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Old 02-27-2013, 07:15 PM
Le Ministre de l'au-delà is offline
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Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - March 2013 Edition


The good news about this past February was that it felt spectacular to sit by the fire and read; the bad news was that I had to go out from time to time. I love my snow; it's the slush, sleet and freezing rain I've never cottoned to. If it weren't for the dog, I might not have moved at all. I'm looking forward to whatever March has to offer.


I'll probably finish 'What Money Can't Buy - the Moral Limits of Markets' by Michael J. Sandel sometime this evening. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, enough so that I ordered his book 'Justice - What's the Right Thing to Do?' from the library about 30 pages into this one.

I've also started going through my wife's collection of Dorothy Sayers. Years ago, I had read the Lord Peter Wimsey novels that also had Harriet Vane in them (Gaudy Night, Busman's Honeymoon and I forget the earlier two...) but I've never read the whole lot. I read 'Whose Body?' sometime in January, and now I'm reading the second, Clouds of Witness. I have no idea why I didn't read these years ago - they're fantastic!

Also in the queue are Way to Wisdom by Karl Jaspers - an introduction to philosophy, and The Storytelling Animal - How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottshall.


Here's a link to last month's thread.


For those visiting for the first time - Khadaji was a long time Doper fondly remembered for his kind and supportive words, and for his passionate love of reading. He passed away this January at the young age of 51. Khadaji was who started this series of 'Whatcha Readin' threads, and it is in fond remembrance that they are now named for him.

Last edited by Le Ministre de l'au-delà; 02-27-2013 at 07:16 PM.
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Old 02-27-2013, 08:23 PM
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I finished Matt Helm, the War Years and began reading for the fifth or sixth time Poul Anderson's science fiction novel Satan's World.
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:04 PM
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I think I need to put that economics book on my wishlist too...

Looks like I will start Byzantium Friday. It will kill time while I wait for When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail to arrive.

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Old 02-28-2013, 05:26 AM
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I sat down to start reading Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One yesterday. I didn't get back up until I finished it. It's been a long time since that has happened. Now it's time to add more Waugh to Mt. ToBeRead because that was an excellently sarcastic book.
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:52 AM
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Still making my way through Gormenghast.....not decided yet what to read next
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:23 AM
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I sat down to start reading Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One yesterday. I didn't get back up until I finished it. It's been a long time since that has happened. Now it's time to add more Waugh to Mt. ToBeRead because that was an excellently sarcastic book.
I was introduced to Waugh through a SD book thread years ago, and I love him so much I can hardly stand it. There are definitely some "meh" ones though.

I started reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki because a friend sent me a copy, and it's really great so far. Ozeki took a long break from writing to become a Zen Buddhist priest, and it informs the book heavily. I'm going to try to track down her others when I finish.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:54 AM
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I'm working on three books at the moment. I'm reading Still Alice as my book club's March selection. On my Nook I'm reading Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. I really wish I'd discovered this author sooner; I'm loving the book so far. I've also started Truth in Advertising by John Kenney. I won it through Goodreads' "First Reads" giveaways. So far it's just "meh."
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Old 02-28-2013, 09:47 AM
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I sat down to start reading Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One yesterday. I didn't get back up until I finished it. It's been a long time since that has happened. Now it's time to add more Waugh to Mt. ToBeRead because that was an excellently sarcastic book.
Interesting - I've not read any of his work, and I had no idea it was that engaging. One more to put on hold at the library...
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Old 02-28-2013, 10:10 AM
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James Lee Burke: Creole Belle
A Dave Robicheaux novel.

I enjoy his writing especially the descriptions of southern Louisiana and New Orleans. Almost makes you want to go there.
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Old 02-28-2013, 10:32 AM
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Finished Blood Work, by Michael Connelly. A retired FBI agent whose specialty was tracking serial killers gets a heart transplant and goes after the killer who murdered the donor. It was made into a 2002 Clint Eastwood film, which we saw. Most of the movie is vague to me now, but I know it was changed radically from the book. But one key point I remembered from the movie stayed the same, and that allowed me to know the solution to the mystery early on. Still a good read though.

Next up is another Michael Connelly: The Scarecrow, a sequel of sorts to The Poet and The Narrows. Crime reporter Jack McEvoy is about to be laid off from the Los Angeles Times in these hard times for newspapers. He uses his final days on the job to write the definitive murder story of his career and in the process comes to realize the person who confessed to the crime is innocent.

Anf thanks, Le Ministre de l'au-delà, for continuing these threads.

Last edited by Siam Sam; 02-28-2013 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 02-28-2013, 10:53 AM
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Just finished Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa. A fantastic read. Anyone interested in the history of the end of the "warring states" period would love it. Though it is occasionally a little hard to figure out who is who, given that the characters are in the habit of adopting new names and each other's children.
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:23 AM
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Just finished Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa. A fantastic read. Anyone interested in the history of the end of the "warring states" period would love it. Though it is occasionally a little hard to figure out who is who, given that the characters are in the habit of adopting new names and each other's children.
Oooo! Another one for my to read list!
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:49 AM
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Oooo! Another one for my to read list!
It's "about" the respective characters and philosophies of government and military strategy of the three great unifiers of that period - Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Mostly, it is in the form of the story of the middle one - Hideyoshi.

It is very much a rags-to-riches story (Hideyoshi went from an itinerant needle-seller to warlord of Japan). The respective approaches of these three was illustrated by a Japanese children's ditty that goes something like this:

There is a bird that won't sing. What do you do about it?

"Kill it!" Nobunaga says.

"Make it want to sing! Hideyoshi says.

"Wait until it decides to sing on its own" Tokugawa says.
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:52 AM
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A few days ago I started reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (in whatever English translation is popular on Project Gutenberg).
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:56 AM
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It's "about" the respective characters and philosophies of government and military strategy of the three great unifiers of that period - Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Mostly, it is in the form of the story of the middle one - Hideyoshi.

It is very much a rags-to-riches story (Hideyoshi went from an itinerant needle-seller to warlord of Japan). The respective approaches of these three was illustrated by a Japanese children's ditty that goes something like this:

There is a bird that won't sing. What do you do about it?

"Kill it!" Nobunaga says.

"Make it want to sing! Hideyoshi says.

"Wait until it decides to sing on its own" Tokugawa says.
Silly me, it was already on my Goodreads To Read shelf

I've read enough already to know I dislike Oda intensely but I'm interested in the other two unifiers as I've not read a lot about them
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Old 02-28-2013, 12:39 PM
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I'm reading The Last Man on Earth Club and I love it. So much so that at just about 15% into it I emailed the author telling him how much I like it. What a dorky thing to do. But it is just really, really good.
I wanted to read this too, but Inter-Library Loan has failed me.

Still working on Flashman and the Tiger.
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Old 02-28-2013, 12:48 PM
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I'm reading Michael Palin's diaries 1969-79, The Python Years. It's got a split-level (heh) appeal between a chronicle of the times and what was going on within the group. If you like his travel books, this has the same readabiliity. I think the best decision has been the absolute minimum of modern editorial input.

I picked up Halfay to Hollywood last year and thoroughly enjoyed that, too, but this one's borrowed from a friend, so I'm feeling rushed when I'd like to savour each entry.
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Old 02-28-2013, 02:13 PM
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I'm reading Michael Palin's diaries 1969-79, The Python Years. It's got a split-level (heh) appeal between a chronicle of the times and what was going on within the group. If you like his travel books, this has the same readabiliity. I think the best decision has been the absolute minimum of modern editorial input.
I really enjoyed it, and I thought the second volume (1980-1988) was even more interesting -- maybe because his diaries didn't go too far into the details behind the scenes of the TV series, but did have a fair amount of interesting background pertaining to his movies.
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Old 02-28-2013, 02:51 PM
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Polished off Rex Stout's Triple Jeopardy yesterday. (And I've just noticed that someone decided to separate the bibliography on the Wiki pages into "Novels", "Novellas", and "Collectioons". Irritating--I guess I'll have to rely on the Wolfe Pack bibliography now.) Anyway, I'm well into the middle of the Wolfe corpus, and I think this might be the first time I've run into one that I don't think I've read before. (The project is to go through the entire thing, in publication order--when I started reading Wolfe, it was just whatever I could pick up from the library.) I did recognize the story of The Cop Killer, as it was one of the stories that was featured on the A&E/Timothy Hutton "A Nero Wolfe Mystery" show that started the whole thing for me.

Now I've just barely started (a paragraph or two) Viktor Pelevin's Omon Ra. An online friend suggested Pelevin when I mentioned that I was neck-deep in a re-read of Sergei Lukyanenko's Watches series. I asked him for suggestions, he gave them to me, and I promptly ignored them all and got this one instead. Best rating and highest number of reviews on Amazon, so. We'll see how it goes.
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Old 02-28-2013, 03:23 PM
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Polished off Rex Stout's Triple Jeopardy yesterday. (And I've just noticed that someone decided to separate the bibliography on the Wiki pages into "Novels", "Novellas", and "Collectioons". Irritating--I guess I'll have to rely on the Wolfe Pack bibliography now.)
Perhaps this bibliography would be better for your purposes - Rex Stout, from the Fantastic Fiction website. I use this site constantly, because I have this compulsion (bordering on a fetish) to read mysteries in their order of publication.
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Old 02-28-2013, 03:33 PM
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I finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Loved it.

Now reading some short ghost stories, notably by M. R. James.
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:16 PM
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Perhaps this bibliography would be better for your purposes - Rex Stout, from the Fantastic Fiction website. I use this site constantly, because I have this compulsion (bordering on a fetish) to read mysteries in their order of publication.
Ah, that's perfect, thank you! The Wolfe Pack bibliography is too detailed for my purposes (e.g., figuring out what I need to read next).
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:40 PM
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I finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Loved it.

Now reading some short ghost stories, notably by M. R. James.
Oh M.R. James! My favorite ghost story writer!
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:00 PM
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Oh M.R. James! My favorite ghost story writer!
Did you know there's a podcast?
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:08 PM
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Did you know there's a podcast?
I did not! I will have to look into this!
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:45 PM
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I'm up to the early twentieth century in Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: the Biography, which I've enjoyed very much. A great read with lots of colourful characters and incidents along the way.

I've also just started Antony Beevor's The Second World War which is much better than Max Hastings' recent one volume history of the War.

Time for some novels next I think.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:59 PM
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I really enjoyed it, and I thought the second volume (1980-1988) was even more interesting -- maybe because his diaries didn't go too far into the details behind the scenes of the TV series, but did have a fair amount of interesting background pertaining to his movies.
I liked the second volume because, not only did it cover some of the same period as Stephen Fry's Chronicles, but I was old enough to remember what I was doing then as well (I was four when this current diary started, not socially aware at all - I'll be 14 when it finishes and not much better).

But I am loving it, just in a different way.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:02 AM
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Into The Silence, Wade Davis. A rather weighty tome about Mallory, the people he was most associated with, and his attempts on Everest, written in the context of WWI and its aftermath. It's good so far, but the small print is slowing me down.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:10 AM
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James Lee Burke: Creole Belle
A Dave Robicheaux novel.

I enjoy his writing especially the descriptions of southern Louisiana and New Orleans. Almost makes you want to go there.
I used to like these novels, but Creole Belle jumped the shark for me. Dave and Clete are real-time characters, which means at this point they're somewhere around 65 years old. What Burke has them doing in this book defies logic and physical abilities. I thought it was a muddled mess and that Burke is just padding his bank account at this point.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:19 AM
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I have almost finished Sharon Penman's "Lionheart". She's one of my favourite authors for historical fiction, once I've finished that one then I think I'll be heading further back in history for Ben Kane's "Spartacus" book.
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Old 03-01-2013, 08:27 AM
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Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time. I really enjoy the Discworld novels. Part of it takes place in a school, and he refers to scissors as something that, "by school rules, were treated as Doomsday Machines."
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:05 AM
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On my own time, I'm still reading Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which I've almost finished.

But for the past week, my 9 year old son and I have been reading a new book by Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis. It's called Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.

Pastis has loads of fans among SDMB regulars, so many of you must already know about it. But in case you haven't seen it, it's a very funny kids' book that answers two questions we've all surely wondered about:

1) What if Encyclopedia Brown was a moron? Or...

2) What if Calvin and Hobbes started a detective agency?

If you have kids, get it for them. (Though you may find yourself, like me, picking it up after they go to sleep and reading a few chapters ahead!

Last edited by astorian; 03-01-2013 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:49 AM
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Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time. I really enjoy the Discworld novels. Part of it takes place in a school, and he refers to scissors as something that, "by school rules, were treated as Doomsday Machines."
One of my favorites! I do hope Sue and Lobsang have a future together.
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Old 03-02-2013, 01:26 PM
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Just finished the classic Cannery Row - I love Steinbeck and loved the book.

Now I've started The Gashouse Gang. Although I'm not a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I'm in the mood for a baseball book, and I like reading about old baseball.
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Old 03-03-2013, 08:28 PM
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Just finished Gold from Crete by C.S. Forester (better known for his Horatio Hornblower novels). It's a collection of mostly-unrelated World War II stories, most at sea, but some not. There was also a well-written what-if essay on a Nazi invasion of Great Britain that seemed plausible.

Also finished Lamb by Christopher Moore, a mostly-unfunny Bible spoof about Christ's childhood friend, Biff, who was written out of the New Testament. A few laughs but not nearly enough.

Still reading Stephen C. Neff's Justice in Blue and Gray, about legal issues raised by the Civil War (slavery, secession, the President's war powers, the suspension of habeas corpus, commerce raiding, etc.). A bit dry but interesting to me.

Just started Dave Stevens's The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures, which so far isn't as good as the movie.
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Old 03-03-2013, 08:47 PM
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Also finished Lamb by Christopher Moore, a mostly-unfunny Bible spoof about Christ's childhood friend, Biff, who was written out of the New Testament. A few laughs but not nearly enough.
You know, I didn't find it hilarious, but I just found it interesting. Moore isn't laugh-out-loud funny for me, and that's not what I expect out of his books.

I liked it as a speculation of how to make sense of the gospels, and especially of how Jesus dying on the cross is supposed to get God the father to forgive humans their sins.

Last edited by bup; 03-03-2013 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:11 AM
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I am enjoying The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson. As the second in his "Liberation Trilogy" it describes the war in Sicily and Italy.

The first in the series was An Army at Dawn about the green US Army in North Africa and its first disastrous encounter with German panzers at Kasserine Pass. I assume the third will cover Normandy to VE day.

Last edited by movingfinger; 03-04-2013 at 02:13 AM.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:38 AM
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Reading Pure now. Pretty good post-apocalypse story. The world is divided into "Pures", people who were protected from the Big Bad Nuclear Bomb and now live in a protected dome, and the "Wretches" who somehow survived the detonation. The wretches tended to meld with whatever was close when the bomb went off - a bicycle, other people, a dog - and that makes for some pretty creepy people. The second book in the trilogy is also out, and I'll probably read that one, too.
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Old 03-04-2013, 07:54 AM
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Rather late in my updates, some of these should really be in the February thread, but as they say on Earth: C'est la vie...

Destroyer of Worlds, Larry Niven & Edward Lerner. Oops, another series. Double-oops - this is the third in this series. Hate it when that happens. Space opera, for those of you who are Niven fans, this series is billed as a prequel to Ringworld. Pretty good.

Supervolcano: Eruption, Harry Turtledove. Another series - I need to pay better attention when I buy books. Yellowstone National Park erupts with a fury unseen for 600k years and fucks our shit up. As disaster porn, it's OK - could have been more disastery. I think the really bad shit is going to happen in the next book (mass starvation, years without a summer, etc.)

Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years, Paul B. Carrol & Chunka Mai. I like business profiles and this one was pretty good. The last 40-50 pages were a bit of a slog once the authors got away from the profiles and descended into biz-school speak. Still, a worthwhile read and definitely the best book I've read by a guy with the awesome name of "Chunka Mai."

Firestar, Michael Flynn. A re-read, this book was at times just so early-mid 1990s that I commented on it to my wife. It probably was a bit more believable 20 years ago, but now it comes across as a Libertopia fantasy about how to create a private space industry, complete with meddlin', over-regulating governments, corporate espionage, etc. I used to recommend this book highly... now I'll recommend it with reservations.

American Icon: Alan Mullaly and the fight to save Ford Motor Company, Bryce Hoffman. A decent business profile of Ford Motor Company from 2005-2010. Could have been more detailed, imho, and suffered because the author had the approval of Alan Mullaly and Bill Ford (so he pulled his punches at times (at best, at worst you could describe many passages as flat-out hero-worshipping)), but all-in-all it was a relatively honest look at FMC during the Great Recession.

Currently starting the rest of the books in the "Destroyer of Worlds" series - there are three of them, but they are Larry Niven so they should be pretty fast reads. FWIW, I'm keeping a spreadsheet of all the books I'm reading in 2013 - so far I've read 21 books, a total of 10,066 pages. 13 fiction books (6,858 pages) and 9 non-fiction books (3,208 pages.)

Last edited by JohnT; 03-04-2013 at 07:57 AM.
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Old 03-04-2013, 08:07 AM
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I'm shocked to be saying this, but Martin Chuzzlewit is pretty good so far. I'm not bored and lost in the sea of characters like I usually am ten chapters into Dickens. In fact, the title character(s) have only had a couple of pages of "scene time" and that seems to be working in the novel's favor. Of course, I haven't gotten to the infamous American sequence yet so we'll see what happens then.

Last edited by Catamount; 03-04-2013 at 08:07 AM.
  #41  
Old 03-04-2013, 05:06 PM
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Some fellow has a vanity ebook, "Matt Helm the War Years", a prequel to Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm novels.
After reading that, I began Hamilton's "Death of a Citizen" again.
  #42  
Old 03-04-2013, 08:49 PM
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You know, I didn't find it hilarious, but I just found it interesting. Moore isn't laugh-out-loud funny for me, and that's not what I expect out of his books....
I'd read several reviews describing it as a zany faux-Biblical laff riot, and it was not that.
  #43  
Old 03-05-2013, 07:27 AM
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I finished Flashman and the Tiger. Although (or maybe because) it was split into three shorter tales, I thought it was one of the best of the series.

I’m fifty pages in to The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni. It’s fairly painless, but so obviously trying hard to be quirky. I’m feeling no connection with any of the “zany” characters. I am sticking it out, though, because I don’t have a lot in the TBR pile right now and am going out of town in a couple of weeks! *sigh* It probably gets better and shit.
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Old 03-05-2013, 08:14 AM
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I finished Truth in Advertising by John Kenney. It was just a mess overall. The author was trying way to hard to be witty and kept throwing in one-liners that just didn't work. I gave it two stars out of pity because there were a couple of nice moments and because I won it on Goodreads and didn't want to trash it completely.

Now I can concentrate on finishing Still Alice by Lisa Genova and Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. Both of them are excellent.
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Old 03-05-2013, 08:39 AM
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Finished up Viktor Pelevin's Omon Ra, which is now on my short list of most WTF books ever. Our protagonist dreams of going to the moon as a boy, so he enlists in a Soviet aviation school where the first thing they do after you pass your exams is cut your legs off. Luckily, he's going to be a cosmonaut, so he doesn't have that problem. Instead, he is going to be sent on a one-way mission to the moon, manning an automated lunar probe. There are several other cosmonauts who train with him, who get to do things like manually release the intermediate stages and have the engines blast into their face on the way out. (Oh, by the way--the ICBMs? Those have pilots also.) All of these automated systems need to have sacrificial humans in them because... um. Because Soviet Russia? And then he goes on the mission to the moon, the pistol issued him to shoot himself in the head misfires, and...

SPOILER:
...he discovers that the entire Soviet space program is a series of elaborate mock-ups in the Moscow metro tunnels.


Like I said: WTF. I guess I'm just not Russian enough for this one to make sense or something--it's generally well-received. I may give one of his werewolf novels a try later, just to see if he's always like this or not.

I've now just started into Scalzi's Red Shirts, based on a friend's recommend plus the general buzz around it from a few years ago. Not as uproariously funny as I maybe was expecting so far, but on the other hand, I've got a pretty good idea of what's going on from hearing it discussed on podcasts and the like. Seems it should be a pleasant enough read, if nothing else.
  #46  
Old 03-05-2013, 09:01 AM
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Supervolcano: Eruption, Harry Turtledove. Another series - I need to pay better attention when I buy books. Yellowstone National Park erupts with a fury unseen for 600k years and fucks our shit up. As disaster porn, it's OK - could have been more disastery. I think the really bad shit is going to happen in the next book (mass starvation, years without a summer, etc.)
I hadn't bothered reading any of his books for years, but I've enjoyed this one and the sequel more than I thought I would. It's more a soap opera than a post-disaster thriller though! I like that so far big government has been noticible by it's absence except for some disaster relief; nobody above a mayor or a senator has been a character, I think.

And Dung Beetle, I really enjoyed The House of Tomorrow, especially the concert! But punk and Buckminster Fuller both appeal to me!

Currently I'm slowly reading Love and Sleep by John Crowley; it's the 2nd in his Aegypt quartet. I finally read Aegypt 5 years ago, having bought it when it came out, and now I've tackling the next one. It's only been on the shelves for 19 years!
It's a bit of a slog; the first 150 pages were of the protagonist's childhood in the early 1950s in Appalachian poverty, then it jumped to after the events in Aegypt, and now I'm in a big section set in the late 16th C in the court of Queen Elizabeth, with John Dee and other philosophers, etc. debating Aristotle and Copernicus...
I can well imagine that it'll be some time before I tackle the other two volumes!
  #47  
Old 03-05-2013, 10:49 AM
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And Dung Beetle, I really enjoyed The House of Tomorrow, especially the concert! But punk and Buckminster Fuller both appeal to me!
Well, in that case, I'll finish it then. Just needed some reassurance...
  #48  
Old 03-05-2013, 11:02 AM
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I gave up on Byzantium by Michael Angold, I found myself thinking of dinner more than the book.

Apparently the book is not so much a straight forward history of the Byzantine Empire but rather a discussion of the religious issues, particularly iconoclasm, in the early church. Whoever wrote the blurb obviously had not read the book. It's likely a far better read for someone familiar with the history of Byzantium and the issues of iconoclasm not to mention the doctrinal split between Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism.

Fed Ex FINALLY released my books and so I will start "When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail" as soon as I finish "An Unholy Alliance" by Susanna Gregory.

Last edited by DZedNConfused; 03-05-2013 at 11:04 AM.
  #49  
Old 03-05-2013, 11:09 AM
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I am reading The Detroit Electric Scheme by D.E. Johnson, a murder mystery set in 1910 Detroit, at an up-and-coming manufacturer of electric automobiles. I read the third book in the series, Detroit Breakdown, and liked it well enough that I went back to the library for the first two. The second book is called Motor City Shakedown.
  #50  
Old 03-05-2013, 11:09 AM
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I finally read Aegypt 5 years ago, having bought it when it came out, and now I've tackling the next one. It's only been on the shelves for 19 years!
Oh goodness, I'm SO glad to hear I'm not the only one who does this! I have some laying around from my teens and 20s (will be 48 next month) still waiting to be read!
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