Booklist 2006

The love of reading

One of the things I enjoyed about my old diary thingie was keeping track of what I had read during the year, therefore I shall indulge that mildly obsessive part of myself and begin again.But begin as of when? How about this past weekend….

  1. 05-21-06 Coyote Rising by Allen Steele. I am appreciating Steele’s books more with each one I read. He has what seems to my layman’s eye an appreciation for real science as well as a style and political view that is often compared to Heinlein, although — thankfully — without RAH’s rampant paternalistic sexism. The second of a trilogy, in this book the original colonists are in direct opposition to later settlers who want to run the planet/moon as a combination of socialist and fascist societies. It was written in a very episodic way, as in the first book, which acted as a strength in my opinion. I liked the way the stories weaved together, diverged and drew close again.

  2. 05-25-06 Night World by F. Paul Wilson. The final volume of a multiple book set which mostly feature totally disparate characters, Night World has what I think of asStephen King’s IT syndrome. IT Syndrome is the problem that when you are dealing with capital-U Ultimate Evil and finally see it, it’s easy for it to become ludicrous. “IT looked like a giant bug.” Uh, okay. Yawn. “Okay, then, let me try this! It had claws and spikes and a gigantic eye! Scared yet? No? And and and tentacles! Tentacles too! BOO!” Nonetheless, it was really fun to see all the characters come together and interact. Pluses in this book: Glaeken rocks. The buzzy flying toothy wasps were way creepy. Hank bites it in precisely the way I predicted but also goes shiveringly insane right before his demise. The parts on Maui were neat. Minuses: already mentioned IT Syndrome. The most sympathetic character also dies, but as a hero (Poor Alan, what did he ever do to deserve it?) There wasn’t a round-up of what happened next to the survivors which meant Jeffy and Sylvia and Ba were rather dismissed without satisfactory resolution. Final verdict: I WANT A SEQUEL, DAMMIT!

  3. 05-28-06 Legacies by F. Paul Wilson. The second of a bunch of Repairman Jack books TC lent to me. (I read The Tomb before starting this list — it was in the series culminating in Night World.) Jack is a very interesting character, a lot of heart but willing and ready to do whatever need to be done to help his clients. I like the mixture of mental scams and action he provides. His Santa Claus gig in the beginning of this book was quite humorous, considering the damage he inflicted on the bad guy. The only quibble I had with this book is Alicia’s eventual decision of what to do with the big mystery technology. I cannot believe that in real life anyone with her level of education would make that decision, considering the global consequences. “Oh well, someone else will figure it out, la dee da” just did not ring right with me. But that’s minor — overall an enjoyable book.

  4. 06-03-06 Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson. This time Repairman Jack is looking for a lost wife at a paranormal conspiracy conference. As a stand-alone book I don’t think this outing would have been one of Wilson’s best for many people, as there’s a lot more talk than action and many references to prior (and future) events detailed in the other three Jack books I’d already read. Those two items are a great deal of why I liked it though, the feeling of being an insider and looking for winks and hints and allusions to other events. I have one real beef though: where’s the missing N? S A L R O M A = R A M S A L O N

  5. 06-08-06 All the Rage by F. Paul Wilson. More recurrance of old characters as Salvatore Roma remotely arranges to have the final remaining Rakoshi on tap for its anger-inducing blood. One of the things I am enjoying about these books is that they happen in an abbreviated amount of time, with Jack juggling his responsibilities to his clients, his friends, and his sweetheart and child. There wasn’t a standout action scene in this book for me, except perhaps the spy expedition to the testing area of the warehouse, but overall an interesting read.

  6. 06-12-06 Hosts by F. Paul Wilson. Jack is having a rough week. First off, he’s being sought as a hero for a subway incident; then a coincidental (or was it? da da DUM) meeting with his sister after fifteen years provides the basis for this volume’s X-Files sentient virus plot. Sal Roma is playing pseudonym scrabble again as Ms. Aralo, countered by a mysterious Russian woman with a big white dog. (Good thing it’s white or I’d be looking about for Sirius Black.) Poor Jack is just getting over being roughed up in the last book when all this goes down and spends more than the usual amount of time dashing about and having visions of a possible future of terror and sadness courtesy of The Otherness.

  7. 06-15-06 The Haunted Air by F. Paul Wilson. Jack and his girlfriend Gia go along as a lark on a quick trip to a fake spiritualist’s house and not-quite-all-hell breaks loose. This week-long saga involves ghosts of dead children and a not very well defined nasty group of death cultists, one of whom may be over two hundred years old. I didn’t find the cult subplot very well done though Jack’s sighting of the Roger Rabbit keychain was a chilling moment. Once again the story ties into prior books, specifically The Keep and Sara and Herb Lom’s house from Reborn.

  8. 06-17-06 Gateways by F. Paul Wilson. An appropriate book to complete the day before Father’s Day since Jack has left New York City to spend time with his dad who was the victim of a hit-and-run and, as the book begins, is in a coma. Tom wakes up and the real action starts as a group of freaks in the everglades, influenced by the Otherness, now have Tom, Jack and Tom’s neighbor in their sights. Surprise surprise, the neighbor is an older woman with a dog, a theme which I anticipate will continue in the next two Repairman Jack books. The best scene was Irving (the dog) bersus Devil (a mutant aligator.) There were a couple of things that happened in this book (the apparance of the chew wasps and Ramsalon walking across the Everglades in the malevolent version of Glinda the Good Witch’s bubble) which make me want to reread Night World as I’m pretty sure Jack was quite clueless about what was happening when he joined the White Hats in that book. Anyway, I think that it’s Wilson’s intent to re-edit the latter after he’s finally brought his Jack series up to that point so the inconsistencies will probably be addressed and the old version of the story will be a collector’s item.

  9. 06-18-06 Clarke County, Space by Allen Steele. A short easy read about an orbiting space station that encounters a couple days of drama due to the mix of a mobster’s runaway girlfriend, the hitman dispatched to shut her up, a religious leader who is aping Elvis Presley, and a rogue nuclear device — all stirred and shaken by the local lawman and a mysterious know-it-all. I understand this was one of Steele’s earlier efforts and it shows in the length and lack of complexity but still an interesting book to fill a couple hours.

  10. 06-25-06 Crisscross by F. Paul Wilson. Whoa nellie, this was dark. Jack wins two while losing two and is not very happy about the situation. My favorite scene is where he uses the elevator knowledge he gained in All the Rage in a particularly satisfying way to stalemate a particular opponent. I’m getting rather tired of the Gia situation though — she becomes quite two-dimensional in this book although with everything else happening I suppose that’s to be expected.

  11. 06-29-06 Freak Show edited by F. Paul Wilson. This is a shared universe anthology with stories written by a number of SF/horror authors. The theme is the Ozymandias Traveling Circus and Oddity Emporium, said freak show having been the provider of certain characters in All the Rage. Oddly enough, I bought and read this book many years ago and only recently have been on a jag of reading all of Wilson’s other novels pertaining to the Otherness. It’s good collection — the show is traveling around the country finding otherworldy pieces to a device which, when triggered, will open the portals and let through enough hellish freakishness to overwhelm normality. Some of the stories are pure horror, a couple are poignant, most are firmly in the spooky range.

  12. 06-30-06 On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I picked this book up off the “free, take or we’ll toss” pile of discards at R and A’s school. With a long preface and coda by Rose Wilder Lane, the main body of the book is a daily diary kept by Laura as she and Almanzo Wilder traveled from De Smet, Dakota Territories to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894. Definitely Young Adult (YA) but fun to read.

  13. 07-01-06 The Micronauts by Gordon Williams. I’ve been working on this book for a few days, its reading interrupted by the most recent volume in the F. Paul Wilson jag. It was lent to me by TC and based on his description I wasn’t expecting much from its futuristic tale of people shrunk half an inch tall. It surprised me for a couple reasons, winding up being a much more political read than expected (written in 1977 - hello Cold War) and intriguing even if the science is rather sketchy. The author used a bit too much Perils of Pauline conventions — ooo! it’s a spider! ooo, it’s a badger and a mushroom! A snake, oh it’s a snake! (not really, just amusing myself there) — and the characters were a bit two-dimensional but overall, I’m looking forward to reading the two sequels.

  14. 07-02-06 Mammoth by John Varley. I like Varley’s work — The Persistence of Vision is one of my favorite short story collections — so when I saw this paperback in the store I picked it up to look at and, unusual for me these days, bought it. Yowza yowza yowza, folks, we’ve got your prehistoric pacyderms right here, performing under the big top! Thankfully this is not a first-person tale in the style of Bob Bakker’s Raptor Red (sorry, Paige, I know you liked that book) but rather a nicely mixed-up shaggy dog story of reverse engineered time travel and associated paradoxes. The characters are well-written down to bit players, the mammoths are woolly or fuzzy depending on type, the science in the fiction isn’t impossibly lame, and there’s a streak of humor and human understanding throughout that make me wish I hadn’t read it so I could start it over again. For what it’s worth, very little time is actually spent in the pliocene although there’s a throwaway scene of excitement around a giant ground sloth when some people visit the past. (Twenty feet tall? Claws the size of your arm? Yikes.)

  15. 07-04-06 Conrad’s Fate by Diane Wynne Jones. A new entry on Jones’ Chrestomanci series, this book revolves around Conrad “Grant”, a boy with extremely bad karma, or so he is told. The only way to eliminate his upcoming death is to go under a pseudonym to the local castle as a lackey until he can discover who he was supposed to kill in a prior life and get the job done now. Someone, however, is tampering with magic so that things change in a Lathe of Heaven fashion, only more benignly. Conrad’s collaborator in solving the various mysteries is Christopher Chant, fresh from The Lives of CC, who is bent on rescuing his girl Millie from the various alternative worlds spinning around the castle. As usual with Jones’ books, its easier to understand all this while reading than to attempt to write a concise description.

  16. 07-08-06 There is No Darkness by Joe Haldeman & Jack C. Haldeman II. This SF novel, a series of novellas featuring the same characters, was enjoyable for my tomboy side. The main protagonist, a young man named Carl Bok, is from a world so hostile that humans have developed into giants. He has joined people from many other galactic worlds aboard a school ship which travels to different planets to offer the special students the opportunity to be exposed to different civilizations, to boldly go…. et cetera. The first planet is Earth which has turned into a backwater, and on which Carl chooses a series of battles against animal and human foes to raise some cash. The second is Hell, an extremely hostile world where he and his cadre of friends are forced to serve in an army using WWI trench conditions. The third is Construct, a Dyson sphere which contains levels holding habitats and inhabitants from many worlds.Each section has its strong point. Earth was the most action packed mano-a-beasto and held the most character and team development. Hell was the weakest in my opinion, although some brief explanations of how to set up pillboxes appeals to the military geek in me. Construct was neat in showing a few different life forms, including one I had never seen in another book (cell-thick beings adhereed to giant crystals) but seems hurried and truncated in its conclusion. My assessment of the book overall is positive — I was never bored by it. Because of the violence this would be an exciting and interesting SF novel for kids in their early to mid teens.

  17. 07-18-06 Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It took me a long time to read this book about a girl facing a group of vampires with one noble one as a fellow White Hat because I’ve been so tired out. Despite what reviewers would have you believe, it’s really not Buffyish at all, although there is magic and mystical things happening throughout. At first I liked the book, then I didn’t, then I liked it again, then I was bored with it, plowing through to the end. The last twenty pages took me forever — I read them purely out of stubborness. Plus two pages of the book actually fell out. The best part, I thought, was how the vampires themselves were described as being very inhuman in their voices and movements. The worst part was sort of everything else. I entirely understood the whole “she’s a baker, tra la la” bit about one hundred pages in, for example. This was overall a disappointment because I’ve greatly enjoyed McKinley’s other works but I can’t recommend it as my particular cup of sunshine and blood.
  18. 07-22-06 Soft and Others by F. Paul Wilson. This is a short story collection, some SF, some horror. It was a mixed bag — I think these were written pretty early in Wilson’s career — with the standout story in my opinion being cited in the title: Soft. According to Wilson this tale is an allegory penned during the early days of AIDS; it’s about a mysterious disease that decalcifies bones, whether over time or all at once depending on the particular person’s luck.

  19. 07-26-06 Spineless Wonders by Richard Conniff. Time to take a break from the SF and horror and this natural history book, subtitled “Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World” fit the bill. Conniff writes in an entertaining style about creatures as varied as mosquitoes (I quoted from that section in an entry the other day) to slime eels. Of course the fact that one chapter concerned cephalopods was pleasing as well. I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in reading intriguing information about the natural world in a breezy easy-to-read fashion.

  20. 07-28-06 Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken. Nominally a sequel to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, this YA novel concerns itself with Simon, the gooseboy who lives in the woods of that book. Simon’s artistic ability was recognized by Dr. Fields and at the beginning of Black Hearts he has arrived in London to study drawing. A mystery arises as the boarding house where he was to meet his mentor disclaims any knowledge of his existence. Luckily Simon, a cheerful friendly sort, quickly accumulates a group of friends ranging from Dido Twite the urchin to the Duke of Battersea himself. Good thing too, as the mystery deepens with a kidnapping complicated by everyone apparently being related to everyone else in some way. My opinion is that this is a whizz-banger of a book, much more actively exciting than Wolves — it makes me want to read more of the series.

  21. 07-29-06 The Book of Merlyn by T. H. White. The Once and Future King is likely in my top twenty-five best-ever-read book list but for some reason I had never read the “lost” fifth segment until now. Finished in 1941, this book is basically an exposition against war, communism and capitalism which is part of why it was never appended to the rest. Good points: Arthur spends time as an ant and as the goose, the latter being particularly poignant. Bad point: oh my god this was boring. Only 137 pages long in my hardcover edition, it was actively painful to slog through the pages and pages of Merlyn musing on the nature of Mankind while White coyly used the affectation that Merlyn was living in reverse time to talk about Darwin and other ninteenth century authors. I am positive that TO&FK will be read again but this? Never. Goodwill fodder.

  22. 08-04-06 Rising from the Plains by John McPhee. The topic of this book is the geology of Wyoming. Yeah, I’m wondering why I picked this up too, except that McPhee’s Coming into the Country is an old time favorite. The common thread throughout this book is a famed geologist named David Love, and the initial chapters intersperse the stories of his frontier parents’ lives in the late 1800s with the author’s travels throughout the state. The lesson I took from the book is that the geology from the Tetons to the Powder River Basin to the Medicine Bow Mountains (and whee! I’ve been all those places!) is very complex. It was horribly confusing though to keep track of what era such-and-so shale was formed and this-and-that lava flowed up from a hot spot below. Ultimately what kept me reading were moments of poetry or some amazing fact such as this talking about a Pleistocene ash layer:

    Two hundred miles downwind from Mt. St. Helens… the amount of ash which has accumulated as as result of… recent eruptions is three inches. The {prehistoric} ash here at the Continential Divide was sixty feet thick.


  23. 08-11-06 In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. The usual enjoyable meandering travel commentary from Bryson, this time about Australia. He’s a wryly funny writer, and here he has — as he remind us repeatedly — a vast continent of almost entire emptiness about which to relate the most remarkable coincidences. There are a lot of interesting little asides about Australia’s history, flora and fauna, one of the best being about a prehistoric proto-ant. It seems a fellow found this weird insect walking around in the 1930’s, I believe, and brought it in for an entomologist to identify. Wonder of wonders, it was only known from some 150 million year old fossils. Expeditions to find more living specimens were unsuccessful for decades. Recently a crew went out again to the area where the one had been found eighty years prior only to have their car break down on the road several hundred miles away. Camping out overnight, the next morning they awoke to find, serendipitously, a tree covered with the living fossils next to the car. By the way, more proto-ants have never been discovered at the original site. This little tale captivated me and the book is full of other such stories.
  24. 08-19-06 The Cybernetic Walrus by Jack Chalker. This is volume one of three in a series called The Wonderland Gambit. The premise is there are layers upon layers of cybernetic worlds and all including “our world” in which the first half is set, are unreal, creations of someone’s mind as interpreted and made internally consistent by a computer. A bunch of characters were introduced, some things happened, the whole book was more or less a set-up for volumes two and three. It was kind of boring, and the character Cynthia is very annoying (I despise reading broad southern accents written out.) I do give Chalker props for not inflicting gigantic boobs on anyone via shapeshifting so far. We’ll see how the next book goes since this one was obvious the warm up to the pitch.
  25. 08-25-06 The March Hare Network by Jack Chalker. Book two of The Wonderland Gambit. Corey, our nominal hero, goes from being one person to two, then three, then a whole clone army and which is the real meat person and which are cybernetic creations? Or maybe none are, who knows. The layer upon layer of realities continues in what should traditionally be the strongest story as the set-up for volume three’s denouement. Unfortunately it was all kind of boring and if I weren’t as stubborn as I am about wanting to know how this all winds up I’d quit the series now.
  26. 08-27-06 Hot Wired Dodo by Jack Chalker. Final book of The Wonderland Gambit. People change lives again several times, including into a centauroid world. Stuff happens, none of it much interesting; Corey finds clues that lead him to Matthew Brand who started the whole computer world simulation thing; some people are ooo ah yawn surprisingly related; some who were thought to be male are really female. Finally the book ends with a meh twist. Hope the resale store will give me a bit of dough for this set.
  27. 09-03-06 Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies. This is an excellent and easy-to-read reintroduction to the development through decline of the great castle era, using Chepstow Castle in Wales as the principal example of castle life. Make sure to click that link and check it out — amazing, eh? I have had the privilege of visiting the Welsh castles in Cardiff, Caerphilly and Conway (that’s the one I broke) but not Chepstow. I want to go back so badly. Back to the book… The Gies couple do a nice job of arranging the volume to discuss developments in castle design as well as what the life of the landholders/peers, knights, and villagers would have been like. An average day and year in and around the castle are described as well. One neat thing that arises in all books about Medieval England and in this one in particular because of Chepstow is the predominance of William Marshall, the guy who was everywhere and did everything, more or less. Reading this book gives me the urge to track down the biography I have on him specificially, as well as other volumes of medieval life and so, in that way, I can call Life in a Medieval Castle a raging success, in making me want more and more re-exposure to the topic.
  28. 09-06-06 Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson. People who know Jackson’s evocative horror fiction would be surprised at this book of ordinary daily life at her home — as ordinary as one can call it with a husband, four children, a dog and six cats. The humor ranges from very broad to quite subtle and this book is a perfectly delightful read. I adore her characterizations of the children, their distinct personalities reminding me so much of mine. Jackson’s style has undoubtedly influenced my own since I first read this book, as well as its sequel (to be added to this list next) as a pre-teen. I can see why my mother enjoyed it as much as I do.
  29. 09-09-06 Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson. More life with Jackson, her husband and children. This and the previous books are full of vignettes which temper their sweetness with a sly and subtle sense of humor. The characterizations of the children strike me as particularly good, and by the end of the book any given individual can be identified solely by his and her verbal tics. I sure wish she had lived long enough to write more of her recollections.
  30. 09-10-06 Beauty by Robin McKinley. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale and this book is my favorite retelling. Perfect for a gray rainy headachy day. I will set it aside for a month or so and then read it out loud to the girls for their enjoyment.
  31. 09-17-06 Jaguars Ripped my Flesh by Tim Cahill. Another compilation of adventures written in his humorous style, further solidifying my absolute lack of desire to skydive, cavedive (scuba), walk through Central American jungles, or be stranded and lost on a mountaintop as fog and snow move in. There are also a number of natural history essays, in particular a section about the atrocious treatment (at the time, not sure if it’s still true) of endangered sea turtles in Mexico.

  32. 09-23-06 In the Wake of the Plague by Norman F. Cantor. I was reading this for a few days before beginning the Cahill book but had to lay it aside because it was so annoying. Now I am not one to dismiss an author because he or she favours parenthetical asides, being prone to them occasinally myself, but Cantor’s writing style is ridiculous. “In 1348, 292 people died one day in Montpellier and since they had rear ends,that why even today wine is aged in casks called butts! Har Har Har!” (I made that quote up.) I shook my head in bemusement on almost every page. The other thing I did not care for was the unsupported bias against some individuals. If you want to tell me the Hyper-Magenta Prince was heinous, cool, but don’t rank on him again and again without some supporting PERTINENT information. I made up the Hyper-Magenta Knight too, and suspect this new tendency towards hyperbole was seeded by this terrible book. Hopefully I can con the people at the resale shop out of a couple bucks for it.
  33. 09-24-06 Life in a Medieval City by Joseph & Frances Gies. Companion to the Castle volume listed above, this time the subject is Troyes in the mid 1200s. Times were changing, with Crusading opening up new trading potential that helped spark the growth of cities. Troyes was chosen as the topic as it held two of the eight large annual Fairs which required a community infrastructure of officials to cope with the semi-annual influx of transients buying and selling wool, spices, and portable financial instruments. As in the prior book, the Gieses break the greater subject down into easily digestible topics such as Weddingg and Funerals, Small Business, A Burgher’s Home, and The Cathedral. Overall not quite as interesting as the Castle book (because dude! Castles!) but still a good read.
  34. 09-26-06 The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Fairy Tales by Jay Williams. What? The stories are not great but they are not too bad; there’s some decent wordplay; and my daughters and I liked me reading one story out loud every night for the past few days.
  35. 10-07-06 The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Follett is usually known for spy stories, a genre which is not far up my list, but this book concerned itself instead with the medieval period when cathedral design was switching from Romanesque to Gothic styles. The book follows a group of people and their town through fifty years, telling their misfortunes and successes as fate twists them this way and that, all framed in the building of a cathedral. The characterizations are interesting and believable and the English politics of the time (Maud versus Stephen of Blois, more or less, ending with Henry II) are both integral and understandable. My only real complaint about this enjoyable book, in fact, is that I own the hardcover and at around a thousand pages it was heavy to haul around. Which leads to…
  36. 10-08-06 The White by Deborah Larsen. This was my haul-around book while reading the last. The main character of this book is a young woman who is taken hostage and adopted as a tribemember by the Allegheny Indians in 1758 and lives her life between worlds. The writing style was at first interesting, short paragraphs, almost vignettes; but by the time I was two-thirds through it seemed severely affected and it took willpower (and being out of town) that forced me to finish the book. Perhaps this would be someone else’s cup of tea but I was bored by the story, bored by the characters and bored by the writing style.
  37. 10-11-06 There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar. I’m in the midst of reading another book but when I saw A had brought this home from school I had to set that one aside for an evening and read this instead. Louis Sachar is a fantastic author, writing some of the best young adult fiction out there (his Holes has leaped to my Top 10 books ever list), and this story does not disappoint. It’s the story of a misfit named Bradley who is obstinate and deliberately scary because he’s decided he’s a monster. With the presence of a new boy in school and a school counselor Bradley finds that it is safe to be vulnerable by having friends. If my children are representative, Sachar writes in a way that seems real to their lives. To an adult, the undercurrent of the story goes from heartrending to joyous.
  38. 10-20-06 Last Call by Tim Powers. Once again it feels like I’ve been reading a book forever, since it’s been mostly hit during the in-bed pre-sleep time. I really need to start taking a lunch break. This book is apparently the first of three associated novels. It featured themes that seem to be typical of Powers’ works, body-shifting and mystic interference with normal lives by avatars and incarnations of gods. I think I would have found some sections more interesting had I had a deeper knowledge of either poker or tarot but nonetheless the characters were strong enough to hold my interest. There’s a section in the middle of the novel where Scott Crane is cavorting with his dead wife — or maybe Dionysus or maybe Death — that was surreal and very gripping. I still think The Anubis Gates is Tim Powers best book (on my Top Ten list) but this was a good outing with him, even if I got a little bored with descriptions of the Flamingo in Vegas as-it-was and as-it-is-now. If nothing else, an action-packed ending wrapped it up very nicely.
  39. 10-22-06 She Comes First by Ian Kerner. This is a guide to orally pleasuring women. I’m too reticient to share a full review here but would like to say that I fully recommend this book.
  40. 10-30-06 The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. I am in the midst of reading two other books, one very annoying and the second very arousing and so decided to take a break from both and read this Young Adult fairy tale novel by the author of the delightful Ella Enchanted. In this story one sister is brave and intrepid; her younger sister is timid and always protected. When the elder is stricken by the fatal Grey Death, Addie summons her courage and goes on a quest to find the cure. While I did not find this novel as amusing as Ella, it was overall a good read and is now queued up as the next pre-bed read-out-loud story for my daughters.
  41. 11-05-06 Theory of War by Joan Brady. This novel is supposedly based on a true story. Immediately following the Civil War a starving Reb soldier sells his four-year-old son as a farm hand. Sixteen years later that slave escapes but his early experiences colour the rest of his life, including the event that makes up the dramatic conclusion of this book. I’m not sure if I liked the book or not. Jonathan Carrick’s life certainly could have happened, yet I was not engaged in the story very much.
  42. 11-11-06 Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Aliens are invading Earth (as well as bombing with missiles, many small and one large asteroid.) Some good action in this book as well as an exploration of the respective psychologies of herd people and human people.
  43. 11-13-06 A Midsummer’s Magic by Mary Chase Comstock. Brain mush. Need fluff. Regency romance fluff. Silly romantic fluff about a young widowed-yet-virgin witch and her near-swoons when the hero gazes enraptured at her countenance. This fit the bill.
  44. 11-18-06 Time and Again by Jack Finney. In preparation to mailing this time travel/mystery away I thought I’d better read it again one final time. I bought this book only a few short years after it was published in 1970 and re-reading it now, the “present” part seem severely dated, particularly in his cutesy offhand treatment of “office girls”. The real delight and meat of the book, however, continues to be very interesting, the parts in which Si Morley steps out of Dakota apartment building in the Upper West Side of NYC into the New York of the 1880s. In fact I recall when I finally got to Manhattan in 1980 or so I ventured several blocks past the American Museum of Natural History just to look at the Dakota, because of this book. The incorporation of period woodprints, newspaper articles and photographs into the story as Morley’s artistic works makes it come very alive for me. If you are all familiar with that part of town, you’d be amazed to realize how remote the building once was, named for being as far as the Dakota Territories, in fact, as shown by this picture:

    All by itself!

    A minor sidenote, until I checked just now for the original publication date I was unaware that this was the same Jack Finney who wrote the story which became “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Neat!

  45. 12-01-06 Eragon by Christopher Paolini. A movie’s coming out of this book which looks neat, with CGI dragons (always promising, generally disappointing) so I borrowed the book from C to read in advance. He really likes it and was excited to share his bedraggled copy with me.

    Oh man, it was bad. “Jejune” is my word of the last couple of weeks thanks to this book. There’s the usual cast of characters, young intrepid yet reluctant hero on a quest, accompanied by mentor; pretty girl in the form of a poisoned elf; Black Hat king figure who has yet to appear but is represented by a Black Hat (stronger than any human but can be killed by an arrow through the heart) Shade; and so one and so forth. This book is a rip-off of the third-generation rip-offs of Tolkein and I couldn’t bring myself to care for a single second who lived and who died. Even when said mentor croaks it was unmoving. Even the dragon was boring.

    In other words, this is a terrific book for a 13-year-old boy who wants light fluffy dragons and dwarves and a intrepid hero-to-be as a role model. Note: no gratuitous boobies either.

  46. 12-05-06 The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight by Gerald Morris. One of the themes you’d see recurring in my “library” (such as it is) is Arthurian stories. This is the seventh book in Gerald Morris’ delightful series which tells of peripheral characters rather than the Arthur/Gwen/Lancelot tragedy. In fact, this is the first book in which any of those three shows up, the prior books being mainly concerned with Kai and Parsifal and Lot’s boys and their varied quirky characters.

    I very much enjoy these books — Morris has a way of telling a tale which is whimsical and comically sly yet holds true to the plots of the traditional stories, such as Gawaine and the Green Knight (an earlier book.) They aren’t precisely what I’d call Young Adult but they are instead fun quick reads. This tale is inspired by Chretien de Troyes’ The Knight of the Cart and reacquaints the reader with some people met in previous books as well as introducing some characters with enough depth to recur in Morris’ future endeavors.

  47. 12-11-06 Beauty by Robin McKinley. Yes, same as #30. I’ve been reading this out loud to my daughters for a month or so and we just wound it up tonight. They seemed to really enjoy the story and it’s a special time almost every evening we three are together.
  48. 12-20-06 The Natural History of the Rich by Richard Conniff. Conniff generally writes natural history of nematodes or songbirds or other critters, so this book, taking his field expertise to wealthy people, was highly interesting. Not only can he make comparisons with other primates, he sees examples of behavior echoed in species as diverse as elephant seals, elk and beetles. This book as interesting to read, full of anecdotes. I plan on hanging onto it for awhile in case I want to reread it — there were a couple sections that have stayed floating around in my mind, especially the part about Rich People Habitation habits.
  49. 12-22-06 A Midsummer’s Night Dream by William Shakespeare, as presented by Pendulum’s Illustrated Stories. Yepper, a graphic telling of the play which R and I read together one fun evening. I got to do the part of Bottom in a goofy voice.
  50. 12-26-06 The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. It had been several years since I have read this seminal work about assessing situations via intuition and reacting in appropriate ways to threats. Honestly, it was less meaningful to me now than three or four years ago but still a combination on entertaining and enlightening. I continue to recommend that everyone read this book, especially women since we tend to be at greater risk purely due to body size and strength if for no other reason.