30 June 2011

Anathem

LOVED IT! I finished Anathem by Neal Stephenson on audio today. This is some long, dense sci-fi that I really enjoyed. Lots of philosophy too.


Erasmus is a member of the Avout, a cloistered group that avoids the gadgets (called geegaws) and drugs of the secular world and devotes itself to learning. On this world, this group has been separate for thousands of years, gaining new members with infants being left with them or intelligent children joining. Erasmus is a Tenner, meaning he only gets to visit the outside world once every ten years for about two weeks. There are Hundreders and even Thousanders, though few people know much about the last group.


The story begins with Erasmus' first outing in 10 years, since he joined at about age 9. Things are Happening, and for a while we don't really know where the plot is going to go. Stephenson gives you several chapters to get used to this world and its vocabulary and technology, so that by the time stuff really gets going you can follow well without getting lost (much anyway). We find out that the secular power and the Avout have both discovered that an alien ship is orbiting the planted and the bulk of the story is dealling with who the aliens are and what they want.

But i really think the story is there to make people think about deeper philisophical concepts and the sort of person you want to be. I think the book is quite good, a 7.

29 June 2011

The Wine-Dark Sea

I finished The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O'Brian on the way home from work today. It began with a bang involving a chase and a volcano, moves through ship-board politics, then had period of Maturin on land trying to undermine Spain in Peru.

This trip seems to have been going on a while now in the series. I am ready for the guys to go home to England and catchup on what is afoot there. I believe the next novel sends us back there and I can't wait. a 5 from me.



22 June 2011

Good Overview Book

Taking a pause from The Song of Ice and Fire series, i read The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor Stenger. If you haven't read much Dawkins, Harris, Dennett or Hitchens this is a great book to start at, even though it was written after those others. It looks at atheist thought and perspective and defends the atheist outlook. I enjoyed it and got a good number of quotes from it. a 6.

gotta start writing more in depth reviews!

19 June 2011

A Clash of Kings

I am pretty sure this time was only my second through A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin, mainly because there were a few plot points in this book that are relatively important that i had forgotten. It also suffers, slightly, in a comparison to the first book. Our perspective characters are almost never together and Daenerys doesn't get to do much. Gobs of Arya which is great and plenty of Jon Snow. Shocking things happen, though i would say not quite as shocking as the first book. It is good and a 5 from me. Counts for the Once Upon a Time Challenge too!

18 June 2011

Weekly Geeks 2011-20

An interesting Weekly Geeks topic, or series of questions rather.

Did you have a hard and fast mindset in regards to your reading a year ago? (paperback, ebooks etc)
I wouldn't say I was completely devoted to hard copies a year ago. I'd listened to plenty of audiobooks and had read book-length fiction on the computer. I didn't have an ereader and didn't have a particular wish for one.

Are you still true to that format?
Sorta? In this past year i've read a few ebooks, B and I have worked on reading A Connecticut Yankee out loud to each other (though we haven't finished it, we are slow) and I have listened to way more audiobooks. I still have no desire for a personal ereader though. I have enough books actually sitting on the shelves to read and, other than the free classics, it is cheaper to buy used books at McKay's.

If you have tried another format (ebook, audio) – Share your experience?
The main reason my audiobook intake has shot up is that i changed jobs in November. Previously, i lived 10 minutes from work so only listened to audiobooks on long trips. Now, i have a 30 minute commute each way, which means on the books on CD i get from the library i get through almost a CD a day.

I've read a couple books on my phone, a Samsung Vibrant. it is a bit small so i am constantly turning the pages. one advantage is that it lets you change the colors so I set the background black and then the text a light gray which I like. It is also backlit so you can read in the dark

Lastly, I've read a book on Kindle. The best thing, i think, is that you can read big fat books one handed! I have a tendency to eat on the couch while reading and it works great. It is light and after a couple chapters i didn't really "notice" the device, something i can't say about reading on my phone.

What was it that made you tried something out of your comfort zone?
Well, B got a Kindle for Christmas from his family and last summer I got a better phone and loaded the Android Kindle application to it. The first whole book I read on the Kindle was A Game of Thrones that I had to reread on there because the paperback got absolutely soaked. I read a few books on my phone because I know the author.

Give a brief over view of where you are at with your reading now.
Well, i am listening to The Truelove by Patrick O'Brian and Anathem by Neal Stephenson at work (shh, don't tell! I play a book instead of music in the afternoon hours that seem to drag, 1-4). I'm almost done with my paperback reread of A Clash of Kings after which i have to start the paperback of A Storm of Swords then A Feast for Crows. If i read 96 pages a day i finish on July 11! After that, B and I will both be reading A Dance With Dragons, he on his Kindle and i on the hardback cause i am so not waiting for a library copy or even B to finish!

does all that make any sense? I hope so!

16 June 2011

BTT for 6/16/11

Interactivity!

With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.

How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?


Honestly, it seems a bit gimmicky to me. The only "extras" i ever want in books are maps and genealogies in big epic books like the Song of Ice and Fire series or the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. I'm honestly a bit perturbed by the dictionary feature in ereaders. Hate to sound old-fogeyish, but when i was a kid i always just puzzled out words from context rather than stop, go get the dictionary (we had a great big hardback one) and look up the word i didn't know. Even now, when it's just a matter of finding my cell phone and using the web, i rarely look up words. I'm not saying that people should have to memorize words and meanings by rote but using your reasoning to figure things out must be good for your cognitive abilities in general.

But back to the question, no, i don't want to see book trailers for "other books you might enjoy", there are few authors i want to see interviews of (Gaiman and King come to mind as ones i would watch), i don't want to watch some manufactured pop star do her take on the music of Westeros. Seems like catering to the ADD culture, not readers.

14 June 2011

Kraken

I've decided i like how China Mieville's mind works. I read Kraken and enjoyed the twists and turns. It actually reminded me a good bit of American Gods, though of course American Gods was much better. It takes place in London, or really a "shadow" London with magic, religions, a talking tattoo as a gang leader, and some creepy ass killers, Goss and Subby. Billy Harrow works at the Darwin Center from which a giant squid, and it's giant vat of preserving chemicals, goes missing. He's the normal guy that gets sucked into the magical goings on as everyone assumes he knows what happened.

I listened to this one on audio and my biggest complaint is that there is so much dialogue that parts are infested with "said"s. Like big sections of this:
"...", Billy said.
"...", Wati said.
Dane said "...".
"...", Billy said.
"....", Dane said.
it is somewhat jarring. overall, i enjoyed it. a 6.

I know i've been bleh with my reviews recently; i am reading but not much feeling like writing. Hopefully i'll get outa the writing slump soon!

13 June 2011

How many movies can i watch?

Dr. Who, series 2: 7. ok, i learned to like the new Dr.

Walk the Line- 5, unintentionally funny because i've seen the Dewey Cox movie.

Body of Lies- 5, solid espionage movie.

The Informant-4, kinda weird. I remember seeing the commercials and it seemed like a comedy but it really isn't.

Bicentennial Man- 5, maybe it would have been better with someone besides Robin Williams.

The Town- i didn't like this one at first but it has grown on me. 5.

Black Swan-- What? a 5.

The King's Speech- really liked it. a 6.

Let Me In- ok, not terrible but terribly redundant. Go for the original. also, who knew they had that much snow in Los Alamos? a 4.

A History of Violence- i might have liked it more when it came out. 4

11 June 2011

Last for the Science Book Challenge

Today I finished The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It won the Pulitzer for non-fiction last year.

It is an engrossing book. Mukherjee weaves stories of his real patients in with the history of cancer, going all the way back to Imhotep, the Egyptian doctor (and star of The Mummy movies) who described breast cancer way back in the 27th century BC. He describes the search for causes and how our knowledge of the disease's workings grew. Originally, the only treatment that existed was surgical so if you had any sort that couldn't be cut out there was almost no hope. As medicine advanced through the early 20th century first radiation then chemotherapies became part of the oncologists weaponry. But without a real working knowledge of the process of cancer much of the treatment was to delay death by months. Often, scientists were stymied by the lack of communication between specialties. more Recently, there have been some great discoveries but even more the realization that cancer isn't one disease. not only are the different types of cancer (breast, pancreas, colon, etc) very different from each other, depending on the specific mutations two people with the cancer in the same body part may have vastly different treatment options.

I kinda expected this book to be a downer, and parts were, but nothing made me cry. I actually feel a bit more optimistic about my own health situation. I'm fine! There is very little cancer in my family on both sides so my genetic predilection for cancer should be rather low. And at the rate therapies are improving, many cancers may become something you live with rather than die from. This book gets a 6 from me and is my last book for the Science Book Challenge!

Quotable Geeks!

This week's Weekly Geeks is about quotes. I've got a whole big google doc of quotes and, since i've been reading a good number of books about books, several reference this hobby we all love so.

The Egyptians often, in death, had their favorite cats embalmed, to cozen their feet. If things go well, my special pets will pace me into eternity, Shakespeare as pillow, Pope at one elbow, Yeats at the other, and Shaw to warm my toes. Good company for far traveling--Ray Bradbury

The great drawback in new books is that they prevent our reading the old ones--Joseph Joubert

Reading good books is like having a conversation with the most distinguished men of past ages--Rene Descartes

There was indeed a “frightful lot” of books. The four walls of the library were plastered with them from floor to ceiling, save only where the door and the two windows insisted on living their own life, even though an illiterate one--The Red House Mystery, A.A. Milne.

I could go on, and on, and on! what's your favorite bookish quote?

05 June 2011

Nutmeg?

Patrick O'Brian's The Nutmeg of Consolation is a weird book. It is really two stories, that of how Aubrey and Maturin and the crew get off their deserted island and back to civilization and then the trials and tribulations of that civilization's worst, the penal colony of Australia in Botany Bay. Nothing against Australia, the conditions of the English prisoners and how the military and landowners hurt the aboriginal peoples are what is so awful. There's a bit of fighting but there is more interpersonal conflict in this book. Maturin gets himself in trouble; did you know the male platypus has a stinger? Had no clue myself. I feel like the guys have been on this same adventure for a while now but in reality this is only the second book in this voyage. overall, a 5 from me.

03 June 2011

Flash Forward

I read the book by Robert Sawyer. B listened to it and recommended it. I've not seen the show, though B described it to me after i'd read the book, and it seems to be very, very different from what appeared on tv.

Right when Lloyd and Theo, two scientists at CERN, run their experiment to find the Higgs boson, everyone on earth blacks out for about 2 minutes. Many people experience visions, like Lloyd who find himself in bed with a much older woman, but a few do not, like Theo. Once everyone wakes up, they find chaos as planes, cars, and other machinery had no operators for those two minutes. In the aftermath, the scientists discover that the visions showed a coherent future 21 years away and those without visions have died before the day that everyone saw. This explanation sends the book off into 3 storylines: the scientists' research into discovering why the flash forward happened, Theo's search for the person who is going to kill him, and a discourse on free will vs. determinism.

There is a lot of science and philosophy in this book which will turn off some who like their sci-fi a bit more straightforward. I liked some of the characters but found Lloyd to be a bit annoying and wishy-washy to me. overall, i give it a 5.