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  #51  
Old 12-13-2010, 12:04 PM
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I'm reading Falls the Shadow, by Sharon Kay Penman, the second in a series (the first was Here Be Dragons of historical fiction dealing with the royal families of Medieval Wales and England.

Very engaging and, I think, has at least the feel of historical accuracy.
I love Penman. She's working on a book now about Richard the Lionheart, picking up his story after the death of Henry II in her novel Devil's Brood.


It's been a slightly disappointing reading week. My latest Inspector Lynley mystery, A Traitor to Memory, was subpar. I read Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth, and while the vampire was kind of interesting, I didn't care for the writing at all. I've started Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, and it's cute enough, but this is my first Bryson and I'm finding it very putdownable.

However, I did like the second book in Ruth Downie's new mysery series set in Roman Britain, called Terra Incognita. These aren't quite as good as Lindsey Davis's Falco books, but I'm enjoying them.
  #52  
Old 12-13-2010, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Eleanor of Aquitaine View Post
I love Penman. She's working on a book now about Richard the Lionheart, picking up his story after the death of Henry II in her novel Devil's Brood.
I'm thinking either The Devil's Brood or The Sunne in Splendor next. Do you have any preference?
  #53  
Old 12-13-2010, 03:11 PM
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I'm thinking either The Devil's Brood or The Sunne in Splendor next. Do you have any preference?
They're both good, but obviously I'm partial to the books about Henry & Eleanor. Devil's Brood is the third book in the trilogy, so I wouldn't read that one without having read the previous two books: When Christ and His Saints Slept (which begins with the sinking of the White Ship and covers the resulting civil war between Stephen and Maud) and Time and Chance.

The Sunne in Splendour is a standalone book, Penman's first novel. Penman is firmly in the camp that believes Richard III to be innocent of the murders of his nephews.
  #54  
Old 12-13-2010, 03:25 PM
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They're both good, but obviously I'm partial to the books about Henry & Eleanor. Devil's Brood is the third book in the trilogy, so I wouldn't read that one without having read the previous two books: When Christ and His Saints Slept (which begins with the sinking of the White Ship and covers the resulting civil war between Stephen and Maud) and Time and Chance.

The Sunne in Splendour is a standalone book, Penman's first novel. Penman is firmly in the camp that believes Richard III to be innocent of the murders of his nephews.
I always thought that position was a trifle odd - after all, removing rivals to the throne when they are in your power is hardly an unusual thing for a medieval king to do. There are many historical precidents, not least of which being King John and Arthur, which is sort of similar - Arthur is in John's power, conveniently disappears - and Penman has no probs attributing the murder of Arthur to John.

I think I'll try the trilogy first - after all, three books is better than one ...
  #55  
Old 12-13-2010, 03:51 PM
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I always thought that position was a trifle odd - after all, removing rivals to the throne when they are in your power is hardly an unusual thing for a medieval king to do. There are many historical precidents, not least of which being King John and Arthur, which is sort of similar - Arthur is in John's power, conveniently disappears - and Penman has no probs attributing the murder of Arthur to John.

I think I'll try the trilogy first - after all, three books is better than one ...
Penman's portrayal of John is still the most sympathetic that I've ever seen. John is the king that everybody loves to hate, yet in the Welsh trilogy Penman chooses to let us view him through the eyes of the daughter who has good reason to love him.

Between Penman and Tey, I'm halfway convinced of Richard's innocence myself.
  #56  
Old 12-13-2010, 04:40 PM
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Penman's portrayal of John is still the most sympathetic that I've ever seen. John is the king that everybody loves to hate, yet in the Welsh trilogy Penman chooses to let us view him through the eyes of the daughter who has good reason to love him.

Between Penman and Tey, I'm halfway convinced of Richard's innocence myself.

Yeah, but even Penman's sympathetic John isn't potrayed as being above a little dynastic murder.

I dunno - many another medieval monarch did away with kiddies who were dynastic rivals (Henry VII had no probs doing in through judicial murder a bunch of possible rivals), so I just don't see it as being a big deal. I think trying to find Dick the Third innocent is a reaction to the overblown anti-Richard Tudor propaganda - I think he probably did them in, or rather ordered it done (he had motive and opportunity), but that it just wasn't that unprecidented a thing for him to do. You had to be a bit nasty, if you wanted to be a medieval usurper.
  #57  
Old 12-17-2010, 12:28 AM
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Just finished "Welcome to Lovecraft," the first volume of Locke & Key, a graphic novel series - scary, supernatural and violent - set in Lovecraft, Mass., with several allusions to HPL's writings. Well worth a read. The story's by Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, and the very good art is by Gabriel Rodriguez. I just learned it's going to be made into a series for Fox, which could be cool. Or not. But check out the book, in any event.
  #58  
Old 12-18-2010, 03:28 PM
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Finished Mawson's Will and highly recommend it. Blew through Jump-Off Creek in a day and a half, and have now started Bryson's At Home. It's an interesting read, but the font is killing me. It seems small and all scrunched together and I'm getting eye fatigue within 30 minutes. For a fast reader, this is a bad thing.
  #59  
Old 12-18-2010, 03:34 PM
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Finished The Soprano Sorceress, by LE Modesitt. I didn't like the main character and her massive anti-man chip on her shoulder.

Also finished Wolfsbane, by Patricia Briggs. Kind of slight, but enjoyable.

The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay will be my next read. Also Godel, Escher, Bach is on queue.
  #60  
Old 12-20-2010, 10:46 AM
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I've just finished Christopher Brookmyre's novel Be My Enemy, or Fuck This for a Game of Soldiers. It was crazy and hilarious, as usual. Brookmyre is a brilliant writer. This is his fourth novel with the same protagonist, set in modern-day Scotland, but I think all of the books would stand well on their own.

Over the weekend I read Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror. I enjoyed it very much, and now I want to go and read all of his other books set in Pine Cove.

I got out my O. Henry story collection the other day and read "The Gift of the Magi" to the kids. (Also "The Ransom of Red Chief", while we had the book out.)
  #61  
Old 12-20-2010, 10:49 AM
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My friend lent me The Walking Dead issues 1-48 (in one volume) and I devoured it in one long session.

I'm also reading Handling The Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of the excellent Let The Right One In.
  #62  
Old 12-20-2010, 11:32 AM
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...I got out my O. Henry story collection the other day and read "The Gift of the Magi" to the kids. (Also "The Ransom of Red Chief", while we had the book out.)
I like to reread Conan Doyle's 1892 "The Blue Carbuncle," set at Christmas time. A good Holmes & Watson mystery for the season.
  #63  
Old 12-21-2010, 08:18 AM
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Just finished Cry Mercy an urban fantasy given to me for my Birthday.

Most urban fantasies have a touch of fantasy and a touch of soap opera - but this one was heavy on the Soap and light on the fantasy.

Mercy Hollings is a hypnotherapist who has two psychic abilities.
1. She can hear the thoughts of others.
2. She can "press" people and make them do as she asks. (If you read Fire Starter by King, it is the ability that the dad gets when he takes the government drug.)

Her secretary can also hear people's thoughts and is going to become a PI.
Her other friends are two wealthy real estate agents, a head of a gang who is trying to get out and an former navy seal who is forbidden to tell her what he did.

Much drama with trying to get out of the gang, find the key to Mercy's past and other dramatic sub plots.

I appreciated the fact that I got a birthday gift more than I did the actual book and won't read the other Mercy Holling's books - although who knows, if I had gotten the first one in the series first, maybe I would have been hooked.
  #64  
Old 12-21-2010, 09:01 AM
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My current book is Running the Books : the adventures of an accidental prison librarian by Avi Steinberg. Seems a fine book, but at my current reading rate of approximately ten minutes a week, I may never finish. It’s already overdue and the rest of the TBR pile will be soon. I hate it when this happens.
  #65  
Old 12-22-2010, 11:13 AM
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If you're bored at work today, you could check out Connie Willis's latest Christmas story, the 2008 Hugo Award winner for Best Novella, called "All Seated on the Ground". It's available free online on Asimov's website here: http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0805/allseated.shtml.

It's a quick, amusing read, with Willis's trademark comedic setup: a budding romance between two quietly competent individuals surrounded by chaos. Don't get too worked up over the mystery of why the aliens won't communicate - this isn't profound science fiction.
  #66  
Old 12-22-2010, 11:18 AM
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Finished Sara Paretsky's Body Work, a V.I. Warshawsky novel; now reading Jeffrey Deaver's The Burning Wire, a Lincoln Rhyme mystery.
  #67  
Old 12-23-2010, 03:51 PM
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Finished The Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies. The first book was a light-hearted look at a community theater production. The second book was a bit darker and revolved around a malicious joke. The third book got really dark -- there was even sex! How often do you find sex in a Davies book?

Started The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini by Stephen Dobyns. He's not Latin American, but the book feels like it. That works for me, because I have problems with Latin American authors and this book might be a first/baby step toward "getting" the Latin American authors.
  #68  
Old 12-23-2010, 06:57 PM
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Been reading, just haven't been posting.
  • The Great Typo Hunt by Deck and Herson (Whatcha Readin' recommendation) -- liked it, didn't love it. A guy and a series of his friends travel around the country correcting typos on signs. Since I've been in publishing for umpty ump years, it was not necessarily eye-opening about their ubiquity, and I've read enough on language that what it had about prescriptivism vs. descriptivism, etc., was also not new to me.
  • Reality Bites Back by Jennifer Pozner -- feminist critique of reality TV. Good, but kind of repetitive, I ended up skimming parts. I don't think it's a secret that I'm a reality TV fan, and I'll definitely have this in mind as I watch some of these shows in the future.
  • The Lady Tree by Christie Dickason (another Whatcha Readin' recommendation) -- adventure story that takes place in the milieu of the insanity of the Dutch tulipmania of the 1600s. Definitely enjoyed it.
Just started Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization by Spencer Wells -- about the implications of agriculture for human history. I'm only about 40 pages into it but enjoying it so far.
  #69  
Old 12-23-2010, 08:39 PM
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I've just finished Christopher Brookmyre's novel Be My Enemy, or Fuck This for a Game of Soldiers. It was crazy and hilarious, as usual. Brookmyre is a brilliant writer. This is his fourth novel with the same protagonist, set in modern-day Scotland, but I think all of the books would stand well on their own.
The only Brookmyre I've read so far is his first, Quite Ugly One Morning. It was excellent, though I think Brookmyre's strengths were more in dialogue and characterization as opposed to plotting. Good to hear the others are equally good--I'll be sure to put them on The List.

As for me, I just finished Todd Balf's Darkest Jungle, a non-fiction book about a failed American expedition to discover an Atlantic-to-Pacific canal route in Central America's Darien Peninsula. It was good, but I came away thinking the entire expedition was poorly conceived, poorly planned, and poorly executed, so it was hard to feel any sympathy for the book's main character, the expedition leader (even though his story is certainly tragic).

Moving on to the 6th and last Charlie Chan book, The Keeper of the Keys.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:59 PM
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Recently finished Let the Great World Spin and before that The Hunger Games, both recommended to me by one of my sisters. Before that was The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut - found while engaged in the never ending process of clearing out my deceased mother's house. Was expecting more from The Hunger Games. Let the Great World Spin was better but more for a good sense of discovering characters. The coincidental intersects of the separate stories just came off contrived. Still a good read. The Eden Express was a good quick read - autobiographical of his (yes Kurt's son) psychotic illness. I am now starting The Magic Mountain (also from my sister's list) and am still getting used to the style. Foucault's Pendulum is up next and I am looking forward to it enough that I have to decide if I want to wait to finish The Magic Mountain first. One of my kids has Boneshaker on a shelf and I may give that a read after these.

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  #71  
Old 12-23-2010, 10:04 PM
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I just finished The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter, one of her pen names is Ellis Peters, writer of the Brother Cadfael mysteries. There's The Heaven Tree, The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed, I have them collected in one volume. I see people in this thread mentioning Sharon Penman and stories about the Welsh Marches in the 13th century (I read Penmans' books when they were first published), you'd probably enjoy these books too. This trilogy is set in the same place and time, it's about a fictional Marcher lord returning from the Crusades who wants to build a cathedral with the riches he brought back from the holy land. He befriends a young Norman mason and a Venetion courtesan on his way back to England. King John, his daughter Joan, Llewellyn the Great and William De Braose are figures in the books. I really like the way she develops her characters. There are some battle scenes but they seem to be there mostly to advance the story.
  #72  
Old 12-23-2010, 10:37 PM
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Just finished Cry Mercy an urban fantasy given to me for my Birthday.

Mercy Hollings ...can "press" people and make them do as she asks. (If you read Fire Starter by King, it is the ability that the dad gets when he takes the government drug.)....
My favorite mind-control story is Tool of the Trade by Joe Haldeman. A great Cold War sf/espionage yarn about a Soviet sleeper agent who develops a reliable method of mind control, and decides to put it to good use for the betterment of mankind (or does he?) before the CIA or KGB nab him. Great stuff.
  #73  
Old 12-24-2010, 12:57 AM
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I was trying to slog through Guns, Germs, and Steel, but oh god is it boring! My eyes glaze over and I have to keep reading pages over again because I've drifted away mentally. Now trying to supplement it with A Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich, which is, so far, only slightly more entertaining.
  #74  
Old 12-24-2010, 09:07 AM
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Foucault's Pendulum is up next and I am looking forward to it enough that I have to decide if I want to wait to finish The Magic Mountain first.
I envy anyone who is reading Foucault's Pendulum for the first time. It's a favorite of mine that I re-read regularly. My paperback was falling apart, so my wife gave me a first-edition hardcover for Christmas last year. She's a very thoughtful person.

If you like it, I suggest you try Lempriere's Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk. Very different setting and plot, but extremely similar in style.
  #75  
Old 12-24-2010, 10:44 PM
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I liked Foucault's Pendulum, but:

SPOILER:
It seemed to lose steam and peter out toward the end. The journey was definitely better than the destination.
  #76  
Old 12-25-2010, 07:25 AM
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I've finished Last Argument of Kings. The ending was bittersweet, with a serious emphasis on the "bitter." Still, excellent fantasy series and one I highly recommend.

Also finished Prince of Tides, which blew me away. I keep gushing about it to people who've never read the book and I'm sure I'm annoying. Will be checking out the rest of Pat Conroy's works.

I'm moving apartments in a few days, so all my books are packed away. Since the library's closed until Tuesday, I may have to resort to reading the back of cereal boxes and window cleaner bottles.
  #77  
Old 12-25-2010, 11:12 AM
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I liked Foucault's Pendulum, but:

SPOILER:
It seemed to lose steam and peter out toward the end. The journey was definitely better than the destination.
Fair enough, but I think that was (at least part of) the point:

SPOILER:
The entire plot was akin to a snake chasing its tail. There never was a grand conspiracy, there was only the fever dream of a conspiracy fed by the desire for one. The brilliance of the ending, for me, is that, after spending most of the book caught up in the whirlwind, Eco allows us to step off at the end to see what a circular, self-contained system it really was.
  #78  
Old 12-25-2010, 01:15 PM
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You know not opening these spoilers is killing me. Especially since I'm not even close to finishing The Magic Mountain yet.
  #79  
Old 12-25-2010, 01:43 PM
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...Also finished Prince of Tides, which blew me away. I keep gushing about it to people who've never read the book and I'm sure I'm annoying. Will be checking out the rest of Pat Conroy's works....
Good for you! May I recommend The Lords of Discipline, about the integration of a Southern military academy, or The Great Santini, about a larger-than-life Marine fighter pilot and his family, or My Losing Season, nonfiction about Conroy's last year as a college basketball player. Similar themes, and all very readable.

Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 12-25-2010 at 01:44 PM.
  #80  
Old 12-25-2010, 01:47 PM
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Finished Bryson's "At Home", which was entertaining and informational. Now reading "The Plague of Doves".
  #81  
Old 12-25-2010, 04:08 PM
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You know not opening these spoilers is killing me. Especially since I'm not even close to finishing The Magic Mountain yet.
Ah, sorry about that. I'll refrain from posting further possible temptations.

In the meantime, my reading stack grew today with the additions of Life by Keith Richards, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, The Gates by John Connolly, Pirates of the Levant by Arturo Perez-Reverte, and The Gendarme by Mark Mustain. I don't know how I'll pick which one to start first.
  #82  
Old 12-25-2010, 09:27 PM
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A colleague and my wife have both given up on Freedom by Jonathan Franzen as too dense, plodding and depressing.
  #83  
Old 12-25-2010, 10:29 PM
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The only Brookmyre I've read so far is his first, Quite Ugly One Morning. It was excellent, though I think Brookmyre's strengths were more in dialogue and characterization as opposed to plotting. Good to hear the others are equally good--I'll be sure to put them on The List.
I agree. The plot of Be My Enemy is pretty far-fetched, and serves as an awkward way place the characters in a particular contrived scenario, but I was too busy enjoying the action and the dialogue to be much annoyed. The third Parlabane book, Boiling a Frog, is my favorite so far - I have one more to go.

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I've finished Last Argument of Kings. The ending was bittersweet, with a serious emphasis on the "bitter." Still, excellent fantasy series and one I highly recommend.
I loved the ending of that trilogy - at least, I did after taking some time to reflect on it.


I got a new Kindle for Christmas! I also got two book gift cards - one for Barnes & Noble, and one for Borders. From relatives who knew I was getting a Kindle.
  #84  
Old 12-26-2010, 01:18 AM
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A Heinlein Trio, by...Heinlein!

I've never read much Heinlein before and I just finished The Puppetmasters. Oooh, mind-controlling slugs from outer space! Blech!

Great story!
  #85  
Old 12-26-2010, 01:20 AM
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Ah, sorry about that. I'll refrain from posting further possible temptations.

In the meantime, my reading stack grew today with the additions of Life by Keith Richards, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, The Gates by John Connolly, Pirates of the Levant by Arturo Perez-Reverte, and The Gendarme by Mark Mustain. I don't know how I'll pick which one to start first.
S'okay. I have self control.
  #86  
Old 12-26-2010, 06:38 AM
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I got a ton of books for Christmas and about 180 bucks in Borders cards. Woohoo, it was a good Christmas.
  #87  
Old 12-26-2010, 08:05 AM
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I've been thoroughly enjoying (from the library) Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.

I'm just to the Bombing of Wake Island and just amazed at this guy's life.
  #88  
Old 12-26-2010, 11:40 AM
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I've been thoroughly enjoying (from the library) Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.

I'm just to the Bombing of Wake Island and just amazed at this guy's life.
Wiki says Nicolas Cage may star in a movie based on him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Zamperini
  #89  
Old 12-27-2010, 07:50 AM
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Wiki says Nicolas Cage may star in a movie based on him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Zamperini
WHAT!

OH DEAR GOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!



And I like Cage to an extent, but holy dogcrap, batman.
  #90  
Old 12-27-2010, 08:24 AM
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I'm reading The Ask, by Sam Lipsyte. It's a funny novel about people like me -- overeducated, fortyish, new father, rather pathetic in some ways but generally happy and observant.

I'm looking forward to enjoying these Xmas gifts: Blind Descent, by James Tabor (about the craft of cave exploration), and the Yale Press Anthology of Rap.

To the Doper just plunging into Gödel, Escher, Bach: Have fun! It's amazing how much of the material is fresh today, despite evolving computer technology. Don't get too hung up on the tougher theoretical mathematics -- I'm terrible at that stuff, but I still enjoyed every chapter, and digested what I could.

Last edited by JKellyMap; 12-27-2010 at 08:25 AM.
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Old 12-27-2010, 05:59 PM
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Finished "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. It was a worthy predecessor to "The Omnivore's Dilemma." I can also see at the end what led from the former to latter. I didn't see the connection before.

I didn't read it fast enough though, because I had to return "Full Dark, No Stars," along with two other books I didn't get to enjoy, to the library today. Instead of the Stephen King, I will read "Game Change" next.
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Old 12-27-2010, 11:13 PM
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Still enjoying Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. Just as if Jane Austen wrote a Harry Potter book - crisp dialogue, Regency social niceties, drawing-room politics and witty asides.
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Old 12-27-2010, 11:50 PM
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Your top ten books of the year?: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=590736
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Old 12-28-2010, 02:04 PM
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I just finished a collection of "humorous" advice given by comedians in The Believer's You're Horrible, But I Like You. It's either a really short read or I tried to get through it as fast as possible. The comedy was too hard without a "straight man". The advice questions sought tried to be wacky and it's hard to give funny advice to wacky questions. It smacks of overkill. There were a couple bright spots, the following exchange was one of my favorites.
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Dear Lizz:
What happens when you throw a green rock into the Red Sea?
Esther
Decatur, IN

Dear Esther:
Like all rock throwing in the region, it will be greated with Israeli rocket fire and sanctions.
Lizz (Winstead)
Unfortunately, the clunkers were too many to enjoy the occasional gems.


I just started Paul Mooney's Black is the New White. And on deck is Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson.
  #95  
Old 12-28-2010, 06:13 PM
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I received the latest Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars for Christmas, and finished it the day after (very convenient to have, we were essentially snowed in here in NYC). I think fans of classic King will be pleased with it, there was no smucking, no one was hit by a van, etc.
  #96  
Old 12-28-2010, 06:24 PM
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Finished Bryson's "At Home", which was entertaining and informational. Now reading "The Plague of Doves".
Finished "The Plague of Doves". Now reading Bryson's "Notes From a Small Island".
  #97  
Old 12-28-2010, 06:31 PM
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Finished "The Plague of Doves".

Did you like it? I didn't, really. While I do like her writing, the style of the book I found boring and I was slow to develop interest in the stories, even though the stories were interesting to a point.

I'm now reading High Tide In Tucson- a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver. I am liking it, mostly because I live in Tucson and she talks about it and the desert.
  #98  
Old 12-28-2010, 09:17 PM
Elendil's Heir is online now
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Originally Posted by delphica View Post
I received the latest Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars for Christmas, and finished it the day after (very convenient to have, we were essentially snowed in here in NYC). I think fans of classic King will be pleased with it, there was no smucking, no one was hit by a van, etc.
What's "smucking"?
  #99  
Old 12-28-2010, 09:51 PM
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What's "smucking"?
A made-up word he used in a recent bomb, Lisey's Story. It's nearly unreadable.
  #100  
Old 12-28-2010, 10:18 PM
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Did you like it? I didn't, really. While I do like her writing, the style of the book I found boring and I was slow to develop interest in the stories, even though the stories were interesting to a point.

I'm now reading High Tide In Tucson- a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver. I am liking it, mostly because I live in Tucson and she talks about it and the desert.
Not particularly. My wife checked it out of the library and I had nothing else to read until the Bryson book came in. She went a long way around the block to write a story about how lives intertwine, and some of it was downright stupid. Luckily, it was a fast read.
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