martian Chronicles

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

A collection of short-stories, eerie and beautiful.  Some related to each other only in that they could be slotted into Martian history.

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Books Read March 2015 (Books 23-33)

Below is a summary of my March reading with links to longer reviews in my journal.

Book 23: The Uninvited Guests. by Sadie Jones, 2012. 272 pages. Delightful comedy-of-manners set in 1912. Review here.
Book 24: The Sleeper and the Spindle. by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Chris Riddell, 2014. 68 pages. Beautifully illustrated re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. Review here.
Book 25: Huntress Moon (The Huntress/F.B.I. #1) by Alexandra Sokoloff, 2012. 369 pages. and Book 26: Blood Moon (huntress/F.B.I. #2) by Alexandra Sokoloff, 2013. 318 pages. FBI agent tracks female serial killer. Reviews of Books 25 and 26.
Book 27: Hanging Hill. by Mo Hayder, 2010. 429 pages. Chilling West Country thriller. Review here.
Book 28: The Winter Crown (Eleanor of Aquitaine #2) by Elizabeth Chadwick, 2014. 483 pages. Eleanor's years as Queen of England before imprisonment. Review here.
Book 29: The Valkyrie Song (Jan Fabel #5) by Craig Russell, 2009. 420 pages. Police procedural set in Hamburg. Review here.
Book 30: Labyrinth (Languedoc #1) by Kate Mosse, 2005. 544 pages. Unabridged Audio (24 hrs, 27 mns). Read by Maggie Mash. Historical mystery about the Holy Grail and Cathars set in two time periods. Review here.
Book 31: The Last Camel Died at Noon (Amelia Peabody #6) by Elizabeth Peters, 1991. 400 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (15 hrs, 40 mins). Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Adventure written in homage to H. Rider Haggard. Review here.
Book 32: Reliquary (Agent Pendergast #2) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, 1997. 486 pages. Sequel to eco-horror Relic. Review here.
Book 33: Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon, 2013. 498 pages. Set in New York 2001, I found it a complex, dazzling novel. Review here.
This year I am doing a reading challenge to read 50 books by authors of color.

So far the project is going very well! I started in March, and here are the first ten books I read.

1. Incognegro by Mat Johnson (graphic novel)
2. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (graphic novel - children's)
3. Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton (children's)
4. Warchild by Karin Lowachee (sf)
5. It Rhymes with Lust by Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, Matt Baker and Ray Osrin (graphic novel)
6. Adaptation by Malinda Lo (YA sf)
7. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel)
8. Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black by Karl Bollers (graphic novel)
9. Sanctuary Cove by Rochelle Alers (romance)
10. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde (nonfiction, essays)

The links mostly go to Goodreads as that is where I am primarily tracking this project.

If you only read one book from this list, make it _Sister Outsider_ - a slim volume of beautifully written essays that pack a punch!  I especially appreciated the ways Lorde wrote about anger and the erotic...
I'm feeling a little burned out on graphic novels atm (there were so many to choose from!) so don't think I'll be reading so many of them next month, even though I learned a lot from them.

I'm definitely still taking recommendations, so if you absolutely love a book by an author of color, feel free to leave a comment!

If you're interested in reading more about what I've learned so far, I have a post about that here.

#weneeddiversebooks
#50bookPoCchallenge

Ex-Purgatory, by Peter Clines

The next episode in the superhero/zombie post-apocalypse.


Ex-Purgatory

Broadway Books, 2013, 336 pages



The fourth novel in Peter Clines' best-selling Ex series.

When he's awake, George Bailey is just an ordinary man. Five days a week he coaxes his old Hyundai to life, curses the Los Angeles traffic, and clocks in at his job as a handyman at the local college. But when he sleeps, George dreams of something more. George dreams of flying. He dreams of fighting monsters. He dreams of a man made of pure lightning, an armored robot, a giant in an army uniform, a beautiful woman who moves like a ninja.

Then one day as he's walking from one fix-it job to the next, a pale girl in a wheelchair tells George of another world, one in which civilization fell to a plague that animates the dead-and in which George is no longer a glorified janitor, but one of humanity's last heroes. Her tale sounds like madness, of course. But as George's dreams and his waking life begin bleeding together, he starts to wonder - which is the real world, and which is just fantasy?


Agent Smith has them in the Matrix, and Los Angeles is still full of zombies.

Also by Peter Clines: My reviews of Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, and 14.




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more Pratchett

Rincewind in Discworld

Two more Terry Prachetts, both featuring Rincewind in his final form.

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The Woods, by Harlan Coben

A summer camp slasher buries secrets that are dug up years later during a rape trial.


The Woods

Dutton, 2007, 404 pages



Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever. Now, two decades later, they are about to change again.

For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six-year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long. When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor's family are threatened.

Is this homicide victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer 20 years ago: his first love, Lucy; his mother, who abandoned the family; and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding even from their own children. Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.


An observation about the pleasures to be had reading outside your genre.




My complete list of book reviews.

"By the Mountain Bound" Elizabeth Bear

By the Mountain Bound is the second book in Elizabeth Bear's The Edda of Burdens series. It is set before the events of All the Windracked Stars so you could read them in either order, but I think it works best as I've done it this time (tho obviously as this is my first read of this book I haven't tried out the other way round yet!).

The three protagonists of the story are the Wolf (Mingan), the Historian (Muire) and the Warrior (Strifbjorn) - the same three as in All the Windracked Stars, although Strifbjorn is reborn as the mortal Cathoair in that book. Muire was central in the first book, this book is the Wolf's. Strifbjorn and Muire are both immortal Children of the Light, waelcyrge. The Wolf is ... not quite the same as them, he is also a survivor from the world before there's, and was already there when the Children first came into being. When the story opens superficially all is well in the world - we see where the cracks are but there's nothing threatening about them. The opening chapters establish the world with a wedding between two waelcyrge, where we learn (amongst other things) that Strifbjorn is their war leader and they have no Cynge and no Lady despite setting chairs out for both. Into this good-enough world comes Heythe, who quickly establishes herself as the Lady returned. All is, of course, not quite what it seems and Heythe is soon manipulating the warlcyrge into their seemingly inevitable slide towards apocalypse.

Read the rest of the review on my blog.

The Tarnished Angel

Astro City, Vol. 4: The Tarnished Angel by Kurt Busiek

A different one - this one is a single continuous story following the supervillain Steeljack, who wants to reform.
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When the Rivers Run Dry, by Fred Pierce

A global catalog of man-made devastation and how it's only getting worse.


When the Rivers Run Dry

Beacon Press, 2006, 336 pages



Throughout history, rivers have been our foremost source of fresh water both for agriculture and for individual consumption, but now economists say that by 2025 water scarcity will cut global food production by more than the current U.S. grain harvest.

In this groundbreaking book, veteran science correspondent Fred Pearce focuses on the dire state of the world's rivers to provide our most complete portrait yet of the growing world water crisis and its ramifications for us all.

Pearce traveled to more than 30 countries examining the current state of crucial water sources like the Indus River in Pakistan, the Colorado River in the U.S., and the Yellow and Yangtze rivers in China. Pearce deftly weaves together the complicated scientific, economic, and historic dimensions of the water crisis, showing us its complex origins - from waste to wrong-headed engineering projects to high-yield crop varieties that have saved developing countries from starvation but are now emptying their water reserves. He reveals the most daunting water issues we face today, among them the threat of flooding in China's Yellow River, where rising silt levels will prevent dikes from containing floodwaters; the impoverishment of Pakistan's Sindh, a once-fertile farming valley now destroyed by the 15 million tons of salt that the much-depleted Indus deposits annually on the land but cannot remove; the disappearing Colorado River, whose reservoirs were once the lifeblood of seven states but which could easily dry as overuse continues; and the poisoned springs of Palestine and the Jordan River, where Israeli control of the water supply has only fed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The situation is dire, but not without remedy. Pearce argues that the solution to the growing worldwide water shortage is not more and bigger dams, but a greater efficiency and a new water ethic based on managing the water cycle for maximum social benefit rather than narrow self-interest.


Look at the pictures.




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essays by Chesterton

Read two more of his selected essays.  On somewhat random topics. . . .
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Scout's Honor

Scout's Honor by Henry Vogel

An old school action-and-adventure planetary romance.  Indeed, part of the fun was the meta-effect of recognizing the old tropes.
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A world of witches, the Inquisition, and nuclear warfare.


Age of Witches

Amazon Digital Services, 2014 (originally published in Russian in 1997), 330 pages



Is it easy to be a witch? Who can, and more importantly, who would want to understand her: this evil otherworldly creature, the symbol of promiscuity and whimsy? The symbol of the Woman?

Is it easy to be the Great Inquisitor? Who can, and more importantly, who would want to understand him, a heartless executioner, carrying out the will of the Inquisition? What would happen if the souls of these two, as incompatible as ice and fire, come into contact?

The novel THE AGE OF WITCHES contains several winningly rare combinations: that of a thriller, detective and melodrama, Western traditions and Eastern European textures. The epic scope of events and tension go hand in hand with the intense psychological twister representing the characters’ inner lives. An element of mystery allows for a new approach to the ancient questions.

What makes the novel unique? The dense atmosphere of a modern city is invaded by the poetry of folk demonology. The characters abide by the cruel laws of nuclear society, and by those of a mythical world. This is a book about love, but also about the price of freedom, and the meaning of life. It is about what can save our world from being suffocated by contradictions and hate.


"Death to all things foul!" in this weird contemporary Russian urban fantasy.

Also by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko: My reviews of The Scar and Vita Nostra.




My complete list of book reviews.

Small Town Heroes

Small Town Heroes by Marion G. Harmon

Another Wearing the Cape novel.  Spoilers ahead for earlier ones.

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Young Sentinels

Young Sentinels by Marion G. Harmon

Another Wearing the Cape one. An Astra one again, although this one is multi-POV. Spoilers for earlier ones.

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Afterparty, by Daryl Gregory

God is a drug in this near-future medical thriller.


Afterparty

Tor, 2014, 304 pages



It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: She was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory's Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson's Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick's Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watt's Starfish: A last chance to save civilization, or die trying.


Just because her guardian angel is all in her head doesn't mean she's not real.

Also by Daryl Gregory: My review of Raising Stony Mayhall.




My complete list of book reviews.

Bite Me: Big Easy Nights

Bite Me: Big Easy Nights by Marion G. Harmon

Another Wearing the Cape work.  Technically out of the main sequence -- published after but occurring before Villains Inc. -- and it's all about Jacky, alias Artemis, not Hope/Astra.  Best after Wearing but it or Villains Inc. can go in either order.
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Villains Inc.

Villains Inc. by Marion G. Harmon

The second Wearing the Cape book, in which life goes on.  For instance, in the opening scene, when Hope is trying to hang out with her friends, a godzilla comes out of Lake Michigan to attack the pier.  (Spoilers ahead for the earlier book.)

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Marvels

Marvels by Kurt Busiek

Busiek takes a look at the superhero world of Marvel.
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Lines of Departure, by Marko Kloos

Even an invasion by genocidal kaiju does not not unify humanity.


Lines of Departure

47North, 2014, 315 pages



Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the solar system...

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is Commonwealth Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous spaceborne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony - and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In this sequel to the best-selling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species...or bear witness to humanity's last, fleeting breaths.


Better-than-average Starship Troopers imitator.

Also by Marko Kloos: My review of Terms of Enlistment.




My complete list of book reviews.

Terry Pratchett

Sir Pterry died yesterday

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Book Review: Whistle Stop by Philip White

The full title of the Philip White's 2014 book about President Harry Truman's campaign in the 1948 United States Presidential election is Whistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman. The first distinction to be made about the book is that it is not so much an analysis of the 1948 Presidential election as it is an in-depth profile of Truman's campaign (and more specifically, his campaigning) from June to November of 1948.

WhistleStop

This book looks at Truman's campaign team, the Research Division, chaired by Bill Batt and overseen by Washington wise man Clark Clifford. It looks at Truman's blueprint of a very demanding campaign schedule of criss-crossing the country by train (the "Ferdinand Magellan", also known as the "Last Chance Special") with early mornings, late nights, Truman's exceptional work ethic and his addresses to large and small crowds, infused with a local flavor provided by the Research Division. The formula was to attack the Republican controlled 80th Congress, or as Truman pejoratively called them, the "Do-Nothing Congress", a group that Truman painted as beholding to special interest groups, the banks and the rich. It was an interesting time in America, a time when the President was not ashamed to call himself a liberal. Given virtually no chance of winning the election by every nationally known pollster, the author makes the case for how Truman's optimism and belief in his own cause was the catalyst for his amazing come-from-behind victory.

The books offers little detail about the campaigns of the other parties, the Republicans led by Thomas Dewey, the Progressives led by Henry Wallace, or the States Rights Party or "Dixiecrats" led by Strom Thurmond, other than generalities about why each failed in their objectives. This is not the book's focus. (Readers interested in an overall analysis of the fascinating 1948 Presidential election will find a more complete analysis in the excellent works The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election by Zachary Karabell, or 1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year That Transformed America by David Pietrusza.) This book is excellent for its focus on the inner workings of the Truman campaign: what went on inside the campaign train, and what Truman's daily habits were.

While there is some mention of campaign mistakes made by Truman (such as when he told reporters that Russian dictator Joseph Stalin was "a decent fellow" or when he compared Dewey to Hitler), for the most part, the author makes no secret of his admiration for Truman and for Truman's wisdom in how he approached the campaign: seeing the common man as the key to victory, finding a way to address the average voter in plain and direct language rather than nebulous platitudes, and Truman's commitment to speak out in favor of expanded civil rights for African-Americans, even though it meant writing off a number of states in the deep south.

White concludes the book with a comparison of the issues of 1948 with the issues of today. While some of his reasoning is suspect (such as his questionable suggestion that "many media outlets predicted a Mitt Romney victory right up until voting tallies proved them wrong", much as Dewey was predicted to win in 1948), the book's post-mortem does point out a number of similarities from 1948 to 2014 regarding the lack of bipartisanship and congressional opposition to a president because, in the words of Senator Robert Taft, "the duty of the opposition is to oppose." This comparison gives much to consider, even if there will not be universal agreement with the author's conclusions.

While it does not provide a complete look at the uber-interesting 1948 presidential election, this book is terrific for the part of the story that it does provide the reader with. It is always fascinating to look at what winning campaigns did right, especially when the winner is an underdog, and this book strongly delivers in this area. I would especially recommend this book for anyone with an interest or experience in working on political campaigns.

The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross

The Office meets Lovecraft.


The Atrocity Archives

Ace Books, 2004, 345 pages



Bob Howard is a computer-hacker desk jockey, who has more than enough trouble keeping up with the endless paperwork he has to do on a daily basis. He should never be called on to do anything remotely heroic. But for some reason, he is.


"You did not fill out your TPM report after saving the world from Cthulhu, Bob."

Also by Charles Stross: My reviews of Accelerando, Saturn's Children, Neptune's Brood, and Equoid.




My complete list of book reviews.
A grown-up homage to Narnia.


One Bright Star to Guide Them

Castalia House, 2014, 61 pages



As children, long ago, Tommy Robertson and his three friends, Penny, Sally, and Richard, passed through a secret gate in a ruined garden and found themselves in an elfin land, where they aided a brave prince against the evil forces of the Winter King. Decades later, successful, stout, and settled in his ways, Tommy is long parted from his childhood friends, and their magical adventures are but a half-buried memory.

But on the very eve of his promotion to London, a silver key and a coal-black cat appear from the past, and Tommy finds himself summoned to serve as England's champion against the invincible Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. The terror and wonder of Faerie has broken into the Green and Pleasant Land, and he alone has been given the eyes to see it. To gather his companions and their relics is his quest, but age and time have changed them too. Like Tommy, they are more worldly-wise, and more fearful. And evil things from childhood stories grow older and darker and more frightening with the passing of the years.


Wouldn't you want to go back?




My complete list of book reviews.

Pyramids

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

One of Sir Pterry's stand-alones, though including things like gods created by belief and the Assassins' Guild from other works.

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