It ain’t easy – trying to PMP

Okay, so I am obviously not so great about updates here.  One reason, honest injun, is that I read really fast and I don’t want to half ass it.  The other reason is that I am busy studying for a certification exam I’m taking at the end of June.  It seems like that’s a long ways away but I am totally freaking out.  Hooray for freaking out.

So, in the interest of giving you something to look at, I’m going to do another quick round up of books I don’t think really deserve their own posting.  This means that books like “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” won’t be covered in this one, but I promise to get to them this week with a better write up than these others are going to get.

So, enough begging forgiveness (did that sound like begging?  no?  well, it kinda was) and on to what little content I am throwing up today.

Oh, did I mention I’m not going to put up pictures?  Well, now you know.  🙂

*****

The Road To Omaha, Robert Ludlum.

Remember a bit ago when I did The Road to Gandolfo?  Same guys, back for more.  Same crazy General Hawk, same wussy lawyer Sam, different scam.  In the first one, they were kidnapping the Pope.  In this one, it seems that someone’s gotten their hands on some old agreements between the US Government and some little unknown Indian tribe and it just might be that that Indian tribe owns Nebraska.

Worth reading, a bit long at times.  It’d be a good beach/plane read where you leave it for the next person.  Strangely enough, the lady who read this before me did not agree.  In very nice cursive it says “Yuk! Waste of time.  Feb 93” on the inside cover.  Maybe, like a fine wine, it just needed some time to age.

The Road To Omaha by Robert Ludlum, 570 pages

*****

Greywalker, Kat Richardson

You know how sometimes you buy a book because it’s cheap?  Yeah, well, that’s my excuse.  Harper gets attacked and comes out with this weird ability to be in both our world and some other one where nasty half dead things lie in wait.  Oh yeah, this also means she can see ghosts and feel evil and so she decides to play with the vampires and witches and stuff.  It’s also set in Seattle.

Is is a great book?  Nah.  It’s mildly entertaining.  If you’re looking for the while “normal world meets other” stuff, check out the Sookie Stackhouse books.  They’re way more fun.

Greywalker by Kat Richardson, 341 pages

*****

The Broken Window, Jeffery Deaver

I almost feel bad throwing this in here because I really like Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.  Have you seen that Bone Collector movie with Angelina Jolie and that other totally cute guy whose name I can’t remember now?  It’s also got Queen Latifa in it although in the book her character is actually a gay guy.

ANYWAY, this is that same series.  And this latest novel doesn’t really disappoint although they are semi formulaic crime mysteries.  In this one, people are being killed and other people are set up to take the fall.  As usual, it’s who done it.  The twist in THIS novel is that it’s obvious someone has access to all sorts of very detailed information about people and their lives, so it looks like it’s OMG COMPUTERS and BIG BROTHER all up in here.  Still, these are good characters and pretty good stories and I’d actually recommend any of the series.  Might want to read them in order though.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver, 596 pages

*****

L.A. Confidential , James Ellroy

You’ve all seen the movie.  You know what it’s about.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a “corruption in LA in the 1950’s” novel.  See the movie, it’s good.

The book?  Eh.  It’s okay.  I actually didn’t get anything additional out of it, but then it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the screen version.  There are a lot of characters, and I found myself getting a wee bit lost… but I kind of blame that on trying to memorize silly equations for this damn test and having no gray matter to dedicate to this one.  On the other hand, I now know and understand that the PERT equation is (P+4M+o)/6 and that it’s the only estimating method that’s a weighted average… and that’s going to be on the test, not who Mickey Cohen talked to, so that’s okay with me.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy, 496 pages.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm  Comments (3)  
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Starring: Thursday Next

Okay, so I went on a vacation and then got a cold and in the meantime I finished a SERIES of books.  Now, I could list them all out in a strange sort of backwards posting like I did for the Phoenix Guards one, but that kind of annoyed me so I’m going to throw them into one MEGA POST!

Here we go, grab a tea and a scone or something because this is going to be long.

*****

lost Lost In A Good Book is the second in the Thursday Next series that started with The Eyre Affair (I did that one back near the beginning of the year).  Our protagonist, Ms. Next, lives in a world that’s evolved parallel to ours – where ducks are something theoretical and dodos have been brought back from extinction.  She works in Special Operations (SpecOps) as a Literary Detective – responsible for checking out things like forged Shakespeare works and other literary crimes.

Her first book brought her into contact with the Goliath Corporation, the megalomanical world conglomerate that wants to own and control everything and, surprisingly enough, they aren’t through with Thursday yet.  In Lost In A Good Book, Goliath is back to its old tricks of manipulation and has “time-slipped” Landon, Thursday’s husband, in order to “convince” Thursday to a) retrieve their agent from The Raven where he was left after the last round of adventures and b) reveal the secret to entering books in the first place.   In order to get her husband back, Thursday not only learns to read herself into books, but also joins up with Jurisfiction – the quasi-police force inside books.  Oh, and there’s also mammoths, a jar of lentils which indicate entropy levels, Ms Havisham, the Cat Formerly Known As Cheshire and a new enemy who has the ability to make you forget things to contend with.  Seems that Thursday’s got her hands full.

*****

well

Thursday’s back; preggers and tired and in need of some down time.  It’s hard when everyone is out to get you, you know?  What’s a girl to do except join the Character Exchange Program and have a little downtime in the Well of Lost Plots – a place where book ideas are made and die.  Still a member of Jurisfiction, but on the lamb from Goliath, Thursday fills in for “Mary”, a supporting character in a crime story that’s not being read and not really going anywhere.  Meanwhile, she can’t help feel like there’s something or someone that she should be remembering but it’s probably not that important, right?

All is not well in literary world, however.  First, people are being murdered, the Minotaur has escaped and “UltraWord” (the newest version of the Story Operating System) seems to have some flaws.  There are also some issues with the Generics (“blank” characters, just waiting for spots in a story) and the nursery rhyme and Oral Tradition folks aren’t happy.   Looks like this isn’t going to be much of a vacation after all.

*****

rotten

It’s time to get out of the book and back into the real world.  And this time, Thursday’s not alone.  She’s bringing her son Friday, Pickwick the dodo and her son Alan… and Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.  Which is probably good, seeing as how Ophelia isn’t happy with her current role and Hamlet’s wishy washy inability to make decisions and she’s busy making some changes.

Thursday is determined to get Landon back this time and she gets her time traveling, half non-existent father to help out.  Amongst her mother’s incessant baking, Thursday manages to get entangled in the Hamlet mess, a disgusting prophet, a gaggle of Shakespeare clones and the world’s most important cricket match.  The Minotaur is still holding a grudge and Landon keeps flickering in and out of existence – just another day in the life…

*****

sequel And thus the first is the end.  Or something.  Or maybe not!  But we are to the last in the series.  Thursday and Landon and their kids, Friday, Tuesday and Jenny are all living mostly happy lives – Tuesday is a genius, Jenny is at a slumber party somewhere, and Friday is your typical surly teenager.  The problem is, Friday is supposed to be out inventing time travel or something and his parents can’t get him to get up before noon.

Thursday has left SpecOps and is running a carpet business with some of her old colleagues… except that the carpet business is a front for SpecOps work.  Which is a front for Jurisfiction work.  Which is just as crazy as ever.  This time, Thursday is responsible for training some new recruits: Thursday1-4 and Thursday5.  See, Thursday licensed her story and now there are books where she is a character… just let your brain bend a bit and accept it.  And don’t worry, Goliath is still lurking and the Minotaur is still trying to kill her.

So, once again it’s up to Thursday to save the day.  Can she stop Thursday1-4 from exacting revenge on her creator, can she help Landon write a great book and can they make Friday actually get motivated to fulfill his destiny?

*****

I told you it was a lot of words.  Okay, here’s my wrap up.  I love these books.  Fforde is painfully clever and twists and turns a story in such a charming way that you can’t help but want to read these back to back.  I put the last one down and really wished for another one.  Some things that I thought were completely genius (in no particular order)

1)  the idea that Thursday considers and rejects that she is a character in a book

2)  the rational way that The Big Over Easy works into this series

3)  the literary cameos, from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Anna Karenina in footnote gossip, are brilliant

4)  the carry over from book to book, although each story is also stand alone

I have to say that these will stay on my bookshelf.  And now I’ve read everything that he’s released and need to wait for the next one… poop.  There are lots of really great series out there, but if you like something intelligent like English class and yet irreverent like Terry Pratchett, you’d do yourself a service to check these out.

Perfectly delightful.  Plock.

Lost In A Good Book, by Jasper Fforde, 432 pages

The Well Of Lost Plots, 416 pages

Something Rotten, 416 pages

Thursday Next: A First Amongst Sequels, 384 pages

Five Hundred Years After

500-years1 In which our Heroes–Khaavren, Pel, Aerich and Tazendra–are reunited again a mere five centuries later…just in time for an uprising that threatens to destroy the Imperial Orb itself!

This is the story of the conspiracy against the Empire that begins in the mean streets of Underside and flourishes in the courtly politics of the Palace where Khaavren has loyally served in the Guards this past half-millennium.

It is the tale of the Dragonlord Adron’s overweening schemes, of his brilliant daughter Aliers, and the eldritch Sethra Lavode.

And it is the tale of four boon companions, of love, and of revenge…a tale from the history of Dragaera, of the events that changed the world!

(heh.  Google books did me good this time!)

*****

Okay, I’m half cheating on this because I have to start shutting things down to head to the airport.  BUT, I wanted to get this up before I left since you all have to wait until Saturday or Sunday (or Monday?) to get the next update.  At least I have an excuse this time.

ANYWAY, yep, our fearless foursome are back and it’s only been 500 years.  While everyone else is off doing things related to their own personal quests from “The Phoenix Guards”, Khaavren has been holding down his post for the last little bit of time.  And oh, the things he’s learning!  It’s time for the gang to spring back into action!

Like “The Phoenix Guards”, the writing style is still all sing-songy when people are talking and it’s still annoying.  I’m getting over it though, and spent a good while searching through two separate Half Price Books to find the last couple of books in the series so I guess I must have liked it anyway.

I’m not sure I have a whole lot more to say.. it’s a great second book in a series and I really wanted to see what happened next and now I can’t and I’m kinda bummed.  Rats.  If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one… it’s like visiting old friends.

Five Hundred Years Later by Steven Brust, 553 pages

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 6:18 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Phoenix Guards

pheonix-guards1

Khaavren of Castlerock is a young gentleman from the House of the Tiassa whose family has fallen onto hard times. Though lacking an inheritance, Khaavren has a long sword and is “tolerably well-acquainted with its use.” On his way to the capital city of the Empire, Khaavren befriends Aerich and Tazendra, nobles from the Houses of the Lyorn and Dzur who also lack income. Khaavren tells them of his plan to join the Phoenix Guards, the new Emperor’s elite personal troops, and his new friends decide to accompany him.  Once in the city, they meet Pel, the final four of the close knit group and it’s only adventure ahead…

(thanks to Wikipedia for saving me from happening to write all those names)

*****

So, I have mixed feelings about this book and I’m going to get the big “ugh!” off of my chest at the beginning.  Sometimes, the writing style gets in the way of the story.  The book is supposed to be a historical recounting so it’s written in an almost romanticized way.  The dialogue is sometimes flowery and tends to have a back and forth cadence that, honestly, half drives me crazy.  It’s primarily “I have a story to tell” “I beg you tell.” “I will tell if you’d like to hear.” “Honestly I’m interested.” “Then I will tell you” ” Please proceed.”

Argh.  Proceed indeed.  There is a certain amount of charm, I’ll admit… but I found myself thinking “GET ON WITH IT!”

As for the plot.. it’s really a Three Musketeers story – except with four people.  There are adventures and there is sword play and everyone seems to always want to fight.  And it’s all set against a background of a strange land where there is magic and wars and a king and a magic orb that watches over all.

In this book, we get introduced to the characters, they form their bonds and have their first series of adventures.  Brust does write fun characters and you like the ones you’re supposed to and kinda also like the ones you aren’t really supposed to.

So, after all of that, these books *are* fun to read, just be prepared to be either charmed or exasperated by the writing style.. and then remember that it’s like that on purpose and Brust does recognize that nobody talks like that and it’s strange.  The things you learn from reading all the parts of books…

The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust, 491 pages

Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 10:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Fourth Bear

fourth-bearDetective Jack Spratt and Mary Mary are back in action!  This time, they have to find the psychopathic Gingerbread-man and keep him from ripping anyone else in half as well as try to discover just what happened to Goldilocks.  Amongst the burning questions are “is the Gingerbread-man a cookie or a cake?”, “How can porridge be too hot, too cold and just right if they were all poured at the same time?” and “Was there a fourth bear?”

Once again it’s up to the Nursery Crime division to get to the bottom of it all while trying to preserve their own threads of sanity and, in some cases, reality.

*****

I really enjoy Fforde’s work.  His irreverent style and crazy imagination just tweaks my funny bone in all the right ways.  I love his characters and I think that the idea that nursery rhyme inhabitants live and work among us us borderline brilliant.

This series started with The Big Over Easy (scroll a couple pages, it was first this year) and Fforde doesn’t disappoint with this second book.  He brings back the characters that we know and love and puts them in the same ridiculous situations we expect.  It doesn’t seem strange to see Jack break up a porridge ring, for instance.  After all, everyone knows that bears can’t control themselves and it’s a highly regulated substance.  Also, you forgive him puns (like the cringe worthy arguments over the ‘right to arm bears’) because it’s just so damn believable and seems to work.  Right to arm bears.  Eek.

So, once again, I have to recommend this guy.  I just think his work and characters are charming and I am looking forward to the next one on this series.

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde, 378 pages

Watchmen

watchmen Does being insane mean that you can’t read the signs and see where the world is headed?  Do your demons get in the way of seeing the truth?  Does your ambition blur your vision?  What happens to citizen crime-fighters when they’re no longer welcome and can be used as pawns in a larger game?  And in the end, who’s watching the Watchmen?

*****

This story has so many layers, it’s pretty hard to put it into a synopsis, so I hardly bothered.  I know that’s obvious.  Overall, Watchmen is the story of “put to pasture” crime-fighters (in the Batman style, not Superman) and a plot to discredit them.  It covers 2 generations and takes place (mostly) during the Cold War.  But that seems like pigeonholing this into much less than it was.

The book that I bought (and have linked to) is the entire collection of Watchmen comics – I should say graphic novel – and is a really awesome visual collection.  Dave Gibbons inked some incredible images which are so critical to the story itself.  As always Alan Moore created characters with real backgrounds and feeling and enough complexity to rival any classical fictional work.  Interwoven amongst the main tale is also the tale of a shipwreck survivor and “historical” documentation such as interviews and newspaper clippings of our protagonists.  It’s a really excellent way to give the whole novel a depth and breadth that would be hard to do within the dialog without weighing everything down.

You’ve probably seen the trailers for the movie and after reading this I’m more excited than ever.  This is more than a comic book, more than a superhero story and more than what you’d expect when you open the covers and dive in.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 416 pages

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 11:04 am  Comments (4)  
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All I Want For Christmas Is A Vampire

all-i-want1 Toni only wants a few things out of life:  to be successful, to make a difference, to be worthy of love and to save her roommate by proving that she was attacked by vampires.  When Toni is also attacked and offered a job protecting the vampires who save her, it seems like the perfect way to get the proof she needs to move on.

Ian only wants one thing out of life:  a woman to love.  The problem is that Ian is a vampire and it’s “bloodsucker seeking same” in his world.  But now he’s met Toni, who is most definitely not a vampire but is so strangely alluring…

*****

Okay.  I did it.  I read not only a romance novel… it’s a VAMPIRE/HUMAN romance novel.  I feel pretty dirty.  Okay, I feel a lot dirty.  This isn’t even a GOOD romance novel.  Then I found out this was #5 or something in a series… really??  Wow.

Every character is completely transparent, the story is utterly predictable and the writing is uninspired.  What happened to all the HORROR stories about vampires?!  Argh.

I guess there’s a market for everything.  Don’t read this book.  Seriously.  I added an “awful” tag just for it.  I’m only listing it because I want to be honest.  Bleh.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks, 384 pages

Published in: on February 6, 2009 at 4:31 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Sparrow

the-sparrow3 Matthew 10:29 (New International Version)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.

When SETI finally hears a song from the stars, some of the first people to understand the potential are a close knit bunch of friends led by a Jesuit priest.  Their story of first contact – of acceptance and separation, of disclosure and secrets, of exploration as the will of God – will make you think about a modern Columbus and what we’ve learned from the past.  It will also make you explore the notion of “God’s will” and will make you take a close look at the sacrifices needed and made for the better good.  And in the end, it may make you ask why God lets sparrows fall at all.

*****

I’m not an overly religious person, and I was a bit surprised at how religious this book actually was.  I didn’t find it preachy though and it approached the questions of faith and what it meant to truly devote your life to God in an interesting way.  Although there is a compelling cast of characters, this is really the story of  Emilio Sandoz, a devout Jesuit linguist who is searching for his connection with his church and his faith.

As Emilios story unfolds, we see him come to terms with his past and learn to accept his future.  This isn’t an easy journey to watch, and there were times  when I wanted to reach into the book and shake him.  This may be partially due to my own background, where I often felt that church rituals and rules took many of the good things in life and made them sinful.  I won’t go into a theological discussion here, but I would be interested in seeing what people with other views thought.  I was sympathetic to Emilio, but found myself exasperated with him.  I absolutely credit the author, Mary Doria Russell, for allowing for some personal interpretation of what faith might mean, and not writing a pure “glory be” novel under the guise of exploration.

Speaking of which, this story is an emotionally hard read at times.  We learn early on that Emilio is the only survivor of the mission to Rakhat – the foreign planet.  Russell tells the story using chapter length flashbacks, and the juxtaposition of the “pre mission Emilio” and the “post mission Emilio” creates a much more powerful impact than a linearly told story might have.  In some books it’s hard to keep it all straight when it jumps around, but I didn’t have that issue with this one.

If you like first contact, character driven, philosophical sci-fi stories then you will probably like this one.  The religious aspects are worked into the story naturally and logically and it doesn’t feel like a Sunday sermon if you’re not looking for one.  Russell says that she wrote this book when she was bringing religion back into her life, so it’s really a semi-exploration of what place religion can or maybe should play in life rather than preaching.  I think she’s done a masterful job in this one.  This book is the first in a series and, while I’ll borrow the second one to check it out, I don’t know that I feel compelled to see how the story could move on from this book.  I did read that Brad Pitt’s production company picked up the rights to this one… and I bet we already have a few people that would join me to see this translate to the big screen.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, 405 pages

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 10:41 am  Comments (7)  
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The Eyre Affair

eyre-affair7 Great Britain, 1985.  Time travel is a reality?  Check.  People clone dodos as pets?  Check.  There is an entire Special Department dedicated to literary detection and crimes?  Oh yeah, big check.

In this Great Britain, Thursday Next is a Special Operative, working to hunt down forgers and desecraters of books.  And when someone starts entering historical works of fiction and kidnapping main characters, it’s up to her and her fellow operatives to seek out and capture the culprit before the stories are changed forever.

*****

First, I want a cloned dodo as a pet.  Especially since they apparently say “plock” a lot.  How awesome would that be?  Okay, now the story.  It’s not clear if this particular Great Britain is the same Great Britain of The Big Over Easy, but I’m going to guess yes.  Which means that this is a world that takes i’s literature VERY SERIOUSLY.

In this book, we get a bit larger view of the world as it is.  There’s a war going on and it’s in the best interest of the Goliath Corporation – the largest and most definitely influential of businesses – to keep it going.  There’s also a lot more going on in Special Ops than people want to get into, including time traveling parents and a vampire here and there.  This book had a much more layered story than The Big Over Easy, and it’s almost hard to get into the main gist with it all.  Still, in the end, it adds to the feel of the story rather than weigh it down.

This particular set up is ripe for a series and, what do you know, it IS the beginning of one!  I have a couple more on order so we’ll see how the series progresses as it goes.  This book also made me realize that I don’t think I’ve ever read Jane Eyre and so I’ve ordered that one too.  This was a fun book, pick it up if you ever wished you could actually be in one.  Not that anyone ever felt that way… heh.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, 374 pages

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Making Money

making_money

Moist von Lipwig has got to be the best civil servant in the city of Ankh-Morpork for Lord Vetinari to ask him to move from his enthralling career as the current Postmaster General to run the Royal Mint.  After all, it’s not every day that you get rescued from the hangman’s noose and thrown into the world of stamps and mail, and who would be better than an old swindler to know the ins and outs of banking?

Well, if you were to ask Moist, he would say that he’s not the guy.  He’s happy with his life, thank you very much.  But when you’re being asked by a tyrant you’d have to have some real gumption to say no.   So bring on a slobbering dog, the wizards from Unseen University, a few thousand golems and a pair of dead mans dentures and let’s get fiscal!

*****

Okay, first, I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s novels.  The cover of this particular book tells me that Discworld has been around for 25 years.  25 years!!  That’s insane!  The best thing about these books is that Pratchett has created some memorable and truly unique characters that I am happy to greet when I see them again.  I only wish The Luggage was still around.  The Luggage ROCKED.

If you want to know more about Terry Pratchett, check out his website.

Now, you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series, but I’d sure you suggest that you do to get a feel for the world.  Making Money actually works fairly well as a stand alone, but there’s so much more to the world to explore that’s not shown in this one.

OH!  You should also REALLY check out “Good Omens”, coauthored with Neil Gaiman. Click here to read about it on Amazon. Who can resist a novel about Armageddon gone wrong?!  I should really dig that one out and re-read it this year…

Anyway.  Pratchett rocks.  Read his books.  Making Money rocks.  Read this one, too.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett, 404 pages

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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