gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (dedwig)
Here's a good blog post: The 16 Best Dystopian Books of All Time

the list, and the ones I've read )

And here are some books that aren't apocalyptic but I've just added them to my wishlist. See, my mum always asks what I want for birthdays and Christmas and the Amazon wishlist has made it so much easier.

books that aren't necessarily dystopian (except the one that is) )
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
I went to the used book store to sell some books - Spring cleaning is ongoing - and I got $27 in store credit! :D I spent $2.75 of that on Asimov's Foundation because I read it in college and never read the rest of the series so I'm going to start over. And I saw a book by WILLIAM SHATNER, not Tek Wars, it's called Believe. So I bought that for $2.50. I left it on the shelf for a few days and I just read the book jacket:

A Master of Illusion. He was the greatest escape artist in history, a world-famous magician who knew that magic was merely illusion. He exposed psychic frauds, debunked spiritualists, and defied supernatural nonsense.

A Master of Reason. He was the most beloved writer of his time. His brilliant mystery novels exalted the science of logic and deduction - yet he firmly believed in the occult. Believed with all his heart and soul.

OK, fair enough. I don't know why I didn't see this next bit coming:
A Psychic Battle of Wits. The skeptic was Harry Houdini. The believer was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

Whut. RPF? RPF by William Shatner? Aw, crap!


It continues:
The contest was sponsored by a science magazine launching a worldwide search for genuine proof of life after death. The novel is BELIEVE. - the most unusual and exciting adventure you will ever read.

SOMEHOW I DOUBT THAT, BILL. And that random hyphen isn't a typo. One sentence ends and the next begins with a hyphen and a lower-case letter.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]Just off the top of my head and in no particular order:
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (it doesn't say they all have to be novels!)
- and just because I turned around thinking about what the third one should be and spotted it on my shelf, and it's a book that I love and have read several times: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

If I thought about books I'd read less recently, I'd probably expand the list to include some classics. I did love Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby. Which is funny because I often see both of those on people's worst books lists.

As for the three worst, I don't read crap like Twilight or The Da Vinci Code and I can't include books I haven't actually read. Two that immediately come to mind are:

- A Farewell to Arms. I do not care for Hemingway.
- Prey by Michael Crichton. I see there's a new one now, published posthumously, about pirates. I'm torn - pirates are awesome but Prey was execrable and State of Fear was all about global warming being a hoax by scientists to get more grant money so I didn't even bother to read that one. But Timeline was one of his best! I'll wait until I see some reviews.
And for the third one...
- it's a short story but I'm going to count it - Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut of all people! He's one of my favorite authors! If I'd turned around and spotted Breakfast of Champions or Slaughterhouse Five on my shelf, I'd probably have put those on the good list! (They're on the shelf downstairs - I never really sorted my books after I moved). Anyway, I first read it in 8th grade English class and wrote a scathing essay about the sexism in the story. On the other hand, it's possible I misinterpreted, if this article is correct. I need to re-read the story.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]WHAT? No! If a teenager wants to read freakin' Mein Kampf, let them. Suppression of information is never a good thing. The point is the schools need to teach students critical thinking skills; problems are caused by people believing everything they read, not the books themselves.

ETA: though after reading other people's posts, I'm open to the idea of making an exception for Twilight >;)
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
The next Discworld book! It's here! I went to Borders Friday to indulge myself in a new copy of one of my witches books since I lost them in the move (I got the Tiffany Aching books after I moved so I still have those, luckily) BUT instead I saw right on the front table Unseen Academicals! I loved it.

gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
OMG a third Wicked book!!

That's going on my wishlist!
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Half Blood Prince)
This is tangential to it but a commenter on [ profile] innerbrat's post corrected me on something and she's absolutely right: I've been complaining about how Sirius/Remus could have been given more textual support by keeping Remus mysteriously single for books 5-7 and then giving him a male partner in the epilogue (because he didn't die either). And instead JKR killed the one potential gay pairing in the series by having Remus wind up with Tonks.

The commenter pointed out that Tonks/Remus happening doesn't mean Remus/Sirius didn't happen; Remus could be bi. I totally overlooked that.

My only excuse is I was blinded by the horribleness of Remus/Tonks. He was so miserable the whole time and then suddenly having a baby makes everything OK. And then they die. And we hardly get to see anything about how Tonks felt throughout the whole thing; she must have been aware of how unhappy Remus was with her, through no fault of her own.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (unhappy Snape)
I don't feel like doing anything productive right now so I'm going around reading people's reactions on the internets. I really like [ profile] florence_craye and [ profile] innerbrat's posts on it. I was reading comments on The Stranger and someone said they don't see why sexual orientation should be mentioned in children's books. Because BEING GAY IS NOT ALL ABOUT SEX. SEX ACTUALLY HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH IT. It's stupid to say it's appropriate that sexual orientation wasn't brought up in Harry Potter because IT WAS BROUGHT UP. The following characters were all identified as having opposite-sex partners:
Remus (sigh)
Tonks (SIGH)

That's just off the top of my head. Sexual orientation comes up ALL THE TIME in children's books because children's books include straight couples. Straight people often don't get that "sexual orientation" means "straight" too. A lot of people think just being out means you're flaunting yourself but if that's true then straight people flaunt themselves all the time, by not actively hiding the fact that they're straight. It's called heteronormativity and it's why many of us are disappointed that JKR didn't just include in DH even one sentence indicating more explicitly that Dumbledore was gay, given that she had evidently planned that he was gay, and didn't just come up with it on the spur of the moment during her public appearance (I think). It would've been easy to include it without disrupting the story. There could've been a line in Rita's book that said Dumbledore was actually in love with Grindlewald and the conversation could've gone:
Harry: "wait, Dumbledore was gay?"
Ron: "Ew!" [because it's already a well established fact that Ron is a huge asshole]
Hermione: (eyeroll) "Well, it makes sense. We've never heard of him being involved with women. Anyway, he's still the same person we knew all along."
Ron: "Yeah, I guess so."
See? And then they move on with the 500 pages of bickering in a tent, which was apparently had such important narrative flow that JKR couldn't risk interrupting it with the shocking fact that gay people exist.

The other thing that REALLY troubles me and makes me think we shouldn't give JKR too much credit is the audience question that prompted her to say Dumbledore was gay:
She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love."

"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.

THAT DOES NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION! It was a yes-or-no question. Not "what was Dumbledore's love life like?" or similar. How on earth could she have thought that was a suitable answer? There are only two possibilities: she meant that gay people always find true love - which we know isn't what she meant because Dumbledore didn't - or she meant that gay people never find true love. That's sickening. Maybe I'm just pissed off at the moment but JKR can take her pseudo-progressiveism and all but one of her major characters being straight white males and shove them up her ass. I agree with [ profile] innerbrat that I'd rather she hadn't said it at all.

Pretending that sexual orientation is invisible is no different from pretending we're "colorblind" and it does every bit as much damage. Characters whose race isn't stated are assumed to be white, and are portrayed by white actors in the movies. Having a story where gay people are never mentioned but practically all of the characters wind up in hetero relationships means either gay people don't exist in the HP universe or they all have to be in the closet - as I suspect is the case with Dumbledore. It's either hopelessly naive or deliberately disingenuous to claim that Dumbledore was gay the whole time but nobody ever brought it up simply because being gay was a total non-issue in the HP universe. And what about Dudley's homophobic remarks? If gay people are totally equal in magical society then why didn't Harry think something along those lines? I don't buy it.

it's getting long; here's more )

Although I will say it's a credit to JKR and the Harry Potter series that it spurs serious discussion on real-life issues.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (unhappy Snape)

I hope it isn't horribly selfish of me to say I'm upset that we won't get to see the last book. I really liked Wheel of Time. I wonder how much was already done; maybe they could publish what he had so far, like Salmon of Doubt

Book Log

Apr. 21st, 2007 09:09 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #8 and 9 Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

I got this on a whim. It was pretty good but I should have gotten Son of a Witch. I still haven't read that one. This one was much more grounded in reality and I wasn't expecting that. I wish the cover illustration hadn't contained a huge spoiler. That would've been nice. Still, I very much like the illustrations. I like them as much as I like the illustrations in A Series of Unfortunate Events. And I like how Maguire writes female characters. In this book, as in Wicked, it was all about relationships between women and men were mostly peripheral. I like how the "stepmother" character is so complex. Nobody's good or evil in his books, they're all just human.

The only complaint I had was the ending felt a little abrupt. That was mainly because there were more pages but it turned out those contained study questions, which was odd because I didn't think I'd picked up a special students' edition. Anyway. I can't help keeping in mind roughly how many pages are left as I'm approaching the end of a book. I don't know why I do that. But when the book ends sooner than I expected, because there's an appendix at the back or something, it's like "woah, what happened?" I especially would have liked to know how a certain character died. I won't spoil it.

It wasn't as epic as Wicked but I still highly recommend it.

I also finished the next Brother Cadfael book but they're all pretty much the same so I don't feel like reviewing them any more. Some new characters are introduced, somebody murders one of them and Cadfael eventually figures out whodunit. The End. I like the characters and setting so I'm going to continue reading the series but I don't have a lot to say about it.

Y'know, come to think of it, if you've got good characters and settings, there could be hardly any plot at all and I'd still enjoy it. Well, unless it's a stupid plot that doesn't make any sense. That would bug me. Characters are always the most important aspect for me. Lousy characters and an awesome plot add up to a book that I probably wouldn't even bother to finish. Or I would finish it and then rip it up on LJ.

Book Log

Mar. 4th, 2007 11:44 am
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #6: One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters

I finished this a while ago and forgot to post about it. I've already started the next one, "Monk's Hood." I vaguely remember seeing the TV version of Monk's Hood but not enough to spoil it. I liked One Corpse Too Many. I liked that the two main female characters were both cool in their own ways. I totally thought Hugh Beringar was a bad guy, if not the actual murderer. And it turns out he's going to be a recurring character. He seems cool.

Prior Robert is clearly an ancestor of Prof. Snape. I get the impression he's sort of Cadfael's archnemesis but I like him. Actually, that's not such a contradiction. He's Cadfael's archnemesis AND I like him.

Book Log

Feb. 16th, 2007 07:23 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #5: A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

I'e been meaning to add this one for a while. I've already got the next Brother Cadfael book from the library. I like them but I knew I would, I like Derek Jacobi's TV series based on the books. Luckily, it's been long enough since I've seen it that I don't remember what happens in the stories.

For those of you who don't know, this is a series of mystery novels about a medieval monk named Brother Cadfael, who works with herbs and and solves crimes. A Morbid Taste for Bones took place mostly in Wales, where Brother Cadfael is from, and was about the monks' trip there to get the relics of a Welsh saint and a local guy gets murdered. I figured out whodunnit before it was revealed, which was just right: you want a mystery novel to be neither obvious nor so random that it's impossible to figure it out.

I really like the setting. I want to be a crime solving monk when I grow up.

Book Log

Feb. 4th, 2007 08:23 am
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #4: Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

I'm all caught up with the series now so this'll be the last WoT Book Log for a while. I can't think of much to say about it. I like Mat. Perrin got boring and one-dimensional but let's hope now that Faile's free he'll get more interesting again. Man, Rand's in bad shape. Maybe they'll find a super healing ter'angreal that'll grow back his hand. Wasn't Mat the one who's supposed to "give up half the light of the world to save the world?" I'll have to check but I think it was Mat. Poor fella. Egwene is awesome too. So's Tuon. I like that she's good at martial arts. The other characters who are awesome are Birgitte, Nynaeve and Cadsuane.


Jan. 31st, 2007 02:05 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
My Good Omens pinch-hitting [ profile] swashbucklathon pic is done! Here's the entry.

Book Log

Jan. 25th, 2007 11:14 am
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #3: Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

This one was OK but at this point, I'm just reading the series as quickly as I can because I want to find out what happens. I'm not enjoying it so much any more. There was an awful lot of torture and almost-rape in this one, unlike earlier books. I don't see the point of that. I HATE it when an author takes a character that I like and puts her in a horrible situation because a male character needs to rescue her for the sake of the plot. And the bit where Perrin cut of the prisoner's hand: was that really necessary? Who's writing this, Mel Gibson?

There's also the dragging pace that a lot of fans have complained about and I agree with them. I just want to round up all the principal characters and say "Halima is Aran'Gar! Taim is a Darkfriend! Nynaeve has the last seal! Mat, Perrin and Rand, you can see each other in your minds! Rand needs to stop repressing his emotions!" and then I'd just slap around them for a while.

I give it a C.

Book Log

Jan. 13th, 2007 04:47 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #2: Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan

I've finished it and have moved on to book 10, Crossroads of Twilight.

the review, cut for length )

ETA: whoops, I forgot to give the book a grade. B. (I'm not going to do + and - for any of these, just letters).

Book Log

Jan. 11th, 2007 01:08 pm
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
Book #1: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

I'd forgotten, I had another book in progress that I finished a few days ago. This one wasn't very good. I don't know why I got it, I'd read Freakonomics shortly before that so I guess I was in the market for books that try to disguise their combination of oversimplification and "well, DUH!" common sense with pop psych babbling. This one wasn't quite as offensive as Freakonomics: whereas Freakonomics said today's lower crime rate is entirely the result of legalized abortion (because women who want to have abortions are more likely to breed criminals if they can't have an abortion), The Paradox of Choice merely says people were better off when divorce, class mobility and being gay were illegal.

Apart from the offensive crap, which stems entirely from the stupid comparisons that plague the book (too many car options causes stress when you're trying to pick a car, therefore people are better off with arranged marriages), it's a couple of obvious points, repeated over and over for 236 pages. The points are:
  1. The more options you have, the more work you have to put into making a selection.

  2. Some people put a lot of pressure on themselves to choose the best thing and therefore have to look at all the options; other people are satisfied with "good enough."

  3. When you get a new thing that you like, it seems great at first but then you get used to having it and it doesn't seem so great any more.

That's about it. The obvious culprit to me is advertisers and I don't think the author pays enough attention to their role in the push to check out all the options and make sure you get the best one. He also makes totally invalid comparisons between life choices, like choosing a job or a mate, and consumer choices, like buying a stereo. It may be true that people who buy a stereo that they can't return tend to be happier with their purchase than people who have the option of changing their minds but that doesn't mean we'd be better off if we couldn't get divorced.

I'd be happier with it if the author at least paid lip-service to the idea that we need divorce because people have to be able to get out of abusive relationships (without resorting to murder). It's true that we'd be better off if people put more thought into getting married in the first place (thank you, Britney Spears) but there still needs to be an escape route, just like any major decision can be changed if the result turns out to be nothing like what we expected.

I agreed with the central thesis of the book: consumers are presented with such a baffling array of choices that it makes it harder to make a decision and to be satisfied with the result. It could've been said in a less stupid way, though.

On an episode of AbFab, Edina gave a speech (which she had to improvise because she lost her notebook and she ended up just ranting at the assembled PR bigwigs) and in it she said "I don't want more choice, I just want nicer things!" The author could've saved us all a lot of time and just written that because that's all the book says.

I give it a D.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)

Happy Birthday, [ profile] mysduende!

And to anyone else who might happen to have a birthday today.

I am full of chocolate. This is a condition similar to being full of cookie dough and as such, I believe I need to lie around and drink water. At least I already had real food: Mum made Christmas dinner/lunch, which is pretty much identical to Thanksgiving dinner except she made pear-and-(soy)sasuage-stuffed acorn squash in addition to the usual yams, carrots, green beans, corn, potatoes and stuffing. I am full of food and chocolate.

I finished reading Path of Daggers. I should've brought Winter's Heart with me but I thought "nah, I won't have much time for reading and I've got about 200 pages of PoD to go." D'oh. My parents are out walking in the cold and my brother is playing Grand Theft Auto (not that he got that as a present but he got new speakers and hooked them up to his TV). I got Pirates of the Caribbean 2 as a group gift for my family (and some stuff my mum picked for herself and a prepaid cell phone for my dad. My brother and I always have difficulty shopping for each other and decided not to exchange gifts this year). So we watched that after dinner. I didn't know it ended with a cliffhanger! Argh!

Oh! I've just remembered there's Christmas pudding! And I'm full of chocolate! Ah well, I'm going to stick around here for tonight, so I could eat that after supper/tea/whatever. Except sticking around means I have nothing to read tonight. I'll have to dig up something. Mum has some books about math. Haha, see, it's not just me, we're all nerds.
gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
But since I can't do a lot of work till we get me a new computer:
from [ profile] mlyn:
books whut you've done read )

January 2012

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