Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A while back I finished an audio book of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The Hunger Games is a dystopian YA, set in a province that is held down, and at constant near starvation levels, by a central government after a long ago rebellion. As part of their punishment, the provinces have to send one male and one female teenager to the capitol to battle to the death, with the survivor being rich afterwards.

It's an enjoyable book, with some strong characterizations and descriptions, though a bit predictable in its outcomes. The book it most reminded me of is the much darker The Running Man.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Continuing my trend of delayed postings, I finished Deadline by Mira Grant a little while ago.

I reviewed the first book in the series about reporters/bloggers after a zombie apocalypse here, and gave it a very positive review. Sadly, I didn't enjoy Deadline as much.

Deadline had the benefit of not having to set up the world established in Feed, but I think that also hurt it. The book feels like it is treading water in places, just filling in time between events. And there aren't a lot of events in the first place. After finishing the book, it felt like not much happened except for a little setup for the next book.

I'll still read the third book, to see how it all turns out, but hopefully it is stronger than this one.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I've been slow to post lately. Below are some of the books I finished:

- Quantum Man by Lawrence M. Krauss.

This is a nice biography, focusing on Feynman's scientific work rather than personal life. The descriptions of his work do help to make it more understandable, although I think I will have to go back and re-read it to really absorb it.

- Contagious and Ancestor by Scott Sigler.

Contagious continues the story from Infected, but is more enjoyable. Infected spent a lot of time covering struggles of one of the infected, battling the parasites that were taking over his body, and the details were unpleasant. Contagious is more about the struggle against the successfully infected people, and is more interesting.

Ancestor is in the same timeline, according to the author, but is an entirely separate plot line about researchers trying to create an artificial life form that can be used to harvest transplant-able organs. The efforts are borderline illegal, and go underground and eventually craziness ensues. It's a real page turner (although I listened to the audio version) and quite good as a thriller.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A while ago, I finished Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter.

Jeter is credited with creating the term "steampunk" and this is one of his earlier works that could fit under that umbrella, though Infernal Devices strikes me more akin to urban fantasy, with a world that much resembles ours but with some hidden parts.

The book's protagonist is the son of a brilliant inventor who is drawn into his father's bizarre world. The weirdness develops slowly, with some "Shadow over Innsmouth" touchs, some automatons and different groups trying to either recruit or kill the protagonist. It ends with a world shattering bang.

The book stays more true to its Victorian roots than most modern steampunk does, with a main character that is fully enmeshed in the repressed, but dominating, upper class.

A fun read.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

I finished Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik, the 2nd in her Temeraire series. I wrote about the first book in the series here.

I liked this better than the first book. The setting, England during the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons, is still weird, but the characters are well written and the plot moves along OK.

An OK light read if you don't have anything stronger.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I recently finished three books on memory, inspired by a class Chris Stuart taught at the CBA Music Camp this summer. He was inspired by one of the books, but there was line to get a copy of that book from the library, so I started with some of the other ones Chris listed in the bibliography he handed out.

The first book was The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. This seems like an odd combination since Lorayne is a memory expert/magician and Lucas is a former NBA player (and Basketball Hall of Fame member), but Lucas actually developed his own memory techniques and is a fan of Lorayne's, and the book is built around a conversation between them about memory techniques. It was published in the 60s, and it shows. It comes off as a slightly cheesy, self-help book, and the original cover pictures is typical 60s. But in some ways, it's the most useful of the three books. It presents the basics of how the memory techniques work, with some exercises, in a quick to read, straight forward and practical fashion.

The second book was Your Memory by Kenneth L. Higbee. Higbee is an academic, and his book takes a more thorough approach. It covers some of the science behind how memory works and what science shows about the various memory techniques. It's a much drier read, but much more complete and covers more techniques and possible applications than The Memory Book.

The third book, and the one that inspired Chris Stuart originally, is Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. This book tells the story of how the author went from researching memory competitions, to competing in, and winning, the US Memory Championship. It's an interesting story, and well written, but the memory techniques are only explained as they aid the story. In particular, Foer only really focuses on two techniques, the loci (or memory palace) method and the PAO (person-action-object) method. And the main focus is on the second method, PAO, which is a high overhead, very inflexible method that is only really suited for memory competitions where you need to learn a fixed type of thing very quickly.

Overall, I'm glad I read all three. I think if I'd only read the last one, I would have been put off by the techniques described. Instead, I think I'll try to incorporate some of the other techniques into my life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A few days ago I finished The Wood Wife by Terri Windling.

This is the first book I've read by Terri Windling, who spends more time as an editor than a writer. I quite enjoyed it - it is urban fantasy in the Charles De Lint vein, dealing with spirituality and wonder in the modern world, through the lens of fantastic events.

The fantastic events are slow to develop in this book. It starts out with a poet moving to the outskirts of Tuscon, to take over the house of an older poet who had just died mysteriously. The first sections of the book introduce us to the protagonist and follow her as she meets her new neighbours and then gets drawn into the charms of her new surroundings. The later sections start to delve into the mysteries, and the fantastic elements tied to them.

The slow development pays off, as it strongly ties the reader more into the characters before moving into the action. 

Well worth reading.