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14. Language Death by David Crystal
About what language death, how it works, how to prevent it, and why that can be difficult. Had some Welsh in it, that made me happy, but other than that I am not all that interested in the topic, so kind of a yawn.

15. Chicks Dig Time Lords ed. Lynne M. Thomas
Very uneven. Other than that I avoided Elizabeth Bear's essay on purpose, and kind of gritted my teeth at a few others, it was very interesting. I especially liked an essay that was like a piece of meta, dissecting why season-2-Rose came over much less independent than in season 1 (the dynamics between Nine and Rose and Ten and Rose are entirely different, and the essay looks into how and why.)
Fun stuff, a bit of fandom in a book.

16. HTML5 for Web Designers, by Jeremy Keith
Exactly what it says on the cover; a book about html that tells you what you can do instead of documenting code. Honestly, can't wait until this is standard.

17. Gut Symmetries, by Jeanette Winterson
I... Look, I love Winterson, but if this one and Oranges... are the only two that are translated to Swedish, I can understand why she doesn't have much of an audience there. This is the last of her fiction I had to read, and while it certainly had its moments, it's not at all representation of her style. I also think we're supposed to like the male character in the beginning, and he skeeved me out from the start. Oh well.

18. Bonjour Tristesse, by Francoise Sagan
Not exactly sure what I expected here. Better, and A LOT easier to real/fall through than I thought. Sometimes classics are teensy and light.

19. Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas
First of all, I was really excited about this book. I am fairly sure that after The End of Mr. Y, Thomas claimed that she wasn't going to do more fiction, just focus on her academic work. Apparently it was all lies, but hey, it meant I wasn't waiting for new material from her. I actually just bumped into Our Tragic Universe at the bookstore, pick it up, forgot all about the Mockingjay release party, even my chocolate. And it's good! Not Mr. Y good, but nothing is. This is is less fantastic, has less philosophy but tons of metafiction, depressing relationships and almost no homeopathy (normally a trademark of Thomas')... I liked it a lot, I quoted it a lot to my SO, but it isn't my best read this year.

20. The Hunger Games
21. Catching Fire
22. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

a) I am glad I waited until the series was finished before I read it. b) read it! c) Catching Fire has terribly frustrating characters all around, I kind of make me want to punch people with a fistful of common sense (they're not badly written, just dumb.) d) Mockingjay had a quite a bit of a different and e) Read it!

23. The Sea, by John Banville
Look, this book isn't bad. It's a very good book; the language is beautiful, the characters are well-developed, bla bla bla. I was so very bored with it. It's about People and Relationships (a new widower vacationing in the seaside town where he spent his childhood, and flashbacks to both said childhood and the rest of his life) and I kept falling asleep. Not my type of book at all.

24. The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough
I... I don't really know what to expect from this piece of Literary Fanfiction. A calm sort of thing where Mary gets some credit, rather than her role in P&P, as a tool for Austen to make fun of political ladies? I got more. It's delightful, and the first half is somehow entirely in character for everyone, despite The Best Violence Ever (because it's committed by rich men's poorer and dirtier henchmen.) It makes fun of Methodists, it has a couple of sensible Celts (one Welshman and one Scotsman) shaking their head at the silly English, it has a social conscience... The second half is more fantastic, both in terms of character development and plot, but honestly? Such a fun, silly book.
8. Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, by Naomi Wolf
Eh. I do like Wolf, and she has many relevant things to say about female sexuality, but most of what is said here has been said before, and I am not too interested in her 1970s San Francisco childhood.

9. Fredens pris, by Anna Högberg
(Title means "the price of peace) Self-published high fantasy - and while the self-published shows (spelling needs to be fixed in places, and the pacing is a bit off in ways an editor could probably fix) it's pretty good. Its errors are more standard for the genre; invented names that feel invented, awkward dialogue, too. damn. much. travelling (with maps as visual aids.) But also with strength: it isn't the Liberator who is the main character, but a insignificant girl, and the bad guys aren't bad (neither are the good, except when they all are).

10. Ett öga rött, by Jonas Hassen Khemiri
Weirdly written in broken Swedish, but very captivating. (The title means "an eye red", and no, I have no idea why), this is a story about a teenage boy whose parents were immigrants to Sweden and who is lost in just about every way, dealing with racial identity, his mother's death, his dad's attitude to Sweden's integration policy, a girl... Probably the best aspect of this book is that Halim, our protagonist, is entirely wrong about some thing - and yet definitely right. The language, intentionally constructed to question connections between language and power, is difficult initially, but a matter of habit. Good one.

11. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins
The sciency bits (which is 92% of the book) are awesome, pedagogical well-written and generally awesome. The evangelizing-atheist parts are boring (the book was written for people who have to deal with creationists, and instructing people on how to do that isn't quite the same thing. It's the and-how-would-GOD-do-that-huh? that pisses me off; it's the preaching that bothers me about religious people, and the same applies to scientists.

12. Pappersväggar, by John Ajvide Lindqvist
<3! Short stories (and a novella)! I love Ajvide's writing, but I don't really, deep down, enjoy suspense, so small doses of it is a hundred times better. Some connect to Let The Right One In and Handling the Undead (and one, I think, connects to the yet-to-be-translated Harbor), but most are standalones, and brilliant ones (apparently this book has been called uneven, which is not true.) I really hope this is translated, and soon, because otherwise I'll have to do it amateurishly and give to friends (especially Gräns (Border) and En by på höjden (A village, vertically).) It's brilliant.

13. Hanteringen av odöda (Handling the Undead), by John Ajvide Lindqvist
And once again, as creepy (and consequential, well-constructed) as the horror elements are, it's interpersonal relations that is Ajvide's strength. This zombie book is not so much about the reawakened dead (although it is) as about their loved ones; what happens when two thousand dead people start walking? What do you do with them, where do you keep them, and how do you deal with your wife, your husband, your six-year-old grandchild waking from their graves? I read this in a day, and it's been a while since I did that. I had cried twice by page 60, and in the end, there was a baby rabbit and I shouldn't be allowed to read things with baby rabbits in them, but oh man. Good one.
21 March 2010 @ 12:10 am
18) The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne (Chick-Lit, 416 pages)
Wonderful! Delightful! Charming! I enjoyed this just as much as I had her Little Lady Agency books. I had loads of fun reading how Betsy revitalized the school and trying to solve the mystery of her parentage at the same time. 4/5

19) The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Mystery, 297 pages)
This was the first Christie I've ever read, and overall, I liked it. My brain loved the story and the plot twists throughout that made me keep questioning my assumptions. Nicely done mystery. However, I was annoyed by John Hasting, who I thought was arrogant, impulsive, and useless... Too bad he was the narrator. I'll keep reading through the Poirot series and hope that Hastings becomes less tiresome. 3.5/5

20) Soulless by Gail Carriger (Steampunk Fantasy, 357 pages)
Amazingly quirky romantic steampunk fluff! This was a very fun read with some original musings on what makes the supernatural supernatural. Amusing characters, great descriptions, and a charming heroine with plenty of spunk. The only thing that I didn't like was the schizophrenic POV shifts, but easily ignored after a while in favor of the story. Kudos! 4/5

21) Walking Dead by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
This is the fourth and latest book in Murphy's Walker Papers series, about a reluctant half-Native American, half-Irish shaman cop. I honestly would I probably liked this better if I had read this in larger chunks. Instead, I set this aside for days at a time, and had trouble remembering who characters were when they reappeared. Though the fact that I was able to put this book down and not think about it for days does say something about it, I guess.

This book was par for the course for this series. Fun and entertaining urban fantasy; nothing too special, but good commuting book. While I like the background characters more than Joanne, who honestly needs to be fleshed out a lot more, I appreciate that Murphy doesn't make Joanne into this all-powerful uberchick (like some other urban fantasy authors have down with their heroines) that save the day singlehandedly. 3.5/5

22) Parade of Shadows by Gloria Whelan (Young Adult/Historical Fiction, 304 pages)
This was a bit if a disappointment. I had expected more of an adventure/quest story given the description. Instead, I had a coming of age story -- which I have no objections to, per se. I've read another book by Whalen before and liked it. But I had a hard time getting into Parade of Shadows. I didn't like the narrator much, and found her to be childish, impractical, and whiny -- which, I guess, is what a teenager is, so I can't fault Whalen too much for that characterization. The narrative also dragged in spots. I think I might have enjoyed the book better if I had a better sense of what it was supposed to be. 3.5/5

23) The Lost Slayer by Christopher Golden (Media Tie-In/Fantasy, 573 pages)
A Buffy: the Vampire Slayer novelization. Christopher Golden is one of the better media tie-in authors out there. Good story, good grasp of the characters. But it seemed like I was getting hit over the head with the message of the book. 3.5/5
Yes, I am behind. But I might not make 50 this year. I've kind of thought of reading more Serous Books and Literary Canon instead (of my usual pop science and genre lit), and make it at the very least 25 books, with at least 15 Serious. I'm starting off... ok, I guess. Some win, some utter fail. 3 so far.

1: Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery, by Jeanette Winterson
The first half is about paintings, which I honestly cannot make myself care about. But essentially, Winterson's goal there, as well as in the literature part, is to enthuse the reader to engage themselves in words of art. To show that though it may be hard work, but it's worth it in the end. Which is a good point, but I am still not sure how I feel about it. But I have to appreciate Winterson's devotion to authenticity, although I am just not The Kind of Person to Buy a Painting Rather Than Fixing the Roof. Sorry. Not artsy enough.

2. Hunting the Shadows, by Tanith Lee
My mind is having issues remembering which stories are from which of the two Lee short story collections, but I remember liking both a ton, so it's not like it matters.

3: And Another Thing..., by Eoin Colfer
(since I realize not everyone know, this is the sixth part of the HHGTTG trilogy) Uhm no. Lucas liked this one because it was "tons better than Starship Titanic." I was bored; Colfer overuses catchphrases, he attempts to make a plot (the wrong move with Adams stories) which is boring, and it never ends. Nope.

4: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein
(yes, it's an autobiography written by someone else. Fun stuff.) This might be the first book using stream-of-consciousness I've ever liked. Except it isn't, not really. But it has some of the aspects; dialogue isn't punctuated, for one, and there isn't a real plot, but rather a sometimes out-of-order telling of a series of events as they happen, mainly focusing around Stein and Toklas' life among the painters in Paris around the turn of the century (my favourite thing is how when anecdotes are told out-of-order, they're often defined by what Picasso was up to at the times ("at this point, Picasso and Fernande were still in Montmartre"). Interesting, although the lack of plot made for a not exactly page-turner experience.

5: Superfreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Eh. The first one is more interesting. This feels a bit like less theory and more, eh, I can't find an English word for raljerande, but it lands somewhere in between bantering and boasting.

6: This Incredible Need to Believe, by Julia Kristeva
If you like Freudian theory, sure. I rather determinedly don't, and this was a very bad translation from French (my French isn't by any means good any more, but it's enough to be able to see that some sentences used to make sense in the original.

7: The Girl with the Glass Feet, by Ali Shaw
Hey, more no! Everyone recommended this book, so I am rather surprised that I didn't enjoy it. Basically, I thought it was going to be more fantastique, what with taking place on the made-up island of St. Hauda's Land (somewhere around the Faeroe Island?) where there are tiny moth-winged cattle, a creature whose looks turns animals white and people into glass... but no. This is a novel about Love and the Human Condition, and while I don't like books without love stories, I also don't enjoy the one where they are central. Also, don't care for the Human Condition much.

ETA: silentrequiem, can we have a pop science tag?
Current Music: Järnvägsspår - Lars Winnerbäck
25 January 2010 @ 03:31 pm
6) Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers (General Fiction, 224 pages)
A story told in notes between a mom and her daughter.
Fast read. Bittersweet in its shortness, though I wanted to reach through and shake the two characters for never stopping to TALK to one another. 3/5

7) Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie (Romance, 283 pages)
Very sweet and cute romance. I'm glad that Fred was on the cover; I might have never picked it up otherwise! Fun, quirky characters. 3.5/5

8) Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion by Jennifer Saginor (Memoirs, 288 pages)
This book made me incredibly sad. The book follows the author's train wreck of a life, and like a train wreck, you can't look away. I really wished that the author had found something more substantive in life, and I wanted to reach through and shake her when at the end, she didn't show she had. 3/5

9) Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit by Mercedes Lackey (Historical Fantasy, 400 pages)
It was with some trepidation that I started this book. I had not liked Lackey's recent stuff, and thought this would be more of the same not-well plotted, shown not told, cliched, soapboxing stuff she has churned out in recent years. I originally was not going to read it but the library had it. So it is with real amazement that I conclude: Gwenhwyfar did not suck. The story was fresh, the main character was complexly developed, the narrative was compelling, and I could not put the book down. Whatever the reason for this upturn, I can't say, but welcome it. And nary a "blame the parent" plot point in sight.

She could have fleshed out some of the supporting characters better, and she does rely too much on the internal monologue to move the story along, but this is still lightyears better than the last few books of hers I picked up. 4/5
13 January 2010 @ 09:08 pm
1) Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
Better than a lot of recent urban fantasy books. Interesting plotline but things felt a little discombobulated (not least of which the main character). I think Joanne could have been characterized a lot better than she was, and Murphy needed to flesh out her background more. The series has a lot of potential, though, and I'll keep reading. 3.5/5

2) Thunderbird Falls by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
Liked this one much better than Urban Shaman. Murphy seemed to have a better handle on Joanne's character, though I do wish she had fleshed out more of the back characters. 4/5

3) Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan (Health/Nutrition, 140 pages)
My main issue with this book was the price: $11 list price. How can the publisher justify slapping such a ridiculous number on such a small book?
Overall, a good set of rules on what to eat (and not eat), but not very substantive past that. This is essentially In Defense of Food boiled down into some guidelines for eating. Nothing really new here, but good to have it reiterated. 3.5/5

4) Coyote Dreams by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
I'm glad I kept with this series, if only for this book. Joanne has become more of a character and less of an urban fantasy cliche, becoming more rounded and with more backstory. 4/5

5) The Wild Things by Dave Eggers (YA Fantasy, 288 pages)
This was a fun quick read and probably would have ranked higher except that as an adult, I found the story less enjoyable than I had when I was a child. First, Max was not a likable character and I wanted to reach through the book and smack him. Second, there was no real resolution to anything at the end of the book. While this is true to Where the Wild Things Are, it really nagged me.

However, there were some subtle things in the story that I really did like. Carol was essentially Max, something which I missed until right at the very end, and which added an extra layer of depth to the entire book. I only hope that Eggers Max learned something from watching Carol in action. 3.5/5
01 January 2010 @ 09:38 am
I haven't posted any books since April! I'm sorry! I got lazy and then the task just got bigger and bigger. Here's the final list at Goodreads.

That list is 34 books long, but some of them are series of novels: Tales from the Flat Earth (3), The Secret Books of Paradys (4), The Chronicles of the Black Company (3), and The Books of the South (3). That brings the total to 43.

Let the Right One In and The Secret Books of Paradys—Both were such effectively jarring horrors that stuck with me a long time.
Nonfiction: Trickster Makes this World and Tamoanchan, Tlalocan—Mythology is nonfiction, right? Of course it is. Trickster was seriously fantastic and deserves the same reverence as Hero with a Thousand Faces. Tamoanchan, Tlalocan was extremely academic and much went over my head, but it was about the two prelife/afterlife trees of Mesoamerican mythology. Awesome stuff.
Worst: There were none I didn't enjoy; Surely there is a "worst" but none I will single out.
Most disappointing: The City and the City—Neat concept, but no story or characters to speak of.
Most pleasant surprise: Lonely Werewolf Girl and Riddley WalkerLWG was just hilarious and so much fun. Riddley Walker was surprisingly deep and easy to read (considering the language it was written in).
Most read authors: Tanith Lee (8), Glen Cook (6)
Most represented genres: SFF/Steampunk/Speculative Fiction (that genre), horror, and mythology
In Summary: Great stuff. Didn't read as much as I hoped, but there were videogames to play. Must be better at reviewing this year.
Current Music: Interpol
01 January 2010 @ 12:15 am
The list is 52 books long yayCollapse )

Best: Oh...
Fiction: Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) (by John Ajvide Lindqvist) & Tempting the Gods (Tanith Lee)
Nonfiction: The Elements of Typographic Style (Robert Bringshurst)
Worst: Bitch: in Praise of Difficult Women (Elizabeth Wurtzel) & Verbivore's Feast (Chrysti Smith)
Most disappointing: The Secret History. It was all good and all, but had been so heavily pimped that I was sort of expecting a miracle of a book.
Most pleasant surprise: The Fionavar books, I didn't remember them at all, and they were a lot more fun that I thought I recalled. And Drood, which began booooring and picked up enormously after page 480.
Most read authors: Guy Gavriel Kay (3), Madeleine L'Engle (3), Jeanette Winterson (2)
Most represented genres: Linguistics, I guess fantasy? In the wider sense, and sometimes mixed up with scifi.
In Summary: I cheated a bit with some rereads (4, remembering none completely), YA (4) and children's books (2, one overlap with rereads), but I still think I managed better than last year in terms of substance.
31 December 2009 @ 11:39 pm
48: Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language , by Patricia T. O'Conner
Funny. Like most linguists, O'Conner tried to be amusing, and feels the need to make examples of things she just told you by joking about it. I kind of like it (I like linguistics because it makes me laugh without the extra jokes, actually) although it made sasquirrel irritated. Basically, this is a collection of myths about words and expressions and, then they're debunked. End of story.

49: The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Apparently one of the steampunk classics, set in a mid-ninetheenth century where technology has been sped up (although with steam rather than electricity) and all the Victorian poets are inventors/politicians instead (I am not kidding. Lord Byron is the aging prime minister after a radical/Luddite conflict prior to the actual plot). It helps that the main characters are not actual Big Names, but a prostitute, a paleontologist and an investigator who just happen to run into important invents, but there is still a plot point about computers (and the world) being self-referential and self-aware that I didn't get.

50: Fever Crumb, by Philip Reeve
This is a prequel to Mortal Engines, taking place a couple centuries or so before. And it's much more obviously a YA book, aaand I started it in July and left because it bored me. Finished it when even more bored this christmas, but it's honestly not half as a good as the first four.

51: Bourdieu: Key Concepts, ed. Michael Greenfell
I picked this book up back in February- I've liked the actual (sociologist/social philosopher) Bourdieu I've tried to read before, but been unable to fully grasp ideas because as soon as I am almost there, I've met with four pages of tabular data that I Can't Bring Myself to Care about. And I did want a deeper understanding of his concepts, so from that point of view, this book was perfect. But then I wasn't in the mood, so I didn't read it - this, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when I attempt to read academica that isn't gender studies and linguistics. I just now picked it up and finished it, the last half in a few days, and it IS a very rewarding book. It works as an intro if you've never read his theory, but it is deep enough that I assume it can be rewarding even if you already are familiar. A small con is that the chapters on different concepts are all written by different authors, with different styles; I had no problems with habitus or field, but got completely suck in doxa. Eh.

52: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, by John H. McWhorter
Grammar more than word history, Welsh more than German, lots of fun and a little too short. But very good. Also, pretty. Also also, lots of examples from Swedish, which made me happy.
30 December 2009 @ 12:02 pm
119) SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Non-fiction/Economics, 320 pages)
I really like pop-economics books. They allow me to drag up from the dregs of my brain the little tidbits I learned back in my econ classes. Levitt and Dubner focus on microeconomics and behavioral economics to explain why certain things are they way they are.
This book has a different feel than Freakonomics - I think because they based this largely on blog entries. I still found it extremely interesting. The global warming chapter had me rethinking a lot of things I've held true, and I will probably be rereading it in the near future to fully digest it. The epilogue was worth the price of admission alone. I was in stitches at the thought of monkey prostitution! 4/5

120) The Gates by John Connolly (Young Adult Fantasy, 304 pages)
Really really fun. I didn't like this as much as The Book of Lost Things but still very good. It reminded me a lot of Good Omens, only less complex. I read this in one sitting at the bookstore -- I started it to see if I would like it and looked up four hours later after finishing the last page. 4/5

121) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (Humor, 166 pages)
I liked the first story the best, and after that, I was kind of ambivalent to the rest of the book. The humor seemed mean-spirited at times, too. Sedaris was recommended highly to me by a number of people, but I really should remember I don't "get" humor writing. Interesting collection, though, even if I didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny. 3/5

122) Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis (Fantasy&SF/Short Stories, 336 pages)
I don't normally like short stories and it is very rare that I find an anthology I enjoy. With that in mind, this book was a delight. I liked every single story in here and would heartily recommend the anthology for a speculative fiction holiday read. 4/5