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Books I've Read Recently

SPOILER Warning.  This page contains the occasional spoiler and I do not try to point these out.  The title of the book should be enough to warn you off.  

Baen Free Library

Recently, I've discovered a brand new wonderful wrinkle at the Baen Books website. They have started the Baen Free Library, where authors have placed books in their entirety to be downloaded or viewed through a web browser at no cost to the reader. This is a wonderful thing and it gets my thumbs up award. I will be noting books that I have read through this service thusly. I do not plan to link to them, as the note in the Free Library indicates that books may be rotated in and out, but now you know where to go. Yay for Baen!

June - July, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling. SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ if you do not want to have critical plot elements revealed to you. You are warned (again).

We waited in the Savannah, GA, Barnes & Noble from 10:00 PM on July 16th, 2005, along with 400 other people, for the stroke of midnight in order to buy the latest installment of the Harry Potter series. Despite wanting to cleave the skulls of some over-enthusiastic youths who were running around, it was a perfectly friendly environment, then..."attention Barnes & Noble Shoppers..." and the book was up for sale!

We bought our books (one for each of us to avoid any potential marital discord) and proceded to read them in our hotel room until around 3:00 AM. We had them finished by 2:00 AM the next morning. Not bad considering we were also in Savannah for sight-seeing purposes. We discussed the book at bit, but we had to get up early to move on to the next part of our trip, so sleep was more important.

R.A.B.? We had no clue to start. I know (or suspect) who it is now, from the J.K.Rowling interview alluded to in my blog entry of July 29th. It's probably Regulus Black, and the locket is sitting in the cabinet inside Number 12 Grimmwauld Place, Harry's new house. If you don't believe me, see the opening chapters of The Order of the Phoenix, where Harry and Crew are cleaning the house and the cabinet in particular.

The Severus Snape Scenario? I personally think that Snape is a mean, cruel, horrible man, who is not a member of the Dark Side of the Force. I believe that Dumbledore knew (somehow) that he was going to die because of either his hand or picking up the locket horcrux, and enlisted Snape to kill him to further his infiltration of Voldemort's dark league. Why do I think this? It's a feeling. I feel that Ms. Rowling would not have harped eternally on Snape seeming evil yet being one the good merely to cast him aside now. There are hints that this is possible, from Dumbledore's and Snapes argument in the book, but I must confess I do not have any hard data to cast on the waters. An argument against this would be the second chapter where Snape swears the Unbreakable Vow. Would Dumbledore have known almost a year in advance that he was going to die? Possibly, but we know from this book that Dumbledore is not a seer. I seem to be arguing against myself, but I'm merely confessing to no conclusive data.

The dilemma arises that if Snape is still a member-in-good-standing of the good side, how is he to explain what occurred on the top of the Astronomy tower? No one, least of all Harry, will be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, so there would need to be some ironclad proof to support that position. Another memory for the pensieve? One left to Harry by Dumbledore? I don't know about that one. We know it's possible to edit memories badly, as evidenced by Slughorn, and Dumbledore implies that it's possible to do it well, therefore deceiving even the pensieve viewer. Perhaps the painting of Dumbledore in the Headmistress's office will constitute unimpeachable testimony? Perhaps Snape is intending to sacrifice himself for the cause in the next book, thereby removing this question from play and showing his true colors? The last chapter of the book has a lengthy internal dialogue where Harry remarks that all of his protectors (James, Lily, Sirius, Dumbledore) are now gone and that it's time to step up and be a man. Maybe the last, least-known, least-wanted protector will be Snape? Speculations, all, but it's certainly ripe territory.

Ginny. It certainly seemed trite at first for Harry to cast aside Ginny in order to pursue his quest yet maintain the help and support of Hermione and Ron. However, after the second read of the book, I realized that we don't know anything like that at all. Harry divorces himself from Ginny at the end of the funeral, then attempts the same thing with Ron and Hermione, who refuse to hear anything about it. Then the book ends! No more interaction between Harry and Ginny, but we know they'll see each other soon at Bill and Fleur's wedding. I think it's equally possible that she will hook up with the three musketeers again as remaining Harry's reward for completing the quest. We will see.

Godric's Hollow. I look forward to seeing Harry visit Godric's Hollow to pay respects to his Mom (mum) and Dad. I anticipate that there will be a Death Eater ambush there, resulting in useful intelligence for the good side. We shall see.

Half-Blood Prince (and his book). Will Harry return to the Room of Requirement to get the Advanced Potion Making text he secured there? HmmmmÖ Will the book play any more role in the series. We, again, shall see.

The Peshawar Lancers, S. M. Stirling. Another of Steve Stirling's alternative history novels. This one set in post-meteoric-impact earth circa 2020. Premise: 1877 and a rock hits the earth in several locations along the Atlantic rim, thus devastating North America and Europe. The British Empire survives, and thrives, by moving to India and staving off the collapse of civilization.

This book was all right. I wasn't particularly enthralled by it, but it was entertaining. I'm looking forward to the release in paperback of Dies the Fire which is set in the same universe as Island in the Sea of Time and it's accompanying books.

Harry Potter and [Sorceror's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix], J. K. Rowling. I needed to re-read the series prior to the debut of Half-Blood Prince

The Family Trade,

War of Honor, David Weber. A re-read because I was bored.

Mutineer's Moon, David Weber. An interesting book, premised upon the fact that the moon is actually an ancient battle crusier trying to put down a mutiny.

May, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis. The second book (but the first published) in the Chronicles of Narnia. This book has been on my reading list for years and I finally got a round tuit. Very enjoyable. I understand why a lot of people regard this as a fantasy classic.

Sex, A Mystery, by Fiona Quirina. This was a quick, easy read. I spent maybe 3 hours on it. It's cute, and fun, and that's about it.

The Magician's Nephew, C. S. Lewis. When we went to see Revenge of the Sith we saw a preview for Narnia, the movie adaptation to C.S. Lewis' world which most people know through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I decided that enough was enough, and I'd better finally read these books. The Magician's Nephew was a good story, and it begins the story by introducing Narnia and how it came to be. I enjoyed it.

Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson.  Boooorrriiing.  I would never have thought it would take soooo much effort to read a Neal Stephenson book.  I loved Cryptonomicon and Diamond AgeSnow Crash and Zodiac were pretty good, too.  Unfortunately, this first installment of The Baroque Cycle took me three tries to pick up and finish.  If you're interested in the history of Europe from 1655 to 1689, this is the book for you but GOD!  It was so long!  I felt that it would never end, and I don't think I'll entirely understand what the hell was going on with some of the characters because this was on the first third of the series.  I'm not sure I care enough to put that much effort into reading the next two.  We'll see.

Armor, John Steakley.  This book is about war and people.  It's set in a futuristic place, but I can't really call it Science Fiction.  If you're a  Starship Troopers fan (the book, not the movie), you'll get a kick out of the armored battles, but it's really not what the story is about.  I found it interesting the first time I read it, and I've skimmed it a few times since, but I really sat down to digest it this time and I discovered that it is a very good story about people and their motivations.

April, 2005

Peter and the Starcatchers, Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson. This book surprised me. I was expecting something that was bright and cheery and adventurous; instead, I read something that is adventurous, yes, but not nearly as bright and cheery. This book has serious overtones, not unlike the original Peter Pan (of which this is a prequel story). I was satisfied with the breadth and depth of the portrayal of Peter and his journey toward becoming Peter Pan. I recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure novels, but doesn't mind the repartee that obviously came from Mr. Dave Barry. There is nothing like a giant flying crocodile to make a story come to life. Ridley Pearson is better known for his thrillers. For more information go to Ridley Pearson's official website. Upon further investigation, it seems that this Peter Pan Prequel is quite the hit. It's been on the NY Times Childrens' Book Bestseller list for 30 weeks (as of 19 Apr 2005).

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Terry Pratchett. As usual, Mr. Pratchett managed to come up with a great story that I recommend to anyone who enjoys clever and off-beat looks at life. What would you do if the rats around your house could talk?

Moonshot, by Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Jay Barbree, Howard Benedict. This was a book about the Apollo Program, and specifically about how Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton were involved. As a space junkie, this didn't tell me anything I did not know already, from lots of different sources, but it was an interesting perspective.

March, 2005

Various Honor Harrington books. They make good chewing gum for my mind.

Pandora's Star, Peter F. Hamilton. This book is his latest and it seems to be the first book in a brand-new space opera on the same scale as The Night's Dawn trilogy. It is vast and has a huge cast of characters from the get-go. It is almost necessary to take notes because of the number of pages between when characters pop up. Usually it's easy enough to figure things out in context, but I understand why books of this magnitude push people away.

All that being said, I didn't think this was Mr. Hamilton's best work. It took a long time for things to pick up. Until that point it was character development and world descriptions. I will read the next book when it comes out, but I do not look forward to the necessary re-read of this one in order to keep the characters and stories straight. The The Night's Dawn trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God) were all better in my opinion.

Writing this short review, it comes to my attention that I have been lax in my record keeping. I searched down this list for reviews of The Night's Dawn and Fallen Dragon (another Peter Hamilton book) and found no references. I know that I've read those books since the time I started keeping track almost four years ago. Bad, bad, Bill. I'm not going to go into them now, though, because I'm sure I'll pick them back up in the future.

Vampire$, John Steakley. Previously, I'd only read one book by John Steakley, namely Armor. Upon some further investigation it seems he has only published those two. That is a shame because these are very good books. Vampire$ is about the business of slaying vampires, which no one except a select few (or the unlucky) realize exist. Cameo appearances by the Pope are quite amusing. Kind of bloody and violence-packed, but if you've read any Laurel K. Hamilton, you're all set.

The Black Widowers, Issac Asimov. A collection of vignettes, I'm still reading it...and i'll probably not finish it right now. I have to return it to the library.

January and February, 2005

Man, it's been tough to find time to read the last couple months. Just a few here and there and mostly they are re-reads. Lets see what pops up. (These two months are in no particular order)

The Shadow of Saganami, David Weber. A bit disappointing. Let me start by saying I love David Weber's "Honorverse". He is always developing new corners and nooks to this world he's created. That being said, I'm contiuning to be disappointed by the stories. The Last two main books, War of Honor and this one have been almost entirely predictable. Not predictable for any one particular character, but once I got into the meat of each story, I knew how it was going to end. The suprise ending of Ashes of Victory, on the other hand, was great. Let's see more of that!

As an aside to my criticism above, I will still read these books. They are, as a whole, excellent, with the occasional slight disappointment. If the early ones hadn't been so good, these books would have been fine; it is only in comparison that they lack a bit of luster.

Destiny's Road, Larry Niven. It's been three years since I last read a Niven book. That's some kind of record for me. I picked up The Magic Goes Away a few months ago, but I never finished it, and if I don't finish it, I don't record it.(there are exceptions to that, such as if I don't finish it because it sucks, I'll note that here)

So, it's been a while since I read one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors. Destiny's Road wasn't my favorite book of his, but I like some of the story elements enough to re-read it. It's a bit dry and slow at times, and it's easy to get lost in the names and dialogue, but I'm willing to forgive the man who created Ringworld and co-created The Mote, Footfall, Lucifer's Hammer, and all those Known Space novels.

Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Flynn. This was a very strange book and I have to admit that I did not like it. It seemed like it was written after way too many coffees and vodkas at a convention. Thumbs down from Bill.

The Mote in God's Eye, The Gripping Hand, Larry Niven. Speaking of not reading Mr. Niven for a while, I was trying to find a book in the vast collection of Sci-Fi that I have that would interest my wife. I picked out The Mote in God's Eye which she liked. And then I read it too, because I couldn't for the life of me remember the details of the story. Still as good as it ever was. The Gripping Hand, which is the sequel to Mote is a bit of a let-down if you read it immediately afterward. The story is still good, and the people and places are Gripping, but the whole kit and caboodle just leave you a bit dry at times. Not that I wouldn't read it again, but it's nowhere near the top of my list.

War of Honor, David Weber. Now that I've read or re-read all of that Honor Harrington stuff noted below under December, I can get back to the core of the matter, which was a re-read of War of Honor without wondering who the heck these characters are talking about. Ok book, not spectacular. You can find more of my review here below

December, 2004

The Service of the Sword, Changer of Worlds, More than Honor, Worlds of Honor, David Weber et al. These are collections of short stories by various authors (David Weber, Linda Evans, Jane Lindskold, Roland J. Green, S. M. Stirling, David Drake, Timothy Zahn, John Ringo and Victor Mitchell, John Ringo). These stories add additionaly wealth to an already rich universe. I do find it difficult sometimes to get into a story about characters who are already dead in the main story line and the outcome of which is already known. C'est la vie.

Crown of Slaves, David Weber, Eric Flint. I'm on another Honor Harrington Kick again. I want to re-read War of Honor but I realized that by not reading all of the peripheral books such as Crown of Slaves, The Service of the Sword, Changer of Worlds, More than Honor, Worlds of Honor I was missing out on some important aspects of the story, and they were a bit difficult to pick out of the main-line Honor Harrington novels. So, back to reading I go.

That being said, I didn't particularly care for Crown of Slaves. I don't want to harp on it, but see my notes about 1632 and 1633 concerning obssesive romantic campiness.

1632, 1633, Eric Flint. I'm a sucker for an alternate history novel, and this series is pretty good, albeit with a slight tinge of obssesive romantic campiness. Ignoring that, the historical aspects of his non-transplanted characters are great, and I eagerly look forward to seeing where the short-story collaboration of this world takes the writing to.

The Cross-Time Engineer, The High-Tech Knight, Leo Frankowski. Some amusing chewing gum books having to do with time travel and primitive engineering. Fun, but very sexist. Not recommended for female readers who don't want to hear about underage sex a lot.

Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan. The last two books in the Wheel of Time series, thank god. Two and a half months to read the thing beginning to (current) end. I was also reading more critically this time, looking for all those niggling little clues that Jordan likes to toss in to his stories for the reader to figure out what is really going on. During the course of this quest, I've found that I disagree with the WOT FAQ in quite a few places, and I think it goes way overboard in others, but it is a useful tool for those people who have already read these novels. It is filled with spoilers left and right, so beware.

November, 2004

The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Robert Jordan. I continued re-reading the series this month. I'm sure there were some other books in there that I read, but I do not recall what they were.

October, 2004

The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising..., Robert Jordan. After reading New Spring last month, I got back onto a Wheel of Time kick and started reading The Wheel of Time FAQ again.  This of course made me realize that it has been six years or so since I read the series start to finish.  I don't have anything else going on right now, book-wise, so off I go!

September, 2004

New Spring, Robert Jordan.  The prequel novella (not the short story found in Legends) to the Wheel of Time Series.  It fills in some knowledge gaps about the Aes Sedai and the Aiel War, but it really did not tell us anything we didn't know already.

The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson. Yet another re-read.

The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Forde. As opposed to Lost in a Good Book, which I didn't care for too much (see below), I though this was an excellent book, with much to recommend it. Good story, reasonably paced action, and it didn't bog down in listless detail.

August, 2004

Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson. Another re-read.

World War I, S. L. A. Marshall.

Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Forde. The Eyre Affair was good. This one I didn't like. It was too long-winded. Maybe it was just the mood I was in. Can't win them all, I suppose.

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Forde. Jenn and I don't usually read the same sorts of books. I read more non-fiction and a lot more science fiction. She reads more difference kinds of fiction than I do, and occasionally she'll toss a book my way that is fascinating, to say the least. The Eyre Affair is one of those. She had set it on my bedside table and I'd said I'd get to it. Three months later, I finally picked it up. It isn't the best book, nor is it my favorite book, but it definitely kept me involved. I'm not sure I set it down before finishing. The story defies a short explanation. Read it, it's good.

Mid June - July, 2004

Wild Cards III, Jokers Wild, George R.R. Martin. Unlike the first two books in this series, Wild Cards, Wild Cards II (See below), this is not a compilation of short stories. It is an interwoven series of vignettes, which occasionally break the walls between each other for the characters to have contact. An excellent read, as usual, although I have the complaint that it isn't sufficiently explained about the Great and Powerful Turtle.

Mort, Terry Pratchett. Another book in the Discworld universe, following the trials of Deathís new apprentice. I enjoyed this book, as I enjoy just about everything that TP writes, but it wasnít my favorite (That would still be The Truth).

Sourcery, Terry Pratchett. The eighth son of an eighth son will have special powers, and in the Discworld universe, he is a wizard. But what about his eighth son? A source of magic, as is displayed in this book, again following the inept wizzard (sic) Rincewind.

What is it about Rincewind? Of all the themes in the Discworld series, I think I like this one the least. I do not have any complaints about the humor, or the plots. I think itís the crusty old-fogey dialogue that Terry Pratchett writes for the mouths of the other wizards at the Unseen University. After a while, it tends to grate. Having said that, I canít help but love the Rincewind character. Anyone so blatantly incompetent and cowardly is specially loved by the gods, and the readers who follow them.

Wild Cards II, George R.R. Martin. This is the second in a series of books edited by the listed author and written by a who's who list of fantasy and sci-fi personages. This series is worth the read.

The Adventuress, ???? . Arggh. Boring. Jenn liked it, but she acknowledged that she found it a bit dry.

March - June, 2004

Well, since I last spent time on this website, Jenn found a job, I found a job, we moved, she moved (separately) and got settled into a new apartment. Suffice to say: I was busy.

Never the less, a short summary of what I read in that time, with the caveat that I'd been re-reading a lot of things for their resemblance to mental chewing gum, so I'll not list those.

Wild Cards, Edited by George R.R. Martin. This is book of short stories written by various authors (enter hyperlink here) set in a world gone a bit haywire by the unleashing of an alien virus. This virus kills nine out of ten people it infects, and nine out of the ten survivors are hideously (or uselessly) transformed into Jokers, a persecuted minority caste. But that last person is turned into an Ace, with supernatural powers to be used for good or ill.

This series of books (of which Iíve now read I and II: Aces High) were developed by projecting the characters from a superheroes role-playing game that GRRM ran (with such notable players as xx and yy) into a novelistic environment.

For those of you who ran screaming at the mention of role-playing, these are excellent stories, and I canít wait to pick up the next several books.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. I finally broke down and picked up this book after years of having it lie around the house. Jenn loves these books and itís hard to justify not reading them after I forced her to read The Lord of the Rings before the first movie came out a few years ago. So far, Iíve enjoyed this book, although I have to pay a lot closer attention to the prose than Iím used to, to understand what everyone is really saying. Good, dry, humor.

Citizen Soldier, Stephen Ambrose. Iím sure Iíve chronicled my reading of this book elsewhere in this list. I have no particular expertise in military history, or history in general, but I think this is one of the best histories Iíve ever read. He does not sacrifice the stories and trials of the individual soldiers in order to paint a strategic picture of the invasion and destruction of Hitlerís Third Reich, while still managing to give a good birdís eye view of the conflict. A well balanced viewpoint. It is sad to think that no more books will be coming now that he has died. See Undaunted Courage, Nothing Like it in The World, D-Day, The Wild Blue.

Potter et al, J. K. Rowling. The third movie (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) came out so we decided to read the series again. It just keeps getting better and better with every re-read. And it's always nice to read an old book and still find things you haven't noticed before. Maybe I should read more slowlyÖ

Conquistador, S.M. Stirling. In the same vein as his Island in the Sea of Time novels, this book explores a parallel California. I personally thought it was great up Ďtil about halfway, then it dragged. Ah well, you canít win them all. It was a great concept, though.

Paying the Piper, David Drake. Another book in the Hammerís Slammers series. Mr. Drake continues to write well-executed and interesting military fiction. He describes gunfire and its attending results viscerally.

Officer-Cadet, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, All by Rick Shelley. I'd seen this series in the bookstore for a long time, and had resisted picking them up because I never saw more than one or two at the same time. Finally I just bought the set by going to three different stores, and read most of them while waiting for my new job to begin. Reasonable military fiction with a slightly futuristic bent. Not a series of books that I plan to read again, however, which should tell you all you need to know.

February, 2004

The Forge, The Hammer, The Anvil, The Steel, The Sword, S.M. Stirling.  All books comprise the series, "The General."  This is story which will appeal to any military history buff, even if it is set on an alien planet, in the future, after the fall of Galactic Civilization.  I'm not an expert, but I believe the weapons and tactics employed date to the 1870's?  Someone will have to correct me if they can.

What if!, Edited by Robert Cowley.  This is a compilation of essays by military historians who ask the counterfactual question "What If?" concerning their favorite historical opportunity:  D-Day, Alexander's (the Great) first Persian battle, the Spanish Armada, etc.  Some interesting points of view.  I love reading alternate history essays and novels.  They increase my desire to learn about the actual historical events pictured in them.  See "The General" series by S.M. Stirling, any of a slew of books by Harry Turtledove, or just go to www.randomhouse.com/delrey/althist/ which is the Del Rey Alternate History site.  (I love Harry Turtledove, which is why I'm including a commerical site link) Also see     www.uchronia.net/ for a site devoted to ALL authors and genre's concerning alt history.

Death Rat!, Mike Nelson.  This caught my eye when I stopped off at the library to pay my overdue book fines.  A novel about an older, overweight man who cannot sell his adventure novel because he doesn't look the part.  Lots of jabs in this book about ghostwriters, Pop Stars, Tom Clancy and Minnesota.  I'm enjoying it so far.

January, 2004

During the month of January I didn't really read very much.  I was working a great deal, Jenn was on Campus Visits, and I didn't have much new stuff around to pick up.  So I re-read a bunch of the Dragonriders of Pern, Fallen Dragon (Peter Hamilton) and a few other random novels.

I did begin Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, but that book has me scared at the moment. I'm not willing to put in the effort yet.

December, 2003

Yes, I read some stuff.  These things included a re-read of The Return of the King prior to the release date of the same titled movie.  I also re-read The Fellowship of the Ring after that.  Jenn and I took a trip to San Diego for the Modern Language Association conference and I did a lot of reading there.  Specifically:

The Dark Elf Trilogy, R. A. Salvatore.  Anybody who follows Forgotten Realms novels will be familiar with the dark elf ranger Drizzt Do'Urden.  These are the novels that followed the Icewind Dale trilogy to describe the origins of Drizzt to the world.  Now, I read The Crystal Shard (book one in the Icewind Dale trio) way back when in high school.  It's really the only one of the three I remember very well.  Fortunately, Mr. Salvatore has been pumping out novels at a steady clip and has published some recently that feature Drizzt on the cover.  I thought that if I were wanting to read them, I'd better read the previous ones.  Voila, I bought the trilogy for our trip to San Diego.  Salvatore is one of my favorite authors of Role Playing fiction.  He gets ranked up with Michael Stackpole and William H. Keith, Jr.  (please note the entire absence of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman)

Beginning Operations, James White.  This is a compendium of the first three Sector General books, Hospital Station, Star Surgeon, and Major Operation.  I had wanted to read these for a long time, as the last several novels in the series are on my library's book shelves, but they lack the initial stories.  I thoroughly enjoyed Hospital Station and Star SurgeonMajor Operation sort of dragged me down, but that may have been because I'd been reading six or seven hours a day for five days.

November, 2003

Foundation, Issac Asimov.  I haven't read this book in a long time.  Something like twelve years or so.  It's amazing what I either forgot about it, or didn't catch the last time.  Great book.  

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser.  Scary, scary book.  After reading this one, I'll no longer be eating ground beef unless I see the side of beef actually ground.  An excellent exposť on the fast food industry, its philosophy and practices.  A bit depressing, I thought, but worth the read.

Search and Rescue Dogs (Training the K-9 Hero), American Rescue Dogs Association (ARDA).  I've been somewhat obsessed with getting a dog after we move out of Texas.  To that end, I've been reading a lot of dog books (some of which are notably missing from this list, see Feb-Oct 2003) and trying to decide what level of dog devotion will come about.  I'm toying with the idea of training a SAR dog and joining a search squad.  We'll see.

The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien.  Just rereading the last bit of Pippin's tale after the fall of Isengard.  That's where the movie picks up after all.  I'll probably also read the Frodo-Sam story starting from the crossroads to the end of the book.  I'm not sure yet in my mind where Peter Jackson is planning to pick up the story given what he did to the end of The Two Towers:  The Movie.  Very weird being that Osgiliath was a day's walk from hidden Henneth Annun.  Very weirder when the elves showed up at Helm's Deep.  But, I still like it...

The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins.  I am going to finish this book.  See my review below under September, 2002.  This time around, I'm having an easier time reading it.  As I've read the chapters before (I only finished about half last time) I know where he's going and I can concentrate on his point without getting distracted by his asides.  I was motivated to read this book again through various mentions of Mr. Dawkins with respect to creationists and why they think he is the devil incarnate.  Although shame on Mr. Dawkins in his introduction concerning his beliefs on sexist language.

Note:  Finished it, at last.  I recommend everything up to about 2/3 of the way through.  Then I get lost as to the point of the book.  Dawkins' whole point to the book is disproving the need for a prime-motivator a.k.a. "God" to cause all of life's marvelous complexity.  He does manage to non-succinctly push the boundaries of explainable reasons deeper into the past, but he admits himself that there are areas where science has yet to come up with plausible and reasonable mechanisms for the origins of life.  This is not a book for someone who is a skimmer, or is trying to get some quick band-aid tips to argue with creationists/intelligent-designerists.  For those, you should probably check out www.skeptic.com.

The Cryptonomicon.  Neal Stephenson.  It amazes me that I haven't mentioned this book before on this list.  I know I've read it at least once before during the time I'm kept this page.  Anyway, Great book!  This is one of the books that I pick up when I want something to read that will take me a while and that will keep me interested.  Neal Stephenson is an excellent author who really appeals to what I like in a book.  If only I were a professional reviewer with more flowery language.  Be aware that the Sultanate of Kinakuta and Qwhlgm are fictional places.  They do not exist...

The Diamond Age.  Neal Stephenson. A re-read.  Bored.  Great book.

February-October, 2003

In the middle of all this I got married, I took the Professional Engineering Examination (passed, I hope), and I assisted Jenn in putting out all of her job applications for MLA.  Needless to say, I haven't been keeping this list up to date.

A whole bunch of stuff which I did not write down, but...

Golf:  The Physical Game, Dr. Roy Childers.  I borrowed this one from a Chiropractor friend of mine who had it laying around the office.  It was interesting, although it wasn't really for me.  You need to have some control over your swing before this would be a useful tool for minimizing the game's impact on your musculo-skeletal anatomy.

January, 2003

Wishing Season, Esther Friesner.  Interesting.  Esther Friesner was one of the authors in Meditations on Middle Earth so I picked up another of her books.  Good stories about genies, but not for me.

Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan.  At last and Oh No!  This book was disappointing because it just didn't go anywhere.  Here we go, having to wait for the next book in the series.

Crystal Singer, Killashandra, Crystal Line, Anne McCaffrey.  Another re-read.

Deathstalker, Simon R. Green.  Did not finish this one.  My time is worth too much anymore to finish books I don't like.  Very campy and hard-to-believe.  Disappointing because it started so well.

December, 2002

Ill Met by Moonlight, Sarah A. Hoyt.  Read over Christmas.  A tale about young Will Shakespeare, before writing any plays, getting caught up with the Fey in England.  Cute.

Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien and The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien.  Preparation for the debut of the next movie in the trilogy directed by Peter Jackson.

November, 2002

Berserker Wars, Fred Saberhagen

Meditations on Middle Earth, Edited by... I don't know.  I started reading this at my sister Cindy's house over Thanksgiving in Santa Cruze, and I had to finish it when I got home.  Some interesting essays by various authors.  I really appreciate the one by Michael Swanwick.

Dragonquest, Anne McCaffrey.  Reread.  See below.

Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey.  Reread.  A good series.  Cute.  Short.  Easy.

Flatterland, Ian Stewart.  A "sequel" to Flatland, which was published in 1880 and was a treatise on math, philosophy, and Victorian cultural stereotypes.  Flatterland uses the Flatland world to explore some of the esoteric topics in math that exist today.  Topology, multidimensionality, hyperbolic planes, and other strange things.  Interesting, but a trifle dry.  I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone.

Dragonseye, Anne McCaffrey.  I love revisionist history inside well-established series'.  Don't you? Alas, Ms. McCaffrey has done this on several occasions in her Pern series.  This particular book didn't have a great deal of story in it.  I would call it a chronicle of events immediately prior to the second pass.  It tells of how the Teaching Ballads came about and approximately when most of the knowledge of old Earth was lost.  It implies the creation of the Crafthalls, but she might be saving that for another book.

October, 2002

Salt, A World History, MarkKurlansky.  Started it.  Didn't finish it.  I have to get back to this, maybe after finishing The Blind Watchmaker.

Dragonsdawn, Anne McCaffrey.  Re-reading a book on my bedside table.  To fill that time between laying and sleeping.  Good story.  Mixes some sci-fantasy into the Pern world.

What Einstein Told his Cook, Robert L. Wolke.  Ever wonder why or how something in the kitchen, food or otherwise, works?  Well here you go.  I read this book cover to cover in about two days, around my work life and it was well worth the effort.  Now I know not to bother with those soda-bottle pressurizers (although I had to pull out my chemistry book to believe him).  Robert Wolke "is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and a food columnist for The Washington Post" and that is a quote from his website.

I'm Just here for the Food, Alton Brown.  If you've never watched Good Eats on the Food Network, you should.  I love this show for several reasons, one of which is my nerdiness factor.  Alton Brown writes, directs, and co-produces each one of his episodes.  Delightfully for me, an Engineer, he delves into why the food works the way it does, not just how to throw it all together.  I for one have been entirely confused sometimes about why certain ingredients go together.  Also, why particular temperatures in the oven?  I have to guess every time, but I'm learning.  This is his first cookbook and Alton focuses on Process as a whole as opposed to, ahem, cookie-cutter blind recipe-following.

Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan.  Ahhhh.  Soon, the new book The Crossroads of Twilight will be out and the eleventh! book of the Wheel of Time series will be unleashed upon us.  I tell you, I used to think that the people who argued incessantly over the nitty gritty of this series were a bit loopy, if not totally nerded out, but I've found myself combing the Wheel of Time FAQ (and disagreeing with points in it) for the last several weeks.  It is an extremely useful tool for those people, like me, who just can't read the last four books in order to re-familiarize themselves with the characters.  And boy are there a lot.  Excellent series.  For shear scope and complexity, I rate this the numero uno fantasy series of all time.

All the Weyrs of Pern, Anne McCaffrey.  A good book, and what I consider the logical endpoint of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series.  Unless she can come up with some blazing new topic, but I just don't see it happening in the current time/space frame she's got set up.  The Dolphin's of Pern, was an absolute flop with an enormous sequelitis chip on it's shoulder.  I haven't read The Masterharper of Pern yet, and I don't think I'm going to because the jacket description violates a very basic premise of Robinton's life.  He did not ever hear dragons.  Of course, I haven't read the book.  Perhaps Ms. McCaffrey presents it in a different fashion.  It's not unknown for the persons writing the jacket synopsis to play a little fast and loose with the story.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling.  

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling.  I guess I'm re-reading these because, ummmm, well...because they're fun!

War of Honor, David Weber.  The most recent edition in the Honor Harrington series.  Unfortunately, despite having drooled waiting for this book, it disappointed me.  It is a HUGE novel with an unfortunate amount of political gobbleygook.  The entire novel was designed merely to set up the next set of stories for David Weber to write.  I'm not going to say I'm dissapointed in the direction he's taking his Honor universe, merely that he devoted nigh on 900 pages to developing the setting.  Argh.  One good thing that can be said is their inclusion on the back cover of the book of a CD-ROM containing every written word, to date, of the Honor Harrington novels.  Check out http://www.baen.com/orientation.htm

The Art of Knots, Marc P. G. Berthier.   A well-illustrated but pretentious book on knot work about a "traditional" boat.

Handbook of Seaman's Ropework, Sam Svensson.  More knots.

Celtic Knotwork Designs, Sheila Sturrock  Interesting.  But not *that* interesting.

The Sailmaker's Apprentice, Emiliano Marino. Knots and Sails anyone?

The History of Forts & Castles, Ian Hogg.

Industrial Minerals, Robert L. Bates.  Neat little book acquainting you with the source and use of some everyday minerals.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling.  Finished Sorceror's Stone so I moved on to the next book.

Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone, J. K. Rowling.  I haven't been reading much recently and this has been on the bedside table.

September, 2002

The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins.  Oof.  Thick and heavy.  This guy has a very good way of explaining his point, but the problem lies in that once he gets to it, you've forgotten where you started.  He is arguing against the need for a God figure or Initial Instigator in the grand scheme of evolution.  He shows through several chapters where the holes in current creationist arguments are.  But, unless you're already familiar with the material and the ideological debates you'll leave with the feeling of "Yeah, he's right.  Whatever it was he was talking about."

Snow Crash,  Neal Stephenson.  Hmmm.  What to say about Snow Crash?  I've heard that Mr. Stephenson wrote this book while listening to heavy metal music.  The tone of the book speaks volumes to the truth of this anecdote.  It is quick and choppy and good!  Very well thought-out, near-future, quasi-apocalyptic vision.  If you like cyberpunk, if you like science fiction, if you like ancient Sumerian folklore, you'll probably like this book.

May-September, 2002

A very long time where I did not keep track.  Ah well.

April, 2002

Lacey and His Friends, David Drake.  Old Book.  Old Read.  Good Stories.  Short.  Quick.  Easy.

Crescent City Rhapsody, Kathleen Ann Goonan.  Ahhhh!  Run!  Run away!  It's so disappointing to read six or seven chapters into a book, get hooked by wonderful storytelling and characters and then, THUD, nothing happens for the rest of the novel.  Wow.  Where did the fun go?  Having read this one, I don't thing I'll need to read anymore of Ms. Goonan's stories unless they come specifically recommended.

Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose.  The biography of Meriwether Lewis and his part in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  This book draagggggggggggged, unlike many of Ambrose's that I've read before, but it did impart a wealth of useful information to me.  I realized after reading it that I'd really no idea whatsoever what the L&C Expedition had been about.  It's nice to know that my schooling way back when was thorough.

The Practical Geologist, Dougal Dixon.  Interesting.  

Meditations at Sunset:  A Scientist looks at the sky, James Trefil.  Picked it up to see why the sky is blue.  It told me.

Godspeed, Charles Sheffield.  Charles Sheffield is an on-again, off-again writer for me.  Sometimes he hammers that nail deep and others, he's whacking about the board without much true sense of where he's trying to hit.  This one wasn't centered for me.  It was strange and diverting, but the father-figure/mother-prostitute were just a hair strange.  

How to Save the World, Edited by Charles Sheffield.  Various short stories concerning global problems and their solutions.  Alluded to entirely with the title.

M.C. Escher, the Graphic Work,  M. C. Escher.  This is a compilation of Escher's works, chronologically, documenting his development as an artist.  His comments on what he was working toward with individual pieces is broadening to anyone who, like me, cannot get enough of his artistry.

March, 2002

The Light Fantastic, Terry Pratchett.  The second Discworld novel and I cannot honestly remember what happened in it.  Oh well.

The entire Honor Harrington series, by David Weber.  I've read them all at least three or four times before and it won't stop me the next time.  

Americans At War.  Stephen Ambrose.  A collection of essays by this prominent historian.  Well worth the read.

The Color of Magic.  Terry Pratchett.  The very first Discworld novel.  They definitely get better with time.  Although I like Rincewind the character, I find some of the settings, particularly the academic settings, very annoying.

More Than Honor.  David Weber, David Drake, S. M. Stirling.  A collection of short stories and vignettes concerning  the universe of Honor Harrington.  Anything with Honor in it is good for me.

February, 2002

The Illustrated The Last Hero.  Terry Pratchett.  Obviously I've been on a Terry Pratchett kick for the past little while.  I realize, though, that I haven't read anything funny in a while...and Mr. Pratchett is absolutely hilarious.  This particular story, following the exploits of Wizzard Rincewind and Cohen the Barbarian is illustrated by Paul Kidby.  The illustrations themselves are wonderfully funny, as well as being truly artistic. 

Interesting Times.  Terry Pratchett. The first Discworld story I've read with the Great Wizzard Rincewind in it.  From statements made, I assume that there are others.  One of the thing I like best about Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels is the ability to pick up any given one and read it, without any background knowledge of his fantasy world.  They are marvelously self-contained and gloriously funny.

The Truth.  Terry Pratchett.  Well, I was reading this during break at work and had to suppress the gales of laughter in my cubicle.  Anything about the first Ankh-Morpork free press from now on has my thumb up.

The Art of War.  Sun Tzu, translated by Samuel B. Griffith.  I'd heard about this treatise through about eight million different channels so it was time to read it.  Hmmmmm...interesting.  I found this version more interesting from the point of view of the academics who were quoted inside arguing about:  whether or not Sun Tzu was a real person; when it was *really* written; misc. garbage only war historians would care about.  On the whole, it was nice to finally read it, but it belongs up there with the bible and Rachmaninoff.  It's something that has to be studied by a person who is deeply devoted to the field.  Otherwise it's merely a pile of broad generalizations.

On the Oceans of Eternity, Against the Tide of Years, Island in the Sea of Time.  S.M. Stirling.  The term is eluding me at the moment, but this trilogy is about the Island of Nantucket being tossed upon the ocean of time and ending up in the year 1250 B.C. and then all of the resultant historical changes.  I like these novels, but then I'm a military history amateur buff and a great deal of these books are devoted to the political, military, and cultural domination of a bunch of random modern Americans with the benefit of three thousand years of world development behind them.  And the Coast Guard Training Ship Eagle, of course...

The Olympics Most Wanted.  Floyd Conner.  Lists of various olympic trivia.  Interesting.

The Count of Monte Cristo.  Alexandre Dumas.  Ahhhhh.  I read this long ago and then, just last week, I saw the cinematographic adaption.  I couldn't quite remember what exactly happened in the book so it was time to re-read the book!  Nothing like a plot so convoluted and twisted that you have to reference prior chapters and almost keep notes to figure out what's happening.  Twice as twisted as the Wheel of Time series, and just as good.

January, 2002

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them.  J. K. Rowling.  Ummmm.  I'm glad this money is going to charity, and I'm glad I got this book out of the library.

A Gift from Earth.  Larry Niven.  Wow!  A Larry Niven story that I had not read!  Very exciting.  It's a Known Universe tale on Mount Lookitthat, examining the societal impacts of unlooked for gifts.  Remember, the organ banks are the official method of execution right now...

Nothing Like it in the World.  Stephen Ambrose.  This book is about the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad by the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railways.  Stephen Ambrose lives up to his reputation with this one.  I enjoyed reading this and it gave me a nice perspective on the west before there was any method of transport across it better than a horse or your own two feet.

The Rising, The Privateer, The Independent Command.  James Doohan and S. M. Stirling.  First three novels in the Flight Engineer series.  Ok books.  Chewing gum for the brain.  Sci-fi-military novels at their dime-store best.  

Patriots.  David Drake.  If you know who Benedict Arnold is and/or you want an interesting perspective on the American Revolutionary War, I'd read this novel.  And keep in mind while you read that it strongly parallels real parties from the 1770's.

The Diamond Age.  Neal Stephenson.  Somewhat of a technological sequel to Snow Crash, at least there a few mentions of thrashers in it, this book is a science fiction novel of the first order, as well as a social text exploring the ramifications of future technological improvement on existing societies.  

October, November, December, 2001

Hey, Whoops. I've neglected this page for the last several months.  Here's a quick overview of what I remember:

Citizen Soldiers.  Stephen E. Ambrose.  One of the best WWII histories that I've ever read.  This covers the time period from D-Day + a bit to the surrender of Germany.  What I like most about this book is Mr. Ambrose's ability to focus both on the dirt-in-his-teeth GI as well as the Top Generals and their strategic outlook.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Mark Twain.  American Classic up there with the best stories I've read.  

Wine for Dummies.  Ed McCarth and Mary Ewing-Mulligan.  Most people I know spurn the Dummies collection as being mass-produced and usually too full of artsy-fartsy pictures, icons, and page fillers.  I happen to agree with the unnecessary-page-volume argument, but I've also felt that they are an excellent place to start if you are approaching a new topic with little or no knowledge.  They usually give you a wide background of a subject from which you can expand into more comprehensive tomes.  Wine for Dummies is one of the best Dummies books I've ever bought and I recommend it to anyone looking to know a great deal about wine.  

Mining the Sky.  John S. Lewis.  A treatise on the topic of exploiting the riches of the Near Earth Asteroids.  Whether or not it is economically or scientifically viable.  (Ed. Note, YES!  Let's get on with it.)

Rain of Iron and Ice.  John S. Lewis.  If you want to know about asteroid and comet hazards to the Earth in a concise, readable, scientfic form, this is the book for you.  This book with make you want to sit out at night looking for negative magnitude fireballs (one of which I saw over Lubbock, TX, in February, 2000, on my way to a hockey game).

There have been others, and I'll put them in as I remember them...

September, 2001

The Wrong Dog.  Carol Lea Benjamin.  "A Rachel Alexander and Dash Mystery."  I grabbed this one off the shelf at the library because it had a cute looking dog on the cover (Dash is a dog).  It turns out that this is the 4th or so of a series of books with these characters.  I don't think that I'll be picking up the other books by this author.  As it turns out, I am not the audience for this book.  It's about cloning, and why it's automatically bad.

Dragonsinger.  Anne McCaffrey.  A re-read because I was bored.  This makes read number 30 at least.  Just as good and campy as the first time I read it back in the sixth grade.

D-Day.  Stephen E. Ambrose.  An excellent account of the preparation for, and execution of, the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944.  For anyone who's interested in military history, I think that you'll find a winner in Stephen Ambrose.  I have always been interested in military history but there are few authors who possess the ability to keep both the strategic and tactical perspectives at the same time.  Interesting for those who want to know which units do what, where, and for those who want an overall picture of the invasion.

Saturn's Race.  Larry Niven and Steven Barnes.  Looks like this is the first of at least two books.  Larry Niven's congruences with Steven Barnes are usually in the near future with a fantasy-game aspect to them (Dream Park, The Fall of Anasasi) but this one is jumping farther into the cyberpunk realm.  It doesn't compare with the books of William Gibson or Neil Stephenson, but it's getting closer.  Just remember the meaning of life according to Barrister: "If you don't keep moving, you sink."

The Return of the King.  J.R.R. Tolkien.  Book number three including all of the language, history, and family tree appendices for The Lord of the Rings.  It was, again, as good as the first time.  Maybe even better, because you are more able to keep in mind all of the myriad place names and locations with practice.  Constant referral to the maps make for a better view of Middle Earth.  I still wonder what happened to all of the Orcs that were in Moria during the War.

Faith of the Fallen.  Terry Goodkind.  The sixth book in the Sword of Truth series.  Around about the third book (Blood of the Fold) I ceased to really care about this series as a series.  Individually, as long as you have some familiarity with the characters, these books are good by themselves.  Unfortunately we have some major theme repeatage.

Beat to Quarters.  C. S. Forester.  The sixth book of the Hornblower series.  

Hornblower and the "Atropos."  C. S. Forester.  The fifth, chronologically, of his Horatio Hornblower novels.  If you're a fan of naval fiction, these books are absolutely for you.  Forester expresses a keen understanding of what went on aboard a grand sailing ship.

American Empire:  Blood and Iron.  Harry Turtledove.  This book is the direct sequel to Breakthroughs.  As I understand it, this was initially intended to be the fourth book in his Great War tetrology, but he and his publisher decided to throw another series right on top of the previous one.  I'm looking forward to the next book.

Playgrounds of the Mind.  Larry Niven.  Larry Niven is one of my favorite science fiction authors.  He will extrapolate from a set of assumptions an entire world, and do it well.  Playgrounds is a collection of stories, excerpts, and writings.

Burnt Offerings, Blue Moon, Obsidian Butterfly.  More books by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Continuing her Anita Blake vampire executioner series.  The theme is getting old, but I can't seem to stop reading them.

The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien.  Books III and IV of The Lord of the Rings.  Another re-reading.

August, 2001

Yanks.  A story of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.  This is probably a good book if you're studying battles and want to know about specific unit assignments, etc.  It's a bit of a boring read, though, if you are looking for an overall picture.

The Professor and the madman.  Simon Winchester.  An interesting description of a few of the characters behind the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Fellowship of the Ring.  J.R.R. Tolkien.  Books I and II (Tolkien's divisions) of The Lord of the Rings.  Another re-reading.  I want to have some of the details of this excellent novel firm in my mind before the movie comes out this December.  God help them if they screw up the movie.  It'll be raining flames if Tolkien fans don't get what they want.

The Hobbit.  J.R.R. Tolkien.  I should say, “read again.”  This is at least the tenth time I've read this book and I did so merely to begin another pass through The Lord of the Rings.

Breakthroughs. Harry Turtledove.  Third novel in his alternate Great War series.

A Walk in Hell.  Harry Turtledove.  Second novel in his alternate Great War series.  A re-reading so that I can reaquaint myself with the characters in the books.

The Killing Dance, Bloody Bones, The Lunatic Cafe, Circus of the Damned, The Laughing Corpse.  All by Laurell K. Hamilton. Her vampire hunter series. 

The Face of Apollo.  Fred Saberhagen.  A reminder to myself why I don't read Fred Saberhagen.  The last books by him I read were the Books of Swords and I didn't like those either.

Kirinyaga.  Mike Resnick.  A thoughtful utopian tale of a brand new world and a man's attempt to keep in that way.

Turing.  Andrew Hodges.  A short treatise on Alan Turing's life, work, and philosophy.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Author of the Century.  Tom Shippey.  Didn't even finish the foreword.  More of a scholarly work about Tolkien's philologic work and how his life experiences fit into The Lord of the Rings.  I'd expect to see a paper like this at the Popular Culture Conference in Albuquerque.

Texas.  James Michener. Not his best work.  Space and Chesapeake were better.