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Old 03-31-2010, 08:39 PM
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Whatcha Readin' April 2010 Edition


Wow, I almost forgot! I had a minor success at work today and it occupied my mind most of the day.

I am reading The Juggler a Faustian novel about a - you guessed it - juggler who sells his soul to Satan in order to be the best Juggler. It started slowly but after 100 or so pages picked up. I am not finished, but will let you know how I like it once I am.

Link to last month's thread.

To those celebrating a holiday this weekend - have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
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Old 03-31-2010, 09:22 PM
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Just finished Active Liberty, by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. In a nutshell, he argues that, in interpreting the Constitution and statutes, all things being equal, courts should favor any interpretation which leads to greater citizen involvement in the democratic process. He also rebuts the Scalia/Thomas originalist interpretation pretty effectively. It makes for a persuasive argument but a pretty dry book - and reminded me all over again why I don't enjoy reading legal theory.
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Old 03-31-2010, 11:44 PM
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I'm a little over 1/3 through Robert Harris' Fatherland and enjoying it immensely.

Taking it to Vietnam with us this weekend, along with Harris' The Ghost, which was just made into a film called The Ghost Writer starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan; and A Most Wanted Man, by John le Carre. I may also take a local novel called Private Dancer, by Stephen Leather, but I don't know how much reading I'll actually get done and may leave that one behind.
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:42 AM
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I just finished a short by Doctorow When Sysadmins ruled the Earth. Pretty good read.

I'm just starting The Demon-Haunted World, good start, no demons yet though.

Last edited by G0sp3l; 04-01-2010 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 04-01-2010, 01:08 AM
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... no demons yet though.
That's the point.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:46 AM
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Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts. The guy has more depth to his writing than his old man. Well at least in his short stories. I've only read one of his novels so far Heart Shaped Box. I'm looking forward to reading more. Next up is John Duignan's The Complex a scientology expose. Apparently it's publication has been blocked for the moment, so I'm lucky to have a review copy.
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Old 04-01-2010, 07:35 AM
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I finished March 246 pages deep into Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson. It's book 8 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Unfortunately it's not available for the Kindle yet in the US, so I've been wrestling daily with the massive paperback. I finished the previous book in the series, Reaper's Gale, early in the month. Looking back on last month's thread, I read around 480 pages this past month in this series.

For work, I'm reading Concurrent Programming on Windows by Joe Duffy. I just started Chapter 7, page 315. Starting to get in to more practical, higher level discussions. I read about 70 pages in this book in March.

Last edited by unwashed brain; 04-01-2010 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:05 AM
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Congratulations on your work thingy, Khadaji!

I’m still working on The Best of Joe R. Lansdale, and expect to give it five stars when I’m done.

I just started the audiobook version of True Grit by Charles Portis, read by Donna Tartt (an author in her own right). She sounds a bit like Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs.
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Old 04-01-2010, 01:33 PM
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I just finished Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill - the third in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. I had been warned before reading A Clubbable Woman that it wasn't up to the standard of the rest of the series, but I have a thing for reading an author's books in order. Then An Advancement of Learning was much better, but I still wasn't blown away. Now, I get it - Ruling Passion was outstanding.

I'm off to the bookstore and then lunch - I'll see what I come up with to read next...
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:02 PM
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I am reading The Juggler a Faustian novel about a - you guessed it - juggler who sells his soul to Satan in order to be the best Juggler. It started slowly but after 100 or so pages picked up. I am not finished, but will let you know how I like it once I am.
Is that the one by John Morressy? I read it last year and liked it a lot. A simple story but told well.

Seamack, re Joe Hill -- I've read both his novels and while they were just fine, the short stories are what do it for me.

Dung Beetle, I loves me some Lansdale but I'm gonna have to find a TOC to make sure I don't already have the stories. Are there some new ones in the Best collection?

I'm still reading A Distant Flame by Philip Lee Williams (Civil War novel).
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:04 PM
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Is that the one by John Morressy? I read it last year and liked it a lot. A simple story but told well.

Seamack, re Joe Hill -- I've read both his novels and while they were just fine, the short stories are what do it for me.

Dung Beetle, I loves me some Lansdale but I'm gonna have to find a TOC to make sure I don't already have the stories. Are there some new ones in the Best collection?

I'm still reading A Distant Flame by Philip Lee Williams (Civil War novel).
It is indeed. It may be that I am reading it based on you having mentioned it. I know that I found out about it via our threads.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:06 PM
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Tess of the D'urbervilles.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:13 PM
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Dung Beetle, I loves me some Lansdale but I'm gonna have to find a TOC to make sure I don't already have the stories. Are there some new ones in the Best collection?
Well, they're new to me...I like him but I haven't read much of his stuff.

This book has: Godzilla's twelve-step program -- Bubba Ho-Tep -- Mad dog summer -- Fire dot -- Big show -- Duck hunt -- Incident on and off a mountain road -- Events concerning a nude fold-out found in a Harlequin romance -- White mule, spotted pig -- On the far side of the Cadillac Desert with dead folks -- Not from Detroit -- Cowboy -- Steppin' out, summer '68 -- Fish night -- Hell through a windshield -- Night they missed the horror show.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:27 PM
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That's the point.
Now you tell me. Twilight and Left Behind were right there but I had to go for the demons.

Never trust a title.
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:49 PM
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I've just got a couple of pages left on When Science Goes Wrong: Twelve Tales from the Dark Side of Discovery, and I've really enjoyed it. Simon LeVay is a very engaging writer, and has done an excellent job of laying out the problems of methodology, assumptions, pure bad luck, etc., for twelve cases in different fields, and looking at various opinions about the cases and how they could perhaps have been handled differently. It seems very well-researched and unbiased to me, and is a nice look at the human side of science.

On my nook, I've got a collection of Japanese stories, including a selection from Genji, that I've just barely started. I'm trying to hold back a couple of good things since I'm on vacation next weekend and will be driving (or at least in a car) for about 30 hours round trip - lots of good uninterrupted reading time!
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:01 PM
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Well, they're new to me...I like him but I haven't read much of his stuff.

This book has: Godzilla's twelve-step program -- Bubba Ho-Tep -- Mad dog summer -- Fire dot -- Big show -- Duck hunt -- Incident on and off a mountain road -- Events concerning a nude fold-out found in a Harlequin romance -- White mule, spotted pig -- On the far side of the Cadillac Desert with dead folks -- Not from Detroit -- Cowboy -- Steppin' out, summer '68 -- Fish night -- Hell through a windshield -- Night they missed the horror show.
Thanks for the list! Some of these are definitely new. Cool!

Have you tried his Hap and Leonard novels? They're pretty violent, but they're quite funny.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:18 PM
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Just finished The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and immediately picked up and finished The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark. Both are the kind of book that stays with you for while after you finish them. Now I'm reading The Book of Fires by Jane Borodal. It's good, too, although it starts out with a pig being killed, which is one thing that really bothers me. (See also the movie The Girl from Paris.)

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Old 04-02-2010, 07:09 AM
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Have you tried his Hap and Leonard novels? They're pretty violent, but they're quite funny.
No, those are one of the things I always think I’ll read someday. Maybe soon…
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:30 AM
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Just finished The Maltese Falcon and loved it. I'm about halfway through Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void and I'm loving it, too. It's been several years since I read the Night's Dawn trilogy and I'd forgotten how I enjoy his style.
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:54 AM
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I hope you will not think less of me. I just finished Abe Lincoln; Vampire Hunter, further I recommend it.
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Old 04-02-2010, 09:17 AM
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I'm currently about 50% through "Geek Mafia: Mile Zero" by Rick Dakan, which is the 2nd in the trilogy. Really enjoying it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first, "Geek Mafia". Pity the 3rd installment isn't free
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Old 04-02-2010, 10:06 AM
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I like business, financial and economic history and am just starting Frank Partnoy's The Match King, about financier Ivar Kreuger and his epic cooking of the books.
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Old 04-02-2010, 10:34 AM
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I was up entirely too late last night plowing through Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs. It's rather depressing but I can't put it down.

I bought Denis Johnson's Angels yesterday, but suspect my husband and I may end up fighting over who gets to read John Burdett's The Godfather of Kathmandu first.

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Old 04-02-2010, 11:32 AM
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I just finished The Light Fantastic and enjoyed it very much. Equal Rites is waiting for me at the library and I’ll try to pick it up today. I read Color of Magic about two years ago and it didn’t suck me in... Light Fantastic seemed much better structured. And maybe my sense of humor has blossomed in the last couple years.

I also finished:
Sleepless, by Charlie Huston. For those who like his Hank Thompson or Joe Pitt series, I recommend this book. It’s a stand-alone novel and Huston has seemed to have improved as a writer in leaps and bounds in this book. Still gritty, still pulpy but he’s taking on new depths and challenges. And using quotation marks too!

Everything’s Eventual, by Stephen King. This was my plane book for a weekend trip. A collection of short stories. Good – I feel SK excels at short form – but no classics. For those who have read the Dark Tower series, there’s two interesting DT related stories.

I tried, and gave up on, the first in the Cirque du Freak series. I like YA, but this was too "kiddie" for me. Definitely seems intended for the 10-13 year old range.

And I’m still reading a few pages of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver each night before bed.
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Old 04-02-2010, 12:04 PM
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Just finished Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert, about her experiences rehabilitating wild birds. One Amazon reviewer compares it to All Creatures Great and Small, and I'll buy that. Sometimes you want to take her by the shoulders and shake her for accepting yet another bird she can't possibly save, and sometimes you want to track down the people who brought her the birds and kick them in the ass.
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Old 04-02-2010, 12:14 PM
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I'm over halfway through Sabiha Al Kemir's "The Blue Manuscript", a tale of archeology, west meets east, and the effects intense heat can have on the passions.
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Old 04-03-2010, 09:33 AM
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I hope you will not think less of me. I just finished Abe Lincoln; Vampire Hunter, further I recommend it.
Why? Use as many adjectives as necessary, please. I'm thinking of reading it myself.

Just finished reading an abridged version of Mark Twain's 1881 classic The Prince and the Pauper with my ten-year-old. He was underwhelmed, but I liked it well enough, having never read it before but seen a zillion TV adaptations.
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Old 04-03-2010, 12:06 PM
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At first I was offended by the idea someone would mess with Abe's historical legacy. You just know some poor fool will think this stuff is history. But then I warmed to it. It is a fair attempt at a Goth novel set in 1850-or so America. On that level it worked. The book never took itself too seriously and frankly I suspect I could write it better, but for all that, it was an amusing read.

Count how many one-armed men are mentioned. It seems everyone has an armed whacked off at some point or another.
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Old 04-03-2010, 02:12 PM
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Thanks. Sounds like something George Lucas (or the creators of The Fugitive) would like, too.
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Old 04-03-2010, 03:16 PM
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The Time-Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, it's good going so far. That and the first two The Authority collections, and Miéville's Looking For Jake.
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Old 04-03-2010, 04:28 PM
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I've become a Bob Woodward fan over the past couple of weeks. I finished Veil the night before last, and I've just started Plan of Attack.

Woodward is not the best writer in the world as far as prose goes, but deathbed interview jokes aside, he's an excellent story teller with fantastic journalistic instincts and sources. After reading Veil, I've found a far deeper respect for politics at the national level, including the president, his executive aides, and his cabinet. Even if I despise those people's politics, they have fantastically hard, soul-consuming jobs, and I do not envy any of them. I have also found respect for all the presidents from Carter to Dubya to Obama, even though I didn't vote for most of them. King Solomon had it easy.
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Old 04-03-2010, 04:45 PM
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Woodward's book The Brethren, cowritten with Scott Armstrong, is a great peek behind the red curtain at the U.S. Supreme Court in the early-to-mid-Seventies, including the Watergate-related decisions. It's a good character study of the members of the court back then, and a very interesting examination of how the court does its work and decides cases both big and small. Highly recommended.
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Old 04-03-2010, 08:18 PM
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I'm a little over 1/3 through Robert Harris' Fatherland and enjoying it immensely.
Ooh, that one was good. Held up to re-reading a few years later, too. I just finished his Ghost, and enjoyed it as well. I will never look at the Blairs in the same way!

I have Archangel, but didn't get into the first go round; I think I will pick it up again.

Other than that, I'm going through all the Terry Pratchett witch books, and I see what all the fuss is about. I love being made to laugh aloud while reading.
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Old 04-04-2010, 08:43 AM
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Finished Angelology last night. I liked it, but it had some flaws.

I thought the premise was very interesting. Way back in ancient history, several disobedient angels had sex with human females. Their offspring were the evil Nephilim, who have since run the world behind the scenes. But by the mid 1900s, they're starting to die off and are looking for an ancient religious artifact to restore their power and health. The good guys are the angelologists, a secret society of academics who are trying to prevent the Nephilim from locating the artifact. Most of the story takes place in the present, with lots of flashbacks to Europe from 1930-1950.

So, neat idea, but the execution wasn't as good as I'd hoped. It definitely reads like a first novel (which it is), with some repetitive descriptions, clunky dialogue, and some plot twists that raised my eyebrows. I didn't care for the ending, either.

It was very similar in tone and style to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, which I liked a lot, but Angelology is not as well-written.

Despite all that, I enjoyed it. I just thought it could have been better. I believe there's a sequel in the works, but I can't say yet whether I'll read that.
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Old 04-04-2010, 09:28 AM
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Tess of the D'urbervilles.
That is the saddest book ever! Well, that and Lolita.

Do you like it? I do. It made me go on an everything-Thomas-Hardy-has-ever-written rampage.
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Old 04-04-2010, 09:43 AM
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I hadn't read any fantasy since I was a teenager, so recently I broke that trend with two in quick succession. They reminded me of what I liked in fantasy before I got all serious about literature at uni!

So, one was Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. A really cool fantasy with a strange and bureaucratic society (faintly reminded me of Gormenghast with pointless crazy ritual and eccentric characters), but at the end, I felt like the author chose the more mysterious but least interesting way to depict the climax.

Before that, I read Thursbitch by Alan Garner. I am still walking around in an admiring fog after that one. I recommend it. It is a book with about a billion levels. It is also a Mobius strip. That's all I can say!

More reality-grounded reading in Saturday by Ian McEwan, but I don't love it. It's too obsessive about its main character who is too perfect and has a too-perfect family. And he reflects and analyses endlessly with dry and unprofound pomp. But, you know. I'm not very far in, so should give it a fairer go.
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Old 04-04-2010, 11:17 AM
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Finished Angelology last night. I liked it, but it had some flaws. [snippage]

It was very similar in tone and style to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, which I liked a lot, but Angelology is not as well-written.
Thanks for the review. I'll cross this one off my list. I hated The Historian, the style, the writing, the plot -- all of it (and especially the ending).
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Old 04-04-2010, 11:59 PM
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A friend in my book club just read Kostova's second novel, The Swan Thieves, and was very disappointed. Said it was a kind of whodunnit where the answer was pretty obvious all along (and she had enjoyed The Historian).

I just finished Vanity Fair's Presidential Profiles, ed. by Graydon Carter, a collection of concise bios of all the U.S. Presidents from Washington through Obama, with nice charcoal right-profile portraits of each. A quick read, and a fine short introduction to the Presidency despite a few minor errors.
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:38 AM
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Funny, I just started that - it was in my stack and I figured it would make a good road trip book.
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Old 04-05-2010, 03:58 AM
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I've started The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
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Old 04-05-2010, 11:54 PM
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I'm about two thirds way through A Simple Plan, by Scott Smith, and I am totally caught up in it. Great writing!
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Old 04-06-2010, 07:40 AM
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The Mapping of Love and Death, sixth in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.
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Old 04-06-2010, 08:15 AM
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A Booth Tarkington collection that includes short stories and three novels. It's a big fat book! I've seen the movie versions of Alice Adams and The Magnificent Ambersons but have never read him.
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Old 04-06-2010, 08:16 AM
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I just finished reading Jules Verne's The Lottery Ticket (AKA Lottery Ticket 9672). I'm a big Verne fan, and am trying to read all his works, but this is easily the worst thing from him I've read -- worse than Dick Sands, the Boy Captain. Verne produced some incredibly clever and eerily prescient works, and knew how to extrapolate the science and sociology of his times in a series of engaging works. This isn't one of them -- a sappy tearjerker with no redeeming value.


i also read Captain Future and the Space Emperor, the first of Edmond Hamilton's Captain Future stories from 1940. It's got some interesting ideas (including the first Living-Brain-in-a-transparent-glass-box I'm aware of), but it's hopelessly puerile and downright racist (something that no one writing about these stories ever mentioned.)

I have a stack of other things to read. I'm plunging on with Lois McMaster Bujold's Ethan of Athos (I've never read any of her works before) and The Tales, Speeches, Essays, and Sketches of Mark Twain, which is more to my liking.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 04-06-2010 at 08:16 AM.
  #45  
Old 04-06-2010, 09:23 AM
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I'm about two thirds way through A Simple Plan, by Scott Smith, and I am totally caught up in it. Great writing!
Oh, good, I'm glad you like it! One thing I thought about that book was that if it was a Choose Your Own Adventure game, the protagonist did just what I’d have wanted him to. Interesting to see how that would have worked out!

Since reading Stranger in a Strange Land, I’ve never been able to understand why anyone liked Robert Heinlein. Chronos recommended that I give him another try with one of the juveniles, and so I’ve been reading Space Cadet. I admit that I approached it with reluctance, but I got to page 93, and now I’m giving up.
It was written in 1948, so it reads a lot like the Hardy Boys, which is okay, but IMO too much detail is slowing down the story. If you’ve read it, you’ll probably laugh at me for saying that, but sci-fi is always kind of hit and miss for me, and this just wasn’t working out.

I’m running back to some girly, modern YA now with Breakfast at Sadie’s by Lee Weatherly.
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Old 04-06-2010, 09:58 AM
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Well, if you're willing to try Heinlein just one more time, these are my favorites: Glory Road (an American soldier is lured into interdimensional adventure by a beautiful but mysterious woman), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (a revolution breaks out in a lunar colony), Time for the Stars (telepaths keep near-lightspeed starships in touch with Earth) and Starship Troopers (futuristic infantry in powered armor fight aliens).

All very different, all very good, IMHO.
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Old 04-06-2010, 10:12 AM
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Well, if you're willing to try Heinlein just one more time, these are my favorites: Glory Road (an American soldier is lured into interdimensional adventure by a beautiful but mysterious woman), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (a revolution breaks out in a lunar colony), Time for the Stars (telepaths keep near-lightspeed starships in touch with Earth) and Starship Troopers (futuristic infantry in powered armor fight aliens).

All very different, all very good, IMHO.
Agreed - and if you want to try the juveniles, my own view is that "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" is the best of the lot.

Rule of thumb for Heinlein: The more sex he puts into his novels, the weirder they are as a whole. This isn't prudery speaking - it's just that Heinlein was an, ah, interesting fellow.
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Old 04-06-2010, 10:33 AM
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Ugh, give me a couple of years to rest and I'll think about it.
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Old 04-06-2010, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
I'm a little over 1/3 through Robert Harris' Fatherland and enjoying it immensely.
If you enjoyed that book, I'd recommend Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois. It's another alternate history novel that I felt had a similar feel to Fatherland. (The alternate history in this book was the Cuban Missile Crisis became a minor nuclear war.)
  #50  
Old 04-06-2010, 10:39 AM
Little Nemo is offline
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Join Date: Dec 1999
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In keeping with the alternate history theme, I'm currently reading Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove. It's a typical Turtledove book, if you like his stuff, you'll like this.
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