31 March 2009

Reaffirmation

So for Weekly Geeks this week we're to reaffirm our commitment to linking to other's reviews! I promise i'll do my best. I do normally if i remember reading a review on a specific site or if i come on a different person's review of a book i've already done. I hadn't even thought to do a search for a book that i'd read to see if other's had reviewed it until today. Several people wrote on their Geek post about how they do those searches. Props to Fyrefly for making up a whole searchable site thingy (ok the night shift is taking it's toll right now sorry) just for book blogs. I've gone back and linked to any i've found for the last month or so. Also, feel free to browse my archives and leave a comment that you've reviewed a book too! quick question though...how far back would a review have to be that you wouldn't link to it? I have a tendency to read a big mix of older things and new ones so (like for Persepolis 2 or the Alice books) there are actually a lot of reviews, some of which are a few years back. do you say you're only going to link to 3, 5, 9 reviews and that's it?

Currently: weirdly windy.

30 March 2009

Mental Floss Top 25

Or at least what they've called the most influential of the last 25 years. another list to pour over! Italicized i've read and bold i own but haven't gotten too yet.

  1. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts- hmm, i've seen the movie?
  2. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  3. Listening to Prozac by Peter D Kramer
  4. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
  5. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  6. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
  7. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  9. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  10. The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr
  11. A Perfect Spy by John le Carre
  12. What is the What by Dave Eggers
  13. On Writing by Stephen King
  14. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  15. The Known World by Edward P Jones
  16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
  17. How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
  18. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
  19. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  20. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  21. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  22. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood -again, i've seen the movie....
  23. Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner
  24. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss
  25. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Now they feel these have been the most influential, not necessarily the best or biggest. Anybody feel something got left out? I'm not finding on their blog if they've any discussion on the list.

26 March 2009

Sometimes you just throw lists out the window!

So yes. I'm a book fiend. I make lists of books i want to read or have read, read other people's lists of the same, see what the lists of "good" or "best" or "classics" have to say. If the reading overlords say that this book is one YOU HAVE TO READ (before you die) then part of me says back "yes, of course!" That's all the part of me that wants organization and continuity and order. It is the conformity part.

Then there's the REBEL part. the part that says "screw order! randomness is supreme! I'll decide what i want" and goes off and makes me read something i completely did not expect to pick up. Because i work night now (ugh) i was at Borders yesterday with a 40% off coupon and picked up a non-fiction book. I immediately began reading it blowing past the 2 other books in my schoolbag that i really really need to finish.

I read The Scavenger's Manifesto by Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson. It is part history, part philosophy, part screed and a smidge of how to. I picked it up for the how to part and unfortunately that isn't the best bit. It is interesting and informative but not what i really wanted. The history of society's prejudice against scavenging goes back to biblical times and the author's reference all those random rules from the old Testament. They move through the 60's counter-culture to 70's punk style to our modern notions of vintage and shabby-chic. They rail against modern consumer culture while admitting if it stopped there would be nothing the scavengers to find. The authors have some great pro-scavenging arguments. The problem is that i didn't need to be convinced! I had hoped the book would be more about the details of Dumpster diving or how to score the best finds at flea markets. The authors advice comes down to "free your mind" and to be curious and always searching. I found out that i am already considered a bit of a scavenger! the whole getting books and movies from the library or used bookstores thing apparently qualifies me! woo hoo. It isn't a bad book but i am giving it a 4.

so in the spirit of freeness and scavenging i am going to have my first giveaway! anybody want this book? leave a comment! Personally, i think it would make a great present to give someone who can't comprehend why anyone would want to go to yard sales or used bookstores. I guess i'll set the date for April 8 as the deadline. Good luck.

21 March 2009

Challenges are hard to resist

Ok, i'm doing 1 more. That's it. except for RIP in the fall. that will be it! I swear!

I signed up for the Classics Challenge, hosted by Trish. I'm doing the Entree (lol) and going to plan on reading at least 5. This one runs from April 1 to October 31. Just pulling a few off my TBR stack at the house here's 5 i might read.
  • Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
  • Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
  • Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
So we'll see how it goes.


so last weekend i bought a bunch of books. I got The Planets by Dava Sobel, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold for just $4 total at the library book sale. yay! I got the two Gleason books from Amazon and The Tales of Beedle the Bard from McKay's. Should i feel bad that since i bought it used the charity it's for didn't get any money? I'd picked up The Planets a couple times at McKay's but just never bought it. I don't do Bad Bloggers but the fact that i bought it is totally Chris' fault! Or maybe it's Carl's because Chris got it from him....hmm.

Anyway, I finished it up last night. The Planets by Dava Sobel is about the solar system! There is an essay for the various planets and the Sun and Moon. They are quirky and fun little pieces. Sobel chooses to have the piece on Mars narrated by the meteroid scientists found in Antarctica that may reveal fossilized life. She has Caroline Hershel, the sister of the discoverer of Uranus, tell the story of how Uranus and Neptune were found. I had no idea that mathematicians figured out that Neptune had to exist due to Uranus' weird orbit. I really liked the essays and thought they were all informative. a 5!

I looked up a proportional map of the solar system...it is cool! And Carl reviewed it first!

Currently: pretty happy with my brackets so far!

20 March 2009

Through the Looking Glass and other stuff

Yay! A 1k1 book done. Finished up Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I didn't like this one as much as the first.

In Through the Looking Glass, Alice steps through a Mirror in her home to the Looking Glass world. When she leaves her Looking Glass house she discovers she is on/in a giant chessboard and journeys through it to become a Queen. I found the story to be too dreamlike. Locations morphed into other places and things happened really randomly. In one scene Alice is in a shop run by a knitting sheep. Every time Alice tries to take something from the shelf the objects move around. I have dreams like that a lot (without the sheep though) and it was almost too creepy. Also, apparently the whole setup is really supposed to be a famous chess game but since i don't play chess i missed that completely. I say this one is a 4 mainly because my expectations were a bit higher.

Booklogged's Review, Bookfool's, and Lotus Reads'.

In other news, Happy March Equinox! Carl V has begun the Once Upon a Time 3 Challenge! Whoopee! I am going to do the First Quest for sure. I'm not going to pick any specific books yet. Last year i read 7, including about half the Narnia series. I do currently have The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray and Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch from the library so those may be 2 for this challenge! ok, ok, i'll post a few others i've got sitting and waiting on my shelf.
  • The Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewelling
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
  • Tales Before Tolkein edited by Douglas A Anderson- short stories
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman-more short stories
So there!

18 March 2009

Persepolis 2

Stayed up an extra 45 minutes last night to finish reading Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. I liked it but not as much as the first one. This second graphic novel covers Satrapi's life from the age of 14 when she's essentially living alone in Austria through her return to Iran after high school and after to her marriage, divorce, and then leaving Iran again when she's 24.

This one was more difficult for me to read because the author spends a good portion of the book low and depressed. I completely understand why of course but it is hard because i'm identifying so much with the author and her situation that i start to feel low too. It is a good book though and i do recommend it. A 5.

Dewey's review (we miss you!), Alyce's, Bluestocking's, Alessandra's, and Ex Libris'.

17 March 2009

Shakespeare Bio

Yesterday I read Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson. Bryson is less a character in this one than in the Australia book i read. I really do like his voice though. Guess i'll have to start working my way through his books.

In this very small book, Bryson says he sums up all the real facts that we have about Shakespeare. There aren't many. We know the date he was christened but not the exact date of birth. We know when he married, how many legitimate children he had, what property he bought and sold, but not the first performance dates of the majority of his plays or what order his sonnets should be in. And we know almost nothing about his personality.

Bryson devotes a chapter to the "other author" theories and i have to say he's pretty convincing that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Apparently there was no controversy at all until the 1850's when an American woman, Delia Bacon, wrote a book implying that Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare plays. She came up with this idea by traveling to Bacon's hometown and picking up mental vibes. Ugh.

I liked this book though. a 5 and one done for the Shakespeare Challenge.

16 March 2009

Progressive Links

A big bunch of links!

An articulation of how progressives should view wealth. If only we could get others to think this way!

Cool shoes, bags and accessories! I'd love a Combover bag in Buckhorn Brown or the Overlap organic cotton bag in Sand. Just in case...

Article refuting the myths about atheists.

50 reasons to reject evolution
...vulgar and smarmy but very funny.

A much better Watchmen review than mine.

I don't have a child and have no plans to have one any time soon. But i am loving the Baby Essentials that Aren't series on Eco Child's Play. Part 6 is about baby brain boosters.

A question. A very scary question. Have we already started an environmental collapse?

A different question. At the beginning of January there were a flurry of posts about Peru intending to plant 40 million trees in just a few months time. These posts list the end of February as an end point of the project, yet i can't find anything about if they succeeded or not? Help?

Part of the reason
i'm really trying to eat more organic, local, etc.


15 March 2009

Weekly Geeks 3/14

I haven't done Weekly Geeks in forever! It isn't that i haven't wanted to but some of the topics haven't appealed and then for others i just forgot! Here's this week's:

Worst movie adaptations: The recent release of Watchmen based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore got me thinking about what I thought were the worst movie adaptations of books. What book or books did a director or directors completely ruin in the adaptation(s) that you wish you could "unsee," and why in your opinion, what made it or them so bad in contrast to the book or books?
OK, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The first graphic novel is fantastic. It has a great premise: what if all those Victorian (and previous) characters were real, running around Europe, and banded together to help England? So we meet Mina Murray, newly divorced from her husband Jonathan Harker, who becomes the leader of the group. With the help of Captain Nemo, she detoxes an opium-addled Alan Quartermain and they recruit the Invisible Man and Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, Hyde. These people are all fully formed characters, not just cut from their previous stories and dropped into this one. While they do a bit of travel while forming the group the majority of the story takes place in London.

The movie changes this completely. The filmmakers add in Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray who compete for Mina's love. Now, i can't complain about Gray because he's played by Stewart Townsend who's just lovely to look at. If all the filmmakers had done was add in those characters and played up the love angle it would have been ok. BUT they completely change the story. Quartermain is now the leader and Nemo just randomly pops up with a bit of technology or fighting skills.
Instead of Mina being the brainy leader she is the hot, half-vampire love interest. Tom Sawyer is a goofy kid who immediately learns to drive Nemo's car even though he's never seen the vehicle before. The entire plot is different and the group globetrots around the world. They kill off a few characters then leave a blatant "hey let's hope this does well then we can bring this one person back" opening at the end.

R had not read the book and felt it was an ok, B grade action movie. I also probably would have enjoyed it as a throwaway movie if it was a completely original work. But the graphic novel is dense with allusions, the same way Sandman is.
There are literally dozens of little pieces of background in the comic that the movie can't hope to get right. It is a comic you've got to pay attention to and the filmmakers turn it into a run of the mill action movie. *SIGH*

want more? all is very spoilery for each piece.

Wikipedia bit for the film.

Wikipedia bit for the graphic novel.

Update: so today i reread this and yeah, it IS as cool as i remember. 6!

14 March 2009

Why is science important?

Why is science important? - A collection of thoughts from leading scientists, public figures, ...and you.

Posted using ShareThis

This was awesome! another link from Bad Astronomy. I actually got all teary eyed at the end. Seriously.

13 March 2009

Reread

So since i was so disappointed in Foundation I decided to reread Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, the first Valdemar book i read. The fact that i found it for 2.50 at McKay's didn't hurt either.

So this book is about Vanyel. He's a talented musician but not a Bard. Unfortunately he's the firstborn son of a lord who wants Vanyel to be a big, strong, hack and slash fighter and not much else. After his father's armsmaster breaks his arm Vanyel is exiled to Haven were his aunt, Savil, is a high level Herald Mage. Vanyel falls in love with Tylendel, a young male Herald Mage his aunt trains. Bad things happen, people die, and Vanyel suddenly gains extraordinary powers and is Chosen. He is overwhelmed, depressed, suicidal and very ill. As the book ends, Vanyel begins learning to control his powers and begins to heal physically and psychologically. Again, this one is the first of a trilogy. It's a 5.

The reason i originally picked this up, way way back in like 2001, was because it feature a gay fantasy hero. Someone recommended a bunch of fantasy novels on a Harry Potter mailing list and listed Magic's Pawn with the caveat that it did involve a gay relationship. It isn't portrayed any differently than a straight relationship except that the characters worry about how Vanyel's father will react. Really though, with the plans Vanyel's father surely has for his son's marriage i would think any intense love interest would not be approved.

I've got 4 books from the library that i need to finish up and 2 more that i am working on. Maybe i'll see if i can get through at least 2 this weekend.

Currently: headachy...and watching Rachel Maddow.

12 March 2009

I would post a picture of my plants


But i can't because my camera won't take it. In the sense that the subject is too tiny. I have to back up so all you can see is an egg carton full of dirt. so i am posting a few pictures of what i am going to try to grow!



I'm growing plants! The zinnias had sprouted this morning when i went to water them and a pea plant is almost sprouted. i mean, the plant isn't up above the ground but it has pushed away all the soil above itself. No luck yet with the basil or thyme or the poppies. maybe today!



it is sleeting but i am definitely going to get out of the house and do something i really really shouldn't do. I am going to go look at a dog at the Humane Society. I'm NOTNOTNOT going to buy him. just look. I don't need a dog. I just miss Chloe.

currently: watching the Big East tournament.

10 March 2009

Foundation

Well, i didn't reread the Asimov novel, or start up any of its sequels. I read Mercedes Lackey's newest Valdemar novel, which for some reason she titled Foundation. I have to say, I'm really NOT impressed. I give it a 3.

Mainly the problem is that there is no original idea. We've got a young kid, Mags, who's a slave in a gem mine. He gets Chosen, is amazed about how nice everyone is and how it feels to be clean/warm/well-fed/safe. He starts school at the Collegium, where history and math are hard and weapons and riding are easy. He makes a couple friends. This summary actually covers about 90% of the book. I promise. The problem is that if you've read a few of the other Valdemar books you've read all of these instances before. And there's not enough new elements to make an actual book.

Seriously, read Take a Thief. Or Arrows of the Queen. Or By The Sword. Really, any of the others would be a bit better. Foundation is the first of a trilogy, of course, and i'll probably pick those up but i won't be rushing out to get them. Hooray for the library!


08 March 2009

Y

I seem to be able to get through easy stuff right now. Kids books and graphic novels seem to be what i feel like readin. I finished up Y: The Last Man Book One by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra today at work. I got it from McKay's a couple weeks ago for like $11, weirdly just a couple days after the LOST episode where Hurley was reading it. I happened to get the deluxe edition, so it is actually the first two books of the graphic novel series.

Yorick is broke, just out of college, and an escape artist. He's training a helper monkey he's named Ampersand. He's got a hot girlfriend, Beth, who's on walkabout in Australia. Suddenly, all the other males on the planet apparently die, rather horribly. As far as the the readers are aware, all the male humans and animals die within a few moments, except Yorick and Ampersand. We're given a couple of theories as to why this happens: cloning and an ancient Arabian secret necklace. Yorick travels to Washington, DC, where his mom is a representative of Ohio. He picks up a bodyguard, the very kick ass super agent 355, and we follow their travels across the east coast to a doctor who may be able to unlock why Yorick survives. Oh, and he wants to get to Australia to get back his girlfriend.

I liked it and am really glad that the library has the rest of these books! So far the monkey seems a bit of a gimmick and i wonder why society collapses when the men die. I mean, i get that the survivors would be suffering from extreme trauma and grief but the book takes place over a few months. You'd think we'd be able to get our shit together by then. Does the author really think that, without men, women would fall into some kind of Mad Max mindset? I mean, there'd be half as many people therefore twice as many resources. Why would women be starving after just a couple months? Sure, some segments of society would take bigger hits than others; the book mentions some statistics on pilots, CEO's, cops. I just feel like the book has us going so crazy so fast. But i am willing to go along for the ride for now.

07 March 2009

Watchmen was Stupendous!


Really, really good. a complete 7. Go see it! I am a fan of the comic, though i only read it a few years ago. So I am not going to summarize much. If you've read it, you know what it's about and if you haven't, all you need to know is that it's a dark look at what superheroes could be. The beginning is great. i mean, like the beginning of The Dark Knight was great. Soundtrack, with one little goofy exception, was great; I can't imagine how much they had to pay to get some of the songs. Effects were fabulous. Rorschach was perfection, as was Dr. Manhattan. The ending is a bit different but i actually kinda liked it better. There were only couple of things that i didn't like. The woman who plays Silk Spectre sounds EXACTLY like Natalie Portman, so much so that it was kinda creepy. Oszymandias' accent is weird and iffy in that it kinda goes in and out.

I saw it on IMAX, of course, and it was sold out, of course. I got sandwiched between a heavy, older comics fan and a heavy, young guy who didn't know anything about the comic and who's girlfriend kept whispering to him. so this was probably the first time i saw a movie and wasn't even able to share an armrest. I spent about half the movie leaning forward with my elbows on my knees just to get some space. guess that's what happens when i go to movies alone. :(

Changing lanes, I also finished up Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll yesterday. I enjoyed it but probably for different reasons than i would have as a child. As a child, i would have liked the fantasy/adventure aspects. As a grown up, i found the language, the puns, the plays on words, delicious. I would actually like to read it aloud, or have it read to me because i think it would be even better. a 6! And a 1K1 book! And a YA Challenge book!

currently: trying to decide what to do today

05 March 2009

Finally

I really really didn't like a book. i have revised down once already. Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan, gets a 3 from me. It does count for the YA challenge. I haven't read any other blogger reviews but the ones on amazon seem pretty positive so i guess i am on my own with this opinion. I just thought it was hard to get into, at least 50 pages too long, and had a sucky ending.

The basic story is that Liga, a young teen in a vaguely medieval/storyland setting, has a despicable father who keeps her trapped at her home. He also gets her pregnant. He dies, she has the baby (which is called a bab in this world, which i do like because it sounds vaguely Cajun), and starts to take a few tentative steps to having a life. Then something worse happens and she tries to kill her child and commit suicide when the good fairy intervenes. Liga, though she doesn't know it, gets sent to live in her own version of heaven.

So far, so good. Liga has a second child and raises her two daughters in her own beautiful world. Various good, bad or neutral people from the real world find their way into Liga's world. Eventually, Liga and her now adult daughters find their way out. The problem is that it is a book where not much happens and what does happen, after the really strong beginning, doesn't have any real emotional weight to it.

Had it had a happy ending i would have definitely liked it much better. It is relatively new so i don't want to be too spoilery but i was really rooting for Liga to find some happiness and i wasn't pleased with what did happen.

Currently: trying to decide if i want to see Watchmen at 9 am or 340 pm

03 March 2009

Science is too cool!

Happy Square Root Day! And i got another one done for the Science Book Challenge.

I finished Phil Plait's Death From the Skies! It is a great book that i recommend highly. I read the author's Bad Astronomy blog and this book is in the same great style. Goofy and fun but full of facts. I like the blog because he's skeptical and even, dare i say, cynical but optimistic.

Death from the Skies! is about all the ways the universe can kill you. Asteroids, black holes, the sun, alien robots, time itself. Each chapter starts with a couple pages told from the point of view of someone experiencing the calamity. Then he gives you the science of the disaster, what might survive naturally, then what the human race can do to prevent or ameliorate the problem. I can't wait until we can move our whole planet to avoid the sun expanding! I think the best part is the second to last chapter where Plait discusses the end or death of the universe. He explains vast stretches of time and really counterintuitive happenings. And, lest you get too worried, his last chapter is a nice summary of the book, including a table denoting the real likelihood of each thing happening. Really, only asteroids and solar flares are any sort of real threat. Whew!

So i am 2/3 the way through the Science Book Challenge. I really need to work on a few others. hmmm.