YouKneeK

My favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy.  Occasionally, I also read horror, thriller, and mystery stories.  For more info about me than you could possibly want, check the "My Profile" link on the right-hand column.

Review: I Am Legend

I Am Legend - Richard Matheson

I had to crawl out from under a rock to read this book.  I actually didn’t know the first thing about it beyond that it was supposed to be some sort of classic science fiction story.  If I had known what it was about, I might have saved it for another time.  I’m now realizing that the cover I shelved makes the content really obvious, but I rarely pay attention to the covers when I shelve a book.  I just shelve the first edition I find when I search for a title; I don’t like to waste time finding the precise edition I own.  I do start from the cover when I read my e-books, but the cover in my actual e-book edition is different and doesn’t give any clues.

 

Even without the cover cluing me in, it was pretty obvious to me within the first page, if not the first paragraph, that this would be a vampire story.  Actually, I thought it had more of a zombie feel to it, based on how most of the vampires behaved.  I have a limited tolerance for those types of stories, and I’d already read a zombie book earlier this year.  This book is only 160 pages though, so it’s a very quick read, and it held my interest.  The middle third of the book dragged a little for me, but I enjoyed the rest of it and became particularly interested in it toward the end. 

 

The story centers around one man, Robert Neville, who believes he’s the last normal human alive.  I thought Robert was a rather inconsistent character, sometimes making really dumb decisions and sometimes appearing pretty intelligent.  He’s an alcoholic, and he definitely has psychological issues.  This may all be pretty realistic considering the trauma he’s been through and the horrors he’s seen, but he’s the kind of character who tends to get on my nerves.  He reacts emotionally to everything, and usually in such a way that just makes things worse.

 

Despite the vampires, I do think this is more science fiction than fantasy.  The author tried to create scientific explanations for the condition of vampirism and our main character spends some time researching related topics to try to understand what happened.   I don’t know if those explanations would sound the slightest bit plausible to anybody with a medical background, but my own ignorance generated a reaction that was mostly along the lines of “Ok, sure, whatever.”

 

The book was written in 1954, but it really didn’t feel dated to me.  Actually, there were a few times when fictional events from the early to mid-1970’s were referenced and I did a double take, because I’d forgotten that the 1970’s were the future from the perspective of the author.  Other than that, there’s nothing much about the story that makes it feel dated.

 

The ending was interesting, but not terribly surprising for me because it was similar to the ending of another more recently-written book that I’ve read.  I don’t want to name that book for fear of spoiling the ending of either book for somebody who has read one but not the other, but I imagine people who have read both might know what I’m talking about.

 

Over all I enjoyed the story and, like I said, it’s a really fast read.  The main reason I’m not rating it higher is because it got pretty tedious in the middle and because the main character got on my nerves quite a bit.

Review: Small Gods (Discworld Book 14 of 53ish)

Small gods - Terry Pratchett

Small Gods stands on its own in the Discworld universe, at least when it comes to the story and the characters.  It does of course continue to build on the “in jokes” that have been accumulating from the very first Discworld book.  There are some references that I think would sail harmlessly over the head of anybody who hadn’t read the earlier books, but catching those references is part of the fun for me.

 

The story is based on the idea that there are lots and lots of “small gods” out there, with no influence or power, desperately trying to get the attention of a human who will believe in them.  Once somebody believes in them, they start to gain power, which grows as they accumulate more true believers.  This can also happen in reverse; if the believers diminish, then so does the god.  The story focuses on a god by the name of Om, who has unexpectedly found himself in the form of a tortoise as his power is diminishing.  Only a single boy by the name of Brutha truly believes in him and can hear his voice.  Adventures ensue.

 

I really enjoyed the first half of the story, but I started to lose interest in the second half.  I couldn’t really say why; it just seemed to get a little tedious for a while there.  The humor in this book was great, though.  It wasn’t quite on the same level as the books in the Witches subseries for me, but it was pretty close.  The part about penguins being extremely confused birds because they only know how to fly under water completely cracked me up.  I’m not sure what that says about my sense of humor.  It’s a bit corny, I guess!

 

I thought this book had a little more meat on it in terms of covering some deeper themes.  Several of the previous books have done that to some extent, but I thought it was more substantial in this book.  As you might guess from the title and the premise, there are quite a few thoughts about the nature of religion, how it affects people, how it gains power, and how it’s used.  There were also some thoughts about war and slavery.

 

So overall I enjoyed it, but I thought it dragged a bit in the middle.  I enjoyed it enough to round my star rating up to 4 stars on Goodreads.

Online New Follower Notifications Broken?

I may have missed or forgotten a bug report about this, and I know we’ve had this same problem in the past, but I just noticed that online notifications for new followers don’t seem to be working.  Somebody just followed me and I received the e-mail notification, but I never received an online notification. I'm still getting other online notifications (likes and comments).

 

Since a lot of people don’t choose to get the e-mail notifications, some of you may have new followers that you aren’t aware of.  That's the main reason I'm posting about it, especially since we seem to have a small influx of new members.  I'll mention it on the Bug Reports thread also, so hopefully BL staff will see it and fix it whenever they decide to visit us again. 

 

This would probably be a good time to remind (or inform) people about the Follower Comparison Tool, which may help you catch followers you weren’t aware of.  The original blog post is here

The Secret Life of a Book Blogger

 

Thank you very much to JL’s Bibliomania for the tag!

 

How long have you been a blogger?

Like many others who have answered these questions, I don’t really consider myself a blogger.  I mostly just post book reviews, the same as I do on Goodreads and LibraryThing, and those aren’t blogging platforms.  To me, the only real differences on BL are that this site looks more "bloggy" and that I occasionally write some non-review posts like this one.

 

In any case, BookLikes is the first remotely blog-like thing I’ve ever done, and I joined in May 2014.  My first involvement with writing reviews on bookish sites at all was when I joined Goodreads in November 2013.

 

At what point do you think you’ll stop?

If and when I decide it’s no longer fun.  I do this for entertainment.  When entertainment is no longer entertaining, it's time to reassess the situation.  At the moment, though, I can’t imagine that day coming soon.

 

What’s the best thing?

Without question, it’s being able to connect with other people who have actually read some of the same books I have.  Nobody I know in real life enjoys the same types of books I do.  For that matter, very few people I know in real life even enjoy reading.  I love reading reviews other people write about books I've read.  I especially love it when I have something to talk about in response to somebody else’s review, or when people comment on my own reviews. 

 

What’s the worst thing?  What do you do to make it ok?

I see two possible interpretations for this question.  Either the question is referring to the worst thing about having a blog, or it's referring to the worst thing about participating in the blogging community in general.  I’ll answer with the former interpretation, since there’s a question about the community later on.

 

My answer is along the lines of what JL's Bibliomania said as part of her answer to this question.  The worst thing is not having any control over what the owners choose to do with the platform I'm using.  Will they abandon the site?  Will they change it into something I no longer enjoy?  Will they do their part to bring fresh blood to the community and keep it from getting stagnant? The BL staff is absent at best so, in my eyes, there’s always uncertainty about the future here and there aren’t many other good options. 

 

I don't necessarily think anything will make that "ok"; it's just something we have to acknowledge and live with.  To mitigate my concerns, I continue to maintain my data offline (reviews, books, etc), and I have the alternate contact info that people were providing a while back to help us find each other if BL ever disappears unexpectedly.

 

 

How long does it take you to create/find pictures to use?

I rarely use pictures.  I think I've only used a picture in one review.  Sometimes I'll add them to a non-review post, but I usually already know exactly what pictures I want to add so it's easy to find them.  I’m not a very visual person though, so I just don't really think to include them.

 

Who is your book crush?

I’m not sure I really understand this question except in an abstract way.  I do get very attached to characters when they’re written well, and sometimes I get very emotionally invested in their fictional fate, but I wouldn’t call that a crush.  I find the line between fiction and reality to be pretty solid in my world, even if sometimes my head spends a lot of time in fictional worlds. :)

 

What author would you like to have on your blog?

Once again, I can think of two possible interpretations for the question.  Which author would I like to have interested enough in my blog to visit it, comment on it, etc.?  Or which author would I like to host in some manner by posting about them and/or doing an interview with them?

 

I guess the meaning of the question doesn’t matter, because the answer is really “none” in either case.  It may seem weird to many people, but I prefer not to interact directly with authors whose books I read, no matter how much I respect their work and no matter how professional they are in their interactions with their readers. 

 

I can't entirely explain it, except to say that I just want to enjoy (or not enjoy) the work on its own merits without it being influenced by too much familiarity with the author.  I feel the same way about actors and singers.  I might enjoy seeing the occasional interview in which I had no involvement whatsoever, but I don't have any desire for personal interaction with them.

 

What do you wear when you write your blog posts?

I try to remember to put on my thinking cap so that my posts will hopefully make some sort of sense.

 

How long does it take you to prepare?

This is why I always hate multiple choice questions on tests!  I often have a big mental debate with myself over the intended meaning of ambiguous questions.  Does this question mean, how long does it take me to prepare before I write a post?  Or does it mean, how long does it take me to prepare my post itself so that it’s ready to be published to my blog?  Fortunately this isn’t multiple choice, so I can just answer both questions with an essay. :)

 

Before I sit down to write a post, I don’t do much to prepare.  I read nearly all my books on my Kindle, so occasionally I'll highlight a passage if there's something I especially want to remember to mention.  On rare occasions, a book will inspire so many opinions that I keep pausing in my reading while I compose my review in my head.  When that happens, I usually go type up my thoughts so I can exorcise them and focus on the book properly again.  Once I actually finish the book, I may or may not use that material in my final review, depending on whether I felt the same way by the end.  Normally though, I just sit down to write my review immediately after finishing my book, while it’s still fresh in my mind.  For me, it’s part of the ritual of finishing a book.  It's very rare for me to start a new book before I've published my review for the last one.

 

As far as actually writing a review and preparing to post it, it varies widely depending on how much I have to say.  I compose things like a crazy person, though.  I just randomly type whatever thoughts come to my head, and it usually isn’t in any logical order.  Sometimes I only type a word or two that will remind me of what I was thinking, then I rush on to type my next thought before I forget.  If the thoughts are coming slowly, I may manage to compose a few coherent sentences before another thought distracts me.  As the thoughts slow down, I’ll go back and flesh them out, try to delete or combine things that seem redundant or related, and then do a lot of cutting and pasting to hopefully rearrange things into a more coherent order.  Finally, there are some final re-reads to try to catch mistakes. 

 

My scattered approach to writing is the same with e-mails, papers, or just about anything that involves a keyboard and paragraphs.  When I compose e-mails, I always take off the e-mail addresses until I’m ready to hit “Send”, for fear I might accidentally send the e-mail early when it’s still in its insane half-baked stage.  Anybody who received one of those e-mails would likely have me committed…

 

How do you feel about the book blogger community/culture?

I don’t know much about the general book blogger community beyond what we have here at BL.  I do think the community here on BL is awesome.  Considering what most of the internet is like, this is a shockingly friendly site.  People go out of their way to make newer bloggers feel welcome, and most people treat their fellow bloggers with respect.  On the rare occasion when I think somebody has gone off the deep end, I’ll usually just disengage from them at some level.  I’ve never felt the need to block anybody, not on any site, but it’s always nice to know the option is there if I ever need it for a more serious situation.

 

What do you think one should do to get a successful blog?

For me, a successful blog is one that I have fun writing.  It’s not about how many followers I have or how much activity I get.  I love comments, but I don’t want to worry about whether what I write will generate activity.  I just want to read what I want to read and write reviews about those books.  If a fun Q&A is going around, or if I have something I want to say, then I’ll write a non-review post.  In general, though, I don’t want to spend a ton of time writing blog posts, and I don’t want to sit around wondering, “What should I post about next?”  If I have something to say, I’ll post.  If I don’t, then I’ll read a book instead.

 

Tags

I debated with myself about whether or not to tag any specific people.  This has been going around for a few days now and I have no idea who has and hasn’t been tagged.  Still, it’s fun to be specifically tagged, and there were several people who came to mind right away when I was considering who hadn’t posted yet.  But then there’s the problem of leaving people out whose posts I would really enjoy reading but whose names just weren’t at the top of my brain this evening.  In any case, I love reading these kinds of posts, so please post if you want to, whether or not anybody specifically tags you.

 

So here are my tags, if any of you are willing to join in!  But don’t feel obligated if this sounds like torture. :)  

charlton                                             

Familiar Diversions                         

in libris                      

mattries37315                                                         

Wanda’s Book Reviews                

 

Review: When Gravity Fails (Marîd Audran Book 1 of 3)

When Gravity Fails - George Alec Effinger

This book was different, in both good and bad ways.  It’s a science fiction book in terms of its setting, but the story was really more of a murder mystery than anything else.  It’s set in the Middle East, during the year 2172, and most of the story takes place in a ghetto area.  Most of the characters at least pretend to follow the Islam religion, so there were a lot of references to that and it played a role in how the characters interacted with each other.  I don’t know if this was portrayed realistically or not, but this was one of the ways in which the book was different in a good way.  The ghetto aspect, on the other hand, made the setting kind of grim and unpleasant, and we don’t really see much beyond that small area to learn what life is like in the rest of the world, beyond a few hints about the political climate.

 

The main futuristic aspect of the setting is that most people have been surgically altered to give them the ability to hook up modifications to their brain that would either give them special knowledge or abilities, or which would give them an entirely different personality.  The idea of gender has also become somewhat blurred, because sex change operations are apparently easy to obtain and quite effective.  There seemed to be a disproportionate number of female prostitutes in this book who had been born as men.  Aside from those things, technology seemed pretty close to what it was in 1987 when the book was written.

 

Our main character, Marîd, is one of few people who aren’t “wired” to use modifications.  While I totally can’t blame him for not wanting to mess with his brain, he’s a drug addict who pops pills left and right, so it’s hard to identify with his anti-modification viewpoint when he’s already messing with his brain and undoubtedly doing plenty of permanent damage to it.  Aside from that, Marîd is a decent guy who cares about his friends, but I never really warmed up to him or felt invested in any of his friendships.  The story held my interest, but I didn’t care enough about the characters to care too much about what happened.

 

This book is the first in a trilogy, but it tells a complete story while setting the stage for the next book.  I wasn’t too crazy for how the story was wrapped up, and there was one particular bit that was a little horrifying.  It left me debating whether to rate this 3 stars, as I’d originally intended, or 2.5.  I decided to go with 3 since that’s a more accurate reflection of my overall enjoyment level.  In any case, I didn’t enjoy this enough to want to read more of the series.

Review: Witches Abroad (Discworld Book 13 of 53ish)

Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett

This is the third book in the Witches subseries of Discworld.  The last time I enjoyed a Discworld book this much was when I read the second Witches book, Wyrd Sisters.  I’m not sure if I’m far enough into Discworld to proclaim my favorite subseries yet, but Witches is the top contender.  

As with the previous Witches book, this story focuses primarily on the characters of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat.  Through a series of events, the three are led to journey to a distant country to deal with an evil fairy godmother who, among other things, is trying to make a girl marry a prince of questionable origin.  There are a lot of references to familiar fairy tales, but they’re usually twisted around in an amusing way.  I thought the overall plot in this book was far more coherent than that of most of the other Discworld books.

Although Magrat can be annoying sometimes, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are just hilarious and some of their reactions as they traveled through “foreign parts” made me laugh.  One minor complaint I have is that, in Wyrd Sisters, the same characters referred to other places as “forn parts”.  They seem to have inexplicably learned how to pronounce “foreign” since then, and for some reason I missed the references to “forn parts”.

Happily, there’s another Witches book only two books away on my Discworld list, so I’ll get the chance to revisit this subseries in the near future.

Review: City of Bones

City of Bones - Martha Wells

City of Bones is a standalone fantasy book set in a fictional world, many years after a cataclysmic event has made water scarce and turned much of the land into desert.  There’s a bit of a dystopian vibe here; the city where our characters live is divided into tiers, with the richer and more powerful people living in luxury on the upper tiers while the people in the lowest tiers are barely able to eke out an existence.  However, I don’t consider this a dystopian book because the story itself isn’t about changing or overthrowing the current system.

 

Our main character is Khat, a relic dealer from the sixth tier, which is the third-lowest tier out of eight.  He’s fascinated with ancient writings and artifacts, from before the cataclysm.  He’s hired by members of a powerful group within the city to help them find some particular relics.  This is the catalyst for all of the events in the story as we learn what the relics are and why people are looking for them, and we learn more about the cause of the cataclysm.

 

Most of the story takes place from the point-of-view of Khat, but there are brief sections throughout the book told from the POV of another character.  My Kindle edition, purchased about three months ago, is missing a lot of section breaks.  This results in some confusing POV jumps.  It was easy enough to figure out after a sentence or two, but it was distracting and annoying.

 

I enjoyed the story, and I liked the characters a lot.  I was never bored by it, but I wasn’t completely absorbed by it either.  I read it in short spurts, and I enjoyed what I read, but after a while I would get restless and put the book down to do something else.   I think this is partly because the plot was pretty straightforward.  It was interesting, and things were certainly revealed over the course of it that I enjoyed, but I never really felt driven to keep reading so I could get to the answers and resolutions more quickly. 

 

There was some ambiguity about who the “good guys” were, but early on I decided correctly and never really saw any reason to waver in that opinion.  There were a few supporting characters that I really liked, a couple of which I really wish we had seen more of throughout the book.  I particularly enjoyed the banter between some of the characters.  The ending was satisfying, and wrapped everything up nicely.  This was the first book I had read by Martha Wells, but I liked it enough that I’ll likely try something else she’s written at some point in the future.

 

When I went to the U.S. Amazon site to double check my purchase date, I noticed the Kindle edition is currently on sale for $2.99.  That’s a decent price if anybody has been meaning to read this.  It was actually $1.99 when I bought it in April, so maybe it goes on sale pretty often.

Review: Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

This is a short book with extremely short chapters.  My Kindle edition listed the book as 288 pages, and there were 127 chapters contained within those pages.  It was a fast-paced read, and it held my attention well.  I also really liked the metaphorical title, although I’m not going to explain it in this review so potential readers can discover it for themselves.  Once you know what the title represents, it adds more layers of interpretation to the book itself.

It’s difficult to explain what this story is about without spoiling anything, because the story slowly morphs into something different as it progresses, so I’ll just talk about how it starts.  Cat’s Cradle is written from the first-person perspective of a writer who calls himself Jonah.  Jonah has set himself the task of writing about the day the first atomic bomb was dropped.  He starts this task with a particular focus on Dr. Felix Hoenikker, the fictional father of the atom bomb, and Hoenikker’s three children.  Jonah’s interviews and the research he does for his book lead to the events that make up the story.

The book is pretty satirical, although I thought the satire was subtle.  On the other hand, those who follow my reviews closely know I’ve read quite a few Discworld books lately, so maybe any satire would seem subtle by comparison. :)  There was some humor in this book, but I thought it was mostly overshadowed by the pessimistic and bleak attitude toward human nature and humanity’s future.  I couldn’t say the attitude was unrealistic, and I could see where people might find this book depressing.

One large focus in the book is the idea of religion, what aspects of religion appeal to people, and its purpose in society.  This is demonstrated primarily through a fictional religion called Bokononism.  There’s also some focus on the idea of intellectualism and the potential foolishness of pursuing an intellectual idea for no purpose other than fascination with the idea itself, without stepping back to consider the bigger picture.  

This is the second book I’ve read by Vonnegut.  The first was Slaughterhouse-Five, which I read about a year ago.  I liked Cat’s Cradle a good bit better.  Although I think this book is typically classified as science fiction, it’s not heavily “science-fictiony”.  It would likely appeal to people who like their fiction to be more literary. 

Review: Reaper Man (Discworld Book 12 of 53ish)

Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett

Reaper Man is the second book in the Death subseries of the Discworld universe.  In this book, Death essentially gets fired for having developed too much of an individual personality.  Until somebody can be found to replace him, people aren’t dying properly.  There are two main characters in the story, each with separate but related storylines.  Death is one of them, and the other is a 130-year-old wizard named Windle Poons.  Poons fails to die properly without Death on the job and thus becomes undead.

Windle Poons himself was a fun character, but his part of the story wasn’t all that interesting to me.  I was more interested in what would happen with the Death character, and I’d been looking forward to reading more about him.  However, Death really didn’t show up that much during the first half of the book and his story was on the skimpy side.  I also thought the story seemed pretty disjointed, even for a Discworld book.  

On the other hand, Pratchett was as witty as usual and there were some very funny parts.  So I enjoyed the humor, but was less enamored of the story.

Review: Morning Star (Red Rising Book 3 of 3)

Morning Star: Book III of The Red Rising Trilogy - Pierce Brown

This is the final book in the Red Rising trilogy.  This trilogy wouldn’t end up on any of my “favorites” lists, if I kept such lists, but I did like each subsequent book better than I had liked the one before.  This book held my attention better than the previous book and much better than the first book.

I do think the series got rather repetitive, especially in the last two books.  There’s a pattern to the events and I felt like this made the story feel more predictable and at times a bit tedious.  Despite that, there were some really great moments and those were the moments that kept me reading through to the end.  The author does well with writing about friendships and teamwork and loyalty.  There were some good themes here, and our characters learned some worthwhile lessons, although sometimes it seemed like they had to “learn” them a few times before they sunk in.

The ending was more or less what I expected, and I wasn’t disappointed with it, but I do wish some of the repetition throughout the story had been trimmed out and the events in the last chapter and beyond had been fleshed out in more detail.

Review: Golden Son (Red Rising Book 2 of 3)

Golden Son - Pierce Brown

This is the second book in the Red Rising series.  I still can’t stay I’m hooked, but I did enjoy it more than the first one.  It held my attention a bit better, and it felt a little less generic.  

I don’t have much to write about it by way of review, though.  There isn’t much I can say without spoiling anything, and this book just hasn’t inspired many opinions that I feel the need to ramble about.

I do have a couple comments that I’ll have to put in spoiler tags.  There are major spoilers here, so don’t click if you haven’t finished this book:

I was really hoping the main goal Darrow has been striving for would be achieved by the end of this book, leaving the third book to be all about building a new and better society.  In my opinion, that would be the more interesting story, and it’s the story that’s often neglected in these types of books.  Given the current prejudices and habits, it isn't going to be easy.  It’s easier to destroy things than to build them.  Maybe there’s still a chance we can get to that fairly early in the third book, but I kind of expect book three will end on the verge of that point without actually addressing it.

I did like the revelation about who Ares was.  Maybe I should have predicted that, but I didn’t.  His death, on the other hand, I saw coming a mile away.  It seems common in books to kill the character fulfilling the role of leader, mentor, or figurehead so the main character can feel more adrift and take on more responsibility.

(show spoiler)


As with Red Rising, I’m giving this 3.5 stars.  It’s a “higher” 3.5 this time, though.  I’m rounding it up to 4 stars on Goodreads whereas I rounded Red Rising down to 3.

Review: Red Rising (Red Rising Book 1 of 3)

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

When I started this book last Saturday, fairly early into the holiday weekend, I congratulated myself on my timing.  I really didn’t know much at all about this series, but for some reason I had the impression that I’d have trouble putting it down and would therefore get through a good portion of it over the weekend.  It didn’t really work out that way; I didn't finish it until the following Thursday evening.

The story starts off in a pretty standard dystopian manner.  Our main character, a teenager named Darrow, is a member of a group of oppressed people, the “Reds”.  The Reds are sacrificing to make Mars habitable for the human race, working dangerous jobs, barely receiving sufficient food, and being punished harshly if they don't behave the way they're supposed to.  As expected, we soon learn there’s more going on than the Reds are aware of and they’re even more oppressed than they realize.

This wasn’t a badly-written book, but I kept getting restless while reading it so I kept putting it down to do other things.  I don’t automatically turn my nose up at a book just because the story is based on familiar themes.  I prefer things that are more surprising and unique but, if a story is well-written, and if I care about the characters, I might still really enjoy the book.  I can’t really quantify what fell short for me here, but there just weren’t many surprises in the story and everything felt really generic to me.  The first half of the book felt particularly flat.  I liked the main character, and I liked some of the secondary characters, but I never became terribly attached.

The story did start to pick up for me at some point in the second half.  Without giving anything away, the main character realized a flaw in his tactics and started to take a different approach to things.  I found that more interesting and more appealing.  There were a few small twists here and there, and I definitely didn’t predict everything, but I never really felt shocked or amazed by anything.  Part of my problem may be that I’m on the rebound from the really awesome books I read recently by Carol Berg.  Those were some of the best books I’ve read in the past several years, so everything else probably seems less interesting by comparison.

I debated a little bit about whether or not to continue the series, but I’ve decided to at least read the next book.  The story did pick up toward the end and I’m interested to see what will happen next.  I’m hopeful that the rest of the series may feel less generic now that we’re hopefully moving past the events from this first book.

Review: Death and What Comes Next (Discworld "Book" 11 of 53ish)

Death and What Comes Next - Terry Pratchett

This isn’t really a book.  It’s a short story.  Or, more like a short couple of pages.  It’s a cute little debate between a dying philosopher and Death over the concept of infinite universes.

 

It can be found for free here: http://www.lspace.org/books/dawcn/dawcn-english.html

Review: Moving Pictures (Discworld Book 10 of 53ish)

Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett

This is my least favorite Discworld book so far.  I think this is mainly because I didn’t find the story appealing at all.  The characters were ok, and I really liked Gaspode the talking dog, but I was bored by the story.

At the beginning of the book, an old man living alone in a remote area called Holy Wood dies.  After his death, strange things start happening and some alchemists develop the concept of “moving pictures” which become hugely popular.  People travel en masse to Holy Wood (I trust you see the joke here), where the moving pictures are being made, in hopes of getting in on the action.  Moving pictures don’t work in quite the same manner as real-world moving pictures.  Recording a moving picture involves a box with a handle, some enslaved demons who can paint really fast, and some salamanders.  

Most of the jokes and satire centers around movies, TV, cartoons, and Hollywood (now do you see the joke?) life.  These are things that just don’t interest me that much.  If they did, I might have appreciated the story more.  I did think the Laddie (i.e. Lassie) stuff was funny.  I don’t know if Gaspode has any real-world film equivalent, but he was the best part of the book.

This is the first book in the Industrial Revolution subseries of Discworld.  I’m feeling a little skeptical about this subseries now, but maybe I’ll like the other books better.  The next book is the 29th Discworld book on my list, though, so it will be a while before I find out.  Since I’m reading in publication order, this is the last book flagged as a “starter novel” on the chart and I’ve now had a taste of all the major subseries.  Except for Rincewind, though, I don’t feel like I’ve read enough books in any one subseries to choose any favorites.  I’m particularly interested to read more from the Witches and Death subseries, though.  Fortunately, the next two full-length books on my list are from those two subseries.

50 Questions (And 50 Answers)

I think I skipped the last couple of Q&A’s that went around because I either didn’t have time to do justice to them or because too many of the questions were similar to questions I'd already answered in previous Q&A’s.  These questions look like fun, and they conveniently made their appearance near a holiday weekend when I actually have some spare time.  I’ve enjoyed the answers I’ve read so far and I hope more people I follow can find time to answer them!

 

1. Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?

 

Closed.  Closet doors are supposed to be closed; it’s practically the definition.  The word ‘close’ is in ‘closet’.  Why would I leave them open at any time of day?

 

2. Do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?

 

When I make the bed, I tuck the flat sheet in.  When I go to bed and pull the covers back, the top half gets untucked.  When I wake up, it’s often “tucked” in-between the footboard and the mattress.  So what is my answer?  Heck if I know.

 

3. Have you ever stolen a street sign before?

 

No.  It never occurred to me that this might be a thing.   Why would anybody steal a street sign?  Is this a new trend in décor?

 

4. Do you cut out coupons and never use them?

 

Not now, but I tried to clip coupons in the past.  After clipping them, I rarely managed to use them.  I quickly declared it a waste of time and stopped bothering to even look at them.  Saving a few cents here and there is not, for me, worth the time it takes to look for them, clip them, and remember to take them to the store. 

 

I know some people have coupon clipping down to a science and save amazing amounts of money, and I’m in awe of that.  We can’t all be skilled at everything, though, and coupon clipping is not my thing.

 

5. Would you rather be attacked by bears or bees?

 

Well, depending on the quantity of bees, I guess I’m far more likely to survive a bee attack.  I would therefore prefer to be attacked by bees, because I like living.  Bears are cuter, though.

 

6. Do you have freckles?

 

No.

 

7. Do you always smile for pictures?

 

Always?  No.  Usually, though.

 

8. Do you ever count your steps when you walk?

 

No?  They have technology that can do that now, you know…

 

9. Have you ever peed in the woods?

 

We went camping a couple of times when I was a child and I vaguely remember peeing in a hole in the ground.  There were a lot of trees around, so I guess we were in the woods.

 

10. What about pooped in the woods?

 

I have no idea.  It’s possible, due to the aforementioned camping, but I don’t remember.

 

11. Do you chew your pens and pencils?

 

I wouldn’t call it “chew”.  More like “nibble”.  Only pens, though.  Soggy erasers are nasty, especially if you then try to erase something with them.

 

12. What’s your song of the week?

 

I don’t have one.  Music is more of a background thing for me.  Sometimes I’ll discover a song that I really like, but after a while I get tired of it if it plays too often.  The surest way for me to lose interest in a song is to buy it so I can play it whenever I want to listen to it.  I appreciate my favorite songs more when they randomly pop up on the radio and surprise me.

 

13. Is it okay for guys to wear pink?

 

Sure, I think people should wear whatever they want.  What I hate is when people get outraged over stereotypes about women but then don’t seem to be the slightest bit bothered by stereotypes about men.  It needs to go both ways.

 

14. Do you still watch Cartoons?

 

No.  I really didn’t watch many of them as a child, either.

 

15. What do you drink with dinner?

 

Usually water, lemonade, or Fresca.

 

16. What do you dip a chicken nugget in?

 

Nothing.  It’s very uncommon for me to possess a chicken nugget to be dipped in the first place.

 

17. What’s your favourite food?

 

Does ice cream count?  I have a terrible sweet tooth.  As far as non-sweets go, I like seafood a lot.  Oh, and bacon of course, as long as it’s crispy and not limp and chewy.

 

18. Were you ever a boy/girl scout?

 

No.  I was a Brownie for maybe a year, but I don’t remember much about it.

 

19. Would you ever strip or pose naked for a magazine?

 

Never.

 

20. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?

 

Once, at least a decade ago.

 

21. Favorite kind of sandwich?

 

I’m not a big sandwich eater.  I do enjoy chicken salad on a croissant, but I hardly ever eat it because I rarely eat out and that’s way too much trouble to make for myself.

 

22. Best thing to eat for breakfast?

 

I love bacon, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, etc.  But again, that’s way too much trouble to make so I rarely have such things for breakfast unless I’m staying at a hotel with a good buffet breakfast.  On a normal day, I eat a bowl of cereal and a hard-boiled egg. That’s “best” by virtue of being the quickest and easiest.

 

23. What’s your usual bedtime?

 

11:00pm. I usually start getting ready for bed around 10pm and then read until 11.  On weekdays I have to get up for work at 6am, so I’m pretty faithful about turning out the light by 11.  My brain doesn’t function well with minimal sleep, and my job requires a functioning brain.  Sometimes I’ll stay up later if I’m reading a really good book, though.

 

On weekends I tend to stay up later, but I try not to stay up too much later or I’ll have trouble getting back on schedule during the week.  Besides, my cat enforces my schedule by waking me up at around 6am no matter what day it is and no matter what time I went to bed.

 

24. Are you lazy?

 

Well, you saw my comments above about cooking stuff being “too much trouble”, right?  I’m one of those crazy people who actually buys the already-hard-boiled-and-peeled eggs at the grocery store.  I hate, hate cooking.  It takes too much time that could be better spent on other things.  So in that regard, yes, I’m lazy.

 

Really, though, it depends on the context.  At work, I’m probably the least lazy person you’ll ever meet.  I’m certainly the least lazy person I’ve ever worked with.  In any context in which people are relying on me to do something, I’m never lazy.  If it’s something I don’t absolutely have to do, and it’s something nobody else but me cares me about, then I’m more likely to be lazy.

 

I also don’t like to have things hanging over my head.  If I know I need to do something, I’ll get it done sooner rather than later just so I can enjoy my free time without having it spoiled by constantly remembering I have something I still need to do.

 

25. What is your Chinese astrology sign?

 

Astrology isn’t really my thing, but I looked this up recently as a result of a discussion on another post and discovered my sign is a Rabbit.

 

26. How many languages can you speak?

 

Just English.  I took Spanish in high school, but I never learned it very well and I haven’t used it in real life.  When I was two weeks old, my parents moved to Germany and we didn’t move back to the U.S. until I was 2.  According to my parents, I was having conversations in German with the locals by the time we moved away.  I don’t remember it, though.

 

27. Do you have any magazine subscriptions?

 

No, but for some reason over the last year or so I’ve had a lot of random magazines show up in my mail box.  They have my name on them, but I have no idea why I’m getting them and I have no interest in reading them.  Most of my mail is junk, because I auto-pay my bills and get statements via e-mail.  I tend to ignore my mailbox for weeks at a time.  (This should probably have been mentioned under the “lazy” topic…)  Once I do clean it out, almost all of the contents go directly into the trash.

 

28. Are you stubborn?

 

It depends on the context.  In many ways, I would say no:

 

* I’m always willing to consider alternate ideas if I’m given logical reasons to believe those ideas are better than mine.  Wishy-washy reasons or emotional appeals won’t usually sway me if I’m confident about something, though.

 

* I plan ahead, often in great detail, but I’ll quickly discard or alter a plan if reality proves that my plan is flawed.  Efficiency is important to me, and I want to do things that make sense.  I won’t stubbornly stick to a plan just because it’s the plan.

 

* If I decide something needs to be done, I’m usually stubborn about ensuring it gets done.  I’m also very goal-oriented so, once I set a goal, I’m stubborn about achieving it.  However, there are few things I hate more than wasted time.  If at some point I decide the goal I’m trying to achieve doesn’t justify the amount of time being wasted, I’ll reconsider.

 

29. Are you afraid of heights?

 

Not really, as long as I feel fairly secure.  I love roller coasters, for example, and I have no fear of flying.  I feel a moment of jealousy when I see the window washers outside my fourteen-floor office building swinging around on harnesses because it looks like fun.  On the other hand, I stay well away from unprotected ledges where balance and coordination is required to avoid falling.

 

30. Do you sing in the car?

 

Yes.

 

31. Do you ever dance in the car?

 

Not by my definition of dance.  My car isn’t tall enough, and I’m almost always sitting in the driver’s seat.

 

32. Ever used a gun?

 

We went to a shooting range when I was young, maybe 9 or 10, and I was allowed to fire a gun. That was my only experience with it, though.

 

33. Last time you got a portrait taken by a photographer?

 

The last time a professional photographer took my picture was during my senior year of high school.

 

34. Do you think muscles are cheesy?

 

Muscles or mussels?  I guess you can put cheese on just about anything.

 

Seriously, I like a little bit of muscle to show fitness and strength, but I don’t like ginormously grotesque muscles.

 

35. Favorite type of fruit pie?

 

Cherry.  The majority of the responses I’ve seen have said “apple”.  I hate apple pie.  You all keep making me shudder. :)

 

36. Occupation you wanted to be when you were a kid?

 

There were a variety of them, but nothing I was ever really serious about.  I’d say the occupation of astronaut is the one that stuck the longest.

 

37. Do you believe in ghosts?

 

No.

 

38. Ever had a deja-vu feeling?

 

Maybe?  I think I have, but not in any particularly powerful or memorable way.

 

39. First concert?

 

Do 4th grade orchestra concerts count if you were a participant?

 

40. Nike or Adidas?

 

Neither.  I’ve tried a variety of brands but, several years ago, I found that my feet much prefer Asics.  They’re the one brand I can buy online without worrying about whether they’ll fit and feel comfortable, so that’s what I buy when I need new sneakers.  I hate shopping, so shoe-store avoidance makes me happy.

 

41. Ever take dance lessons?

 

I took ballet lessons when I was four or five and I took tap and jazz lessons throughout elementary school.  I enjoyed them, but I didn’t have any particular talent beyond being good at following instructions and memorizing routines.

 

42. Regularly burn incense?

 

No, I’ve never burned incense.

 

43. Who would you like to see in concert?

 

Nobody, really.  Music for me is a background activity, something to listen to while doing other things, not an activity in and of itself.  I went to a couple of concerts in my teens and they were very loud, and filled with a lot of people freaking out over a few other people on a stage.  I just felt awkward because I’m not a freak-out kind of person.  Of course, there are other types of concerts, but it isn't something that really appeals to me.

 

44. Hot tea or cold tea?

 

If somebody held me at gunpoint and forced me to choose, I guess I’d go with cold tea.  I don’t like tea at any temperature, though.

 

45. Tea or Coffee?

 

Again, if forced to choose at gunpoint, I’d go with tea, but I don’t like either of them.  I really don’t like any kind of hot drink, not even hot cocoa.

 

My drink of choice is Vanilla Coke Zero, but caffeine can keep me up so I usually stop drinking caffeinated drinks by noon.  A really special treat is a cola slurpee/icee.  I enjoy them even if it’s freezing outside and I’m cold.

 

46. Can you swim well?

 

I can hold my own, but it’s been decades since I swam regularly so I’m not a super strong swimmer.

 

47. Are you patient?

 

In general, I would say no, not remotely.  But it depends on the context.  As I’ve said, I hate wasting time.  Waiting for things annoys me.  Drivers who can’t keep their attention on the road long enough to notice when the light changes really annoy me.  People who are lazy when work needs to be done really, really annoy me.  People who won’t even try to think for themselves really, really, really annoy me.

 

On the other hand, I’m often called upon at work to provide training, and people who know me are usually surprised at what a patient trainer I can be.  If I feel like people are motivated to learn what I’m teaching, and if they’re at least trying to understand, I’ll bend over backwards to help them grasp it.  In other contexts, I’ll be patient with people who I believe are truly trying their best to do whatever it is I’m waiting on them to do even if it’s not as fast as I would like. I’m probably squirming inside, though.

 

So I guess the short answer is that I’m usually extremely impatient, but I’m patient with people if I feel like they’re putting in genuine effort.

 

48.  DJ or band at a wedding?

 

Neither.  If I have to go to a wedding, I want it to be so short that there isn’t time for songs.  I hate formal functions.

 

49. Which are better, black or green olives?

 

I like them both; I don’t think I could choose between them even at gunpoint.  Alas, after all of those difficult beverage choices made at gunpoint, I’m about to be undone by olives…

 

50. Would you rather live in a fictional world or the real world?

 

The real world.  I read mostly fantasy and science fiction, so I visit a large number of fictional worlds and they’re a lot of fun.  But that’s what I do for entertainment and relaxation.  I would never want to actually live a lie. 

 

If the question assumes that the fictional world could actually become reality, and therefore not be a lie, then it would depend on which fictional world it is.  I think every world would have its own set of problems, though, and they might not be fully apparent until one has lived in them for a while. 

 

Even though I love reading about fantasy worlds, most of the ones I read about have a more medieval setting.  That would be fun for a visit, but I think I’d have trouble adapting to that kind of a life.  I’d probably fare better in a more futuristic science fiction world, but I’d have a lot of catching up to do before I could feel like a productive member of society.

Review: Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

This was my first time reading the full-length book but, like many Americans, I read the original short story as a child in school.  That was nearly thirty years ago, but I still remembered the basic story quite well.  Flowers for Algernon is the kind of story that makes an impression.  The premise, if anybody doesn’t already know it, is that Charlie, a mentally disabled man in his thirties, is given an experimental operation to increase his intelligence.  The story is told entirely through journal entries that Charlie writes before and throughout the experiment.

I doubt my review is going to reveal much about the story that people don’t already know.  I suspect most people know the general story, including its ending, even if they’ve never read it themselves.  However, there are definitely spoilers, and I think it’s going to be too hard for me to segregate them out into a shorter segment, so I’m just going to play it safe and put the rest of my review in spoiler tags.

As an adult, I focused on different aspects of the story than I had as a child.  As a child, my main focus was on Charlie’s journey from mentally disabled to genius and back again.  I felt terrible about the way people made fun of him, I was happy for him when he got smart, and I was devastated when he started to regress.  The main parts I remembered from reading it as a child were the beginning and the end.  Of course, I originally read a much shorter and more sanitized version, but I had remembered very little about the middle of the story.  I didn’t remember how many more problems he’d had after the operation due to his emotional maturity still being quite underdeveloped, and I didn’t remember how much difficulty he had in relating to other people.

As an adult, those middle parts made more of an impression and I was more frustrated with him.  I had to remind myself that his intelligence had increased at a rapid rate whereas his maturity needed more time to develop, and that his behavior was surely to be expected.  However, I hated to see him looking at other people in much the same way people had looked at him before his operation.  I hated seeing him transform from an open, likable, cheerful man into an angrier and more bitter man who didn’t understand how to relate to the people around him.  He also had some serious psychological issues, primarily due to the way he had been treated by his family as a child.  He did seem to find a better balance toward the end, but that was just before he started to regress.  I knew the end would be sad, but this time around I found the middle to be nearly as sad as the ending and that took me by surprise.  

As a 40-year-old, I also couldn’t help but draw some parallels with the inevitable (but hopefully much less drastic!) regression of intelligence that will occur when I get older.  Fortunately the older people in my family seem to stay reasonably sharp throughout their lives, so I hope that will be true of me as well, but I know that some loss is inevitable.  I hate even the temporary and easily resolved foggy feeling I get when I haven’t had sufficient sleep.

(show spoiler)


Although this book is considered science fiction, this is primarily because of the operation Charlie was given.  The story itself has a more contemporary feel to it and would appeal to people who don’t enjoy science fiction.  The short story was originally published in 1959 and the novel was published in 1966, but the story didn’t feel dated to me at all.

Currently reading

American Gods
Neil Gaiman