Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - February 2014

Do these get better? I made it through the first one, but crossed the finish line vastly unimpressed. It seemed to be just another “hot mortal woman whose unusual talents bring all the supernatural hunks to the yard” story. I think I decided to abandon the series during that embarrassing carriage ride at the end. These types of books would be * so * much better if the protagonist remained chaste and unimpressed by all the studly werewolves and vampires.

I didn’t like the second book as well as the first one, because I don’t care for the Alexia/Maccon relationship and they are too cozy in book 2. But after that it got better. I thought the utter silliness of the series made it a little different from the average urban fantasy. I particularly liked the fabulous vampire and his harem.
NotherYinzer, if you don’t mind even more romance with your steampunk, you might like The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook. I thought the steampunk/alt-history aspect of it was better than Soulless, but it’s dragged down by generic romance/erotica elements.

That book was the big thing when it first came out. I tried to read it and didn’t even make it to 30%. I thought it was deadly dull.

I read history voraciously, but have never tackled Guns, Germs and Steel because of similar comments by readers whom I trust.

Nope, it won’t. It’s all “Look at me Great White Thinker Explaining the Universe”

The section on domestication of plants and animals was interesting… maybe because I’m interested in the topic but over all, he has the logic skills of a 12 year old in my opinion.

From my review on Goodreads:

"How did Pizarro come to be at Cajamarca? Why didn’t Atahuallpa instead try to conquer Spain?" Diamond asks and then answers in what has to be the most overwhelming DUH moment in history: “Pizarro came to Cajamarca by means of European maritime technology, which built the ships that took him across the Atlantic… Lacking that technology, Atahuallpa did not expand overseas out of South America.”

Really??? Seriously, THAT’S your explanation as to why the Americas didn’t conquer Europe. My 8 year old nephew could have told me that. I almost put the book down at this point…

Thanks for posting about the Tarabotti books. I read the first 5 and then waited for the 6th and forgot about it:)

The Iron Duke sounds interesting! I’ll put it on my TBR list. Thanks!

I liked the Parasol Protectorate series because it didn’t go completely overboard with the vamps and werewolves, unlike a certain necromancer I used to read about. Her characters are quirky and the science is, well, sketchy, but overall the books are a fun read. And the narrator they have on Audible does a good job with acting out the stories. I’ve introduced my husband to the YA Ettiquette and Espionage series and he’s loving it, too.

“Cortez did not use bomber aircraft to attack the Aztecs because they had not been invented yet. Had they been available, he would almost surely have used them.”

Yes, that sums up his logic perfectly. repeated headdesking

Finishing up Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. I bought the Dell edition of Bran Mak Morn back in 1970, and was surprised to see that it was the first publication of much of this material (and probably the second for most of the rest). This almost-a-decade-old collection includes everything that was in that, along with even more obscure Howardiana and a couple of essays on Howard and the Picts. A very good and quick read.

That particular section gave me serious doubts about the book. His use of an extensive quote from material by a Spanish eyewitness as proof of how a few men with horses killed 7,000 Inca warriors gave me an :rolleyes: that nearly reversed my cataract surgery. Writers of the time were expected to take great liberties with the facts in order to extol the virtues of the Spanish and the church. Much of what was written about the battle scenes from those times has come into serious question. To present it as conclusive fact is irresponsible.

Bahahahahahaha!:smiley: Your poor eyes!

Yes I agree, and his lack of any kind of bibliography made me twitchy. To even try to refute his arguments would be an undertaking as monumental as the original work.

It was interesting to me as a piece of apologistic non fiction because he tries so hard to separate himself from Manifest Destiny and other racist theories that I felt he threw the metaphorical baby clear across the yard. Not to mention his ultimate conclusion that resource availability = advantage in materialism seemed a no brainer any kid could come up with.

I’ve been enjoying both these series immensely myself! Like Finagle, I was turned of by the the cheezy romance/bodice ripper elements in* Soulless* & am glad those were toned down in subsequent books.(Tho the US covers grate a bit) Lord Akeldama is possibly my favorite character, with Madame Genevieve Lefoux a very close second.
According to Carriger’s website, the Parasol Protectorate series is done; tho she’s continuing with Finishing School (* Waistcoats & Weaponry* is slated for sometime this year) I actually like the Finishing School series a bit better (less romance-ey), and the third series (coming 2015) sounds even more up my alley: The Custard Protocol, which “will explore the wider ramifications of a steampunk British Empire, not only how technology has altered but how vampires and werewolves have evolved differently all over the world.”

And yes, I consider audiobooks the same as print/e-books - you’re still taking in the story/absorbing the material. In fact almost 20% of my book consumption the past 3 years* was via audiobook, so you bet it counts! Some books come off better in audio versions, IMHO.

Speaking of which, I finally finished the audiobook version of Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. I’d put off listening to the last chapter for about a week, as I knew I’d be a sobbing mess. Jim Henson’s untimely death still seems terribly unfair; despite the great legacy he left behind.
Jones does a masterly job of sharing Henson’s life story; the level of detail is amazing, but not (IMHO) at all dry or overwhelming. He obviously interviewed many of the men and women who knew Jim well; and provides some of their biographical info along the way, when pertinent.
Kirby Heyborne narrated the biography, and did his best to emulate the voices of the directly quoted individuals. His Jim & Kermit imitations are quite good, and for me, added to the overall experience. Highly recommended to any fan who would like to know more about the man behind the Muppetverse.

  • The stat geek in me keeps track of stuff like that: Fiction vs non-fiction; ebook vs print vs audiobook; library reads vs owned vs borrowed books; re-reads etc. *

Henson’s son John just died last week too. A heart attack, but it’s interesting to note that he died young too, age 48.

Takes a lot for me to give up on a book, but this one is going on the scrap heap of MY history.

Yes - which added to the poignancy of that last chapter; in fact, John was staying with his father when he fell ill & called Jane (Henson’s estranged wife) to help convince Jim to go to the hospital. :frowning:

I feel like I have to step into the Diamond bashing for a little while at least, because some of the things here are really not fair–you may dislike the book all you want, but:

  • it does have a bibliography of sorts called “Further Reading,” pp. 429-457 in my Vintage UK edition. This, for popular non-fiction is quite extensive, and the whole “popular non-fiction” bears pointing out again in this context. This is not a scholarly investigation of single events, but a synthesized history of mankind trying to lay the focus on environmental history rather than great men, politics, war, or anything of the sort.

  • I’m not even sure what “apologistic non-fiction” is, nor why it’s apparently a bad thing to separate oneself from racist theories? And it’s certainly grand that, having read the book, you find its conclusions simple (they really aren’t half as simple as you make them out to be here), but I really dare you say that before reading this book, and having been posed the question, “why, from similar starting points in 11.000 BC, did Eurasians prosper and Western Europeans colonize the world, rather than South Americans or East Asians?” you would have been able to come up with as complex an environmentally-rooted answer.

  • Bringing me to my last point, that your short-hand is, of course, not a fair condensation of the 400 page argument. It is rather more complex than that, having not just to do with mere resources, but also, off the top of my head, the greater biodiversity engendered by a east-west oriented continent (permitting greater migration of plants and animals). Clearly, if you’ve stopped reading on Diamond’s summation of the clash between the Spanish and the Incans, you’ve managed to miss (completely) the point of the book, because, as Diamond says right at the end of the chapter, he’s not interested in the obvious material answers for the 1532 confrontation, but rather why that confrontation took place like this in the first place, i.e.: why did Spain have steel weapons and ships capable of ocean voyages, and the Inca didn’t?

You might not think this an interesting question, but for everyone who does think it is, I for one cannot recommend Guns, Germs, and Steel any higher as popular history.

I finished it.

I found it simplistic, lacking in solid scholarly effort, a Further Reading section at the end does not take the place of endnotes and proper citation of sources, and terribly pompous. I don’t have a problem with him separating himself from racist theories, but I feel he stepped so far away from them that he refused to acknowledge anything other than his own theories.

I’m sorry if my opinion of the book hurt your feelings. I did not think it was a good book but I won’t post anything more about it.

That question is why I got the book in the first place. It’s an interesting subject and worth resolving. But I was hoping for a more lively discussion by the author. For a student of those disciplines, it may be an exciting read; but while I’m a reasonably intelligent person, it was pretty thick going and there was no letup in sight. I found myself starting to skim the text, which is rather pointless, so I’ve put it down.

This. Its been a long time since I attempted to read this, so I can’t cite, but I remember my general impression being that he expounded his own theories without either refuting other long standing and simpler explanations of the same facts or acknowledging other possibilities.