Recently Read - 17th December 2007

Here's a list of the books I've recently read, with an Amazon-style star rating and a few comments.

  • Space Boy - Orson Scott Card
  • A War Of Gifts - Orson Scott Card

    Two more thin hardcover books (who buys these books apart from libraries and hard-core Card fans?), each containing a novella. The latter is set in the Enderverse.

  • 1632 - Eric Flint

    Imagine what would happen if a West Virginia mining community mysteriously turned up in 17th century central Europe at the time of the Thirty Year's war. Yes, the people, the town and everything in it.

    It's well written, but just too unbelievable for me. Okay, I'll buy that the mining union spokesman might make a good leader, but it just went over the top when the cute bouncy cheer-leader morphs into a crack-shoot cold-blooded sniper.

    And there are several more books in the series so there would appear to be a market for this type of book. If you think you might like them, I suggest getting them initially via the Baen Free Library

  • Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volume 1 - Jack Kirby

    See a separate review.

  • Nebula Award Showcase 2004 - Vonda McIntyre

  • Basket Case - Carl Hiaasen
  • Lucky You - Carl Hiassen
  • Nature Girl - Carl Hiassen
  • Sick Puppy - Carl Hiaasen

    Bit of a Hiaasen binge. When you read four of them very closely together, you realize he's yet another author that has got a formula and he's sticking to it. After a while, all the plots blur into one. Enjoyable at the time, but (for me at least) fairly forgettable.

  • Practical Demonkeeping - Christopher Moore

  • The Paths Of The Dead - Steven Brust

    It took some time to get into (because it's written in the style of The Three Musketeers, but it was entertaining enough that I want to read the next one in the series.

  • George's Secret Key To The Universe - Lucy and Stephen Hawking

    This was recommended to me via a blog comment (thanks!) as a book that would help my son learn about astronomy. It's certainly that. It's written for kids from 9-12., and it's likely to keep them enthralled. The story is interspersed with good easy-to-read technical sections on different astronomical objects: planets, galaxies, black holes etc.

    What really annoyed me about the book is that the illustrator is hardly mentioned. He's on the title page, but didn't get his name on the cover or in the bio section on the inside back cover. His great illustrations are what made the book fun. At least for me.

    One of Stephen Hawking's interns/students did all the technical work for the book. At least he got his name on the title page and in the bio section. I wonder just how much Professor Hawking actually did for this book, apart from let his daughter use his name to help boost sales and let his new theories on black holes be a part of it.

  • Freakonomics - Levitt & Dubner

    When ego's run wild. Dubner sure is a fan-boy for Levitt. It's oozes from the beginning of every section.

    For me this thin book is vastly overrated. There are lots of interesting tidbits of information (the parenting section was very entertaining) and for an economics book, it's very readable, but the presentation of the information is continually slanted to present the author's points of view. You can make statistics say anything you want.

    And the constant mutual appreciation and the over-inflated ego's just kept grinding away and ruining it.

  • The Speed Of Dark - Elizabeth Moon

    Science fiction, and the winner of the Nebula award for best novel. From one of the Amazon.com editorial reviews:

    Corporate life in early 21st-century America is even more ruthless than it was at the turn of the millennium. Lou Arrendale, well compensated for his remarkable pattern-recognition skills, enjoys his job and expects never to lose it. But he has a new boss, a man who thinks Lou and the others in his building are a liability. Lou and his coworkers are autistic. And the new boss is going to fire Lou and all his coworkers--unless they agree to undergo an experimental new procedure to "cure" them.

    Just like The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, this book tells a story about an autistic person, and how they see the world, from their point-of-view. Speed of Dark also tells parts of the story in the third person, so you will get a "normal" slant.

    I thought the ending was just right. Extremely well written. Not contrived to fit what had previously occurred, but what the main protagonist would most probably have done.

And now for books with a film, play or TV show tie-in.

  • Cheaper By The Dozen - Frank B Gilbreth Jr.

    I've never seen the film with Steve Martin, but from reading the plot synopsis, it's very different from the original book.

    The book came out in the 1940's, but the humor is timeless. Highly recommended.

  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard

    Stoppard's play takes two of the minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet, and tells the tale from their perspective. The dialogue is modern except for when Hamlet and his entourage are on stage.

    Also checkout the film starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.

  • The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark

    I remember seeing the award winning film when I was a kid and not fully understanding it. Now, after having read the book (and 35+ years on), I can better appreciate it.

  • The Life And Loves Of A She - Devil

    There was a wonderful TV mini-series in the mid-80's. There has also been a film with Meryll Strepp, Ed Begley Jr and Rosanne Barr/Arnold (or whatever she's calling herself this week).

    But the book is so much more than either of those. Some things can better be expressed in words that in film, and there are so many subtle nuances to this story. Another highly recommended book.

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