Monday, December 30, 2013

Bookmarks Magazine

This is what looked interesting in Nov/Dec 2013.
Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Middle C by William Gass
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Round House by Louise Erdrich
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shachochis
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (read Year of the Flood first) -SF
Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross - SF
Transcendental by James Gunn - SF
Age of Edison by Ernest Freeberg - NF
Hothouse (Farrar Straus & Giroux) by Boris Kachka - NF
The Telling Room (Cheese) by Michael Paterniti -NF
Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson - NF

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Bookmarks Magazine

This is what looked interesting in May/June, July/August, September/October 2013 editions.

Redeemer by Jo Nesbo -S

Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson - S
Private Empire by Steve Coll - NF S
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell - S
Dinner by Herman Koch - S
Murder Bellow Martparnasse by Clara Black
Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Burn Palace by Stephen Dobyns
Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Upstairs Woman by Claire Messud
Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
House of Rumour by Jake Arnott
Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Magus by John Fowles
Lexicon by Max Barry - SF
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey - SF
Brilliant Blunders from Darwin to Einstein by Mario Livio - NF
Midnight in Peking by Paul French - NF
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry - NF
Funny in Farsi by Firoozah Dumas - NF
On Gold Mountain by Lisa See - NF

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bookmarks Magazine

Here's what looked interesting in Jan/Feb and Mar/April 2013

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan - S & L
Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina - S
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell - S
Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - S
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon - S
The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith - S
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro - L& S
The Heart Broke In by James Meek - S
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe - S
Tenth of December by George Saunders - S
Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky - S, NF
Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
The Prime of Miss Jean Bordie by Muriel Sparks
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
The Monkey-Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr
Waiting by Ha Jin
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk
2013 Kim Stanley Robinson -SF
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks but start with Consider Phlebas - SF
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - SF
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie - NF
Van Gogh by Steven Naifeh - NF
Double Cross by Ben MacIntyre - NF
Wild by Cheryl Strayed - NF
Gravity's Engines by Caleb Scharf - NF
Spillover by David Quammen - NF
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey - NF
Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen - NF
Four Fish by Paul Greenberg - NF

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Once Upon A Time VII

The Once Upon A Time Challenge is finally here!  For more information on this challenge that focuses on fantasy, folklore, fairy tales or mythology go here and for the review site go here. It runs from March 21 to June 19, 2013.

I am definitely going to read Demi-Monde: Spring by Rod Rees, which has been on my Kindle since it came out because last year I read and loved Demi-Monde: Winter, so I of course have to read the sequel.  And I think The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by the Vandermeers also fits this challenge.  I was really enjoying the short stories in this book so it would be good to dip back into it.   
In keeping with my goal to read more of the books I actually have, instead of acquiring more, for this challenge I am going to try and read some of the books that were on my list in prior years that I didn't get to but actually own.   

Samedi the Deafness by Jesse Ball
Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
The Last Book by Zoran Zivkovic
Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey
The Narrator by Michael Cisco
Sensation by Nick Mamatas
Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat
Pym by Mat Johnson
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
Veniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

And because I just cannot resist adding, as that is half the fun:
Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
The Scar by China MiƩville

I am going to sign up for the Journey because I appreciate the flexibility and lack of stress which means that I will read at least one book but I might, and always do, read more. And we will definitely be watching Game of Thrones which starts March 31, 2013 on HBO.  And every year I say I am going to watch my DVD of Midsummer Nights Dream, but then promptly forget.  Thanks Carl for hosting another great challenge.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sci-Fi Experience 2013

I cannot believe that the Sci-Fi Experience is finished already!  I read the following: Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan,  Cat's Cradle  by Kurt Vonnegut, Third Shift by Hugh Howey, Endymion  by Dan Simmons and am still finishing up The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard.

I must say that I have enjoyed them all.  Woken Furies was the third in the Takeshi Kovacs stories, which I really enjoyed.  Cat's Cradle and The Drowned World were both classics from the 60s.  Third Shift is the brand new one in the Wool series, which was of course fabulous.  I cannot believe there is supposedly only one more left and then Wool will be concluded.  

And I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Endymion so much.  I had read and absolutely loved Hyperion but then hated the sequel Fall of Hyperion so had not intended to keep reading that story line.  But it was on my ipod and I had heard it was much better than the prior one, so thought I would give it a shot and  I was really pleasantly surprised.  I will definitely complete the cycle by reading Rise of Endymion some time in the future.

Although I haven't been good at posting, especially reviews, at least I have been reading!  Thanks Carl for another fun Sci-Fi Experience.      


by Dan Simmons

I read the first book in the Hyperion Cantos, Hyperion, in 2009 and simply gushed, I loved it!  So I read the next book, The Fall of Hyperion for the Sci-Fi Experience in 2010 and was sadly disappointed.  Well, my review made it sound like I was disappointed (it was nominated for a Hugo so it couldn't be all bad) but I actually hated it and in fact was angry with it that it didn't live up to Hyperion.  So three years later, I finally decided to try Endymion which has been on my ipod since I read Hyperion. 

The verdict?  I really enjoyed it.  It didn't wow me, like Hyperion, but it was good.  It takes place almost 300 years after The Fall of Hyperion so there are new main characters and yet there are constant references to the characters and events that took place in the prior two works.  This is definitely not a stand alone story. 

A lot has changed in those 300 years.  The technological advances provided by the TechnoCore, such as the far casters and WorldWeb which allowed such a diverse and wide ranging Hegemony, have been destroyed. Communications and travel between the vast reaches of space which previously took seconds, now take years, even hundreds of years.  And it is the Catholic Church, which has found a way to provide literal eternal life by using the cruciforms found on Hyperion, which is the controlling political and military power.

The story is of a young child, Aenea who emerges from the Time Tombs and her protector, Raul Endymion, as they try to escape from the Catholic Church in an antique space ship with an outlawed android to search for something on the now destroyed River Tethys.  

What I really enjoyed about this book was the characters, as the author makes you care about all of them.  Clearly we are supposed to be rooting for Aenea and her little troupe but I also really liked the Catholic priest charged with capturing her, Father de Soya.  It was odd, as the story alternated between Aenea and Father de Soya to one minute be glad that Aenea had escaped again and feel bad the next minute that Father de Soya had failed again.  

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was, as in Hyperion, the vast array of incredible, richly imagined worlds that the travelers visit.  Dan Simmons is masterful at creating fully realized worlds and describing them in such vivid detail that you feel like you are there.  I loved Mare Infinitus, the water world with the gigantic and terrifying Lamp Mouth Leviathans. And I will not soon forget Sol Draconi Septem, the ice planet with the prime number obsessed indigenous Chitchatuk and the wraiths, their sole source of food and materials.  And there being no other animals on the frozen planet other than humans and wraiths, the wraith's sole source of food is the Chitchatuk, plus they have a penchant for collecting human skulls.          

Like Hyperion, this one clearly ended in the middle and we have to read The Rise of Endymion to see what happens next.  But this was still a satisfying story.  Not only did I enjoy getting to know the new characters and the action and adventure but we learn enough new things that drive the larger Hyperion Cantos story forward.  I will definitely be reading the last book in the Cantos, The Rise of Endymion.                    

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Woken Furies

by Richard K. Morgan

I was first introduced to Richard K. Morgan and his character Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon  and then Broken Angels both of which I read for prior years' Sci Fi Experiences.  Woken Furies is the "final" Takeshi Kovacs novel.

It is remarkable how different the three books set in the same fictional universe with the same protaganist, can each be so different.  I enjoyed all three.  In Kovac's reality people have stacks embedded in their spinal column that contain their memories and personalities and as long as your stack is recovered when you die you can either be "re-sleeved" in another body or exist in virtual reality.  This has all sorts of implications considered over the three novels for almost all aspects of life including crime, torture, sex, space travel, warfare and interaction with technology and other digital constructs.

Altered Carbon was set on a future Earth where Kovac's is digitally transmitted and re-sleeved in order to solve the murder of a wealthy gentleman who has been re-sleeved in one of his cloned bodies but cannot seem to recall the events of his actual murder.  This is basically a noir detective story that just happens to be set in the future.

In Broken Angels Kovac's is embroiled in a war on a distant planet, working as a mercenary for a giant corporation trying to lay claim to an ancient Martian artifact, in the middle of a war zone. This is not a noir detective story at all but really a war story.  It gave the author the opportunity to consider what war would be like without "real death" on the table.  What I found most interesting about this one was learning more about the "Martians" who were long gone but who had left behind some amazing technology that humans had been able to utilize to change their lives.

Woken Furies provides a glimpse of Kovac's past and involves religion, politics and the human/digital interface.  Although taking place after Broken Angels, Kovac's is back on his home world where his past is catching up with him. While he is seeking revenge against a group of religious zealots he gets mixed up in a conflict between a bunch of mercenary deComs and the Yakuza.  Its not clear what the conflict is but having saved Sylvie, the deCom head, his lot is cast with hers.  It seems that Sylvie may have the digital personality of former revolutionary Quellcrist Falconer, inside her head with her, or maybe not.  Kovacs must enlist the help of his old friends and revolutionaries to attempt to save Sylvie from the Yakuza, the First Families, the Envoys and a younger duplicate of himself.  I enjoyed this final Kovac's novel and would be interested to read more by Richard K. Morgan.           

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 Tournament of Books

Last year I discovered and really enjoyed The Morning News Tournament of Books.  This year they have announced the contenders early to give people time to read some of the books before the contest in March to better participate in the discussion and enjoy the entire process.     

The 2013 Tournament of Books Finalists are:

    HHhH by Laurent Binet
    The Round House by Louise Erdrich
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    Arcadia by Lauren Groff
    How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
    May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
    The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
    Ivyland by Miles Klee
    Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
    Dear Life by Alice Munro
    Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
    Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
    Building Stories by Chris Ware
    [Winner of the Pre-Tournament Playoff Round, either Fobbit by David Abrams, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain or The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers] Update: the winner was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Of course I read and loved the Orphan Master's Son which I will be rooting for, but that is the only one I have read.  I have on my wish list however, HHhH, The Round House, Arcadia, Where'd You Go Bernadette and Beautiful Ruins.  And I keep debating whether to join the crowd with Gone Girl or not.  Perhaps I can read a couple more before the Tournament begins sometime in March. 

2012 In Review

Life's been busy so I am just now getting to my 2012 wrap up post.  Of course last year I did it in March so maybe I am actually early.  In 2012 I read 26 books which is an improvement of the 20 in 2011 and I had some really wonderful reads.  My favorite books were:    

Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I didn't get around to writing reviews of any of them except Something Wicked which is a shame.  I picked these four as my favorites because they not only were very entertaining and well written but surprised me in some way.  

Orphan Master's Son was my clear favorite as it just blew me away.  Jun Do barely survives in the crazy world of North Korea by the skin of his teeth and extreme luck.  If I were to list his adventures here it would seem absurd  (from soldier, to spy, to prisoner, a trip to the U.S., consorting with movie stars and even the Dear Leader himself, Kim Jong Il) but in the context of the story they made perfect sense.  While some of the scenes were hard to read, most of it was either fascinating, funny or touching and throughout I found myself really rooting for Jun Do.  I enjoyed the book so much that every night at dinner I would tell my husband what had happened in the story I had read that day and he finally had to say "You have to stop with the blow by blow account, I am convinced, I am going to read it for myself."  This book surprised me because I don't recall being so excited about a book in a very long time.  I could not wait to continue reading.  And who would expect that North Korea could be so entertaining. Absolutely loved it.  Everyone should read it, right now.   

Wool also surprised me.  It is getting a lot of buzz right now but when I read it it was pure accident.  It popped up on one of those amazon "customers who bought this item also bought" section.  And then it was on sale for the kindle, and it sounded interesting and it was cheap so I bought with one click. I don't really read self published stuff but what the heck.  And then I started reading and the world of an underground silo after some sort of event made the outside lethal just sucked me in and I read the omnibus (5 Wool stories) in one gulp.  I loved that it just dumped you into the story with characters that were interesting and you cared about without explaining this world to you. It is such an amazingly well developed world and yet it is truly a character driven story.  It was such a pleasure to gradually piece together how this world worked.  And I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.  And of course I also read First Shift and Second Shift as soon as they were available and am reading Third Shift now.  I confess, I am now a Hugh Howey groupie and check his web site regularly to see how his progress on the next books are going.   

I was also surprised by how much fun I had reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  It had gotten good reviews so I gave it a go, but wasn't expecting much because I am not a gamer.  This book is set in the future where people spend most of their time, including going to school, working and socializing, in a virtual world know as the Oasis.  When the creator of  the Oasis dies, he leaves his entire vast estate to the winner of a complex game he set up all based upon 1980s culture.  The entire story was basically a blow by blow account of Parzival playing this game over many many years.  How fun can it be to read about someone else playing a game?  It turns out in Ernest Cline's hands, surprisingly, incredibly fun. Of course I have very fond memories of the 80's but it was just a blast from the past which was very very well done.   

The other top three books were all new works but Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury was published in 1962.  This was incredibly well written, very atmospheric with amazing characters. (My review is here.)  I was surprised that I had missed such a wonderful classic for all these years.          

In addition I have a few Honorable Mentions, all of which would have made it into the top four in another year with less stellar competition.

Sister's Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Demi-monde: Winter by Rod Rees
I didn't give myself any reading goals for 2012 but as I had said "I will simply be happy if I get to read" I think I did pretty well.  I read some wonderful books and read more (26 books) than last year but posted less (17 posts).  I read one book about Art - Provenance: How a Con Man and A Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury - a nonfiction work that was fascinating, and a book about Food - A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage another nonfiction work which was just ok.  I normally like to try and read something about books or reading which I didn't manage to do.  I have been listening to audio books in my car which I am really enjoying and gives me more "reading" time.  I participated in Carl V's Once Upon a Time and RIP challenges which I enjoyed. 

I don't think I will set any specific goals for 2013 either except that I would like to finish four books that I was enjoying but were abandoned: Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Swamplandia by Karen Russell and Drowned World by J.G. Ballard.  I would also like to try and read books that I actually have instead of buying more.  When we moved, we got rid of almost all of our physical books.  I just have one small shelf of books to be read and two bookcases in my office of favorite books to keep.  Although I almost completely stopped buying physical books, I find that I am still in the habit of acquiring electronic books far far faster than I can read them.  It seems that every time I go into the kindle store to select my next read I end up buying at least four.  My kindle wish list currently has 250 titles in it.  My kindle library has 114 books although of course these include a dictionary and several "complete works of" Poe, Saramago, Oscar Wilde, Henry James etc. which are not meant to be read in one go.  But just looking at the individuals books I have 39 that I have actually read and have 47 unread.  As for challenges, I of course intend to do Carl's Once Upon A Time and RIP.  I also really enjoyed following along with the Tournament of Books last year.  It isn't a challenge but I would like to read some more of the books in the competition and of course I will be heartily rooting for Orphan Master's Son.  And once again, I will simply be happy if I get to read!     

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Bookmarks Magazine

This is what looked interesting in the Sept/Oct and Nov/Dec Bookmarks.

A Hologram for the King - Dave Eggers-S
Shakey: Neil Young's Biography - Jimmy McDonough - S
Sweet Tooth - Ian Mcewan - S
Dog Star - Peter Heller -S
Telegraph Avenue - Michael Chabon - S
Dearie:The Remarkable Life of Julia Child - Bob Spitz -S
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story:A Life of David Foster Wallace - D.T. Max - S
Life - Keith Richards-S
Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Palace Walk-Naguib Mahfouz
Wapshot Chronicle-John Cheever
Magnificent Ambersons - Booth Tarkington
Poet's Funeral - John M. Daniel
Devil's Hand - M.E. Patterson
Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson
HHhH - Laurent Binet
The Red Book - Deborah Copaken Kogan
The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng (read The Gift of Rain first)
The Round House - Louise Erdrich
Angel of Repose - Wallace Stegner
The Whistling Season - Ivan Doig
Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurty
Gabriel's Story - David Anthony Durham
Daughter of Fortune-Isabel Allende
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Where Did You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
Prisoner of Heaven - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
In Sunlight & in Shadow - Mark Helprin
On Beauty - Zadie Smith
A Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny (read Still Life first)
What the Dead Know - Laura Lippman
The Sea-John Banville
Leviathan or Moon Palace - Paul Auster
Apocalypse Codex - Charles Stross-SF (read Atrocity Archives first)
Map of the Sky - Felix J. Palma - SF- (read Map of Time first)
Existence - David Brin-SF
Private Empire: ExonMobil and American Power - Steve Coll - NF
Prairie Fever: British Aristrocrats in the American West - Peter Pagnamenta - NF
Van Gogh: The Life - Steven Naifeh -NF
Joseph Anton - Salmon Rushdie - NF
Double Cross:The True Story of the D-Day Spies - Ben Macintyre -NF (read Agent Zigzag first)
Gravity's Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes ... - Caleb Scharf - NF