February reads

Here are most of the books I read in February. You can find my thoughts on these books at bookfrog.

Sybil Exposed, Debbie Nathan
A Season for Slaughter, David Gerrold
The Day's Play & Once A Week, A.A. Milne
The Hell Of It All, Charlie Brooker
Cradle to Grave, Susan Claudia
The Book of the Damned, D.A. Fowler
Hey Dollface, Deborah Hautzig
Dear Dumb Diary, ME! (Just Like You, Only Better); Jim Benton
Magic, William Goldman
The Blue Djinn of Babylon, P.B. Kerr
Savage Night, Jim Thompson
Curious George-reading, reading-Curious George


I just found out the name of the genre I like to read (at least according to Good Reads): microhistory (I never knew what to call it when people would ask me what kind of books I liked to read--I'd be like, "Uh, books about things.")

Does anyone else like reading books from this genre? Any good recommendations? Also, has anyone read Spice: The History Of A Temptation by Jack Turner? If so, is it worth reading?
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Cats and books

Murder Beneath the Buried Sky by Keith Hartman

Just finished. Short read, about 125 pages, but it's new fiction from Hartman, whom I love.

The plot centers around Calvin, trapped in a city in a cave, filled with people who originally moved into the cave around 15-20 (the time is kind of vague in this. Mind you, I assume this has to do with living in a cave with no natural light. Although that vagueness does become clear in the end.) years ago to escape "The Burn", the time when all the nukes got launched. Due to the radiation, the cave is sealed off, and geiger counters are positioned near the only exit so that when the radiation clears, the survivors can return and start working the Earth. Problem is, they really only planned to be in the cave for about 5 years. Calvin is the First Born, his mother having entered the cave pregnant. After 5 years, they ran out of birth control, and new kids were born.

As the book starts, we get a feel for the setting. Calvin lives in what once was a supply closet with 5 other boys. Which leads to a real lack of privacy, Particularly when one of his roommates brings home an older woman for vampire sex games. (I'm cheaply amused by this, since later on, he runs across them again, only this time the roommate is an Athenian slave boy and she's the Empress. Also, it's pointed out that most of the younger population of the cave and the adults for that matter, are functionally bisexual.) Anyway, as the story progresses, we find out Calvin's estranged father has been murdered, and Calvin is the prime suspect. And the ruling Council isn't inclined to give him a trial as much as kill him to get it under the rug. As the book goes on, it begins looking at issues with the situation, such as starvation as the Grow Lights start dying off, paranoia inherent in a closed, society, etc.

Anyway, as could be expected in a mystery, the ending brings resolution of a sort, as we, the readers find out what's really been going on beneath the Earth.

And in the notes, Mr. Hartman discusses that his inspiration for the whole thing comes straight from Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Although really, it shares common themes with The Matrix, The Dome, Logan's Run, and even Crowley's Book of the Law. Basically, once again, the idea that someone finds knowledge, tries to return with it, and instead gets attacked by people who either don't want to believe or can't cope with it.

All in all, a very good read, and highly recommended, particularly if you're one of the 20 people who read his other books.
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January reads

Except comic books, this is what I read in January. You can find my thoughts on these books in twelve entries I wrote today, at bookfrog.

Mortal Stakes, Robert B. Parker
Billy Bones, Christopher Lincoln
The Book of Lists: Horror
The Last Days, Scott Westerfield
The Future of Us, Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Buried in Books: A Reader's Anthology
Screen Burn, Charlie Brooker
A Day for Damnation, David Gerrold
A Rage for Revenge, David Gerrold
The White People and Other Stories, Arthur Machen
Dawn of the Dumb, Charlie Brooker
Demon Seed, Dean Koontz

Books about languages

I love languages and linguistics (I've taken a couple of intro linguistics courses), and am currently reading The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker (it's been on my to read list for years). I'm really enjoying it, and was wondering if there are any books about languages, linguistics, words, or any related topic that you can recommend. I'm particularly interested in reading more about the origins of different languages and language families.

Other books I have read and really enjoyed are The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson and Language Visible by David Sacks.

Baby and me
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Review: Well of Sorrows, by Benjamin Tate

Cover to Well of Sorrows, by Benjamin Tate

I hate coming down hard on books by relatively unknown writers; given my 'druthers, I'd much prefer to pass over them in silence. At the same time, if a writer goes to the trouble of sending me a review copy (even an electronic copy), it seems disrespectful to ignore it.

So I've struggled with this review, and not only because I have been "friends" with the author (or rather, with his pseudonym) on Livejournal for a while, but because it became clear in the reading that Benjamin Tate's heart is very much in the right place.

Well of Sorrows tries hard to play with, and even to reverse, many of epic fantasy's tired tropes. The protagonist is more peace-maker than warrior, and in plays of scenes of glorious battle we are given the blood and the shit and the brutality of hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately, good intentions alone don't make for good art. Well of Sorrows suffers from shallow characterization, structural confusion and world-building that is not remotely convincing. Click here for my full review (hardly any spoilers).


best reads of 2011

Here's a list of most everything I read last year.

And here's a list of the best things I read for the first time last year. My reviews of these books can be found here, in reverse chronological order.

Lost in the Labyrinth, Patrice Kindl
Black Juice, Margo Lanagan
Picture This, Lynda Barry
The Disappearance, Bentley Little
Hyenas, Joe R. Lansdale
The Ogre of Oglefort, Eva Ibbotson
Midnight Movie, Tobe Hooper & Alan Goldsher

December reads

Here are the books I managed to get through in December--most of them, anyway. My thoughts on them are at bookfrog.

The Infernals, John Connolly
Every Thing On It, Shel Silverstein
Haunted Legends
Zoo City, Lauren Beukes
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
He Is Legend
Very Bad Deaths, Spider Robinson
A Matter for Men, David Gerrold
Friday the 13th: Road Trip, Eric Morse