Category Archives: Books, Poetry & Language

Reading and Rambling

I have been a very lame blogger lately. I mean, seriously? I’m resorting to cat pictures as early as Tuesday? Anyway…

I finished reading Dandelion Wine about a week ago. Great book but I don’t have a lot to say about it. Even though I grew up in an entirely different time and place from the kids in the novel there was a lot that felt familiar. This is what my childhood was like only a lot more boring. No murders happened near us and there wasn’t even a scary ravine. And we had TV. And of course I was a girl which made things just a little bit different. But other than that, childhood was pretty much like in the book and I wish every kid would read this book so they would know what childhood used to be like before day care, computers, smartphones and before we thought every waking moment must be filled with some kind of organized activity.

I haven’t read enough Ray Bradbury. In fact, only two books (The other one was Fahrenheit 451.) and a few short stories. And of course, my favorite essay ever! I can’t say I love the two books I’ve read but I do like his way with metaphors and the way he could paint a picture with words. So, sooner or later I will get around to reading more of his stories.

Right now I am craving some good, weird modern science fiction but I still have a couple of books I got as Kindle monthly specials so I might as well read those. The one I just started is historical fiction. I’ll wait until I’ve finished it to say anything about it.

Have you ever considered “unliking” a Facebook page because it has too much interesting stuff? I already read the Brain Pickings blog occasionally but a few weeks ago I “liked” their Facebook page, so now I have all these really good articles coming up on my “news feed,” not just recent blog posts but a lot of older ones that I missed and I keep thinking, “Oh that looks so interesting; I’ll read that later.” Well, now I have quite a backlog of Brain Pickings articles that I’m “going to read later.” Also, they make me want to buy more books. Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am? looks so great! And there are a few others that I think I’ve already mentioned.

Anyway, you know the lament… so much to read, so little time, and so many other things to do.

Two Unrelated Videos That YouTube Thought Were Related

I was going to embed this video, Worst Words in the English Language, but the embed code wouldn’t ever load. Then I noticed an even better video in the “related” column, If The Art World Had to Deal With YouTube Comments but the code for that one won’t load either. So it wasn’t just that one video.

Regarding the “worst words” video: My post title was going to be “Well, When You Say It Like That.” Most of those words never bothered me at all but the video makes them sound really “EEEWWWWWW”.

Regarding the art video: So true, but I kind of had to agree with the first two comments about Jackson Pollack.

The Future of Reading, from 1951

E.B. White, on reading, from a 1951 essay:

In schools and colleges, in these audio-visual days, doubt has been raised as to the future of reading — whether the printed word is on its last legs. One college president has remarked that in fifty years “only five per cent of the people will be reading.” For this, of course, one must be prepared. But how prepare? To us it would seem that even if only one person out of a hundred and fifty million should continue as a reader, he would be the one worth saving, the nucleus around which to found a university. We think this not impossible person, this Last Reader, might very well stand in the same relation to the community as the queen bee to the colony of bees, and that the others would quite properly dedicate themselves wholly to his welfare, serving special food and building special accommodations. From his nuptial, or intellectual, flight would come the new race of men, linked perfectly with the long past by the unbroken chain of the intellect, to carry on the community. But it is more likely that our modern hive of bees, substituting a coaxial cable for spinal fluid, will try to perpetuate the rave through audio-visual devices, which ask no discipline of the mind and which are already giving the room the languor of an opium parlor.

Heh… If only he could see us now. I kinda like his “queen bee” fantasy but, on the other hand, I think I like the reality better. Being highly regarded and catered to can have certain drawbacks. Such behavior could interfere with your reading time.

This ‘n’ That

A couple of weeks ago Number Two Son and I were watching one of those nature shows about wildlife in Alaska. At one point, talking about the approach of winter, the narrator said, in the usual This Is Seriously Dramatic voice, “The temperature can drop as much as 15 degrees in just a few weeks.” And yes, I’m sure we heard him right. He enunciated very well. He said 15, not 50. We were too stunned to laugh. Fifteen degrees in a few weeks? We do more than that in just one day. In fact, I’ve seen the temp drop 15 degrees in less than an hour. Perhaps he meant the high temperature or the low, or the average. If so he should have said that but still, even if that’s what he meant we can still top it here in Oklahoma. Take yesterday and today, for example. Yesterday’s high was somewhere around 70°F. This morning at 6:30 it was only 40°F. Today’s high is supposed to be 80°. I have no doubt it will get there. How about that Mr. Serious Drama Narrator?

I thought I was going to have another new dress to show off today (Wow! Two in one week!) but it’s not going to happen. The pattern is very simple and I was sure I would finish it in one or two days but I kept taking breaks after each little step and the breaks kept getting longer and so it’s not finished yet. I really have no reason to rush but I’ve been feeling like, “Hurry! Get this one done! Start the next one! Get it done! On to the next one!” and so on. I have a bunch of sewing projects that I want to get done so I can wear them but I don’t really need to rush. I should just slow down and I will have enough things to sew to last all summer. But still, I keep feeling like I need to get all this stuff done. Almost like it’s a job.

I also have some outdoor things to do. Especially weeding! Yikes! Too bad I don’t feel motivated to rush to do that. And soon, planting. We tend to hold off until nearly May because late freezes happen, even hard freezes sometimes. But it is nearly May. Time to start playing in the dirt.

I didn’t manage to collect any quotes for this week. Maybe later I will look around and find a few. No promises. Some weeks they just appear all over the place and other weeks I have to work to find them.

I saw this on Facebook. I’m going to watch it over and over again until I can remember these. Well, most of them. Okay, maybe some of them. (And I did already know a few of them. Two, I think.)

Slow Reading

Fillyjonk has been thinking about slow reading and that reminded me of an article I bookmarked months ago titled “In Praise of Slow Reading” but, to my horror, I discovered that I have deleted the bookmark. Of all my gazillion bookmarks why did I delete that one? Fortunately, there’s that Google thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the article on the Google thing. I did find a NY Times article with almost the same title but that’s not it.

I also found In Praise of Fat Books and Slow Reading. Yes! Hooray for fat books! I consider 500 pages merely a good start. It takes me a long time to get through a book though. Slow reading is one of many things about which I can honestly say, “I was doing that before it was even a thing.” (That’s what happens to you as you get older. You start to realize that almost every new “thing” is really an old thing.) I sometimes wish I could read faster so I can get through more books in my lifetime but I don’t want to rush through books just so I can say, “Look, I’ve read all these books.”

Spritz, the new speed reading app that everyone’s talking about, makes me sad. And it makes me tired. I tried it and, yes, I could read about 400 or 500 words a minute but it feels like a test and after less than a minute I’m mentally worn out. Perhaps with practice I could get used to it enough so that I wouldn’t get the worn out feeling but I don’t think I could ever enjoy reading like that and I wonder how much I would be able to remember if I read a whole book or story that way. I like to be able to stop and re-read a sentence or a paragraph or turn back to something I read a few chapters back. (The latter is the one thing I don’t like about Kindle. You cannot easily return to a previous chapter.)

I see a lot of hand-wringing about fewer and fewer people reading books so it’s tempting to hope that new technologies will get more people reading but it seems to me that reading for entertainment has always been a bit of a fringe thing. People who read are weird. We get people asking us, “Why? Why don’t you just see the movie?” and strangers who see us reading in public and insist on talking to save us from “boredom”. And, the most bizarre thing to me, people who think that if you fall asleep while reading it must be because the book is boring and when you explain that the reason you fall asleep reading is because the book is so interesting you can’t put it down even if it’s 3:00 AM (or in my case more like 11:00 PM) and they don’t believe you.

Yes, we readers are weird to everyone else, always have been, and I am confident that there will always be weirdos in the world as long as weirdos keep having children and reading to them and raising them in homes filled with fat books. Getting people who weren’t raised this way to read? I’m not sure that’s possible. I think maybe a part of their brains didn’t develop properly, poor things.

One Author

If you could only read the books of one author for the rest of your life who would it be? Several writers give their answers.

Tough question. I would want to choose someone very prolific but also good. Those two things don’t always go together. On the other hand, I could pick someone not so prolific but highly re-readable. Or I could pick someone who writes really long books, like James Michener. But if I have to pick only one author I want it to be a really good, prolific science fiction author because that’s what I find the most entertaining. Best of all would be prolific, long books, highly re-readable. So… I haven’t really answered yet have I? Well, it’s a tough question.

A Very Mixed Review

The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter was on Amazon’s list of monthly (or was it weekly?) Kindle specials. It was very cheap, and it looked like my sort of thing. It is a more or less average colonial rebellion story. In this future all the nations on Earth have been consolidated into just three nations and there is a Council, which has its own military “to keep the peace.” Alden, a member of an elite unit in the Council military, ends up working with Lunar colonists who are fighting for independence. It’s actually a reasonably entertaining story. Not great but it is a kind of story that I enjoy.

On the negative side, this book needs some intensive editing. It is full of obvious mistakes that made me feel that the author was a high school student who struggles to maintain a C average in English. Just a few examples: He used the word “formerly” when he meant “formally,” “disposed” when he meant “deposed”, “diffuse” when he meant “defuse”, and, most hilariously, “yolk” when he meant “yoke”. There are a number of awkward or confusing sentences, especially near the beginning of the book. Worst: “They moved past him towards the large windows that faced the street.” There are only two people in this scene. If “they” refers to those two people, as it must, then who is the “him” that they move past? Another problem was that transitions between flashbacks and the story’s “present” are handled rather awkwardly. There are also what are clearly just typos, the most frequent being failure to leave a space between words, as in “itwas” or “threedozen”.

The ending leaves readers with a big mystery. There will be a sequel and I will probably read it in spite of all the very annoying flaws in the first book because, you know, I have to know what happens next. I just hope the author discovers the value of proofreading, editing, and correct vocabulary before he publishes the second book.

Travels to Faraway Places and Times

Thanks to Amazon’s monthly “$3.99 or Less” Kindle specials I have discovered some good books that I would not normally have searched for. One of these is Daughters of the River Huong by Uyen Nicole Duong, a novel about four generations of Vietnamese women. I grew up in the 60′s and 70′s, seeing images of the Vietnam war on TV every night. That formed my own mental picture of the country of Vietnam. I would like to be able to say that this novel has forever changed that picture but it hasn’t. It’s too firmly fixed. But it did introduce me to an earlier and much different Vietnam.

The novel begins in New York, with the central character, Simone, a Vietnamese-American, a successful corporate attorney, then quickly goes back in time to her childhood in 1960′s Vietnam, then further back to the time of her great-grandmother, a royal concubine. Later the book looks into the lives of her mother and grandmother and finally back to the present. I have to admit that I enjoyed the history parts of the story the most and found Simone’s teenage and adult years quite tiresome but, overall, it’s a good story and I’m glad that I read it.

A few 19th century photos of Vietnam

Next up? Well, I’m really craving a good sci-fi novel. It’s been a while.

Book Quiz

I saw this Book Quiz and immediately thought, “I have to answer this one on my blog!” Then I realized that there are a lot of questions I can’t answer but I’m going to do it anyway.

1. Your favorite book: The more books you have read, the harder it is to answer this question. I would have a hard time even coming up with a top 10. My favorite book is whatever book I happen to be reading when you ask the question, unless it’s one that is not particularly great.

2. Your least favorite book: What I said about favorite books – the more you read harder it is to answer – is true of least favorite books also, but Clan of the Cave Bear is the first that comes to mind. It stands out as being a real stinker.

3. A book that completely surprised you (bad or good): Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. It was the first Mieville that I read and I had never read anything like it before. Weirdest book I had ever read, (up to that time) full of “Wait! What?” and “WTF” moments and lots of big beautiful words.

4. A book that reminds you of home: Home, in the sense of where I grew up? Or where I live now? I can’t think of any. I mostly read books about places totally unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.

5. A non-fiction book that you actually enjoyed: Like Kelly, I think the wording of the question is strange and messed up. Why wouldn’t anyone enjoy non-fiction? In fact, my answer could be pretty much the same as my answer to the first question. I’ve read and enjoyed too many to have just one favorite. But, just picking one at random… The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson.

6. A book that makes you cry: Lots of them have at various times. I can only think of one and I didn’t actually cry just came close. It was The Death of Sleep by Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye. It’s about a woman who spends years in cold-sleep (not by choice) so her daughter grows up without her.

7. A book that’s hard to read: I’m sure there must have been a few (or at least one?) but I can’t think of any.

8. An unpopular book you believe should be a bestseller: I wouldn’t call this “unpopular” just relatively unknown (and, sadly, OOP) – The World Is Round by Tony Rothman.

9. A book you’ve read more than once: I’ve read The World Is Round many times and I used to be obsessed with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I’ve read the original trilogy and the Harper Hall trilogy at least a dozen times. But in recent years I’ve started to feel that there are too many books I haven’t read to waste time re-reading books. That’s not to say I won’t ever give in to temptation and go somewhere I’ve been before.

10. The first novel you remember reading: I can’t remember the first.

11. The book that made you fall in love with reading: I have no idea! I’ve been reading most of my life. That’s like asking, “Which breath made you fall in love with breathing?”

12. A book so emotionally draining you couldn’t complete it or had to set it aside for a bit: Oh gosh, such drama! Who but a teenager would ask a question like that?

13. Favorite childhood book: Mystery of the Haunted Mine by Gordon D. Shirreffs. I read this one many times. I still had the book for a while as an adult and it upsets me that I lost it at some time or other. (I still keep hoping to find it someday) Used copies at Amazon start at $40!

14. Book that should be on a high school or college required reading list: I occasionally read something that I think “everyone” should read but I can’t think of one in particular. I think every high school student should be required to read at least two good, and very different from each other, science fiction novels because so many people get wrong ideas about what science fiction is like and claim to not like it without ever having read any.

15. Favorite book dealing with foreign culture: I think, probably, the last book I read, This is Not that Dawn. But maybe I just thought of that because it is the last book I read.

16. Favorite book turned movie: Not sure. Can’t think of one.

17. Book turned movie and completely desecrated: Almost all of them. But I really don’t care. Books are books and movies are movies and I don’t expect movies to be completely true to the book. I think of the movies as being “inspired by” the books, not as accurate visualizations of books. No matter what, the pictures on the screen will never match the pictures in your head.

18. A book you can’t find on shelves anymore that you love: Well, I’ve already mentioned two OOP books that I love and those can be found if one is willing to pay the price.

19. A book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction): None I can think of except, I guess I could say Bill Bryson’s books changed my mind about travel writing. It can be interesting.

20. A book you would recommend to an ignorant/racist/close-minded person: I wouldn’t bother. I just assume that anyone that ignorant probably doesn’t read.

21. A guilty pleasure book: I don’t even understand this question.

22. Favorite series: Currently, Neal Asher’s Polity series.

23. Favorite romance novel: I don’t read romance novels, though many of the science fiction novels I read include romance. Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody (fantasy) was quite romantic but sometime in the first sequel the romance part of the story started to get tiresome. People in love act stupid (at least in fiction) and stupid people just annoy me. That’s why I don’t read romances or watch “romantic comedies”.

24. A book you later found out the author lied about: No idea.

25. Favorite autobiographical/biographical book: This is a somewhat embarrassing question because I rarely read biographies. Hildegard of Bingen: A Visionary Life by Sabina Flanagan is one of the few I’ve read and it was interesting.

26. A book you wish would be written: China Mieville’s next novel, whatever it is.

27. A book you would write if you had all the resources: The book I already have in my head. Resources have nothing to do with it. It’s just that… well, actually I don’t have much of a story in my head, mostly just characters and worlds that I don’t exactly know what to do with.

28. A book you wish you never read: I don’t know… Maybe the fourth book in the Dune series. The original trilogy was incredible but everything after that was kind of pathetic and made me sad.

29. An author that you completely avoid/hate/won’t read: None in particular. There are, of course, many authors who simply don’t interest me.

30. An author that you will read whatever they put out: China Mieville, Neal Asher.

Reading: Other Times and Places

I have been reading The Middle Stage occasionally for a number of years, with the natural result that I got it into my head that I wanted to read an Indian novel. It took me a while to get around to it but I finally decided on This is Not That Dawn (reviewed here) as my first. That Chandrahas called it ” a plausible contender for the greatest of all Indian novels” as well as the fact that it is over 1000 pages made it irresistible for me.

The book begins at the funeral of an elderly woman in Lahore (now in Pakistan) and follows two members of the family, a brother and sister, through the years around and after the Partition. I quickly got caught up in the lives of the characters and started to care what would happen to them and that, to me, is an essential characteristic of a good story. The author was deeply sympathetic to the hardships faced by women in male dominated societies, especially during times of war and unrest. The book also explores changing moral values and the conflict between generations. Nothing really surprised me. I’ve already read enough to have a small clue as to what life in that part of the world is like but, lacking an actual time machine, nothing can take you to another time and place like a good book.

The only difficult thing about the book was that the names, nicknames and honorifics sometimes made it hard to keep up with who was who among the supporting characters. Also there were a lot of unfamiliar words for clothing and food which had me going to the dictionary often at first but Kindle’s dictionary does not know most of them so I soon gave up on that but I occasionally pulled out my smartphone to look something up on Wikipedia. I love modern technology, don’t you?

The English translation contained quite a few errors: “their” instead of “there”, “off” instead of “of”, singular when plural is called for and a lot of other things like that. Being somewhat OCD about such things myself I found this distracting. Overall though, it was a good book. I’m glad I read it and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in 20th century history, exploring other cultures, or who just likes a good story.

I have two more trips to two different Asian cultures waiting on my Kindle (both from Amazon’s monthly $3.99 or less specials) and I haven’t decided which one I will read next.

“This can’t happen with a real book”

That was my immediate thought last night when my Kindle, quite strangely, went back to the beginning of the book I’m reading when I exited the dictionary. I was 40% of the way through the book! I didn’t know what to do and it was late so, heartbroken and worried, I decided to deal with it tomorrow (which is now today) and turned it off.

The first thing I did this morning was to search the Kindle forums on Amazon. This error has happened to other people and there is no automatic way to go back to where you were in the book. The best suggestion was to search on a phrase you remember from the page you were reading. Well, of course, early this morning I couldn’t think of any exact words that I had read last night. But slowly, after morning tea, the fog began to lift and I remembered something that got me very close to where I was.

Now that the panic is over, really thinking about it, it was no more of an ordeal (maybe less of one) than finding your place again in a paper and ink book when you drop it and lose your place so, even though that should not have happened, I still love my Kindle. I’m a little bit peeved at it for losing my place and I still wonder how such a thing could happen but no technology is perfect. It’s so easy to get into the habit of trusting it.

Back to Back Neal Asher

The last two books I read were both by Neal Asher and both were sequels. I always hate trying to “review” Asher’s books. I don’t ever quite know what to say because I feel like anything I can say will make the uninitiated go, “Huh? What?” And there’s always so much going on in his books that I just don’t know how to give a good idea of what they’re about. But if you have never read anything by Neal Asher and you’re interested I recommend that you start with Gridlinked. At first you may find it rather shocking but once you get into it it’s great fun. Anyway… on to my two most recent reads.

The Voyage of the Sable Keech is a sequel to The Skinner. I have been wanting to read this for several years and I have a sort of funny confession to make. For all those years I thought the title was The Voyage of Sable Keech. Do you see what I did? I missed the second “the” and totally changed the meaning of the title. I didn’t realize my mistake until sometime after I had the book and started reading it. Sable Keech was a character in The Skinner and in the sequel it is an ocean going ship named after that character. Both books are very good. The setting is an ocean planet with lots of huge, hungry, very dangerous sea creatures, as well as some insane humans and AI’s of varying levels of sanity, but mostly more sane than the humans.

The Technician is a sequel to Line of Polity. That book deals with an evil Theocracy and, as in most of Asher’s books, a lot of large hungry, very dangerous creatures. In the sequel, a former member of the Theocracy has a secret to what happened to the original inhabitants of the planet Masada locked up in his brain. People who formerly would have been trying to kill him now have to protect him from other people who are still trying to kill him. This might be my favorite of Asher’s novels. In addition to the usual kind of action, it contains a lot of insight into human nature and a number of very quotable lines, a couple of which I have already quoted.

And now I have started reading something entirely different, which I will tell you about eventually.

Two Quotes

These are both from The Technician, by Neal Asher.

“I think, Shree, that you’ve lost sight of what we were fighting for.”
I haven’t, it’s freedom.”
An airy concept often used by people who are really saying: I’m fighting for the freedom to tell you what to do.”

Too true in the real world. Then there’s this one, my favorite of the two, although I do somewhat understand the appeal of mysticism.

“That everything can be analysed, catalogued and understood does not destroy its value. Mysticism is the function of a mind looking for alternatives to reality.”

Reading

A few days ago I finished Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber. Some time in the distant future, human civilization is destroyed by vicious alien invaders who will not negotiate, nor even communicate. A group of humans escape to a world they name Safehold. To insure they will not attract the attention of the aliens, they establish a low-tech civilization and to insure it will stay that way the leaders establish a religion in which progress is a sin. Fast forward almost 900 years and a survivor of the war, a cybernetic avatar awakens and sets out to change things.

I liked the book, did not love it. It’s an interesting enough story once you finally get past the “introductory” stuff. Fully two thirds of the book was primarily conversations about politics. Some of this is necessary to establish the political situation but I would have preferred to get to the main action much sooner. That action, when we finally get to it, is mostly an old style naval battle. A familiarity with sailing terminology would have been useful but, lacking that, I still found it interesting.

My biggest complaint, even worse than the several hundred pages of politics, is that the characters are not particularly well-developed. Mostly there are generic good guys and generic bad guys. The main characters are almost interesting but what little the author gives me about them just frustrates me and makes me want more. Even with all its faults though, I think I might read at least one more in the series because it’s really not all bad.

Oooo! A List!

And a pretty darn good and useful list: The Top 101 Science Fiction Adventures. These start with very early science fiction and are listed chronologically. Not surprisingly, I have read very few of these. Here are the ones I have read:

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. – Edgar Allan Poe – This one is bizarre and quite interesting, especially the part about Antarctica. It makes you realize that at that time in history Antarctica seemed as far away as Mars.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells – After having seen two movies based on this, I have to admit that the book was a bit of a disappointment.

The Lost World – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs – I need to read the rest of the Mars books.

At the Earth’s Core – Edgar Rice Burroughs

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

1984 – George Orwell

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Stranger in a Strange Land(?) – Robert A. Heinlein – I think I read this one but I’m not sure. I really don’t care much for Heinlein except for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress so the other books of his that I’ve read all just sort of blend into one thing that I think of simply as “Heinlein”.

Dune – Frank Herbert – The first three books in this series are awesome beyond my ability to describe. The later books became tiresome.

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin – Meh. Not one of my favorites by this author, who is not one of my favorite authors though there was a time when I really wanted to like her work.

The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin – Sort of interesting even though very dreary.

The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin – Probably my favorite of LeGuin’s novels.

Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – Loved it.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – I read at least part of it. I can’t remember if I finished it.

So that’s 16 or 17 out of 101. Could be worse, I suppose. I want to read more of the books on the list and not just so I can say I read them. Some are old enough to be on Project Gutenberg, which makes it easy.

Oh, That’s Where They Were!

My books! They’re here! (As I mentioned before these are both by Neal Asher.) And there were two surprises. These are both used books and I would have sworn the seller was in Florida but they came from the UK! Which explains why they took so long to get here. Actually it wasn’t long at all considering how far they had to travel. That was the first surprise. The second is that The Technician is a hardback. Either I had thought it was a paperback or I just forgot.

Anyway, both books are in very good condition, just as advertised. I am so tempted to start The Voyage of Sable Keach even though I’m only about a third of the way through Off Armageddon Reef (David Weber). Number Two Son is in the middle of Anathem (Neal Stephenson) and it looks like he will finish that before I finish OAR.

Wait! This Is Not a Cat Blog

*UPDATED*

Uh oh. That was two cat posts in a row. We are in danger of being overwhelmed by the cute. So let’s just babble incoherently for a while. Or something.

So it’s November. The last couple of days have been rainy and cool but not really cold. It’s not bad. I prefer warm weather but this isn’t bad. It feels right for November. The fall colors peaked late. Until just a few days ago trees were still mostly green but now they’ve changed and leaves are falling rapidly. This colorful part of fall comes and goes so fast.

I found this collection of gorgeous steampunk images the other day. I have this one on my desktop now but it was really hard to decide which one I wanted to use.

TV:

We watched the Face Off (SyFy) season finale was last night. This was the first time I had watched an entire season of it. I normally avoid any kind of elimination competition show like a flesh eating virus but my son got us into this one and I actually enjoyed it. All of the competitors got along with each other very well and mostly had excellent attitudes. There were a couple of whiny women that I kept wanting to slap, or shake or something, but compared to most such shows this was a very pleasant group of people. And it was interesting to see their creations. The guy I was sort of rooting for (Tate, from Tulsa) did not win but I wasn’t dissatisfied with the outcome. The final three (of which Tate was one) really were the best three. I’ll probably watch this show again when it returns in January.

I have recorded two episodes of Naked Vegas, which was heavily advertised during Face Off. The rest of the family doesn’t seem to be very interested in it and I’m not sure when we will get around to watching it. We have quite a backlog of recorded shows to watch. That’s okay though. So far we are keeping up enough that we haven’t filled up the recorder and we will have a few shows to watch later when football is over and “Oh No There’s Nothing On TV” season starts.

It seems like most of the shows we’re watching (or recording) right now are on CBS: Elementary, Person of Interest, NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI and Big Bang Theory. Besides those, we watch Castle (ABC) and Grimm (NBC) And I think that’s just about all on the “Big Four”. We have nearly an entire season of Hell on Wheels (AMC) on the recorder and several episodes of Torchwood. (BBCA) Our former favorite cable/satellite channels (Discovery, History, Animal Planet, Nat Geo, Science) are mostly showing crap and re-runs right now. Of course HGTV and DIY are still my Saturday morning TV. Like a kid and cartoons, I can’t miss my Saturday morning home remodeling shows but most of the good shows are gone and the few that are left mostly show the same six episodes over and over and over and over and over.

Sewing:

Yes, I have been sewing and have a few things I want to show off but getting out the camera and setting up the tripod seems like such an ordeal for the lousy pictures I always get. But I will get around to it sometime.

Reading:

I decided to try reading Andre Norton’s Witch World series again. I read the first two books years ago and lost interest with the third. I just finished the third book, Three Against the Witch World yesterday and I do intend to read them all (or at least all that I have) but I want to read something else now. I have ordered two more books by Neal Asher, which should arrive today or tomorrow so I want to wait and read one of those but I hate to not be reading anything. Because of the TV show, Grimm, I decided a while back to download Grimm’s Fairy Tales and I’ve been reading those, just one once in a while and I read another one last night to fill in the time between books.

Via The Middle Stage, an infrequently updated blog about Indian literature, I learned about This Is Not That Dawn, which looks very interesting to me. Since I discovered The Middle Stage, years ago, I have wanted to read an Indian novel simply because I haven’t ever read one, but it’s been very much a back-burner want and I had no book or books in mind. Well, this is the one. I plan to download it soon because the Kindle version is waaaay less expensive.

Oh, almost forgot… I also ordered the first book in David Weber’s Safehold series, thanks to this conversation. I was actually going to start This Is Not That Dawn next but then the linked discussion prompted me to order a few books and now I’m eager for those so I’ll probably read all three of them before I get around to TINTD. Or maybe I’ll try reading two books at once. I know some people do that but I never have.

UPDATE: I received Weber’s Off Armageddon Reef this afternoon but not the two Neal Asher books. (The latter are used.) I was planning to read The Voyage of Sable Keach first (kinda wanted to get to it before Number Two Son) but since OAR is here and I need something to read now, I started that one. You know… there is something extremely pleasing about being the first to read a brand new paperback – the unbroken spine, the clean, untouched pages, that new feeling. But used books are fine too. It’s what’s printed on the pages that counts.

Books People Lie About

I have actually read half of the top 10 books people claim to have read but really haven’t.

1. 1984 by George Orwell – Yes. I read it twice, once in high school and again some years later.

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – Yes, recently.

3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Yes, just a few years ago.

4. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – No. I’ve never been particularly interested in reading it.

5. A Passage to India by EM Forster – No. I haven’t heard much about it but the title alone makes me think I might like it.

6. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – Only the first book.

7. To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee – Yes. I’d like to read it again. I saw the movie when I was a kid and read the book a year or two later.

8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Yes.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – No. I sort of want to read it but it’s not a high priority.

10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – No. I don’t know if I’ll ever read this one or not. From what little I know about it, it doesn’t seem like my cup o’ tea.

I’m not sure what to say about people who lie about having read books. If you want to impress someone just actually read the books. Not only will you be be able to honestly say you read them but you will be a more impressive person all around. I can usually tell whether or not a person reads a lot even if the subject of books never comes up. Generally, people who read books are more interesting.

Big Book

Yesterday I finished reading War and Peace. This is the quintessential Really Long Book, often referred to jokingly as such. If you want to say you had to wait a really long time you say that you could read War and Peace while you’re waiting. For this reason, I have always wanted to read it. I like long books. On the other hand, I have always been put off by the title. Books about war generally don’t appeal to me. (Unless there are space ships) But Kindle and Project Gutenberg make these things so easy.

I actually rather enjoyed it, for the most part, though there were parts that I found less interesting. I almost immediately got interested in the characters and their lives and started to care what happened to them and for me this is the number one mark of a good novel. On the negative side, the book ends with two lengthy epilogs, the second of which consists of nothing but Tolstoy blathering on and on and on and on about history and, of all things, free will. He made a pretty good point that in the present we believe we have free will but the farther back we go in history the more people’s actions seem inevitable. This point could have been made in a paragraph or two or, at most, a few pages but it took Tolstoy twelve chapters. Perhaps this is why people think of War and Peace as being interminably long.

And just how long is it? According to this Wikipedia List of Longest Novels, 1440 pages. (I had to look it up because Kindle doesn’t give you page numbers.) That’s long but really not exceptionally long. James Michener’s novels, for example, are typically over 1000 pages. And there are many trilogies with total page counts that easily equal that of W&P. And yes, I think that’s a fair comparison when the trilogy is one story in three books. This list of 10 Longest Novels in the English Language has a 10 volume work as #1 and numbers 2 through 6 are also longer than W&P.

This is not intended as an attempt to knock War and Peace down from its pedestal. I only want to say that maybe using it as a metaphor for “really long” doesn’t make as much sense as we assume it does. And, don’t be afraid of long books. Long is good. The longer the book the longer you get to stay in that world.

Rules For Reading

Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules! Okay, wait. We all have our own personal rules for things we do, that apply only to ourselves and no one else, and these Rules for Reading mostly fall into that category. There are two or three that should be universal.

1. Always stop at the end of a chapter. Always. No, not always. I often just stop at a line break.

2. Use specific bookmarks. I just use whatever I can find, mostly the little card tags off of clothing, which I save for this purpose. They make great bookmarks. And then there’s my Kindle which saves my place for me.

2a. No dog-earing, bending, or folding of pages. Absolutely! This is one of those that should be universal. I hate dog-eared pages.

2b. Weirdly enough, spine-breaking is fine, just don’t get too crazy with it. No! No! No! It’s not okay!

3. Always read two books at once. For most of my reading life I have always read only one book at a time but in recent years I’ve started trying to read two at once. It doesn’t work out well for me. I usually end up neglecting one.

4. No (or minimal) writing in books. NO writing in books! Not “minimal” just NO. Writing your name on the front, blank page or a note to the person you are giving the book to, if it’s a gift, is fine but otherwise NO writing in books! Ever!

5. Rereads must be earned because there are too many great books out there to read an okay one twice. I used to re-read a lot of books but now I rarely do. I am tempted sometimes but there are too many great books out there to read even a favorite more than once.

6. Not finishing a book is OK. I really hate not finishing a book but it is okay. Sometimes it’s more than okay. If I’m forcing myself to finish a book that I’m not really enjoying much I’m missing out on one that I could be enjoying a lot. However, I have read books that didn’t get interesting until more than a third of the way through so I’m always worried that I might miss out on something good if I quit too soon.

7. It is always better to take more books on a trip than you think you’ll possibly have time to read. I rarely take books on trips and if I do it’s only one but my trips are never more than a few days.

8. Having a favorite genre is fine. Getting stuck in that genre is bad. I have mixed feelings about this one. You never know what you might be missing by limiting yourself to just one genre. But on the other hand, there is more science fiction (for example) than I would be able to read in a lifetime and I could happily remain “stuck” in that genre for my entire life. However, I do have other interests and choose to branch out and read something different once in a while.

And here are a few more of my rules for reading.

9. Don’t get stuck in never ending series just because you want to know what happens next. In the past I used to keep reading books in a series even when I wasn’t enjoying them all that much because I couldn’t stand not knowing what happens next. Now I avoid those kinds of series. If each book in the series can be read as a stand-alone or if I know the story is complete in a specific number of books that’s fine but a series that just goes on and on and on with each book ending in a cliffhanger… No.

10a. Read books by your favorite authors. It’s nice to “live” in a favorite universe for a while.

10b. But don’t get stuck on just a few authors. You never know when you might find your next favorite so try new authors often.

Cli-Fi?

Has Climate Change Created A New Literary Genre? Writers are always influenced by what is going on in the world and many try to speak to what people are concerned about. Does that mean that a “new literary genre” is created every time a lot of writers take up a popular theme? Well, I guess that partly depends on exactly how you define “genre.” Is it a broad category or a narrow one? I’m inclined to think that climate fiction is not a new genre but just the latest popular topic. But, yes or no, let’s please not start using the term, “cli-fi.”