Archive for October, 2008

October 29th 2008

Collage Sourcebook

This isn’t a book you sit down and read in an evening. Oh sure, you could read all the words at one sitting… but it’s the amazing artwork that keeps drawing you back.

I’ve had this book for about a year now, and it’s never once made it to a shelf. It moves from place to place (the coffee table in the living room, the side table in my reading room, under my chair in my computer room, my backpack, or most frequenly my lap), never staying in any one spot for more than a few days.

I don’t get tired of looking at the fantastic work presented by a plethora of collage artists, and it’s certainly given me inspiration for some of my own work. In fact, I think there’s an idea starting to bubble up for all those spare CDs I have stuffed in boxes downstairs. Check my art blog to see what comes of it all.

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October 26th 2008

Bad Blood

This is a new author for me, although she’s been writing for a while apparently.

First the good points… I love the supernatural stuff.  Having a werewolf (ok, technically, she’s a shadow wolf, but I’m not going to go into the differences) in the Special Forces is pretty cool.  There’s plenty of intrigue.  The story is well-written.  The characters are engaging and don’t have that “cardboard” feel to them.

Now the bad point… what the heck is up with all the pornographic sex in novels these days?  It seems like nearly every fiction book I pick up these days has sex, sex, sex in it.  The more supernatural elements in the story, the more explicit sex it needs.  One or two in a story… fine.  But that many in every chapter??  Give me a break.

Dear writers… yes, sex sells.  But good writing, well-crafted characters and a taunt plot line is actually more of a selling point for me.  If I wanted pornography, I’d be going out on the Internet to find it.  I really don’t need to have it sneak up on me in the grocery store.  So stop it.

Having said that, I probably will go back and read other books by L. A. Banks… because she does craft a very good tale.

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October 23rd 2008

Armageddon in Retrospect

I’ve read nearly everything Vonnegut has written, and haven’t come across a bad read yet.  Normally, when one of the many book clubs wants to send me a book, I decline (which makes me wonder why I still maintain membership in them, but that’s another discussion).  But when the Quality Paperback Book Club let me know about this gem, I told them, “Oh yeah!  Bring it on!”

Here’s what they have to say about this fabulous little book:

True to form until the very end, Kurt Vonnegut concluded the last speech he ever wrote with the following no-nonsense declaration:

“And I thank you for your attention, and I am out of here.”

Fortunately, our own farewell to the late literary legend need not be nearly so abrupt. Vonnegut returns from beyond the grave (well, sorta) in Armageddon in Retrospect, his first and only posthumous collection of unpublished writings. Featuring an introduction by his son and fellow author Mark Vonnegut and tackling topics ranging from war to peace to the proper term for a shih tzu/poodle hybrid (we’ll leave that one a surprise, thanks), it’s a powerful, and powerfully funny, reminder of why we loved him so much in the first place.

This wide-ranging collection spans Vonnegut’s career from that final speech to the letter he wrote to his family after being freed from the Nazis during World War II, from harrowing meditations on the horrors of war to hilarious stories about its survivors. POW, painter, protester, parent, peacemaker: every side of this complex, brilliant thinker and writer—and the human comedy he so astutely chronicled—is on glorious display.

Now.  YOU go read it.  Because, seriously… it’s darn good.

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October 20th 2008

Murder in Little Egypt

I must admit to being a fan of true crime stories.  It doesn’t really matter who writes them, because they’re almost always the same.  (That said, I do have a fondness for Ann Rule’s books… the criminals she writes about are somehow more interesting.)

Darcy O’Brien writes about a doctor from southern Illinois, who was convicted of murdering one son and suspected of murdering another.

The unimaginable crime of filicide takes on the cast of tragic inevitability in this haunting true tale of violence, greed, revenge, and death. Fusing the narrative power of an award-winning novelist and the detailed research of an experienced investigator, Darcy O’Brien unfolds the story of Dr. John Dale Cavaness, the southern Illinois physician and surgeon who in December 1984 was charged with the murder of his son Sean. Outraged by the arrest of the skilled medical practitioner who selflessly attended to their needs, the people of Little Egypt rose to his defense.

In the trial, however, a radically different, disquieting portrait of Dr. Cavaness would emerge. For throughout the three decades that he enjoyed the admiration and respect of his community, Cavaness was privately terrorizing his family, abusing his employees, and making disastrous financial investments as well as brawling and womanizing.

What was not revealed in the trial, however, was that seven years earlier, in a homicide that had never been solved, the body of Cavaness’s firstborn son, Mark, had been found shot dead in the woods of Little Egypt.

In addition to a compelling chronicle that uncovers the truth behind two ghastly crimes and lays bare the Jekyll–Hyde psyche of their perpetrator, Murder in Little Egypt brings into stark midwestern light the hidden, gothic underside of an America bred on violence and bathed in blood.

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October 17th 2008

Sunstorm

This is the second of Clarke and Baxter’s Time Odyssey series.

At the end of the previous installment, Lieutenant Bisea has been returned from Mir to her own time and place.  She figures only peripherally in this installment.

Mostly, this book is about the sun-storm that is going to pretty much fry the solar system.  All manner of interesting and semi-interesting characters — politicians, scientists, military types, lunatics — come together to create a shield that will keep the sunstorm from frying Earth.  Bisea is there only to warn people that it was the Firstborn aliens who caused the sunstorm in the first place.

While it’s an interesting story, it’s much more about the science part of science fiction… development of individual characters doesn’t go much past a thinly fleshed-out stereotype.  In fact, several of the characters are simply cardboard cutouts propped up to serve a particular function.

If you enjoyed geeking out to the hard science part of the scifi genre, this is the book for you.  But if you want to know a bit more about the characters running around saving the world, you might want to skip this one.  I’m not sorry I read it, but I’m not likely to read the third book in this series.

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October 14th 2008

Your Hate Mail Will be Graded

For those of you who don’t know, John Scalzi has been writing a blog for ten years.  Ten years! That’s pretty much forever in internet time.  Whatever (said Scalzi blog) is a blog I read every day.  Why?  Because Scalzi is smart, funny and entertaining.  Even when he manages to say something I disagree with (not often), he’s smart, funny and entertaining.  So what’s not to love?

(In addition to being a blog writer of note, he writes highly entertaining science fiction novels.  His most enduring fame, however, comes from the Bacon Taped to a Cat incident.  Apparently, he has a bacon fetish.)

To commemorate the auspicious event of Ten Years Blogging, he’s published a book containing some of the best posts of the last ten years.  When I say you need to read this book, I’m quite serious.  You will laugh (unless your sense of humor was surgically removed at a young age).  You will think (unless the public school system trained that quality right out of you).  You will be entertained.

And as a bonus, the introduction was written by Wil Wheaton.  Wil Wheaton, people!  Not only do you need to read this book, you need to own it!  Seriously.

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October 5th 2008

Time’s Eye

This is the first book in a series by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter.  Because I found the second book in the series among the hundreds of books I own, and because I just can’t read a series of books out of order (well, except for J. D. Robb’s Eve Dallas stories), I requested this book from Booksfree.

The main idea behind the story is that some incredibly ancient intelligence has ripped the heck out of the very fabric of space-time, and reorganized the planet (Earth) so that it has chunks of land (including people and animals) from virtually every band of time… from the days of the woolly mammoths right up to 2037.

Needless to day, this creates a few conflicts, not the least of which are the conflicts the earth (or Mir, as they chose to call it) has with itself as it attempts to integrate Ice Age glaciers with modern pollution and global warming.  In other words, the weather sucks.

And all the while, these strange metal objects are watching everything that’s going on.

At the very end of the story, one of the characters gets sent back to her proper space-time.  That’s where book two picks up.

Like everything else Sir Arthur ever wrote, there’s a heavy dose of actual science in this science fiction.  I’ve never been disappointed by any of his works.  Come to think of it, I’ve like everything I’ve read by Stephen Baxter, too.

If you are a fan of the science end of science fiction, you’ll like this one

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October 2nd 2008

Like Mother Like Daughter

This is an adorable little book with delightful quotes and oh-so-precious photographs of mother and daughter animals.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite picture, because they’re all so wonderful.  I have managed to narrow it down to either the lynxes or the porcupines or the kangaroos or the meerkats or the penguins or the cats or the ducks or koalas or the sheep or the lions or the polar bears.

It was much easier to pick out favorite quotes.  I found two I really liked.

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.  (Victor Hugo)

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

It’s a small book, but one that would look nice on anyone’s coffee table.

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