Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Upgrading hopefully back soon

Tonight I'm going to be moving to a new computer running the 64-bit version of Vista. The best of post will be a little late this year. Hopefully back soon. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sir Terry Pratchett

Well cool, it's about time! Also Lewis Hamilton a MBE. Sport stars lead New Year Honours

New self-publishing website

Self-Publishing Review will be a website to watch. Not much there at the moment but it looks like one of the ideas they will be pushing is professionalism. Something that I considered writing about in the past but haven't really managed to get to.

800th post

This is my 800th post to the blog. This year has been prolific. When I started this I never thought it would be around for this long or as much fun.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Bastard King (Scepter of Mercy, Book 1) by Dan Chernenko

The Bastard King (Scepter of Mercy, Book 1) by Dan Chernenko is the first book in a fantasy trilogy. Chernenko is better known as Harry Turtledove. Lanius the only male heir of the king is considered to be illegitimate by some because he is of the king's seventh wife. Their only allowed six. He is more interested in history and animals then warfare and diplomacy. Grus son of a peasant works his way up the Navy eventually to challenge for the throne. He makes the choice to act as a joint king instead of just killing Lanius. There are various threats to the kingdom particularly the the neighboring territory controlled by a god.

I have a few problems with this book. First of all the characters aren't terribly sympathetic. Lanius tends to be a victim of the events and rarely tries to take control.. Grus is frequently more reasonable however he's shocked just shocked that no one wants to have an arranged marriage to his serial killer in training child. I'm not sure if it's a world building problem or a narrative problem but, I assume much of what Grus is doing should be radical there doesn't seem to be any pushback from the elites. Chernenko also tends to repeat information. We are told many times that Lanius has a bastard of his own.

All that being said this is an interesting setup. I'm willing to try the second book. It sounds like this may turn into a quest storyline. I don't have much patience so the second book will have to be pretty good.

Mildly recommended hoping it gets better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

250 books this year

I just finished up my 250th book this year. Naturally not everything has been reviewed here. I was behind schedule until the summer when things really picked up. Much of this was because of my thesis and having to get that out the door. My original goal for the year was 200 accomplished that by the end of October. Looking forward to next year I have no idea if I'll be able to keep this pace up.

What he said

An Open Letter to the American Media

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling is the latest book in the Harry Potter universe. Let's get one thing out of the way you're not going to buy this thing because I told you to either you don't care or you've probably already received your copy through pre-order. So I feel rather silly reviewing it. On the other hand I did read it.

As you know Bob, this was the book mentioned in Deathly Hallows. It contains Wizard fairytales with an introduction and meditations from the recently deceased Dumbledore. The stories themselves nicely tie in to the universe Rowling has created. The "academic framework" is funny in places. Especially if you're used to academic infighting in a preface or footnotes.

Recommended!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quotation [occasional]

"If Mr. Harper manages to survive, he'll be a wounded beast. He's made terrible errors in the last eight weeks... The man can't get his story straight, this is not leadership. So, he's wounded, if he escapes this time, then I get a little time to rebuild the Liberal Party, we have some rebuilding to do, then we take him down later. Make no mistake, his days are numbered".
- Michael Ignatieff

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Roddenberry dead at 76

Of leukemia. The obituary from Yahoo. Considering my age I mostly think of her as Deanna Troi's oversexed mother Lwaxana on Next Generation

The Napoleonic Wars (2): The Empires Fight Back 1808-1812 by Todd Fisher

The Napoleonic Wars (2): The Empires Fight Back 1808-1812 by Todd Fisher maybe I should break down and start a "this week's Osprey" section. In any event this is the essential history title on the French conflict with Austria and the invasion of Russia. I don't know mucha bout the operations against Austria in 1809 so I enjoyed that section. Unlike the title on the Peninsular campaign most of the book is taken up with the military. There are short biographies of Jakob Walter [see my review of his The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier] and General Barclay de Tolly. There are the usual illustrations, maps and charts on every page. There's also a bibliography a little short but still useful.

Recommended.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last post today I swear

but I had to share this. Take that, Stephenie Meyer!

Added books to the TBR pile

For the last week or so.
  • Bear Any Burden by Ellis M. Goodman an ARC
  • How to Profit From the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind by Steve and Evie Levy an ARC
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

And in other sacrilegious news

Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology. Oops!

How to Profit From the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind by Steve and Evie Levy

How to Profit From the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind by Steve and Evie Levy let's get one thing out of the way first I don't really talk about my religious beliefs on here but I am a Christian. That being said I do find George Carlin and Bill Hicks funny so take of that what you will. This purports to be an investment guide for the rapture. It manages to skewer both fundamentalist religion and investing books. The humor is laugh out loud funny like when trying to disentangle some of the more obscure sections of Revelations. Some of the business ideas are also hilarious. Selling futures for food with water in them after the water in the ocean's and rivers turns to blood for instance or buying time on the Armageddon broadcast.

If you do have a sense of humor about religion you'll enjoy this if not you really won't. This was picked for me by the Librarything algorithm for early reviewers. Not for the first time I wonder what books I have that triggered it.

Recommended!

Note:This book was provided through Librarything's early review program.

This is why California is a joke

Fake weddings in a courtroom are acceptable gay marriage not so much.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Followers

I added the Followers widget over in the sidebar. Sign up if you are so inclined.

Destination Berchtesgaden: The story of the United States Seventh Army in World War II by John Frayn Turner

Destination Berchtesgaden: The story of the United States Seventh Army in World War II by John Frayn Turner a popular history of this formation that participated in most of the campaigns in Western Europe. The book starts with the invasion of Sicily. The operations in Italy are next and finally the fight through southern France and into Germany. There are a few anecdotes about various battles but mostly it's a list of where the Army was.

Useful if you need a refresher or want to know where these units were at a particular time. There isn't really any analysis to speak of. Frustratingly there are no endnotes or bibliography for future research.

Mildly recommended.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison

The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison now how to review 1200 pages of material? It took me three months to get through this. It's so dreary I could only stand about 50 pages at a time . Besides the occasional short story in a multi-author collection this is my first exposure to his writing. By its very nature this is going to be a little vague. There are short stories, essays and a TV script. Ellison's writing is very good. He has the gift of showing characterization in a word or action. This is not a best of collection there are thematic chapters although even the editors admit that many of the stories could be placed in one of several sections. As far as the "classic" stories go some of them hold up better than others "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman and A Boy and His Dog still hit with a surprising amount of force. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream on the other hand comes off as being well, ridiculous.

Let's get something straight this did not need to be 1200 pages it probably didn't need to be 400 pages. There's a lot here that is just good. Which admittedly makes it better than average but still how many times do we need to hear about his dog that was killed when he was 5? Come to think of it I found much of the semi-biographical fiction some of the weakest.

Amusingly there are some defensive introductions included by the editors. My favorite is the one that says that Ellison can't be misogynistic because his female characters don't revel in their victimhood. Later on there is a piece where Ellison attacks slasher films for being misogynistic. I don't think that the female characters in those movies are reveling in their victimhood.

Grumbling aside this is a valued part of my science fiction bookshelf. I'll probably be looking for more. Looking through his list of books and there's so much here I'm not too sure where to move on. If anyone has some suggestions feel free.

Recommended!

I'm back

The first winter blizzard of the year knocked out my Internet connection for three days. Regular service on here should resume in the next day or so. The last two Saturdays have been my days to catch up on reading so I will have some reviews to post.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse

A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse is a short novel that describes a bungled kidnapping. The narrator has been down on his luck since his failed relationship with a woman. He needs to make some quick money and decides the easiest route will be through kidnapping a politician's son. The boy comes with him easily which is the first of many surprises.

This is an interesting premise and the main character is complex. The conflict he has between caring for the kid and trying to protect his "investment" is well done. The only major criticism I have is that the big surprise doesn't make much sense particularly as we are constantly told how much preparation he had done before the kidnapping. That being said an nice character study.

Recommended.

Note: this was provided for review purposes by a PR outfit.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks is a history of the attack and occupation of Iraq through 06. Ricks a reporter for the Washington Post has done extensive research and interviews with the major players. This is an excellent look at the failures that started happening just after 9/11. He argues that the initial war plan lacked a strategic focus which is something I hadn't considered before. He makes a convincing case for that. Most of the book is taken up with the occupation including the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The 4th Infantry Division is held up as an example of what not to do in a counterinsurgency. Treat the entire population like enemies. If you do this it's a self fulfilling prophecy. There are endnotes and a bibliography.

The history of the occupation of Iraq is still in flux. This is an excellent work for the moment I'm not sure how well it will hold up 5 or 10 years down the road but if you're looking for something to read now you could do much worse than this.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Well wasn't that a fun leadership race

So much for the Liberal leadership race. Oh well.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What to do when you're children's movie premiere is getting dull

If you're Emma Watson you can start musing on when you're going to get naked on film. We've already seen [pun intended] this with Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. I can remember the kerfuffle when that went down. I shudder to think of just what would happen if she does stripped-down at some point.

"Why are there a lot of people here wearing scarves and carrying broomsticks at this art-house premiere?"

Considering my love-hate relationship with Google all I need is to get a high ranking for Emma Watson nude. If you did search on that sorry I can't hook you up. You can explain to me what she's doing in this picture...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Added books to the TBR pile

Just 1 book this week:
  • A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse an ARC

Friday, December 05, 2008

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik this is the fifth and most recent book in the Temeraire series. As the title would suggest involves a French victory. Napoleon invades England and it's up to our heroes to fight a delaying action. Ethical and moral choices are more pivotal to this story as come to think of it they were in the conclusion of the fourth book[Empire of Ivory]. Somethings bothering me about this one but I can't really put my finger on what it is. The plotting is chock-full of interesting events but taken as a whole it doesn't really work. It's hard to explain. When they're doing the guerrilla style patrols it's as if we are only seeing snippets from a larger narrative. Novik does frequently resort to the clean break where there'll be a new chapter and we'll pick up the narrative days or weeks later but it seems more pronounced and more jarring in this book. The interaction between Lawrence and Temeraire is still enjoyable. Now that I've caught up I'll be putting in a pre-order for the next book when it is announced. If she maintains the pattern it should be sometime in 2009.

Recommended!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Honda the first to quit

It was rather ridiculous for them to be spending all that money to be in last place. Honda poised to quit Formula One. Any guesses on how many teams we will have in Australia?

It's over

RDR Books Withdraws Appeal.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Incompetent

You want to be Prime Minister you get the tape in!

Update as I'm writing this: here it is but not on CTV.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government by P. J. O'Rourke

Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government by P. J. O'Rourke. Time for some more nostalgia. I first read this back in high school. O'Rourke puts his own spin on a civics textbook about the US government covering everything from the Supreme Court to special interests. Unfortunately it's more angry than funny. Unlike Holidays in Hell where I had the impression that he was doing it for the laughs in "Parliament" he's trying to make a point. Unfortunately this leads him into strange statements like that government insurance for savings accounts is a bad thing. Wonder if he still believes that. This was published back in 1990. Bush Sr. is pretrade as not that bright. Some of the names will be familiar to followers of current US politics like John McCain and Joe Biden.

Mildly recommended.

I would like to welcome the BBC to the constitutional crisis

It's about time they noticed Canada PM sees opposition revolt.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Prime Minister Dion

May you live in interesting times indeed. I wonder if it's possible to get a national telephone poll done before Friday and if anyone's doing one. Even if the poll was negative I'm not sure it would slow down the momentum. This really does seem to have a life of its own.