AuntMarge64's 2011 Challenge - Antarctica, Mars, and the Apocalypse - Part 2
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My goal is to read as extensively as possible in the following categories, with the number in each category determined as the year progresses. There is also a bonus category for other books I've read this year.
1. Antarctica (fiction and non-fiction) - 5 read
2. Mars (fiction) - 6 read
3. Apocalyptic and Post-apocalyptic fiction - 7 read
4. Tibet and the Himalayas (fiction and non-fiction) - 4 read
5. Back to the Future - mid-20th century SF - 5 read
6. Prize Winners and Contenders - 11 read
7. Science - 9 read
8. 19th Century Presidents (and other 19th c history) - 5 read
9. Mysteries and Suspense - 16 read
10. Caitlin's Picks (TBR choices made by my 10-year old niece) - 8 read
11. Non-fiction - 13 read
Total read for 11 in 11 Challenge: 89 + 11 bonus books
My 2010 Challenge is here: http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=71775
My Club Read list for 2010 (everything I've read in 2010) is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/80147
1. The White Continent: The Story of Antarctica by Thomas R. Henry **** 12/9/10
2. At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft **** 2/27/11
3. Premodern Antarctic World Ethnohistory by David L. Lipton ½ star 9/12/11
4. Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson ***½ 10/26/11
5. March of the Penguins by Luc Jacquet **** 10/26/11
MARS - FICTION
1. Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson **** 1/25/11
2. The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson ***½ 7/24/11
3. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury ***½ 7/13/11
4. Omnilingual by H. Beam Piper *** 8/16/11
5. The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke ***½ 10/20/11
6. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson **** 11/20/11
APOCALYPTIC AND POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION (with maybe a bit of dystopia)
1. Earth Abides by George R. Stewart **** 3/25/11
2. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die edited by Ryan North **** 4/24/11
3. The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett *** 5/17/11
4. The American Book of the Dead by Henry Baum ***½ 8/7/11
5. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank **** 9/3/11
6. The Postman by David Brin **** 9/20/11
7. Bangs and Whimpers: Stories About the End of the World edited by James Frenkel *** 11/25/11
TIBET AND THE HIMALAYAS (fiction and non-fiction)
1. Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan **** 12/20/10
2. Arresting God in Kathmandu by Samrat Upadhyay **** 3/6/11
3. The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison ***** 4/11/11
4. Water Touching Stone by Eliot Pattison **** 6/8/11
BACK TO THE FUTURE - Mid-20th Century Science Fiction
1. Wanderers of Time by John Wyndham *** 2/1/11
2. Monument by Lloyd Biggle Jr. **** 2/4/11
3. The Martian Way and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov ***½ 5/29/11
4. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin ****½ 7/26/11
5. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester **** 8/26/11
PRIZE WINNERS AND CONTENDERS -----COMPLETE-----
1. Tinkers by Paul Harding **** 11/30/10
2. Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt own **** 12/26/10
3. Still Life by Penny Louise **** 2/22/11
4. The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen **** 3/21/11
5. Amagansett by Mark Mills **** 3/29/11
6. A Thousand Cuts by Simon Lelic ***½ 6/12/11
7. Haunted Ground by Erin Hart **** 7/4/11
8. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt ***½ 8/6/11
9. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon **** 9/11/11
10. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss **** 9/15/11
11. Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart **** 9/26/11
1. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2010, edited by Freeman Dyson own ****½ 12/1/10
2. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History by David Christian *****
3. The Firecracker Boys: H-bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement by Dan O'Neill own ****½ 1/18/11
4. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking **** 2/8/11
5. The Animal Review by Jacob Lentz *** 9/8/11
6. Thinking Like a Mountain by Robert Bateman *** 9/20/11
7. Maphead by Ken Jennings ***** 11/15/11
9. Earth Then and Now: Amazing Images of Our Changing World by Fred Pearce **** 11/30/11
19TH CENTURY U. S. PRESIDENTS AND OTHER 19TH C U.S. HISTORY
1. Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember: Twenty-Seven Oral Histories of Former South Carolina Slaves edited by Belinda Hurmence ***½ 3/26/11
2. Doc by Mary Doria Russell **** 5/10/11
3. Millard Fillmore: The American Presidents Series: The 13th President, 1850-1853 by Paul Finkelman **** 6/17/11
4. Franklin Pierce: The American President Series by Michael F. Holt **** 9/28/11
5. The Presidency of James Buchanan by Elbert B. Smith **** 12/5/11
MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE -----COMPLETE-----
1. Bad Blood by John Sandford ***** 11/20/10
2. Storm Prey by John Sandford ****½ 11/28/10
3. Delicate Storm by Giles Blunt ***½ 1/5/11
4. Black Fly Season by Giles Blunt **** 1/24/11
5. Fields of Grief by Giles Blunt **** 3/10/11
6. Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane ***½ 2/13/11
7. Cold Earth by Sarah Moss **** 5/2/11
8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs ***** 6/21/11
9. Buried Prey by John Sandford ****½ 7/16/11
10. The Night Season by Chelsea Cain **** 7/6/11
11. The Fallen Angel by David Hewson ****½ 7/31/11
12. The Interrogation by Thomas H. Cook** 8/27/11
13. Lucifer's Tears by James Thompson **** 9/5/11
14. Iron House by John Hart ***** 10/13/11
15. Fallen by Karen Slaughter **** 11/7/11
16. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George **** 12/6/11
CAITLIN'S PICKS (to be chosen from my TBR books by my 10-year old niece)
1. The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt ***½ 11/26/10
2. The Holy Thief by William Ryan ****½ 12/17/10
3. The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran ****½ 1/27/11
4. Across the Universe by Beth Revis **** 4/4/11
5. To Dance With the White Dog by Terry Kay **** 4/16/11
6. The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez ***½ 4/20/11
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini **** 8/23/11
8. The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick ***** 9/11/11
1. The Landmark Thucydides ***** 8/21/11
2. Pavement Chalk Artist by Julian Beever **** 12/20/10
3. Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam by Fred M. Donner **** 1/1/11
4. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris ***½ 1/1/11
5. The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda by Peter Bergen **** 3/16/11
6. Gandhi The Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change the World by Eknath Easwaran ***** 5/22/11
7. Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, 3rd Edition by Derek Humphry **** 5/26/11
8. Gandhi: A Pictorial Biography by Gerald Gold **** 6/9/11
9. Passage Meditation by Eknath Easwaran **** 6/23/11
10. The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran **** 7/11/11
11. My iPad 2 (covers iOS 4.3) (2nd Edition) by Gary Rosenzweig. *** 8/8/11
12. The Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran **** 8/8/11
13. The Undiscovered Country: Exploring the Promise of Death by Eknath Easwaran *** 8/18/11
1. Fate of the Jedi: Vortex by Troy Denning own ****½ 12/10/10
2. Halo: Ghosts of Onyx by Eric Nylund **** 1/4/11
3. Buddhism for Sheep by Louise Howard and Chris Riddell *** 2/15/11
4. Red On Red by Edward Conlon *** 3/3/11
5. Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book by Terry Jones **** 3/20/11
6. Fate of the Jedi: Conviction by Aaron Allston **** 6/26/11
7. After Lyletown by K. C. Frederick (touchstone not working) *** 7/18/11A Partial
8. Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers *** 8/28/11
9. The Technologists by Matthew Pearl ****½ 10/5/11
10. Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden ****½ 10/12/11
11. It's All About the Dress: Savvy Secrets, Priceless Advice, and Inspiring Stories to Help you Find "The One" by Randy Fenoli **** 12/10/11
The Night Season by Chelsea Cain **** 7/6/11
WOW! This new thriller by the author of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series grabs the reader and never lets go. Lowell is mentioned only in passing, and here Archie shows his potential to carry a series on his own. Reminiscent of Lucas Davenport in several ways, Archie leads a team of detectives on the very worst of cases, even as he continues to struggle to overcome the damage done when Gretchen Lowell kidnapped and tortured him.
During a massive flood in Portland, Oregon, a serial killer using tiny but extremely lethal octopuses is killing people and dumping their bodies in the floodwaters. As the water rises, the banks of the Willamette River become a very dangerous place to be, whether as a civilian or a cop.
Don't start this if you have anything else to do.
#14 I've started this series, but haven't gotten this far yet. Thanks for letting me know there's more to look forward to. I'm not sure why, but I love these creepy serial killer stories!
I liked The Night Season because Susan was given more to do. You have to love a woman who will peel a Jolly Rancher off of a coffee table and eat it.
>17 RidgewayGirl: Susan is a stitch. I wonder if Archie will ever realize the prize within his grasp.
I've finished two more books by Eknath Easwaran (his first name was Easwaran, but for some reason it's written this way). He was a teacher who used passage meditation as the focus of a group of spiritual practices he recommended to his students, who were in the U.S. In passage meditation, a prayer or reading recognized for its spiritual power is memorized and then repeated slowly and silently for a half hour each day to drive it into the consciousness. The mantram (mantra) is used to calm the mind at other times of the day. The books are easy to read, address many common concerns, and use examples which will be familiar to Western readers. Very useful.
Passage Meditation **** 6/23/11
The Mantram Handbook **** 7/11/11
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury ***½ 7/13/11
A group of linked short stories written in the 1940s and 1950 and describing a group of colonizing missions to Mars. Human reactions to the Martians and their culture are predictably destructive, whether through violence or carelessness. It is Bradbury's imagining of the Martians and their effect on the men and women who travel there that make the collection well worth the read.
20 - wow thats a blast from the past - I think I read that on holiday in the late 70's :-o
I don't think I've read it all either. I've read a lot of Bradbury, but I think I quit on The Illustrated Man. Either that or I was so young when I read it that my brain has jettisoned the details.
After Lyletown by K. C. Frederick (touchstone not working) *** 7/18/11
Years after participating in the planning (but not implementation) of a botched 60s political action, a 40-something lawyer (Alan) hears from the only member of the group to be caught and serve time. Rory has never told the police that Alan was part of the group, and Alan is afraid Rory is planning to blackmail him. He feels he no choice but to meet him.
It's a great setup for a thriller, but this is a character study of Alan instead. As such, it has some wonderful descriptions of the thought processes and experiences of those who were college students during the time and trying to find a way to "make a difference". And the chapter on the death of Alan's best friend is completely believable, especially Alan's inability to let his friend talk openly about his fear.
Although this is a short novel (243 pages), it feels padded, although this may be a function of the marketing, which seems to promise more drama. There is moving and sometimes lyrical narrative but little drama, so don't read it for excitement.
The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson ***½ 7/24/11
I'm both elated and depressed at finally finishing Robinson's Martian trilogy-plus. It's been a long, LONG voyage, and the ideas he offers and the characters who span the story have taken become very real to me.
This fourth book is a series of short stories, some poems, and even a few scientific reports (all done within the Martian world Robinson created), and they add some interesting alternatives and information on major and minor characters and theories. If you've read the trilogy proper, do tack this on to your TBR list. If not, don't, because it will make little sense.
I've been planning on reading Robinson for awhile. The fourth book sounds kind of daring and cool, but certainly not something to tackle if you aren't already familiar with the world.
>26 cammykitty: The Martian Trilogy was the first of Robinson's works that I've tried. It's really, really, REALLY long, but so memorable. I did give his Forty Signs of Rain a try mid-Mars but found it boring. However, I've got Antarctica, The Memory of Whiteness, Icehenge, The Years of Salt and Rice, The Planet on the Table and Galileo's Dream on the TBR pile and hope to get one or two read this year. Probably those which take place in Antarctica, given my list of topics for this challenge.
I was thinking that Mars and Antarctica have a bit in common. I'm not surprised he has written books set in both locations.
I remember the Mars books fondly although haven't read the fourth book and read the trilogy a long time ago. I seem to remember that the red mars book was the best one?
I was at Diversicon, and PM Press sent us a bunch of copies of The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson. I should probably read one of the mars books first.
>31 cammykitty:. Huh, that's one I don't know but will have to check out. It appears to be very early KSR.
>32 auntmarge64: Probably. It's short stories and by a very very small press.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin **** 7/26/11
In Portland, OR, in the near-future (our near past - this was written in 1971), George Orr discovers his dreams are changing reality and turns to drugs to quell them. He is sent to a psychiatrist, whose response is to start experimenting with George's dreams to design his own utopian world. With reality changing every day, but his memories encompassing all the realities simultaneously, George desperately searches for some way to stop the doctor, to whom the authorities continue to send him. LeGuin makes George's experience quite vivid for the reader, who soon finds herself unable to put the book down until George either succeeds or fades into madness, and the world into chaos.
That premise sounds so interesting. I've been meaning to read more LeGuin. Thanks for the review.
The Fallen Angel by David Hewson ****½ 7/31/11
The 10th in the Nic Costa detective series set in Rome. All of the Costa mysteries are littered with references to the architecture, history and landscape of Rome, and maps would be helpful, but the stories are so interesting that this is a minor criticism. Here, Costa and his team are at odds with each other over what to do about a man who falls to his death and a family who won't cooperate. Especially as the mystery nears its end, it is obvious that each layer they discover is a coverup for another, and the end is a doozy. Delicious!
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt ***½ 8/6/11
How often can you claim that a western about two hired killers is charming and funny? And, it's longlisted for the Booker Prize.
Told from the viewpoint of the younger brother, Eli, overweight and yearning for a quieter life, the story follows the pair as they travel from Oregon to California to kill a man for their boss, for whom they've done many other "assignments". They meet quite an assortment of odd characters, and their adventures and mishaps explore the wildness of life in the old West. Most amusingly, Eli discovers tooth brushing, with which he becomes enamored. Fortunes come and go with alarming ease, as does life and death. And redemption stalks the brothers, to Eli's delight and his brother's dismay. Well worth the read.
The American Book of the Dead by Henry Baum ***½ 8/7/11
Poor Gene Myers is really confused. The novel he's writing seems to be coming true, and as a result his daughter is doing Internet porn and the country has elected a president who believes that to bring paradise to Earth, most of the people on it have to die, so he and his cabinet have started WWIII. (Not to worry, though - the Prez has learned that life after death is wonderful, so he's really doing those billions of folks a favor.) Meanwhile, Gene starts dreaming of people he realizes are actual people (or he's inventing them, although he never seems to know which it is.) Either way, they begin to meet to figure out how to stop the President and the war.
Clever, inventive, and amusing. And free on the Internet, so enjoy! Download at www.theamericanbookofthedead.com or via Amazon for the Kindle or Kindle app. (I have no connection to the author except as a random reader.)
I love Lathe of Heaven. There's a movie too, which is pretty bizarre but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Cheeze factor high!
>41 cammykitty: There appear to have been two movies made, with the 1980 version (with Bruce Davison) recommended and the 2002 version (with James Caan and Lukas Haas) panned. Which did you see?
Omnilingual by H. Beam Piper *** 8/16/11
This is a novella originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1957. I discovered it on a free audio book site and finished reading it on my Kindle (it's available free from both Amazon and Gutenberg).
An advance group of scientists, military, and civilians begins uncovering a Martian city which died out 50,000 years ago. One archaeologist believes she has a (very long) shot at deciphering Martian writing but needs a big find: a Rosetta stone which gives humans even a few words they can be sure of for building a vocabulary. Her colleagues are generally discouraging, but she perseveres - and has good luck. Typical 50s SF, with women called "girls" and smoking allowed in the rooms being excavated. Still, neat to read, and certainly a quick one for a sci fi category.
The Landmark Thucydides edited by Robert B. Strassler ***** 8/21/11
This is a magnificent edition of one of the pillars of ancient history, making it accessible and useful for both lay and professional readers. I read the Kindle edition on the iPad alongside the print version (700+ pages), the first for ease of use, the second for the footnotes, which are not tied to the text in the Kindle edition, while in the print version they are included on each page.
This edition begins with 20 pages of introductory notes, a dated outline of the text, and then the 8 books, each heavily footnoted, sourced and laced with maps. The maps alone make the edition worth its hefty price tag, but following the text there are 11 appendices, a glossary, bibliographies of ancient and modern sources, a 70-page annotated index, and a directory to place names mentioned in the text. There is also a 20-page chart and timeline of the theaters of operation during the war.
The appendices are footnoted, sourced, and, in some cases, illustrated with maps and drawings. I've starred those which would be particularly useful to lay readers if read before the history proper:
The Athenian Government in Thucydides *
The Athenian Empire in Thucydides *
Spartan Institutions in Thucydides *
The Peloponnesian League in Thucydides *
The Persians in Thucydides *
Land Warfare in Thucydides *
Trireme Warfare in Thucydides *
Dialectics and Ethnic Groups in Thucydides
Religious Festivals in Thucydides
Classical Greek Currency in Thucydides
Calendars and Dating Systems in Thucydides
This will be "the" translation to read for many years to come.
Two books for which I'm not going to write detailed reviews:
The Undiscovered Country: Exploring the Promise of Death by Eknath Easwaran *** 8/18/11
A short, useful restatement of the author's teachings on death and reincarnation.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini **** 8/23/11
So much has been written about this book I probably have little to add. I found this a somewhat forced and predictable story used to give a human face to the last few decades of Afghan history. Hosseini is such a gifted storyteller that the book was hard to put down, yet I also skimmed long sections. The main male character was probably the most hateful protagonist I can remember since reading The Color Purple when it was first published, and the plight of women in Taliban-controlled Kabul was extremely difficult to read. So, four stars for the book's power. Unlike some other reviewers, though, I preferred The Kite Runner.
Hosseini does do hateful protagonists well. That's why I can't read him! It's good writing. I just feel like he's dragging me through the mud.
>51 auntmarge64:. Yeah, I may have to think seriously about whether to read his next novel, although I did love Kite Runner. This one was just so nasty and almost unceasing in the depiction of violence and anger towards women I almost couldn't stand it. Years after read Handmaid's Tale I still can't bring myself to read more Atwood, and my feeling about A Thousand Splendid Suns seems awfully similar at the moment.
I can't say that I "liked" either of Hosseini's books. I thought both were important and powerful, but agree with you that The Kite Runner was the better book. My daughter, who spent almost 3 years in Afghanistan, says that both books are accurate depictions of what was going on there.
Just starting The Kite Runner however I do own both books... I will keep in mind that the first is better than the second :P
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester **** 8/26/11
Brilliant but not very pleasant SF classic in which a wronged everyman wrecks vengeance in a future where humans can instantly transport themselves around the globe. Written in the 1950s, the book has aged very, very well, with just a few anachronistic references to break the spell. You'll be dazzled by Bester's vision, but don't expect to like any, and I mean any, of the characters.
The Interrogation by Thomas H. Cook ** 8/27/11
A depressing book about one night in a police station, as two cops try to wrangle a confession out of a homeless man they are convinced murdered a little girl. Other characters float in and out of the story with the promise that all of it will come together in the end, but while there is a hint of closure, even a neatly wrapped up ending would not make this book satisfying. All the characters are either sad, suffering, or mindlessly violent, whether cop or civilian. All-in-all, a nasty little read I wish I'd avoided.
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank **** 9/3/11
This classic of the late 1950s, a story of post-nuclear war survival in the U.S., is fairly dated in social mores (especially attitudes towards the sexes and black and white race relations), and characterization is minimal, but it still holds the reader's attention to the end. Having read this while we had a 2-day power outage after Hurricane Irene, I find myself still thinking about life without amenities, and in the book, of course, that includes safe water, food, and protection.
Sounds good! So many of those post-disaster books forget things like safe water.
I just love them. There was an old b&w movie I saw a few years ago in which a radioactive sea monster attacked a village - as I recall, the "scientists" wore face masks to examine them, but used bare hands. My sister and I were ROTFL.
LOL!!! That's good! Who needs MST2K when you've got friends & a steady supply of old movies.
>65 cammykitty:. Good one! I definitely prefer the friends route. The old SF films are just so much fun - I keep hoping I'll see The Crawling Eye broadcast.
Lucifer's Tears by James Thompson **** 9/5/11
The second in a series starring a Finnish detective and written by an American who has lived in Finland for twelve years now.
Here Inspector Kari Vaara and his very pregnant American wife Kate have moved to Helsinki, and throughout the book they are both tortured by doubt and guilt over events in their pasts. Kari investigates two interesting but seemingly unrelated cases which begin to coalesce: war crimes accusations against a 90-year old Finnish hero (and parenthetically against Kari's own beloved grandfather) and the torture-murder of the wife of a wealthy Russian businessman. Kate hosts her siblings from the U.S. on their first visit, and here is where the book's main problems lie: the visit of the Ugly Americans. The sister is a bitter, fundamentalist Christian who disapproves of just about everything about Finland and her sister's life. The brother is an alcoholic drug abuser who gets in constant trouble from which Kari has to quietly rescue him with the hope of saving Kate stress (and a miscarriage). It's altogether too much "troubled relative" drama, and while I'm not a fan of moralistic preaching or evangelism, even I found the portrayal irritating and unnecessary.
Still, Kari is a complex character and Finland is not a very familiar venue for American readers, and I hope the series will continue for a good long time.
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers *** 8/28/11
This short YA novel is told entirely in a series of notes written between a mother and her 15-year old daughter. It's a clever idea, but the seriousness of the topic which develops (the mother's cancer) and the length of the notes (sometimes paragraphs and paragraphs), seemed unrealistic. Really, no matter how busy people are, they find time to sit down and talk when there's serious illness, right, and not just write notes?
Anyway, I gave it to my 11-year old niece to read and she loved it and has kept my copy. However, she also found the long notes unrealistic.
The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That Is Nature by Jacob Lentz *** 9/8/11
A silly but amusing group of short essays on animals the authors find particularly noteworthy (or not....): among others, the lady bug, alpaca, king cobra, wildebeest, garden snail, panda, great white shark, and my fave, the hippo. Of course I turned to this last one immediately and was greeted by several photos with humorous captions and an unfavorable comparison to Dexter (who at least leaves innocent witnesses alive). Each animal is graded based on the authors' rather fluctuating system (the hippo got a D-, the lady bug an A-). All-in-all, cute and worth a browse, especially if your favorite is there to be poked fun at.
Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon ***½ 9/11/11
It's such a treat to discover new-to-me authors who have lots of sequels under their belts. I finally gave Donna Leon and try, and it's rewarding to see there are nineteen (count 'em, 19!) sequels to date.
This series centers on Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police. He's happily married and a father, doesn't have many personal quirks, and is simply a hardworking and smart cop who concentrates on following up on details. This isn't a thriller, which is how I'd describe David Hewson's detective stories set in Rome (the Nic Costa series, of which I'm a huge fan) - it's a straight-forward mystery, fairly low-key and told with some humor (for instance, Guido frequently makes, and wins, bets with himself about what his idiot of a boss will say next). Relaxing and well-told, and with a satisfying conclusion. Aaaahhh.......
The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick ***** 9/11/11
This is the kind of writing readers hope to find and savor. Each word is evocative and perfect, and in 70 pages Ozick gives us what other authors struggle to do in hundreds: a story and character we'll never forget and always treasure. Thank you, thank you, labfs39 for recommending this!!!
The book opens with a short story limning the experience of Rosa, who, with her 14-year old niece (Stella) and infant daughter (Magda), is force-marched from Warsaw to a death camp. In a thoughtless act of self-preservation, Stella brings about events which ruin Rose's and Magda's lives. The second story, a novella, picks up Rosa's life as a crazy older woman living in Miami years later. She is supported from New York by Stella, who alternately berates her and encourages her to get on with her life. But as crazy as she is, Rosa often seems to be the one who truly sees reality.
For anyone thinking this will be a depressing read, I can only say, "give it a try". By the end of the short story you won't be able to forego reading about Rosa's future. Simply gorgeous storytelling.
54: Thanks! I have a review in my thread now :)
62: Although outdated, I loved Alas Babylon and the kitshy retro style that went with it. Hilarious about the sea monsters :P
And I agree, so many books forget about simple things, like safe water. I was impressed that Alas Babylon discussed safe water, but also the health problems that occurred when the community ran out of salt.
Kitchy? Sea Monsters? I'll definitely have to read Alas Babylon eventually. Too bad I missed the group read.
Bcteagirl, I loved your review of The Kite Runner. And the salt discussion in Babylon was a nice touch. The author also wrote a non-fiction book entitled How to Survive the H-Bomb: And Why. I guess he had really thought out those issues.
Cammykitty - Yes, sadly, no sea monsters in Babylon. If only I could remember the name of the film I could give us all a good laugh. Maybe my sister will recall.
I was just reading that David Brin said Alas, Babylon had a huge impact on him when he wrote The Postman, so maybe I'll read that next for my post-apocalypse category.
Yes! Vintage sea monsters are great, although I'm partial to the Kraken in The Last of the Titans, or whatever the name of that movie is.
74: Thanks for the thumbs up on my review! :) Interesting, both about the other book he wrote (On the wishlist it goes!) and The Postman. I have that book buried in mount TBR as well (The movie version however..).
>76 Bcteagirl: I almost didn't read The Postman because of reviews of the film, although there have been positive reviews too, I notice. From what I've read, the movie is only loosely based on the book. So a couple of days ago I did, in fact, go ahead amd read it, 4 stars, haven't done a review yet.
Yes, when I ordered the book I thought I hard ordered the non-movie version. But I have this copy now :P When it comes time I may see if the non-movie version is at the library and then bookcrossing this one :P
I'm quite behind on reviews but am hoping to get caught up, in no particular order. The first might be titled "Gee, Margaret, why don't you tell us what you really think?"
Premodern Antarctic World Ethnohistory by David L. Lipton a half-star, 9/12/11
The concept here is actually quite interesting: collect together references, from all times and peoples, to what has been known or theorized about the southern-most part of the world. (Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean Antarctica, because for all but the last couple of hundred years there was no proof of what existed south of inhabited land, or whether there was land there at all.)
There are, indeed, some nuggets buried here, but the execution is the equivalent of a junior high term paper cobbled together from sources gathered from a hasty search of the public library's catalog. The writing is repetitive and full of editing errors, and the sources consulted are generally secondary. The book is short to begin with but feels padded. The author describes himself as an "independent scholar" and an Antarcticanist, a term with exactly five entries on Google. He seems to be a hobbyist who felt the desire to put into print all the references he discovered in his amateur search, and while it's a noble gesture, the book is really of no value, because what those few nuggets are buried in is a pile of pretty much useless information which would mislead anyone using the book for research. In fact, this is probably the sole book I've ever simply tossed instead of passing along to a book sale, library, or book trading site.
#79 I love reviews that tell us what you really think, plus they're fun to write, too! Not at all tempted by this one, but my first reaction to it is this question: If this is a book that is intended to be a collection of all things Antarctic, then why does the globe on the cover show North America?
Always love seeing what you've been reading - can't wait for the next review.
>80 sjmccreary:. Hah, good point about the cover art! I hadn't noticed, but maybe it was one more reason the book was a disconnect.
It occurs to me that just posting about the book on LT has sigmificantly increased the number of possible Google references. Hmmm.
Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss **** 9/15/11
A delightful British take on correct and (often completely unrelated) current usage of the . , ; : ? - ... and !
Along the way, we learn something of the history of punctuation as well as the author's thoughts on how "correct" is even now changing, and she has some choice words for the havoc being wrought by the shortcuts we take in our mobile communications. I'm a semi-stickler, myself. I try hard to use those little fellows correctly, because I think they are really, REALLY important in expressing meaning, but on my cell phone, not so much. Maybe we'll end up with two well-thought-out systems of punctuation depending on what device we're using to compose.
The Postman by David Brin **** 9/20/11
A decade and a half after worldwide nuclear war, a survivor, running through an Oregon forest to escape bandits, stumbles across a jeep and the skeleton of a mailman from the early years of the apocalypse, when there was still a semblance of government. He takes the uniform, hat, and boots to replace what has been stolen, and also a bag of mail, addressed years ago to people probably long dead. To ensure his welcome at suspicious settlements, he pretends to be a representative of a rebuilt government mail service and manages to find a few addressees still alive in the area. As his cover story becomes accepted, he in turn is forced to accept new letters bound for the areas toward which he is traveling, and without intending to, he begins to forge connections between some of the villages. His travels lead him westward toward the Pacific, and he eventually becomes entangled with a town seemingly being led by a smart computer and with a survivalist group determined to destroy everything not in its control.
I avoided reading this for years because of the terrible reviews of the Costner film (although I've seen more positive ones lately), and it was pleasant to discover a worthwhile post-apocalyptic tale under all the baggage. It's just a good old-fashioned story with some hope for humanity mixed in.
Thinking Like a Mountain by Robert Bateman *** 9/20/11
A tiny book of short essays by Canadian naturalist painter Bateman, who is a favorite with my family. Topics generally center around the environment. Some essays take the form of stories from his past and observations he made regarding the effects of human activity on the land and animals around us; others are his thoughts on the damage we are doing and the dangers he sees in continuing on our present course. Bateman lives in British Columbia and is not entirely averse to logging and other human activities, but he proposes a more thoughtful approach, with the goal of prolonging both our resources and the diversity of our habitat. Some of the chapters are quite interesting, others a bit preachy, but the tidbits about his life and what he has seen change since he was a boy wandering the wild areas around Toronto are very interesting, especially for fans. Illustrated with his own black and white sketches.
Thanks for the reviews! Postman is also in my TBR, I like the idea of hope in a post apocalyptic setting.
I like the concept of The Postman too. Bad movies sometimes come from good books.
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl ****½ 10/5/11
An intriguing historical drama and thriller with wonderful characterizations and a big surprise to answer the question, "Who done it?"
As the pioneering graduating class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology prepares for finals in 1868, the first two of a series of unexplained disasters occur in Boston: during a foggy night a group of ships simultaneously lose compass bearings and crash, and a few days later all the glass in the financial district turns to liquid, causing freak injuries and panic. The seniors at the Institute, still fighting to prove that their school is worthy of its existence, brainstorm to work backwards from the events to explain what could have caused them and discover the perpetrator. Among this group are an ex-Union soldier/machinist on scholarship, two wealthy students, and the first woman student, who is forced to take classes and do laboratory work in private. The struggles between nascent unions, industrialists, scientists, and the classes, as well the social mores of the time, provide a colorful backdrop as the terror escalates and the Institute is blamed.
Simply wonderful storytelling. (Note: don't read the historical afterword until you've read the book - some of the details are more enjoyably discovered as the story unfolds.)
That book sounds very good! I had not heard of it before, so thank you for the review :)
The Technologists caught my eye on the Early Reviewer list, though I didn't end up requesting it. Glad to see it did not disappoint!
So glad to see another person who found The Technologists to be a great read!
The Technologists sounds awesome! I have a friend that went to Cal Tech. The culture at a Tech school, even today, is so different. It makes the perfect world for a historical mystery like this.
Iron House by John Hart ***** 10/13/11
A suspense novel with ALL the ingredients: pitch perfect dialogue, unceasing suspense from beginning to end, terrific characters, and a very satisfying end.
30-something hitman Michael wants out of "the life" to begin anew with his unsuspecting girlfriend Elena and the baby she is carrying. He is given permission by the man for whom he works, but that man is dying, and his heir apparent, his only son and a man embittered by the father's paternal love for Michael, vows revenge. As he comes after Michael and Elena, he also threatens to harm Michael's brother, Julian, whom Michael hasn't seen since they were abused boys at an orphanage in the mountains of North Carolina. The last time they were together was the day they were to be adopted, the day Michael ran and took the blame for a murder 9-year old Julian had just committed to save himself from a boy literally torturing him. Now Michael heads to North Carolina to protect Julian and face the reaction Elena will have to the truth about who he really is.
Think Reacher/Davenport/Dexter in one. Hart has outdone himself. Perfect.
Franklin Pierce: The American Presidents Series: The 14th President, 1853-1857 by Michael F. Holt **** 9/29/11
Unlike Larry Gara's book The Presidency of Franklin Pierce, this entry in The American Presidents Series is actually about Pierce, and it does a very good job of giving the reader some insight into Pierce's personal and political lives and failures. Pierce is often touted as one of the worst of our leaders and a leading candidate for "The President Who Did the Most to Bring On the Civil War". If you're reading through the presidents, give this one a try - short, well-written, enough detail to get on to #15 (Buchanan) and then to the main course: Lincoln and his era.
Yay! So glad Iron House is good. I have it ready and waiting to read at the beginning of my 12 12.
An iron will (Ha!Ha!), a challenge to finish and lots of "read right now!" books on my TBR.
Also, I put it in the back row of a shelf and kinda forgot it was there. Until your review, that is.
Just a few short notes. I'm trying to catch up on life after 5 days with no power, and thanking my lucky stars it didn't happen in January.
The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke ***½ 10/20/11
Enjoyable early 1950s SF which raises an issue explored much more deeply in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy: how would the human cultures on Earth and a newly-colonized planet relate to each other? What would the parent planet expect as repayment for its investment, and how would the developing culture react to that pressure and to the desire to forge its own destiny?
Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson ***½ 10/26/11
And speaking of Robinson, here is his take on the environmental issues surrounding a potential non-renewal of the Antarctic Treaty System, which sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on that continent. (Wikipedia, 2011). This is typical Robinson, full of ideas but rather infuriating to read because of how he does go on (and on) to make his points, but for those with an interest in the continent, it's got a lot to offer. Robinson spent time there as part of the U.S. Antarctic Program's Artists and Writers' Program.
March of the Penguins by Luc Jacquet **** 10/26/11
Although certainly no substitute for seeing the film, this companion book includes gorgeous photos, most especially of the forms and colors of Antarctic ice. I had read that the blues of the ice include shades seen nowhere else, and the photos included here took my breath away. One example can be seen in the first picture here: http://enticingthelight.com/2009/03/14/great-nature-photography-found-inmarch-of...
Fallen by Karen Slaughter **** 11/7/11
Thankfully, Slaughter keeps the characters' self-loathing and -doubt to a minimum here, as the romance between Will Trent and Sara Linton ratchets up during a massive kidnapping and murder case. One of the best in the series.
Stinks about the no power, but it looks like you got a lot of good reading done by torchlight.
>99 cammykitty: Some, anyway. It was so cold I frequently gave up and just huddled under the covers. It was pretty nasty, and I guess I'm getting a generator now - this is the first time in the 19 years I've lived here that we've had a power outage for more than a couple of hours, and it's happened twice in 2 months for a total of 7 days. I figure if I install a generator it'll never happen again, and I'm glad to pay the price :)
Glad your power's back on, but five days with no power must have been miserable. I think after that a generator would be on my gotta-have list!
>101 DeltaQueen50: Oh, but think of all the books I could have bought instead!
That's true, but it's sometimes handy to have lights to read by!
OK, ya got me there. One thing I discovered is how much heat candles put off (that's how I kept my bathroom usable), but the soot they leave behind is amazing.
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings ***** 11/16/11
A delightful book about maps and the people who love them. Jennings, well-known from "Jeopardy", was himself a map freak even as a child, and his author photo shows him at age 5 or so, beaming as he looks through his favorite atlas.
Topics range from an overview of map types (how about one made of sticks to guide Pacific islanders via ocean currents?), to the deplorable lack of map knowledge in an age of GPS, to the myriad ways maps are being used today: for example, geocaching (treasure-hunting based on map clues, for which there is now a scout merit badge). There are lots of fascinating examples of geographical oddities mixed in, and many times I picked up my iPad to read up on things such as the world's largest triple island (an island on a lake on an island on a lake on an island on a lake - I think that's the right number of each....)
There's even a discussion of the different ways in which men and women use and perceive maps. Let me ask you: if you're a woman, do you use your GPS with the car symbol always heading in one direction (up, for me) and the map moving to accommodate it? Or, if a man, would you rather have the map always with north on the top and the car symbol swiveling to make that possible?
Jennings writes with humor and intelligence, and I have a hard time imagining how this book could have been more entertaining or informative for a general audience.
#105 I'd already added this to the wishlist after seeing your 5-star rating on the connection news yesterday and reading the reviews. This looks like just the kind of book I will love (and drive my family batty by talking about).
So, to answer the question, I'm a woman who prefers to have the GPS set so that North is always at the top of the screen and the little car moves around. What does that mean? My husband prefers it the other way, but since he normally drives when we travel - because I'm the better navigator - I get to control the GPS.
You always find the most interesting books!
>106 sjmccreary: When you read the book, let me know what you think of his male/female analysis. He doesn't go into too much depth, but the episodes with his wife and map use are pretty funny. Something to think about, anyway.
I'm a map freak, too, and I can get lost on Google Maps for hours: I'm always seeing the most interesting landforms to zoom in on and then read about. I've spent the same amount of time studying my large paper map of Antarctica, and I have a globe of Mars. You?
I just got a Kindle Fire and I like it except that the current (sole) browser available for it doesn't allow for full-screen viewing (toolbars block the way) and at the moment there's no Google Maps app. I can access the Google Maps website, but they add another toolbar, so that literally only half the screen (only 7" diagonally) is available for content. An app would open full-screen.
#107 I was afraid you'd refer me back to the book after whetting my appetite with such an enticing question about the GPS!
I come from a family of map lovers, but never realized it until my husband laughed at me once after spending the day with my family at Mom & Dad's. My brothers and I and Mom spend more than an hour that afternoon huddled over the road atlas looking at the maps and talking excitedly. I have a paper world atlas - maps only, not the kind with all the statistical data too - that has lost its front cover from over-use. I love Google Maps and have also lost hours and hours of time there. However, I have neither a large (or small) paper map of Antarctica or a globe of Mars. I don't even have a globe of Earth. I do have a paper map of the world that I keep folded up on the shelf in my office that I thought seemed perfectly normal until one of my kids laughed hilariously when I calmly reached over and picked it up in response to some off-the-wall question they asked. (I'm beginning to sense a pattern here, re my family's reaction to my love of maps.) Do you use Google Earth? I couldn't get it on the old computer and haven't tried to access it yet on the new one. Here is the question that I think is absolutely key: Has GPS replaced paper maps, or do you use both?
#109 Thanks for the nudge - got it downloaded onto the new computer. Also saw that it available on the Android market - I'll check to see if I can get it downloaded on my phone, too. What fun!
This book has already crossed my radar, and your 5-star review makes me want to get to it soon. Soon, however, will probably have to be a relative term for me as I see no way to fit it in before January.
I use my GPS for the Bluetooth hands-free phone connection. When I go somewhere for which I need directions, I always look it up online and, if I'm going to have to refer to it, print it out. GPS has no appeal for me as a mapping system. I do use Google Maps street view when going somewhere new - it's so great to know ahead what I'm looking for. I haven't really explored Google Earth and the many layers people have been adding. Mostly I browse Google Maps in satellite mode. Currently I'm most intrigued by northern Canada and the Bahamas - what interesting land masses they have.
Having a paper map of Antarctica is probably weird, but that place just seems so strange. I'd love to see it in person, to get a sense of the enormity. The early explorers were, quite bluntly, off their rockers, but I'm addicted to reading about them and use the map to follow along.
And I have to admit that my globe of Mars is fabric, not whatever hard material they use for real globes these days. Only $20, but it's got all the major spots for locating features when I'm reading fiction set on Mars. It makes a great pillow for tossing around with the kids, too, who think it's a hoot to play catch with a planet.
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson **** 11/20/11
One clear night, three teenagers are hanging out on the lawn when the stars and moon disappear. Not much changes for humanity, because the tides continue to come in and out, and there is still a sun, albeit a fake one, which brings light, heat and the seasons. Behind the scenes, scientists begin probing the barrier, and their discoveries have huge import for human understanding of the future (or lack thereof) for life on Earth. The three teens grow up and take their places in life: one a brilliant scientist involved with unraveling the mysteries of the Spin, one (the narrator) a physician who stays close and ministers to him, and one who takes the religious approach to coping with the apparent intentionality of the masking of Earth.
Wonderful storytelling with clever flights of scientific fancy. Although the first in a trilogy, this also stands complete as a story. There is one big gap in reasoning towards the end which left me hanging a bit in trying to suspend disbelief, but perhaps I'm wrong and it will be cleared up in a sequel. Otherwise, a most enjoyable read.
Bangs and Whimpers: Stories About the End of the World (Roxbury Park Books) edited by James Frenkel *** 11/25/11
A collection of short stories from 19 luminaries of the science fiction world. Each story explores the end of the world, or of humanity, and they are in turns funny or tragic, mostly concerning the reaction the characters have to realizing what's happening. Maybe it's my general apathy towards short stories, but I found the group of very mixed success, although there are a few winners here.
Catching up on all your reviews! I am sorry to hear that you were without power for an entire week! Yowza! I am glad that you are ok :)
The Sands of Mars sounds interesting, and I do have some other Clarke books buried in mount TBR right now, so if it turns up at a thrift store I will grab a copy :)
I am sorry you didn't care too much for Bangs and Whimpers...It sounds like such a promising premise for a collection of stories..I imagine I would have a similar issue with it.. I would rather have half the number of stories and have them longer. I will keep an eye out for this book though, if I can get it inexpensively :)
Earth Then and Now: Amazing Images of Our Changing World by Fred Pearce **** 11/30/11
An oversized book stuffed with before and after images of places around the world which have been altered dramatically over the last few decades due to environmental change, war, urbanization, natural disasters, deliberate land transformation, and cultural activities. Pictures are matched as closely as possible to exact sites and angles, with a mixture of satellite images, street level shots, and panoramic photos.
Some of the changes are to be expected (melting glaciers, growth of cities, aerial views of bomb damage), while others are a surprise (disappearance of huge lakes, deforestation, the effects of a volcano on the paradise of Montserrat).
Very effective and a keeper for future perusal.
The Presidency of James Buchanan by Elbert B. Smith **** 12/5/11
Dense, readable, and informative, with detailed background on the coming of the Civil War and Lincoln's arrival on the national scene. Most interesting to me was Smith's discussion of why the South was so incensed by the North's refusal to give their moral blessing to slavery, and Buchanan's insistence on a Southern right to such approval. A little too much protesting, IMHO, if they all were really secure in their ethical stance in support of slavery. A very satisfying introduction to national politics of the time.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George **** 12/6/11
What a treat to discover a new suspense series to read, and one with sixteen sequels, to date. The detectives are based in Scotland Yard, and each has a troubling and complicated past, partially revealed as the plot thickens. (Presumably, and hopefully, more is filled in as the series progresses.) The crime here is pretty gruesome (a daughter has apparently beheaded her father), but the real horror becomes apparent only bit by bit, truly a delight for suspense fans.
There are some problems I hope wear off in future volumes: another woman detective who loathes herself? Oh, please…..! And a ridiculous American of a type I’ve never run into, and I know some pips (and I’m an American, too) – simply a superfluous characterization which might have been excusable if it furthered the plot, but, alas, not at all.
But those caveats aside, I’m very much looking forward to the arrival of the next in the series, which is on its way to me now.
It's All About the Dress: Savvy Secrets, Priceless Advice, and Inspiring Stories to Help you Find "The One" by Randy Fenoli **** 12/10/11
Do you love “Say Yes to the Dress”, weddings, gorgeous gowns, all of the above? Then this is the book for you! Randy Fenoli, the fashion director at the massive Kleinfeld bridal salon in Manhattan, and a charmer himself, presents the basics of shopping for a bridal gown, illustrated with beautiful photos of himself (), real brides, and the dresses they found through working with him. Delightful.
Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History by David Christian ****½ 12/11/11
I hardly know where to begin with this book, because it gathers so many threads and gives the reader so many directions to think about and investigate. I’ve taken the last year to read a couple of chapters a month, and I still find myself going back over some of the observations and connections made and seeing the world around me in different ways.
David Christian is probably the best-known teacher of Big History, and this book is possibly the Bible of the field. Big History looks at ALL of history, from the Big Bang to modern life and its trajectory, as one area of study encompassing all fields of scientific and historical research. This book approaches our present by beginning with the formation of the universe, through the development of galaxies and our solar system, our sun, and our planet, and then life itself. As the narrative moves forward in time the history slows down, so that life on Earth, especially human life, is examined in more detail. A major focus is the impact of humanity on the pace of natural changes to the planet and other species (most obviously in climate change and species extinctions), but much of Christian’s emphasis is on the extraordinary swiftness of the evolution of humanity itself and consideration of whether we can survive our success. The last chapter takes an admittedly weak stab at forecasting the future, but the rest of the book is a treasure trove.
The first several Elizabeth George books are fabulous. Her later books turn into a soap opera in which the wonderful Barbara Havers is reduced to a caricature, but you have a bunch before that happens. And maybe you'll love the upper class drama.
>118 RidgewayGirl: Sounds like Havers turns into a winner, and I'm so glad. I wasn't impressed with her in the first book but I'm ready to have my opinion challenged. The actual mystery in the first book was chilling.
No, George loses interest in her and makes her into a joke. You know, the desperate, overweight, unmarried woman without a life. That and the way the mysteries came to be so insubstantial and secondary to all the unnecessary drama of the lives of the rich and fabulous. I have a very low threshold for that. I really enjoyed the first several books, however.
>120 RidgewayGirl: Bummer. Well, I'll look forward to the first few, anyway. Thanks for the heads-up, because when they go south I'll know not to torture myself.
Was glad to see a positive review of Maps of Time - I'm still hoping to get to it in 2012.
And also glad of the heads up about the Elizabeth George series. I don't have a problem giving up in the middle if I know it's not getting any better. But, OTOH, I am perfectly willing to slog through a couple of inferior books in the middle of an otherwise good series. Now I know I can stop when it becomes tiresome without fear of missing something great a little later.
Going off to star your thread for the 12 in 12 Challenge! Will set my thread up soonish. I couldn't bring myself to start reading much ahead for it, although I suppose it would have made good sense. :P Thanks for the review of Maps of Time..Big history sounds right up my alley and you taught me a new term! On my wishlist it goes :) Happy new year!!
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