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Caro 2010

Club Read 2010

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1C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 5:52am Top

Due to the early start and my good intentions, here are three from Jan 1st - 6th.

1. Marcus Heitz The Dwarves

Excellent read, impossible to put down but thankfully forgiving in-laws allowed me to sofa-hog and work through this. It is a translation from German so although 2009 in English it is from 2003. Nicely scaled epic quest storyline with the firm Dwarvish focus but pulling in mages and some fantasy faithfuls like orcs, elves and unicorns. There is the main finding my family story of the chief character Tungdil, plus a rather fun quest for a sword (TM)- OK axe- there is a threat to the land from a mix of demon magery and lots of battles. When they start racing round the underground mines on the carts it reminded me of a mix of Indiana Jones and the Dwarf mines levels of Dungeon Siege! I did find it a little difficult to keep all the dwarf kingdoms and the mage realms unique in my mind (they overlap all over the place, even the two maps at the beginning don't help with this much). At the end of the book however, there was a dramatis personae which was nice but a little late to be useful. Excellent fun. 4/5

2. Jim Butcher Princeps Fury

Book 5 of the codex Alera series. I like the canim characters a lot so it made for a fun read. Quite a lot of politicking/ succession pieces seemed occasionally to pad it out so a few of the storyline pieces felt unusually sparse (Iceman storyline felt quickly over with). It looks like the next book or two will have some almighty fights with the Vord that I'm looking forward to loads. It felt a little like the "Empire Strikes Back" with the Vord finishing with very solidly ahead. Quite a lot of major story still to clear up in the next ones though so I hope I can wait out for book 6 to get into paperback.

3. K.J.Parker The Company

This book relies on the characters and the story of their interactions together. I like that there is a lot of room given for the tale to unfold. It is certainly a while until you even learn what they did in the war. In many cases you don't get all the explanations in one place and the pieces are dotted around. Mostly from the current day being mixed up well with the back story of their war exploits/ the forging of the team dynamics which makes it feel more complex that the actual bare plot really is at the end. There are nice twists and surprises even to the last.

edit for touchstones

2C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 5:54am Top

Currently underway but slower now that work restarts!

4. Carl Zimmer Microcosm

Blimey, my 1995 Biology degree is now a bit dated!- if we knew back then that Shigella is basically E.coli then I didn't remember it before coming across it in this book. I'm not sure I can pick apart how much prior learning helped me find my way around this book. Details such as how restriction enzymes really work, promotor/ supressor and feed-forward loops, even parts of it like knowing about all the different RNA types may have helped a lot. Zimmer writes so very well though that maybe I'm just flattering my memory and instead the credit should go to him for an excellent job. There is lots around the genetics of the bacterium focus here- E. coli- lots of very clear and excellent descriptions of critical experiments and what was found, more than I expected related to evolution- both on the components/ origins of the genes carried (proving Darwin rather than Lamarck where it is random selection, not directed selection; virus and other bacteria origin genes), the rapid life cycles allow evolution process to even be watched as it occurs. There are interesting pieces on the flagellae; I was not aware that creationists had used this feature as a proof of a designer. After evolution there is a long section on the process and ethics of genetic modification; such as growing insulin in large fermenters. The book ends with a short chapter on the searching of other planets and outer space for life. Very detailed, well referenced, well indexed and definitely 5/5. I will probably try the husband on it as a tester for whether you do or don't need some background microbiology to get the most out of it.

5. Joseph T Hallinan errornomics

The back cover categorises this book as "Popular Psychology". It covers the general topic of behavioural effects of the human mind makeup and the way this manifests in mistakes we make. It is a well condensed book with a good set of references/ sources. I have read several books in this field, but this still had several examples that were new to me. There are insert summary paragraphs thoughout and a good structure of quite small blocks of information, all with headers so that you are not wading through acres of print waiting for a point to come up for air. The only problem I had occasionally, and this in some ways made it more interesting, is that I'm European/British but this is written heavily to American cultural references. So that, for example, in the error case when familiarity means we don't remember details; the pictures and descriptions are of US coins. For geography, the example is California/ Nevada cities. Overall this didn't matter as I've seen reference examples for Europe (Italy slopes SEasterly much more that people assume so cities even halfway down like Rome will mindmap West of "East Europe" countries/ cities like Poland/ Hungary etc.), in fact this was a nice additional layer to the book for anyone that read already in this area.

3C4RO
Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 7:52am Top

6. Craig Childs Then Animal Dialogues
Finally managed to finish this (after 10. was started). Childs has an occasionally tedious tendency to waft off into very purple prose descriptions that was putting me right off picking this up. In the last sections it moves more into creatures of the sea which I really enjoyed. The section on meeting the mountain lion was likewise really well written. The structure is 35 or so small stories from 3 - 20 pages describing his meeting animals in the wild. I have not seen/ read any of his books before but it seems he is also somewhat of an adventurer/ wanderer by habit as well as deeply interested in some depth in the animals that he meets there. I prefered when he gets really into details about the specifics of the animal behaviour or habit although when his stories more onto topics such as people getting lost in blizzards he can keep the interest. Although it took so long, I think I would recommend this to anyone that likes outdoorsy pursuits.

4C4RO
Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 7:53am Top

7. William H McNeill Plagues and Peoples
I think I managed the first page but then a large amazon order arrived and I made one of the monthly pilgrimages to the Amsterdam ABC! Will be parked for a while...

5C4RO
Edited: Jul 6, 2010, 10:31am Top

8. Michael Bowers Prison Ship

A fun quick thriller read. Commander Jacob Steiner is a grade A tormented soul (pregnant wife died whilst he watched) and seems to be the only one in the military aware of a higher ranked "bad egg" in the high command. He is sent to prison and then in a lucky twist of fate gets made commander of a clunker ship, staffed by prisoners including a rather fantastic cyborg. All very silly and lots of close escapes/ strokes of luck that you just wouldn't believe. Roll with that and it pays off; there are some fun interesting characters and enough twists that it is worth the effort. Lighthearted fun.

6C4RO
Jan 18, 2010, 2:05pm Top

9. Kris, Rob, Matt and Dave Cyanide and Happiness
A really excellent combination team of 4 cartoonists draw the strips for C+H. Always very sharp, often in poor taste but very funny indeed. 30 new strips that are not on the internet but there were several in the book on top of that that I must have missed.

7C4RO
Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 7:59am Top

10. Joanna Stone MD The Pregnancy Bible
Being skimmed (OK, I'm only looking at the pictures!) as over the next 30 weeks or so will become more and more interesting.

8C4RO
Edited: Feb 2, 2010, 6:03am Top

11. Jim Butcher et al. Mean Streets
Since I've read and liked books by three from four of the authors, hopefully a fun read.

I don't normally read short stories in this genre as part of what I like about fantasy is the world-building feel and that's near impossible in 50 pages. Although that said, I really enjoyed the first 3 stories- from authors that I have read nearly all their back catalogue. They tied in nicely to the worlds that the 3 characters already inhabit in the other books and worked well. The fourth short story I had not read around previously and it showed more. I didn't dislike it but certainly there were points where I noticed I was missing what felt like large blocks of backstory that would have improved the general feel of it to me (the angels relationship with the Gregori clearly had some history to it). Not sure I would look the books out though.

9avaland
Jan 28, 2010, 4:20pm Top

I noticed you read a book on E. coli therefore you might enjoy the discussion of malaria over on kidzdoc's thread:-)

10theaelizabet
Jan 28, 2010, 4:23pm Top

>7 C4RO: Hey! Congratulations!

11C4RO
Jan 29, 2010, 8:38am Top

9. Thanks for pointing me over there. Interesting links all round and I picked up a couple more for the wishlist (never a bad thing to keep the pipeline full).

10. Thank you. It's very early days so I'm just slowly wrapping my head around the idea- it will be my first so it's all new experiences.

12C4RO
Edited: Feb 6, 2010, 8:41am Top

12. Scott Lynch Lies of Locke Lamora
I'm sure this was a recommendation from LT somewhere, probably several times and places. Very entertaining book that is difficult to put down. The characters really come alive and the storyline is also very good indeed. The group of high-class theives that call themselves the Gentleman bastards take on some convoluted trickery on the nobles and interract well under the direction of their leader, Locke Lamora. The story jumps around through his life history from first starting in a loose bunch of child thieves under a Fagin character and through to a final major heist. I already have the second book of these and very much looking forward to it also.

13C4RO
Feb 6, 2010, 9:00am Top

13 Simon R Green Just another Judgement Day
I think this is book 9 now of the nightside and PI John Taylor. The walking man arrives to terrorize everyone. Susie Shooter finds a way to move forwards with her contact problems. The New Authorities are introduced. A nice addition to the set.

14C4RO
Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 4:07am Top

14. Cliff Stoll The Cuckoo's Egg
I was hunting up birthday presents for a friend when I came across this. I remembered the TED/ klein bottles talk from Clifford Stoll and decided I also needed my own copy too. This is a really good read and although I'm no slouch on computers it is very clearly written to describe some pretty complicated ideas on computer network links. Back in 1989, some German hackers were making free use of linked university and private company networks to access military bases/ military files. In addition, Stoll includes a lot of interesting peripheral details on life back in the 80's in California as a sys admin/ researcher at Lawrence Berkeley. I'm vaguely aware of FBI/ CIA/ NIA but only from Hollywood so it is nice to see some of that (depending on how much license was taken with the facts!) holds up in real life. I really enjoyed this book.

15C4RO
Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 4:12am Top

15. K E Mills The accidental Sorcerer
I had a busy couple of weeks travelling for work back at the beginning of February so this was one of the long European trains/ flights. It was pleasant at the time but as I don't think I'm going to rush out for any follow ups. That said, I have got some of her straight fantasy (written as Karen Miller- Godspeaker Trilogy) down on my TBR list. The story follows a thrid grade mage who has a rather large blot on his copy book from an (unfair) destruction of a wizards staff factory. He ends up as wizard to the court of an oasis kingdom in the middle of desert sands. Lots of political sidepieces and he has a very interesting sidekick crow called Reg. Fun read.

16C4RO
Edited: Feb 27, 2010, 4:16am Top

16. Scott Lynch Red Seas Under Red Skies
The second book is very much as good as the first. This time, we are mostly at sea and playing pirates intermixed with a heist from a gambling palace. Also, Locke is suffering the backlash from his actions with the mages from the first book which makes a pleasant change from heros that get away with anything and no consequences. I expect several people have not read this yet so I won't spoiler except to say the book does end on a horrible cliffhanger and it will be torture to wait through the hardback issue for the paperback to be available. If you didn't start book one, hold on as long as you can before you do start this set of books.

17C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 5:58am Top

17. Ian Stewart What shape is a snowflake?

Got in Haye on Wye last summer, same author as "Does god play dice- the maths of chaos".

Very nice coffee-table style book with many pictures but presenting a lot of complex Chaos/ Complexity/ Fractals/ Geometry/ Quantum mechanics and Relativity Maths. I love the Biology end of this but I'm still pretty uninterested in Cosmos/ Physics side and found myself flicking through those bits and not trying to take much of it in. Not sure why but planets and space just don't do much for me. Not a fault of the book, all ideas are presented extremely clearly.

18C4RO
Edited: Mar 16, 2010, 1:10pm Top

18. Kim Harrison Where Demons Dare
Had a horrible realisation when I was about halfway through this book- I'm nearly certain I've messed up the order of this series due to US/UK naming differences and my lack of attention to which one I picked up off the shelf. I think I haven't read the book before this being the result. The main characters, Rachel, Ivy, Jenks are all still all there and present as expected but I am certain sure I've spoilered the heck out the book before this now from some plot points. For that reason, its ended up being not much of a fun read and I remember liking the first books much more than this. Also means I'll have to trudge through a backfill read which will be a bit tedious too.

ADD- I know how it happened now too- I knew I'd read the first 4 and when I threw the books for the week away in the bag, I just looked in the frontispiece/ "Also by" in this book (number 6) where only the first 4 up to "Fistfull of charms" are named so that is where it looks like it is number 5. Bummocks.

19C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:10am Top

19. Boye Lafayette De Mente Japan Unmasked

Present from my brother for Christmas.

38 chapters in a small book, each reading like a little essay and with some repeats of information provided. Strongly coming from a US perspective and business-dealings focussed approach to working with the Japanese. Liked it and did pick up some insights- lots of Japanese words and phrases are explained well. Considering this sort of book easily degenerates into the sort of stereotypical "xenophobes guide" rudeness, I found this book mostly stayed respectful/ educational and had a good tone to it. Would have liked some chapters on Japanese arts (manga/ anime/ theatre/ woodblocks/ studio pottery) but this stays on character/ company workings with only a few steps into things like schooling (apparently Japanese schools are VERY brutal places) and the socialising side.

My line of work included a fairly delicate consultancy job for a couple of months in Japan and I wish I'd read this before we did the project! It worked out in the end and our proposals were accepted as helpful but I could see for sure how difficult it can be to challenge their working rules/ practice or even gain some acceptance on some sources of waste that were built into the structures the company was running.

20C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:12am Top

20. Charles Stross The Jennifer Morgue

Entertaining and better than the first one I read. Pulling in the usual heavy amounts of James Bond spoofing, this time around we're more focussing on Lovecraftian Chthulu/ Deep ones myths. A nice spy-and-gadgets book with the fantasy spin added. Herb bought the first book but didn't enjoy it so much and probably won't read this one. Possibly he wasn't forced to watch the Bonds growing up in Germany as much as the TV schedules in the UK force it on you in every Christmas period...

21C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:16am Top

21. Simon Green The Spy who haunted me

Gah! touchstones are being touchy today. 17-21 entered as I'm next week away on work all week and as it is not conferences/ customer networking, I should get through a good few books. Maybe not the snowflake though as it's hardback and bit large.

Finally coming back and checking I've put short notes on all the books finished. Missed this one out. I really do love the Simon Green "Hawk and Fisher" fantasy books and these James-Bond-done-fantasy-style are also good. In this book, the Independent Agent is running a competition for his full archive of secrets and Edwin is taking part for the Droods. Pulls in a mix of myth and legend in the tasks and works well. Better than the second one, hope they keep getting better!

22C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:17am Top

22. Judd Winick Barry Ween, Boy Genius

Many years back, my brother had a nasty operation to correct that his lungs had collapsed a few times (in basic, sandpapering the membranes on lung and rib wall to glue it all together, apparently really rather painful). For the 2-3 days he rested in hospital his friends gave him a stack of comics to keep him in pain from laughing and one of them was "Barry Ween". I saw it there on a visit and flicked through the first pages, thought it was great and I would pick it up at some point and... never chanced across it again. The first book was always out of stock on amazon. Delighted to finally get it as it's been issued as an omnibus version.
Not unlike "Girl Genius/ Foglio" this is a set of stories around a genius inventor small kid called Barry and his adventures making high tech toys/ accidentally creating time slips and similar fun. Great book, nicely laid out and lots of sharp asides from the hero.

23jackbrosnan
Mar 16, 2010, 6:50am Top

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24jackbrosnan
Mar 16, 2010, 6:54am Top

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25C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:18am Top

23. Kim Harrison For a Few Demons More

See message 18; this goes on the TBR pile now. Really sad that I read the series out of order as it must have killed the Kisten part of the storyline stonedead (I pessimistically expect but might be wrong).
In the end, I found this book better than the next book in the series. There were two fill-in story points that were more important than the Kisten story (surprisingly there is only a set-up piece in this book, it is not a major part of the story).

26C4RO
Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 3:39pm Top

24. Jim Butcher White Night

Harry saves some witches that are being slowly picked off. Strangely unmemorable book as normally these are good fun.Not entirely convincing reason why his brother couldn't mention what was going on and thus felt a bit daft/ contrived in the concluding areas. Nice that the apprentice Molly is starting to become a bit more involved.

27C4RO
Edited: Apr 19, 2010, 3:41pm Top

25. Tim Harford Dear Undercover Economist

One page agony aunt letters answered from point of view of economics explanations/ advice. Quite entertaining but very much for dipping into (loo book) as the format gets a bit wearing if you try and block read it.

28C4RO
Apr 19, 2010, 3:46pm Top

26. Kim Harrison White Witch, Black Curse

Liked a lot more; after my self-inflicted misstep on the two previous books really made them a bit of a chore to work through. This now continues the storyline and relationships of the 4 or 5 main characters well. The last couple of chapters had a slight feel of lining up a bunch of the next stories but it wasn't painful cliffhangers.

29C4RO
Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 10:56am Top

27. Stieg Larsson The Girl Who Played with Fire

Well, no need for much of a review here as this is a very popular trilogy and this is book 2 of 3. It is a good thriller and very hard to put down. Occasionally the writing style is a bit jarring but it really doesn't distract too much from an excellent story- and I've no idea if that is due to the translation or (more likely since they are so big) too much faith to the original! It is written in places with a lot of half to one page blocks describing some characters actions/ events, I noted especially when there was a string of 2 to 3 of these half pages, nearly all of them want to end on some sort of clever, knowing-nod-to-reader sentence. There are also a lot of "she left just 5 minutes before he went" events. It doesn't matter though; the books work just fine and I'm very much looking forward to the last one.

30atimco
Apr 19, 2010, 4:41pm Top

Harking back to The Accidental Sorcerer, I recently listened to that on audiobook and enjoyed it. I'm interested in reading the next two, but not desperately. Did you find that the two halves of the book (the more lighthearted first half and the definitely darker second half) to work together? A lot of reviews I read complained about the introduction of the dark stuff so late in the story, but I didn't find it problematic. Overall, it reminded me somewhat of Terry Pratchett. Fairly enjoyable.

31C4RO
Apr 23, 2010, 10:47am Top

Hi WW, I found Accidental Sorcerer an odd read. It did seem to gradually change over the book from the start as straight forward lightweight fun fantasy read. As Gerald started as clumsy-wizard fantasia-type it was a little strange to turn him into some sort of politically astute, crimesolver by the end with newly acquired super-powers. It happened quite gradually though so I agree it wasn't problematic, just odd. I think I would read the next ones but would rather try one of her "Karen Miller" books ahead of that- did you try any of those? I found her website listing Kingmaker/ Kingbreaker and Godspeaker trilogy.

32C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:42am Top

28. Stieg Larsson The Girl who kicked the hornets nest

Final book of the trilogy and everything gets finished off nicely.

33C4RO
Edited: Jul 18, 2010, 10:55am Top

29. C E Murphy Heart of Stone

Early reviewer electronic copy.
This book makes pretty good urban fantasy reading. Once it gets going, there is a decent pace to the action and a novel mix of "Old Races" are introduced, including the less common djinn, selkies and gargoyles as well as the more usual vampires and dragons of the genre. The heroine is a gutsy lawyer-type who seems to like dropping swearwords occasionally, which I found a bit jarring as normally you'd expect lawyers to have a bit better ability to express themselves- but that is a small negative point. She has an on-off policeman boyfriend who is managing a murder case and she also meets a gargoyle called Alban who has gotten himself caught up in the same case as a suspect; this slightly ties the story to a small world but there are several other characters introduced and overall there is enough other plot points to not find it a very sparse story.

I received this for the ER and do not have an e-book reader. I found it very difficult to read this on my PC, hence eventually I got myself a hard copy. This book was certainly good enough to justify trying the next two books also, which I hope are as good as this and develop more of this world.

34C4RO
Edited: May 31, 2010, 4:06pm Top

30. Richard Wilkinson The Spirit Level

This book took me a really long time to read. There is a lot to think about but the basic premise is that when there is a wide gap between the earnings/ circumstances of the rich and the poor in a country/ society, this will result in a less pleasant society for everyone overall; even the rich. The examples are mainly from crime (violence/prison) and health (life expectancy, drug use, teen pregnancies). Correlation is not causation however- so the reason it took so long to get through was that after the presentation of the fact/ link, I found I was reading the "why" paragraph 3 times to check I really did follow their reasoning. I can agree to their ideas generally from my own gut reaction in comparing places I've lived and visited around the world and have a reasonably good insight to- probably Japan, US, UK, Netherlands, Austria certainly get compared a lot as they are often the top and bottom examples.

The final chapters are the hardest to read as it supposedly lays out the ways this nirvana situation could be achieved. Mostly from describing how some of the more narrow gaps came about in Germany/ Japan/ Scandinavia versus the UK/ US situations. Since much of this seems to be harsh reactions after world war 2, this is not reproducible for the current wide gap countries (UK/ US) so it will have to be by other means. One major problem must be that some sort of limit on either high or low earnings would be needed to make a narrow gap but whilst governments can certainly impose to an extent on the public sector workforce that they employ; they'd need to get the private sector moving in line at the same time. Sounds like some horrendously complicated Tax/ income/ wages balancer that would probably not work and only end up with game-players widening the gap rather than narrowing it. At the moment, the new UK government are talking of the large cuts in spending that are needed. If some of this comes in lower salaries, how on earth can they also ensure the private sector follows suit? Of course most private companies will take an opportunity to cut wages but normal practice on all outsourcing and privatisation seen so far seems to mean the quantity jobs (clerks, cleaners, large numbers of staff on the lower rungs) not the quality jobs (CEO, consultant adviser 1 day a month that many politicians see as their comfortable retirement jobs after a hard slog in public service) that get downgraded payscales. Thus the top end don't reduce salaries, the low end do and the gap widens not narrows.

35C4RO
Edited: May 31, 2010, 4:02pm Top

31. Zacaria Erzinclioglu Forensics

Back in Uni, one of the few lectures on my Biology course that really stuck solid in my mind was a guest spot from "Dr Zac" with slides about his experiences as a forensic entomologist. I have his book Maggots, Murder and Men that is also a fascinating set of memoirs and reflections. This book is more of an introductory textbook-style read to the field of forensics. For details on the assays and detailed methods, you will need to look elsewhere. In another life on another path, I'm nearly certain I'd have gone towards forensics so I found it highly interesting. YMMV.

36C4RO
Edited: May 31, 2010, 4:13pm Top

32. Lee Child Gone Tomorrow

Since this must be about book 8 now following tough nut Reacher and his vigilante ways, this was about as you would expect. This means a fun adventure, not to be taken too seriously. This time around it is a set of terrorist types from Afghanistan that are being chased.

At the end of the book there is a strange (and very usual for this style of book) incomplete ending where a certain plot point doesn't resolve. It doesn't ruin the book but I'd say it must have come from Child painting himself into a corner on the storyline and ending up having to duck the reveal! Fun though, will still keep up with the paperbacks versions as and when they come out.

37C4RO
Edited: Jul 14, 2010, 2:37pm Top

33. Tad Williams The Dragonbone Chair

Great epic fantasy. Seoman/ Simon, castle scullion sets out on "collect the sword" adventure. Lovely supporting characters, standard medieval-type groupings of tribes, encounter with dragon, crammed full of many staples of the fantasy genre but does not at all feel like a dull retread work. Great book and can't believe I've missed this up until now.

38C4RO
Jun 1, 2010, 12:58pm Top

34. David McCandless Information is Beautiful

Due to my field of work having an element of data presentation, I've been watching his website for several years now. Then this book came up on early reviewers (not in your geography) so I had to get my own. It is a very nice book and the charts are as good and interesting as the ones on the website. Minor complaints are that too many of the charts are missing keys/ legends and too many of them use sized circle points to show volume which is very poor practice for data presentation. That aside, the large point of these is to present interesting information in new ways and in that this succeeds excellently. Now I must just feel guilty that I haven't got around to the early reviewer book I should have read thanks to not owning an ereader- or is this just the excuse needed to get an ipad...

39RidgewayGirl
Jun 1, 2010, 4:11pm Top

Enjoyed your review of The Spirit Level, as that is something I've become angry about, having lived in places like Germany, with a smaller disparity, and in the US.

I've added Maggots, Murder and Men to my wishlist.

And I find the Reacher books great fun and I don't usually find myself excited about the latest bestselling thriller. I have 61 Hours set aside for the beach in July. My SO's taking it with him on a long business trip.

40detailmuse
Jun 2, 2010, 9:16am Top

>38 C4RO: I wonder if that is his book titled The Visual Miscellaneum in the US?

I was thrilled about it late last year -- glossy, colorful, creative -- but it had printing errors here too (missing text/labels) so I waited (hoped) for a new edition. But since then I've read Tufte, and (like your concern with his use of circles) I'm not sure he's true to Tufte.

41C4RO
Jun 2, 2010, 2:32pm Top

>39 RidgewayGirl:. For the general views in the Spirit Level I do agree with their conclusions but sadly have no clue how it could move forward to make better communities. The main shame comes from those that win the lottery of life being quick to chalk it all up as entirely down to their own brilliance and give so little sympathy for those that aren't as lucky (be it in health, education, life opportunity). It is pretty jaw-dropping when you go to the more socialist countries of Europe like Norway/ Sweden and walk around beautifully kept cities, free museums and find piles of expensive bikes sitting around with no locks on. According to close friends that live/ work there though, they say there is a sort of lifestyle facism that replaces the every-man-for-himself capitalism of UK/ US. EG you can go free on the bus with your sledge and go free on the toboggan runs (healthy and good) but a simple bottle of cheapest wine from restaurant or shop will be minimum 15 EURO equivalent (unhealthy and bad). Still think I'd love to live there.
Hope you enjoy MMM, Dr Zac writes in a pretty conversational style and I find him very readable. His background is insect biology so lots of it is on the insect populations of dead bodies. He looks like a sort of eccentric British Hercule Poirot too.

>40 detailmuse:. It could well be the same book under a new title from looking at the reviews of it; they mention the Kevin Bacon connectors, Rock genealogy and right/ left which are all in Information is Beautiful. The author is certainly more from the design side than from the analysis/ data presentation side- he puts two Tufte books in his inspirations list at the end of the book which was why I noted he may have been creatively inspired but he doesn't follow the awkward facts when it suits him not to!
I see you read the Shit my Dad says I read the twitter feeds for that- is there much more than that in the book? It could be a fun read if it is a little more expanded.

42detailmuse
Jun 2, 2010, 8:02pm Top

I haven't followed him on Twitter but if that's just quotes, the book is much more -- hilarious quotes yes, but also a dozen or more memoirish stories that add a whole poignant side.

43C4RO
Edited: Jun 16, 2010, 11:28am Top

35. Charlie Brooker The Hell of it All

Due to maternity leave starting in 2 weeks I've had piles of amazon books turning up to prepare for the dark weeks of no sleep with a new baby. Unfortunately the 5-year old in me can't put the new books behind the queued up stacks so loads of them have already been dug into and started. Including this wonderful bit of misanthropy, just 60 pages left of it now. Like his others Screen Burn and Dawn of the Dumb, this is a collection of Charlie Brookers reviews of UK TV plus a few more random pieces too. He has a wonderful way with words that sometimes just nails it, EG on climate skeptics;

"... I'm not an engineer either, but if I asked 100 engineers whether it was safe to cross a bridge and 99 said no, I'd probably try to find another way over the ravine rather than loudly siding with the underdog and argueing about what constitutes a consensus whilst trundling across in my hummer"

44C4RO
Jun 16, 2010, 11:36am Top

36. Justin Halpern Shit my Dad Says

I'm sure it must have been b3ta, popbitch or Holy Moly newsletters that recommended this guys twitterfeed to me. I was delighted to see it come up as a book and after a short check with detailmuse that is wasn't only the quotes, ordered it and have already thumbed through several pages. Even my husband, who is currently delighting himself with something complicated about Rolls Royce aeroengine superchargers, read straight through the first story and couldn't put it down. Explanatory note- whilst I will happily have 5-6 books on the go at the same time in parallel, husband is normally very rigid about finishing one book before starting the next...

45C4RO
Edited: Jul 14, 2010, 1:40pm Top

37. Tad Williams Stone of Farewell

Book 2 in the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn set. Prince Josua is even more wet and pointless but the rest of the characters get on with it a bit more. Nice building of the evil team and lots of different parts get handled well. I think I'd have preferred to read this back when I was a little younger but it is a good fantasy epic for sure.

46C4RO
Edited: Jul 14, 2010, 1:40pm Top

38. Tad Williams To Green Angel Tower Part 1

Rounding out an excellent fantasy series. All the characters working really well together.

47C4RO
Edited: Jul 14, 2010, 1:40pm Top

39. Tad Williams To Green Angel Tower Part 2

Final piece of the series, lovely and well worth reading all 4.

48C4RO
Jul 14, 2010, 1:46pm Top

40. C E Murphy House of Cards

Due to maternity leave starting up, I'm catching up fast on the books now. This is the second book of the series and, unfortunately, really didn't keep my interest going from the first. I have the third book too but just can't face picking that up which is normally a good sign the series isn't rivetting.

Reason... it's just... dull. A whole load of politicking going on where we're supposed to be impressed that the lawyer lady is apparently arranging meetings with all the Old Races. A threadless hanging piece about Grace-the-pirate who just turns up for next to no reason. The ex-police-boyfriend now just looks like a tool for hanging around and having all sorts of suspicions but somehow totally happy to let his ex hang out with a couple of major-league villains. It just didn't make much sense to me.

49C4RO
Edited: Jul 18, 2010, 11:13am Top

41. Po Bronson/ Ahsley Merryman Nurtureshock

Rather excellent book but much shorter than you expect (last quarter of the book is extensive bibliog/ references!). Main messages are clearly explained and very well backed up with evidence.
Main points;
1. praise is better directed at effort than attainment or kids will not want to push themselves.
2. kids need sleep to process previous days learning and be aware enough the next day too
3. white parents should be happy to talk to their kids about race, probably in the same manner they (normally) challenge boy/girl stereotypes. Kids notice differences and are as prone to in-group favouritism as adults are.
4. Kids lie more to make their parents happy than to avoid punishment, parents are very bad at telling when their kids are lying
5. Gifted kids get tested too young and only about 25% are really still gifted level only 3-4 years later.
6. Siblings will fight/ not much care about each other and it is not about parental attention, it is mostly about toy sharing and, weirdly, the best signifier of older kids playing will with their younger sibs is not age gap/ gender but whether the kid plays maturely with their best friend
7. Teen rebellion occurs more in young teens and better parents will have rules but be fair in negotiating (no point being rigid/ dogmatic and being totally permissive sends a don't-care message to the kid)
8. Teaching kids self-control/ discipline is at least as important as any basic IQ/ smarts.
9. You can argue in front of kids, so long as they see the resolution/ making up too
10. Baby language learning is a long process over 9-18 months, DVD are a waste of time. Needs interaction with a human. Reacting to the baby is more important than just being sure to talk to them with an extensive vocabulary.

I really enjoyed reading this, certain sure I won't be able to apply it but it is still nice to know most kids turn out OK despite all parenting failures.

50detailmuse
Jul 15, 2010, 11:52am Top

Due to maternity leave starting up

Ooh! -- any announcement to make yet?

51C4RO
Jul 15, 2010, 12:26pm Top

>50 detailmuse:. I wish it comes soon, considering this heat! (we've had a week of over 30C/ 86F here).
I'm in the Netherlands and the rules here force you onto maternity leave 4 weeks before the due date. The really sad thing is you only get 16 weeks total meaning a quarter of it wasted sitting, waiting for the cramps to start up. Due date is 29 July.

52detailmuse
Jul 15, 2010, 12:59pm Top

Wishing you the BEST and will be eager to hear!

53C4RO
Edited: Jul 27, 2010, 6:31am Top

42. Jack Huberman The Quotable Atheist

Not very excellent. I normally love paging through this sort of book looking for nuggets of fun but this had a lot of filler in my view and far too many long, rambling (and frankly) rather dull pieces in it for me. Not that I only wanted sharp, pithy Mae-West one-liners but some of this just came across as missing the point. Also, by the end I was irritated with the author who kept filling up the short biog details for some of the quot-ees with some really naff and unfunny explanatory "witicisms" of his own. Either the quotes are good enough to stand on their own or they aren't- those bits of puffery just put me right off. I class myself as falling somewhere on the atheist/ agnostic/ religiously uninterested spectrum so it isn't because I'm not liking the message!

54C4RO
Jul 27, 2010, 6:41am Top

43. Kim Harrison Black Magic Sanction

At last, the Rachel Morgan series returns to the form of the earlier books! This is apparently now the eighth of the series and was an excellent read. A group of moral guardian witches are chasing after Rachel due to her demon side and she finally has to face more of her dual nature. The previous couple of books seemed to get Rachel stuck learning nothing and making no progress, but the turnout of this book is quite some movement forward for her overall plot. All the side characters are getting more interesting and, finally (I hope) the rather tweenage Ivy/ lesbian thing has been knocked on the head. I am not at all anti-lesbian themes but was getting sick of the way that this was sidled up to and then run away from all the time to try and feel "edgy and relevant" or some such crap. Fine by me if they go get it together but it felt childish and immature to keep working the storyline over that same point like that. Not a good message. I hope the next one carries forward and doesn't slide back into Rachel still being unable to sort herself out!

55C4RO
Jul 28, 2010, 11:44am Top

44. Apostolos Doxiadis Logicomix

Graphic Novel of the life of Bertrand Russell and the foundations of Maths/ Logic. Very nicely done story although according to the endnotes, they took a few liberties (I didn't notice any!) on timings and real truths. Enjoyed a lot.

56C4RO
Jul 30, 2010, 10:58am Top

45. Lisa Shearin Bewitched & Betrayed

Book 4 of Raine Benares, elven seeker and bond servant of the Saghred stone. I think I'm getting a bit tired of reading about heroines/ heros that EVERYONE seems to want to jump the bones of. Some major upsides though that the love triangle is fixed in this one and Paladin Mychael (not sure why but his name misspelling really grates on me) shows some hints of very fascinating backstory which means I'll certainly read the next one. It's time for me to swap off the lightweight fantasy books though; I'm obviously not really in the mood for it at the moment.

57C4RO
Aug 30, 2010, 2:57pm Top

46. Simon Beckett The Chemistry of Death

I think there was a review on LT that said these were worth checking out so I got all three in the last amazon order I placed. They are sort of sub-Patricia-Cornwell crime thrillers, ideal for the beach but not quite worth the accolades I remember them getting.

The lead character, David Hunter, is not all that interesting, he is a forensic pathologist who after a personal tragedy turns his hand to be a GP in Norfolk (for non-Brits, that is kinda like retiring from life to live in the boonies). There are lots of references in this book, followed up in one of the later ones, to the infamous Body farm of USA where the doctor is supposed to have spent some time/ done some research.

It always kinda bugs me when they have serial killers take the girlfriend of the chap, yeah I get it is supposed to ramp up the will-he-work-it-out-in-time nailbiting but it is rather a cliche. Also it always shrinks the world to me and feels like author too lazy to make characters I could care about without having to string all of them to be tightly related to each other. I think someone like Elizabeth George does that best- making communities of people in the books, not just one small group.

Anyway, this is OK really, decent enough beach read but I have no urge to rush out and get more of it having gone through these three back to back.

58C4RO
Aug 30, 2010, 2:59pm Top

47. Simon Beckett Written in Bone

Probably the best of the three Becketts that I've just worked through, this one is set on a fake Hebridean island and leans more towards thriller than crime. Goes a little odd at the end which I won't spoiler but there are scars left on the lead character David Hunter and at this point already the love interest set up in the first book has fizzled away to nothing.

There was more background building in this and it was the better for it.

59C4RO
Aug 30, 2010, 3:03pm Top

48. Simon Beckett Whispers of the Dead

This is the weakest of the three by a long way. David Hunter goes to the "infamous Body farm" in the USA and gets involved in an investigation under quite patronising circumstances.

This serial killer has done his forensics homework so there are lots of details here that are interesting but overall the story is lacking a lot.

Still lots of action though and certainly still a decent sort of crime thriller.

60C4RO
Aug 30, 2010, 3:12pm Top

Well, August has been a bit of a washout for reading as on the 7th at 8:19 my daughter Kate Augusta arrived and has been taking up a lot of attention. Pretty much all I can manage is the occasional pulpy thriller plus reading one week ahead in Your baby week by week to see how much sleep I can expect to get.

I have gone back to Plagues and Peoples and am over half way through that- enjoying it but only getting to read short stints at a time. Most interesting about the Asian plagues and middle east. Lots more information that I don't remember being in Guns Germs and Steel although it covers similar ground to explain how some countries may have had a helping hand to conquer the neighbours throughout history. Also working through utagawa kuniyoshi which is excellent.

61detailmuse
Aug 30, 2010, 9:06pm Top

Oh Happy Congratulations!! Yay for trying to keep ahead in the baby book :) sounds like you are getting along fine.

62C4RO
Sep 20, 2010, 3:49pm Top

49. Terry Pratchett Unseen Academicals

Unbelievably there are now 38 of the Discworlds in existence including "I shall wear midnight" that is out now as well. I've read them all up to this one and will continue to, but it has been a while since I've had any urges to buy the hardbacks- quite happy to wait 6 months for the paperback versions.

Out of the last 10, Going Postal and Making Money were the best of the bunch. I'm really unexcited about the whole Tiffany Aching/ wee free men set and although I do love the University, this one was shockingly light on Rincewind and the librarian. I generously let my husband read this one before I got to it and had some clue to content as his mother tongue is German- I am the "pillow dictionary" to translate words for him- and due to Mr Nutt having a flowery way with words, there were many times I was questioned on meanings (reticule, bledlows). I wondered if the whole Alzheimers thing had led to TP wanting to dig out piles of obscure words to exercise his brain but it ended up just that Mr Nutt is an erudite chap with a liking for the flowery patter. That reminds me, from talking with the husband before, I found he had missed one of the jokes in Pratchett- Mrs Palm the brothel owner (as in the descriptive phrase of male masturbation being "having a conversation with Mrs Palm and her 5 lovely daughters"). Considering these are translated into 37 languages, I wonder how on earth they translate those jokes. Just like talking through with him the names of the Asterix characters to find that the Germans have them completely different. Reminds me I really must put some concerted effort to learning German again, I've been off the wagon there for ages now and need to get back on it.

In any case, I doubt there are many people left on the planet that haven't read a Pratchett now although I do wonder how he stacks up against JKRowling/ Dan Brown/ Stieg Larson!

63C4RO
Sep 29, 2010, 9:51am Top

50. James McGee Ratcatcher

Actually a re-read as I have got the next two of his Matthew Hawkwood series and didn't quite remember the first. This is a sort of Victorian Jack Reacher character who is employed as one of the first policemen in London. He has history of being a sharpshooter in the army and is, of course, a hit with the ladies too.

Enjoyed it and looking forward to the next ones. The basic outline of the plot is that Hawkwood has to unravel a Napoleonic spy plot. His interaction with his friends reminds me of the dynamic of the Locke Lamora. Gets a bit silly in places but is a good crime/ thriller/ spy/ action/ history mix.

64C4RO
Nov 15, 2010, 1:49pm Top

51. James McGee Resurrectionist

Second Matthew Hawkwood. Main plotpoints revolving about the body snatcher trade of the Victorian era tied together with the chase to track down and stop a mad Frankenstein surgeon criminal.

65C4RO
Nov 15, 2010, 1:52pm Top

52. James McGee Rapscallion

Third Matthew Hawkwood. This one was better than the second. Plotline this time is about the prisonship hulks full of Napoleonic prisoners of war then drawing into the smugglers trade. Very entertaining stuff.

Can't believe how slowly I'm reading at the moment. Combination of new baby and getting back to work a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully going to drop into a nice routine at some point and get my reading mojo back!

66C4RO
Nov 20, 2010, 3:58pm Top

53. Jon Sprunk Shadow's Son

Due to really quite liking the Brent Weeks series and others focussed on assassins, I saw this and picked it up to keep in that mould. In basic review this book is perfectly serviceable but a bit lightweight. The young assassin makes some mistakes, has a ghost sidekick and a romantic encounter. Foils a political plot with the sword-of-my-fatherTM.

On a more general point though, I am getting sick to death of rapes being put into modern fantasy. Far far too many stories I have read recently seem to have this as a plot point and nearly all of the non-princess women seem to be prostitutes too. Who on earth are these stories written for? I don't buy the Joe Abercrombie excuse that in the medieval times most fantasy sits in, women didn't have any power and that it is hard to write decent character women with some skills into fantasy. I love the escapism of fantasy swords and sorcery and don't want to give up on the genre due to naff writing.

67C4RO
Dec 19, 2010, 9:30am Top

54. Jim Butcher Turncoat

Book 11 of the Dresden files. Two more of these to go that I've not chased down yet. I plan to finish Codex Alera first, make some dents in my double stacked TBR pile and then get back to this series. It is a sort of a cliffhanger end to this book with a fair bit of unfinished business but it isn't too painful to put aside. I'm sure there is an unfilled need there for all the >3 C4RO: book series for someone to put together lists of where the natural breather points are!

On another note, I found a new-to-me used British Book shop in Amsterdam, just round the corner from my hairdresser and picked up a couple of books there. Shocking really as I've been there or thereabouts for 5 years and never noticed it. I didn't have time to make a real exploration as had to meet up with my husband. Next time I'm free I must remember to head over there.

68PimPhilipse
Dec 19, 2010, 10:59am Top

Can you share the address of that bookshop with us?

69C4RO
Dec 19, 2010, 11:08am Top

Sure, its called "The Book Exchange" and is on Kloveniersburgwal. One shop to the North side of where Rusland crosses the street. It's got loads of floors and practically the whole basement is English language Sci Fi and Fantasy paperbacks, much cheaper than you can get them at the ABC/ Waterstones!

70C4RO
Dec 19, 2010, 11:18am Top

Actually, for any Amsterdamers, there is also an awesome Japanese language bookshop in Amstelveen. Nearest tram/metro stop is Zonnestein on 5/51, 2 minutes walk to the East and go in the arcade opposite Albert Heijn. It is fantastic.

71PimPhilipse
Dec 19, 2010, 1:26pm Top

Thanks!

72C4RO
Jan 2, 2011, 1:54pm Top

55. Dave Duncan Ill met in the arena

Just two books to close out the 2010 reading list. They were both excellent as well. This one I really enjoyed. I liked the idea and the use of the powers that the people used. The gladiator style combats were interesting and varied but the main flow of the book is an intrigueing story of one mans search for justice. Great and gripping read.

56. Jon Courtenay Grimwood 9 tail fox

I generally like crime and like like myth and fantasy a lot. This wonderful book combined both and was very inventive. Most excellent indeed.

73C4RO
Jan 2, 2011, 2:14pm Top

To do a very short round up of the year then.

My top books;
Carl Zimmer Microcosm
The Scott Lynch books 1+2 (hurry up number 3!)
JC Grimwood 9 tail fox

2010 will probably be remembered as the Stieg Larsson year though considering the sheer numbers of people that must have read through those 3 books.

2011 thread set up and ready to go.

Group: Club Read 2010

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