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Anathem (Neal Stephenson): I finished Anathem! Perhaps it will stop eating my brain despite my obvious attraction to the avout lifestyle.

Okay, blurb: depending who you ask, the scientist-monks of Arbre (a world similar to, but not identical to our Earth) have either withdrawn from the world outside their concents or been locked away for everyone's good for a long time. Like, 3700 years long. This is the story of one avout's interactions with the non-avout world. Also, it's a 900 page fight between not-Realist versus not-Nominalist scientific philosophers, and the story of the research/technology/politics interfaces, and - it's pretty mindblowing.

This is a Stephenson novel: all the girls act like Amy Shaftoe. The character development is Boy To Man. The plot is not derailed by infodumps: the infodumps are the plot. Science is awesome. Technology is awesome. Stephenson lost me in the philosophical thickets a couple of times - page after page of abstract reasoning, while I wondered when something would be welded or blown up or buried by magma - so I'm not wholeheartedly recommending this. Parts of it were awesome, like the following spoilers. )

Also there is an Anathem wiki. If parallel processing could be directly inputted into world peace, we would live an a golden age of fraternal harmony.

There was the epic Diane Duane binge of November - December '09, encompassing parts of all three Door novels, rereading all seven eight Young Wizard novels, and a pair of Star Trek novels new to me: three rambly paragraphs of recap and reaction behind the cut. )

I think what I like about Duane's novels is her people, and her characters' optimism; her worldbuilding is usually fun and hits my "sense of wonder" spot on visuals, but fails when I throw my brain at the structures of good and evil. (I take the bus to work. I have plenty of time to contemplate the nature of morality in genre fiction.) So I enjoy Duane's novels a lot with significant caveats.

I tried to read The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense (Suzette Haden Elgin) but found the approaches not particularly useful. It's 2010, not 1988, and some of the concepts carry over, but many of the examples are dated. Tolerance is in, at least superficially, and that influences how people verbally assault each other. I also think I was actually looking for one part "negotiating the workplace" and one part "managing your inherited bad traits: how to not revert under stress, and how to get through mandatory family time without verbal bloodshed", and this is just not that book.

The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro (Zachary M. Schrag): A scholarly history of DC's heavy-rail public transit system from the perspective of a great partisan. Schrag tries to tell a multidisciplinary story - metro as DC peculiar politics; metro as an example of public transit of a certain era; race and class in DC - and only partially succeeds. Schrag dismisses the Georgetown metro stop as completely false, but dad played the "I was there" card and remembers some fuss. Possibly it was all Washington Post letters to the editor, but the debate - and the fact it's remembered at all - says something about DC.

Fantasy: The Best of the Year (2006) (Ed. Rich Horton): For my own future reference, I am c&p'ing the table of contents from Rich Horton's website. I did indeed read:
the contents of this collection. )

Okay, I gave up on "The Gist Hunter" three pages in because it had boring, confusing demons not amenable to interruptions and I had a 2 AM metro ride with many other New Year's revelers, but I tried. All of these were okay without hitting anything special; some of the stories that I would call horror-tinged have stuck in unpleasant ways ("Sunbird", "Invisible", "By the Light of Tomorrow's Sun"); some of the stories with more worldbuilding made me think more might be okay ("The Secret of Broken Tickers", "By the Light of Tomorrow's Sun"), and some were charming or interesting without being deep ("Pip and the Fairies", "On the Blindside", and yes there is a theme there). "Five Ways Jane Austen Never Died" is like Jane Austen fanfic, sometimes with vampires. The only story that moved me deep in my soul was "The Emperor of Gondwanaland", but I'm moved to eviscerate it for retelling the "unfulfilled white man gets the girl and oh, is King of Awesome" story which I loathe. What a waste of good worldbuilding! I want to write 2,000 words of unauthorized homage where the main character loses the girl, isn't king, and turns out to be pretty happy with some variation of middle- to upper-middle class living in Gondwanaland.

Fantasy is my predictable genre: I am unlikely to be deeply moved, but I am likely to be distracted as long as necessary. Horton's '06 Best of collection is a perfect example of this: nothing made me want to seek out more of the same author, but most of it was readable, if not always to my taste.

Numbers game: 16 total finished, 1 unfinished. 6 new, 11 reread; 13 fiction, 3 nonfiction. 1 short story collection.
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American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin): I'm starting to notice a trend: I like biographies that do a great research job on the individual, and tie that person into the larger social context. (Case in point: the Alice Sheldon bio.) So take a heavily end-noted biography that does all that and is about science, and I say it is the best thing ever. I really liked this a lot. )

An extensive look at a fascinating life. Absolutely recommended. In the land of small coincidences, this was my reading on my San Francisco trip (and for several weeks afterward); my sister and I nearly went to the Exploratorium, founded by Robert Oppenheimer's brother Frank, but couldn't get the scheduling to work. Maybe next time.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel (Mark Haddon): 15-year-old Swindon boy tries to solve the murder of a neighbor's dog. Oh, he's got an unspecified autism spectrum disorder. Someone recommended this a couple years ago, and I just now got around to it. If you have any familiarity with autism spectrum disorders, you can check off the characteristic behaviors as you read. Some cursory googling suggests that people who do not have autism found this interesting and entertaining, but people who are autistic or routinely interact with autistic individuals are a little less sanguine, pointing out that Christopher Boone - the protagonist - is an amalgam of autism spectrum traits, and is remarkably self-reflective, and can't stand in for every autistic person everywhere. So I would say, if you're using this as a Handbook to Dealing With Your Autistic Whatever, you'd do better to google "autism" or "autism books" and do some nonfiction reading, but if you're looking for an interesting story, this may be of interest.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party (M. T. Anderson): A fictional slave's narrative in immediately pre-Revolution Boston. What people always neglect to mention about the American Revolution is that it was an illegal (if highly popular) guerrilla action against a legitimate (by England's lights) government, and without that little detail it feels like another retelling of first-grade history. I think the focus on how, really, the Boston revolutionaries were in it for the money and property (westward expansion, slaves) makes it much murkier and interesting.

I also flipped through many of Catherine Asaro's Skolia stories: Primary Inversion, The Radiant Seas, The Moon's Shadow, Skyfall, "Stained Glass Heart", "A Roll of the Dice", "Walk in Silence", "Aurora in Four Voices", The Quantum Rose. It's a sickness. )

Science Fiction: The Best of the Year (2006) (Ed. Rich Horton): From the dollar rack at the used book store. Split into the good, the meh and the ugly. )

Skin Deep (Mark Del Franco): Laura Blackstone: PR director by day, freelance druid and/or high-powered player on the DC scene by night. Now her public and secret identities are on the trail of the same blown drug bust that may have political implications.

So: billed as a thriller, with magic. About a century back, the faerie realms merged/dumped magical beings into Earth, with surprisingly little backlash. Now the Irish and Germanic magical courts interact with the governments of the 21st century, with the Fae Guild - Laura Blackstone's employers - acting as the public face of the Fae Court, based out of what used to be Ireland. Laura works out of the DC branch, which is where my first major bump comes in: where the heck is the Guildhouse? Sort of by the Reagan building? On Capitol Hill? Up and over in NE or NW? del Franco fails the "feels like DC" suspension of disbelief test hard: for one thing, no one complains about the metro. Granted, that's because the milieu is high-powered fae who don't take public transit, but I'm pretty sure at least one of Blackstone's personas - the broke one - should have some familiarity with chronic weekend single-tracking and trying to find a decent grocery store in the city limits. And parking. There is a reason metro is so popular in DC, despite its many failings. Once you've broken the suspension of disbelief, I started questioning more of the setup - so, Farie is now on Earth, circa 1900-ish, how did WW1 go down? Religious implications? Racial/ethnic tensions? And why are all the paranormals drawn from European tradition? - which distracted me from the Burning Hunk of Love subplot, alas. Not sold.

Unfallen Dead (Mark Del Franco):Connor Grey, druid, ex-Guild guy who's lost his magic and is stuck on disability, sometimes Boston PD free-lancer, starts the book with an occult murder and ends it confronting the Opening of the Ways between life and death. This was crack. The really good kind. )

Numbers: 6 total plus Asaro rereads. 6 new, ~2.5 reread; 5(+~2.5) fiction, 1 nonfiction. 1 short story collection.
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I had brilliant plans for a special two-month deal, but then I noticed it was swiftly heading for a three-month book log. So here's September.

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University (Kevin Roose): The subtitle says it all: a Brown University student transfers to Liberty University, bastion of evangelical thought, to learn what's behind all those conservative Christian stereotypes.

Basically, I was sold in the first section, "Prepare Ye", where Roose seeks help from one of his Christian friends to prepare for "Bible boot camp":

"So, do you think you're ready for a semester of Christianity?" she asked ... "No, that's not what I mean. I mean, are you spiritually ready?"

She took my silence as a no.

"Kev, places like Liberty are designed to transform skepticism into belief, and you're not going to be immune to that. You have to be open to the possibility that this semester is going to be bigger than you think." (p14)

Roose's frankness about the participatory nature of his semester (culturally) abroad is a key point: he talks about the changes in his perspective and ingrained behaviors as a result of obeying Liberty's stringent written and unwritten rules. He also takes a very human approach to his exploration of Liberty's culture, focusing on his interactions with individual dorm-mates and other people on campus. This is, fundamentally, about the building blocks of culture: individuals, in concert with their environment. One of Roose's Brown friends comes down for a weekend, and on seeing him interact in the dorms, Roose reflects: "Liberty students who struggle with lust. Secular Quakers who enjoy prayer. Evangelical feminists who come to Bible Boot Camp out of academic interest. I used to think my two worlds were a million miles apart. But tonight, the distance seems more like a hundred thousand miles. It's not a total improvement, but it's not meaningless, either." (p213) Which is not to say it's all smooth sailing, but Roose does a great job reminding liberals that hey! Conservative evangelicals are people too.

The Language of Bees (Laurie R. King): First of a two-part Russell-and-Holmes adventure which - about - I keep trying to type "Holmes' illegitimate son by Irene Adler comes for assistance finding his missing wife and daughter" with something like a straight face, and I cannot do it. Small adorable girls make a cameo, people race about England in dramatic fashion, and the arts world is mildly mocked. This is the umpteenth in the series, do not start here; people who like the series, you will like this. I am not sure if I should mention the thing with the ending or not; it's a spoiler but might be nice to know going in. I keep waiting for tragic foreshadowings of WWII and Holmes' passing, and remain disappointed that so far, this has not been played for significant pathos. I am not in love with the Holmes canon or character, so other people may have different reactions.

Science Fiction: The Best of the Year (2007) (Ed. Rich Horton): I saw this on the discount shelf and picked it up because [ profile] ann_leckie had a story in it, and I realized I hadn't read any of her fiction, even though we've been reading each other's LJs for a couple of years now. I liked her story, and would love to do a book club sort of discussion of it, because I think different people would get different things out of it it. It wasn'tmy favorite in the collection, because Walter Jon Williams made an appearance in the table of contents. WJW is one of those writers who isn't high on my radar, but rarely fails to entertain me. Carolyn Ives Gilman's "Okanoggan Falls" also happened to hit several bullet-proof story attractors, including a major hook for further development. I am a novel-reader at heart. Blurbs for particular stories cut for space. )

Numbers: 3 total. 3 new, 0 reread; 2 fiction, 1 nonfiction. 1 short story collection.
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It's almost October, I should probably post my August books. I am particularly motivated to do so tonight because I learned it is Banned Books Week. I'm tempted to do a Banned Books Readathon and donate funds to a civil liberties or book-related charity. Unfortunately, tonight's nonfiction selection is neither banned nor particularly likely to be. Apparently atypical genetic inheritance isn't salacious enough to get the citizenry up in arms.

Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine): Cinderella retelling. Ella is cursed with perfect obedience at birth. That's probably my definition of Hell right there. The story is about how she struggles with this and eventually overcomes it by will and love, but the mechanics of "obedience" are the clever bit and the part I want to poke at: Ella must obey the letter, but she's not an automaton: tell Ella to clean the silver, and she has to, but unless you say otherwise she can scratch it all up after getting the tarnish off. That's kind of subversive and interesting. The story itself is a borderline children's / YA book, and has a very simple plot that I was less interested in.

The Plague (Alfred Camus): Oran, Algeria, is hit with bubonic plague. I read this in translation, and was distracted by my unfamiliarity with French: there was something in the grammar of the translation that made me wonder if the translator was emulating French grammar, or trying to retain some spirit of the original that evaporates in translation, out of context. I do not think "abstraction" in English renders the same meaning it does in French, or perhaps I would be baffled in both languages.

The wiki article says the themes concern destiny, but it seemed to me the novel was more focused on the isolation of experience: three people in a room are three people alone, yearning to be with others so they can connect, but incapable of perfect knowledge of another.

I was tremendously distracted by the lack of female characters, and Rambert's attitude toward his unnamed wife. Characters pined for their absent women, but didn't even mention their names, or particular characteristics they longed for. I found it very notable of a certain time and attitude.

Dark Mirror (Diane Duane): It's a shame this wasn't filmed for the costumes alone. )

Incomplete, The Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain / Samuel Clemens): Americans tour Europe by boat. I had to put this down because I couldn't distinguish Twain's satire from Clemens's obnoxious and genuine 19th century perspectives.

Latitude (Dava Sobel): Short, entertaining story focusing mostly on the 18th century British strugge with an essential navigation question: "how far out to sea is my ship?" North/South is apparently a relatively easy problem to solve, since one can reference the equator, but longitude is a completely arbitrary thing. I was distracted by the descriptions of the lunar and clock methods of finding latitude as "the clock of the heavens" and "the clock of the sea", because really, isn't that beautiful language? I'd recommend this for beach or bus reading any day.

A House Like a Lotus (Madeleine L'Engle): Polly O'Keefe is 16 and struggling with feet of clay. I read this sometime in my teens, and I forgot some of the plot but rememberd most of the themes. )

Numbers: 5 total. 4 new, 1 reread; 4 fiction, 1 nonfiction. 1 unfinished.
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I am posting this now because my opinions will only stale in my head.

The Samurai's Daughter (Sujata Massey): Japanese-American antiques dealer becomes embroiled in the fallout from WW2 forced labor and comfort women when a series of attacks suggests someone wants the past to stay buried. Murder mystery novel, middle of a series.

I picked this up while house-sitting and between books, otherwise I would never have read it. I had a very hard time taking the protagonist seriously, since she considers herself middle-class while exhibiting many characteristics I associate with the wealthy. "My parents aren't like the rest of the neighborhood! They made one good real estate deal in the '70s, that has nothing to do with their extensive social network and the vintage clothes and antiques and other hallmarks of an affluent life I am narrating!" For a self-employed foreign worker who says more than once she only has so much to live on, Rei spends an awful lot of time not thinking about things like, oh, dental insurance. (Cough. Bitter, bitter, paying out of pocket until coverage kicks in October 1st cough.) So the themes were interesting, and I enjoyed the story a lot more when I decided the protagonist was an unreliable narrator. I also enjoyed it more when I wasn't entirely aware it was a mid-series book; the background felt very textured until I started wondering how much of it was recaps of previous events I just hadn't read about. Not strongly recommended, but I'd be curious to know what other people thought of the series.

Zoe's Tale (John Scalzi): Latest in the "Old Man's War" universe. I knew how much (or minimally) I would enjoy this going in, but was lured into giving it a shot this summer by its nomination for the Hugos, and by Scalzi saying many, many times, "I ran the first draft past actual women, and based on their dramatic thumbs-down, I tossed much of that draft!"Zoe's Tale reads very smoothly, but like The Last Colony, I found it frustratingly shallow. Also, I still think the entire Roanoke name gives away the premise - a premise which is amazingly poorly considered, in my opinion. So every time someone talks about the colony of Roanoke, I want to stop and shout at all the characters, "no! Don't be obvious! No!" It detracts from my enjoyment significantly.

Schuyler's Monster (Robert Rummel-Hudson): Okay, remember how books don't make me cry? Forget that noise. Apparently I just don't cry for fake people over the age of 10. Nonfiction account of one parent's discovery of his daughter's profound disability, but more importantly a story about how he was affected by his wonderful, beloved, very different daughter.

I found out about this book while surfing book blogs, and had mostly forgotten about it by the time my hold came through. The creeping discovery that Schuyler isn't quite right, evolving into a parental nightmare, is nicely handled, but Rummel-Hudson's frankness about his reactions and feelings are what wrecked me a bit. I'd like to go through and point out the good bits, but a lot of this is personal reaction, and I'm typing this in August. So: recommended, incoherently.

In a completionist fit, and a desire for emotional lightness, I read the second through fourth Rihannsu novels: The Romulan Way, Swordhunt, The Empty chair (Diane Duane). They are entertaining tie-in novels, but I can't shake the sense that Duane's invoking a pan-series multiverse and I should be looking for wizards. It's fairly distracting.

Numbers: 6 total. 6 new, 0 rereads; 5 fiction, 1 nonfiction.
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Wow, I really failed at serious nonfiction this month.

To Visit the Queen (Diane Duane): I am officially to old to read this novel. The flaws are more prominent than the entertaining bits. ) This particular novel seemed below Duane's usual standard, and I may be trying to see something more interesting than exists.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley) (Alex Haley, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz): The reinvention of a man, and the names he used in those reinventions: Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. I picked this up because I was curious, and stayed because the two men - X and Haley - told a fascinating story. I am not sure I believe all of it, but I think it's a narrative told by a very smart survivor, and wish I'd read it when I was younger, preferably with a reading group who'd help tear apart the truth from the glosses.

The Book of Night with Moon (Diane Duane): Grand Central Terminal is a NYC hub for trains... and other means of transit. The wizardly team of cats that maintains the worldgates of Grand Central troubleshoot at a deeper level than their norm. Entertaining and coherent; the themes and plot are well aligned.

Zahrah the Windseeker (Nnedi Okorafor): YA novel; teenage girl with special powers braves the Forbidden Forest to find a fabled cure for her dying friend.

Adorable coming of age story. Light, entertaining, predictable (think fast! Will Zahrah's quest fail and her friend die?), and oh, on another planet with magic (magic?) and lots of plant-based tech. It's a straightforward and not particularly subtle story about exploring and growing into the unknown; I'd recommend it for people looking for YA.

I first ran into Nnedi Okorafor's writing in a short story collection a couple of years ago, and thought the story interesting enough that I wanted more, but my library failed me. Eventually, I remembered ILL. So here is a takeaway thought: explore your own environment, and use ILL early and often.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee): Childhood classic, which I don't really remember reading. I am now old enough to appreciate Lee's dry sense of humor, but I think I am missing the point, because I don't see what makes this book, above many other books, a literary gem.

Overcoming Underearning: Overcome Your Money Fears and Earn What You Deserve (Barbara Stanny): The phrase "throw the book against a wall" is a custom I generally honor in the breach, especially with library books. This is the second book in all of my 26 years which I have closed, contemplated, and deliberately hurled across the room. I really question financial books which promise to raise your income and lower your weight, and I only regret not throwing this across the room sooner.

Numbers: 5 (+ 1 thrown across the room) total. 2 new, 3 rereads; 4 fiction, 1 (mostly?) nonfiction.
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Since I have already finished one book this month, it must be time to put up last month's book log!

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (Samuel Delany): This is "how Marq Dyeth falls in love with Rat Korga" in the same way that Memory is "how Miles became an Imperial Auditor". Which is to say, it's where the novel goes, but it's not what the story's goal is. It's the plot-scaffold on which all the interesting parts of the novel are grown.

Korga is a "rat", a slave caste which has undergone Radical Anxiety Termination. He is also a survivor of catastophe.

Marq Dyeth is an Industrial Diplomat1, whose family has a castle (sort of) and ties to a dead tyrant. The castle brings students, among them the extraordinary Rat Korga, who may have some of the dead Vondramach Tyrannus' character, or who maybe is having that imposed by society.

It takes Delany something like half the book to get these two in the same room, and the story is so interesting that I don't care. I am all about the worldbuilding and the relationships between people in this story. (With the one exception of Rat and Marq, because there's emo romance moping. From a 36 year old.) There's also some really interesting things Delaney is doing with how people form families, and how they evaluate each other, and cultural assumptions. Okay, I'm starting in on quotes:

Cut for spoilers and length. I really, really enjoyed this book, in all its dense strange-to-me worldbuilding. )

Since I did not do well with Babel-17, I was very surprised to discover I was really enjoying Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, and would have been happy to follow the characters around for another 400 pages.

The Millionaire Next Door (William D. Danko, Thomas J. Stanley): How to get rich slowly. )

I'm at a bit of a crossroads: do I pursue full time grad school, do I work and take classes toward an M.Sci or MBA, do I jump ship for something else entirely? My experiences in life have cemented in me a belief that money is not freedom, but its lack is certainly a cage. I don't think I have the interest or ambition to make Avi and Randy's "fuck-you money", but I have also have no desire to spend the next 20 years living paycheck to paycheck, freaking out about life after 65, and crashing on couches when I go on vacation because I have no other choice if I want to go on vacation. For me, The Millionaire Next Door is a reminder that I have to think about my money if I want to keep and control the way I use it, so I can achieve my goals in life.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Dan Ariely): In which people are consistently not rational operators, using pure logic to shape their decisions. In fact, kind of the opposite. Kept my attention in transit during vacation with descriptions of experiments demonstrating how people react to "free" versus one cent and other examples of how people's brains do not operate on pure logic.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness): The blurb on the back (attributed to Frank Cottrell Boyce) says, "One of the best first sentences I've ever read and a book that lives up to it!"

I will not keep you in suspense: the first line is, "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say."

I was completely underwhelmed. Fortunately, it got better from there.

When the book opens, Todd Hewitt is 30 days from his 13th birthday and manhood in Prentisstown, the only town on the planet, where all the settlers are men, survivors of a war that killed their women and left them hearing the Noise of every living animal, including each other. That's Todd's world - until he finds an empty hole in the Noise.

Cut for a late-book out of context quote and length. )

This is a book about living in violent times, and it's absolutely riveting despite some really gross injuries I could have lived without reading about. I'll be reading the sequel, The Ask and the Answer, as soon as the library gets it.

My Enemy, My Ally (Diane Duane): If I had read this when I was ten*? Awesome. Unfortunately, I will be 26 in less than a week, and I am fully cognizant of Duane's writing quirks. So some of Ael's reflections on Powers and elements threw me right back into Duane's Young Wizards series, which I do not think was the intended effect. It's a perfectly reasonable story of James T. Kirk and the Enterprise on a mission of derring-do, with heavy Duane flavor. It just didn't scratch my post-reboot itch.

*I say ten because, to the best of my reconstruction, that's when dad left a library copy of Star Wars: The Last Command lying around, introducing me to media tie-in novels. Before I broke up with the Extended Universe I had read such deathless works of prose as Young Jedi Knights: Crisis at Cloud City.

Numbers: 5 total. 5 new; 3 fiction, 2 nonfiction.
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Thunderstruck (Erik Larson): The invention of radio and the killer caught because of it. The story of Marconi's OCD approach to wireless communication and his extravagant lifestyle might is interesting, and the story of the investigation of Belle Elmore / Cora Crippen's murder by her husband is also interesting, but somehow, Larson uses the two threads of narrative against each other and makes each story less interesting by intercutting. There is a great story about Marconi's thoughtless neglect of his wife to parallel Belle Elmore's domination of her despised husband; there is a splendid story about the American and the Italian struggling in foreign London; there's Marconi's tendency to live a first-class life while his employees roughed it in isolated wireless stations, and Hawley Crippen's struggles to keep his demanding wife in the style to which she became accustomed; but somehow, Larson makes all of this fire and ice lukewarm, even Crippen's affair with his secretary. How one makes an escape to the Continent, under an assumed name, with your very female lover cross-dressing as your "son" kind of "meh" is beyond me. It's interesting material, but it's not delivered as evocatively as it could be.

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture (Ariel Levy): This is in-your-face Feminism 101, and I am past the 100-level stuff. Levy's premise is spelled out in the title: some women "succeed" by aping the chauvanist pigs who benefit from heteronormative American patriarchy, while others are overtly degraded and objectified by men, and now also women imitating men.

I think you could say Levy isn't a fan of pornography and "let it all hang out" attitudes in much the same way that I am not a fan of milk: it gives me indigestion and gas. Levy is pretty one-note in her condemnation, and - this is my big problem - doesn't offer suggestions toward what she would consider a healthy model of adult female sexuality. Bashing the existing set of options is easy (partly because so many of them are just awful, and if you think I'm wrong I have unkind words to say, drawn from my personal experiences), but if it were easy it would already be done.

Also, I haven't followed a Girls Gone Wild photoshoot around during spring break; if I did, I might want to say a strident and unkind word too.

Intuition (Allegra Goodman): It's like Byatt's Possession, but shorter and with more science! The rest is spoilers. )

[ profile] charlie_ego said the science was too far out of her field for her to comment on the details; cancer and mouse research isn't my sub-speciality, but the general tone rings true to my experiences of biological research.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America (Firoozeh Dumas): Short, lightweight autobiography. The experiences of an Iranian girl transplanted to California: American food, Persian festivals far from a Persian community, the shame of a mother who speaks less English than her young daughter, changing American reactions to the foreigners with a funny name during the Lebanon hostage crisis. Reads like essays strung into chapters.

Miles Vorkosigan reread/power skim: A Civil Campaign, Memory, Komarr, Diplomatic Immunity, in about that order. Reading ACC after... whatever the heck else I'd been reading... was jarring; jumping from arguments about queerness and race to Kareen and Ekaterin's dilemma's was bit of a discontinuity. ACC remains very funny, but also too pat: every loose end tied up in a shiny neat bow. Miles and his cohort remain shielded by money and position: as Miles points out, he will never be an advocate for certain womens' rights, such as the right to inherit, on Barrayar. Which is why I love Memory most: it's very much about faults and mistakes, even when it's about Miles refusing to believe the accused (who happen to be his friends) are guilty. God save me from another such victory. And LMB has a knack for lines. Don't you know there are children almost present?

Numbers games: 8 total. 4 reread, 4 new; 5 fiction, 3 nonfiction.
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Half a Crown (Jo Walton / [community profile] papersky): Third in the series. I... don't have a lot to say about this. British democracy is sort of saved from fascism by British debutante traditions? Maybe? I lost my focus somewhere in there, and can't see what the heck Walton was trying to do. I find myself engaged by the characters even while I want to beat them with their own flimsy assumptions - really, Carmichael, what made you think Elvira was anything like safe, standing in your shadow? - and I was entertained in my puzzlement, but the fact that I'm reacting on an in-book character level and not intuitively feeling the themes* means I'm in no rush to reread. There is a sensibility here that I appreciate (most ironic sedar in 2008 fiction), but also an approach to genre and story-telling that isn't meshing with my approach to reading. Also, between this and Little Brother, I am done with based-on-Gitmo headgames in my fiction for a while.

*I'm finding Watsonian and not Doylist reasons, in other words.

Y: the Last Man: 8-10: Kimono Dragons, Motherland, Whys and Wherefores (Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra): As previously mentioned, if you laid out a checklist of things I like in fiction, this hits pretty much every single one of them, right down to the bittersweet "sixty years later" epilogue. (Good news: humanity survives. Bad news: if you wait long enough, everyone dies.) [profile] charlie_ego and I had very different reactions to the McGuffin, because we approached it with different expectations, and if I were taking my time I would use this as an example of genre expectations and reader enjoyment, and will cheerfully expand if you give me an excuse.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond): Why did Europeans take over the world? Conversely, why did other aggregates of humanity not spread their influence across the globe? I think my comments to toraks pretty much sum my reaction: great idea, but so broad many details may be quibbled. I think it's important to remember that the book was published in 1997 and research keeps messing with Diamond's ideas. Corn dating, diseases we gave to cattle, other stuff I just haven't seen yet, but I'm sure is out there. Also, people other than me have complained they get bored with Diamond beating the reader over the head with his broad thesis (geography's influence on food production is the ultimate cause of The World As We Know It). I enjoyed seeing different examples of the same idea, but I can also see how other people might roll their eyes as he reiterates the Failure To Take Over The World checklist for the Americas, Africa, New Guinea, Australia, etc etc etc.So I think it's awesome, but I also think it should be read with a critical eye.

Uhura's Song (Janet Kagan): I mentioned to [personal profile] norabombay I was reading this, and she said, "oh, the proto-furry novel?" I think the original ST tie-in novels weren't as rigidly policed then as some franchises are now. Entertaining, but the most lightweight of fluff. )

I reread random parts of The Gate of Ivory (Doris Egan) because it's comfort reading. Lightweight, transparent prose, a sense of humor compatible with mine, a plot that doesn't challenge my attention span.
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I started reading The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference yesterday, and got to the second page of the first chapter before I nearly threw it across the bus. There are no graphs in sight! The author starts the chapter by saying, "syphillis in Baltimore increased by 500%" without saying what the numerical increase was. A 1-to-5 increase is not a compelling statistic; a 10,000-to-50,000 increase is. So: do I need to finish this The Tipping Point, or toss it in the "return to used book store" pile post haste?
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I regret to say that I ate cheap lunchmeat turkey. I have discovered exactly what mushy cardboard tastes like, and regret not keeping tabasco in the house. Fortunately I had K's leftover pork chop with raspberry chili sauce, mashed potatoes, and spinach to warm my belly on this rainy day. Real food is awesome.

I gave my presentation last night and it went... pretty well, I guess. I actually got a "good job!" from the professor. Now, if only he'd give a rubric with a grade on it (for anything), I'd be a lot more reassured about my class standing. Tuition reimbursement doesn't kick in until I pass!

I could do a bedtime story about double-sided tape, shared reagents, and the tragedy of the commons in lab work, but anyone who's ever shared one small, critical item between three or more people knows how this one goes.

The Hugo nominees are out. I am trying to figure out how to congratulate all the nominees while also observing that only four of the 20 nominees in the four standard fiction categories are not men. Because yay, Hugo nomination: awesome; however, significant problems within the community are highlighted in the ballot. I am especially tickled by Y: the Last Man: Whys and Wherefores making the graphic novel cut, because I finally read it earlier this month and, other than massive tragic spoiler, I thought it was awesome and a fitting end to the series.
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I have been waiting all month to make a post with that title. I'm tempted to make a poll questioning my break from the norm vs. the subject's wish to appear rebellious without actually breaking from socially acceptable roles, but that's taking the joke too far.

I'm pushing to get this out tonight because I am upset about the failboat disrespect of people's request to remain pseudonymous, and Micole asked people, If you'd like to express sympathy or agreement, I would much prefer to re-focus attention back on the real issues . . . if you can't think of anything (I am looking forward to being in the audience myself) or you are just too fucking tired of dealing with the SRS BZNSS of RaceFail (I am totally with you), but you want to do me a favor, post on the most recent book you read written by a POC, or your favorite book written by a POC, or give me recommendations for sf/f, romance, or historical fiction written by POC. So I point people to my comments on Zami to fill that request.

Tomorrow, as part of my work (and procrastinate) plan for my class 2-page essay, I will write something about why people might use pseuds online, and historically, to discuss contentious issues. I don't want my leisure reading to disintegrate into unhappy politicized polemics, but the pseud issue touches close to my heart, and the "race and the science fiction community" issues are in my back yard, and all the places I love. "Love" was a typo for "live", but both words can be used in that sentence with some degree of truth.

So, books!

God Stalk (P. C. Hodgell): I first read this around 2000 or so, as part of the Dark of the Gods anthology with Dark of the Moon and a short story, "Bones". It made only the slightest impression on me then, and now that I reread it I can more clearly say why. )

One Bullet Away: the Making of a Marine Officer (Nathaniel Fick): Dartmouth college student challenges himself: to be a Marine office, to be a leader of men in peace and war, to be a Recon Marine. I liked it. )

So I give One Bullet Away thumbs up for keeping my attention and making me think on several different fronts.

Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World (Ken Alibek): Interesting, needs parallax. )

Trivia: when I went to NYC a couple of weekends ago, I made a silly strung-out fool of myself talking to two older women while waiting for the bus home, then pulled this out to stick a sock in my mouth. It caught one woman's attention because she has actually met Alibek in the course of her work at the FDA. Speaking of small worlds! So now I doubly regret my nervous joking while in line for the bus.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Audre Lorde): I love this woman's writing. )

The Sharing Knife: Horizon (Lois McMaster Bujold): I have had a very hard time with these novels for several reasons. Briefly, I find the core romance unconvincing, but Bujold is a talented writer even when I question what the heck she's doing. Also, now that I've read all four volumes, Bujold's claims that the series is a lot tighter than any of her previous series is spot on. In fact, I think splitting the novels does the story arc a great disservice. (For example, I unfortunately tend to think of Remo and Barr as backup Lakwalker #1 and backup Lakewalker #2, in the tradition of Merry and Pippin, the LotR backup hobbits.)

Giant honking spoilers. )
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So far this month: amnesiac with uncanny psychic powers explores the City of the Gods; Marine officer in training, Afghanistan, and Iraq; Soviet biowarfare scientist defects from Russia c.1991; black lesbian feminist poet reweaves her experiences of childhood and coming of age.

[Poll #1354477]

ETA: Yes, I'm going to read both; I am asking which one fits the Secret February Theme, and should be read first.
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War, short stories, craziness, more craziness, different war. Fiction, nonfiction. No particular theme this month, except maybe stress.

The Paladin (C. J. Cherryh): Cherryh does a martial arts movie. )

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (ed. Sheree R. Thomas): Mostly short stories, some excerpts from longer novels, a handful of essays at the end. Side notes on expanding reading; or, why I'm falling out of contemporary SF/F. )

I don't remember much about the actual stories, about a month later: I'm not a short fiction reader by native inclination, so the novel excerpts were often my favorite pieces. And after the recent brouhaha, I have no desire to go back and comment, because hey, crossfire. So I will say: look! Stuff people written by people not my color! And some of it I liked, and some of it was in loathsome phonetic dialect, and some of it was really forgettable, and the editor was way too proud of her "dark matter" pun. Also, I am not the target audience; this seems to have been an exercise in saying, "hey, there are more of us out here" and on that front likely succeeded.

Cyteen (C. J. Cherryh): The death and resurrection of Ari Emory.

There are two novels in this world which I have read, and reread, and consistently skip rereading large chunks of the novel: Bujold's Mirror Dance and Cyteen. In both cases, I skip the first, hideously stressful third and move right on to the major characters' deaths.

Also, Darth Vader is Luke's father, and Tyler Durden is the narrator's alternate personality. Anything else I can spoil for you? )

Cyteen holds a special place in my heart. You can only be 17, doing a bad job of bridging the gap between middle-class teenage privilege and adult responsibility, and realizing your primary caretaker is failing to take care of her responsibilities, and lying to herself and everyone around her, while reading Cherryh, once. Possibly I identified with Justin more than is healthy. So I was all kinds of thrilled when I heard that Regenesis was getting published.

Regenesis (C. J. Cherryh): FINALLY. FINALLY, YAY. So I maybe approached this from a slightly less than objective perspective. And by "not objective" I mean capslock and emoticons. And Robbie Williams on the tribute mp3 mix. The fact I'm thinking in terms of mixes should tell you something about my wilingness to love this book. And I did! Except when I wanted to smack it! )

Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and The New Face of American War (Evan Wright): First of all, the subtitle is misleading. This isn't about the "new face", it's one guy in a Humvee with a Marine unit in Iraq. This is "about" highly trained, very aggressive Americans going to war. It's absolutely fascinating: there's no way in a million years I'd ever do anything like what Wright and Bravo Platoon are doing (plus, that whole "no women in combat" thing), but Wright brings out a lot of the emotion and reasons men might want to do that. It's brutal and not comfortable, and at certain points you stop, do the math, and realize no one's had a shower in more than a week (ew), in sweltering temperatures and poorly designed chemical warfare protective suits, but you're still reading. Because Wright makes you understand a little bit about why people are doing this, and the balance of protecting your people versus protecting civilians in a war zone, and the stupid things that happen because war is chaos squared, on a slow day.

It's also interesting to read the recent trade paperback edition, which has an additional "where are people and what have I been up to" afterword from Wright. The HBO actors' reactions to their living counterparts (you mean, when he's not hopped up on every upper known to man and Marine, Person doesn't constantly trash-talk Justin Timberlake?) are kind of hysterical.

So yeah, definite recommendation.

Numbers games: 5 total. 2 reread, 3 new; 4 fiction (1 short stories/essays), 1 nonfiction.
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This week at work: evaluations, announcement of bonuses (actual numbers to be revealed next week), discovery that the interface on the Canon PS SX110 IS is way more intuitive than the last Canon I touched, student sort-of-intern originally hailing from Canada. Is talking really fast a particularly Canadian trait?

Dear internet, I have finished all 585 pages of Regenesis. There is so much I want to say about this book, but briefly: I still think Victoria Strassen was on to something. And this is an atevi novel with Ari as Bren. Since I don't like the atevi series, this is not a strong recommendation. Unless you like the atevi series, in which case, skip Cyteen and read about the household staff.

There's another cultural appropriation fight going on (iteration umpteen; I count it as a standing drama since WisCon 30, in 2006) and I have nothing particularly politic to say about it. I'd much rather pick apart Union's power structures, which will go in the Epic Regenesis Post of Epic.

Someday today I have to 1.) beat my laptop into submission, and 2.) call my grandmother, and 3.) figure what I'm eating next week.
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Ha ha ha, guess what? Computer people say I broke the baby laptop's software but good! As in, won't get to the command prompt or autoboot from the CD drive good. I foresee time and money spent to fix this.

Note to self: no, no one wants you to chapter-by-chapter blog Regenesis. It would not be entertaining. Half of your comments would be, "Jesus God, Ari. You are not now and never will be the Holy Ghost!" and an \o/ + /o\ tally for Justin and Jordan fights. The other half would be canon-tracking against the rest of the canon and bad ideas in the margins.

I am not a happy music camper. The last playlist I made had issues: one, it was backwards. After I flipped the order, it sucked only a little. I'm fixing it. Two, I need more music in the vein of Are You Out There and The Mountain. Any recs?

Today I made french toast, and wow, was it ever soggy. Here's what I did:

Recipe for the curious )

I think I've got the heat too low, but I'm not ruling out other options.
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This week I've been reading Cyteen before crashing and Generation Kill on the bus. I don't know that swapping would help.

Tonight I'm supposed to go out and be social. What I really want to do is turn on the heater and faceplant on the floor. Therefore:

[Poll #1332501]

ETA: I went. Tickybox really should've taken a nap.


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