Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:


Book Notes

This is book 8 of the Alex Verus series.

The latest in the Alex Verus series, I have to say, I am really delighted that Jacka doesn't make us wait two years between books. Nor does he wait so long that re-reading the previous book is necessary to remember where one is in Verus' life saga.

As with previous books, the book is action packed. There is small bit of Verus' wallowing in "I have caused all of this anguish on my friends" guilt, but much of it is followed with the realization that, "Hey, my friends are adults, they can make their own choices," which, let's be honest, makes life much better. That whole respect thing.

We see the return of Drakh, along with his various compatriots and expected manueverings. We also see the various parts of Verus' life fold back in on itself, with different parts of previous books woven into the current plot. I really like when that happends. Jordan did that a lot with the Wheel of Time series; and I'm discovering how much Butcher has done that with my recent rereadings of the Dresden series. It's like a beautiful long con being exposed.

Of course the book is full of action. I keep expecting Jacka to pull a Martin and kill off a main character or something. He nearly does, but, well, won't the series be a shock when he does (Jacka, god, man, please don't). The la-la-la-the-hero-will-survive aspects make the series a fun read, of COURSE Verus will pull through. Except he doesn't in the way we expect. Which is great, of course.

I'll keep reading, I'm totally enjoying the series. Especially the unexpected nuggets of truth that just pop out.

There are four basic responses to a threat. Fight, flee, deceive, submit.
Page 36

Those are all important, but they’re reactive. I deal with them, but once I’ve dealt with them, then all that does is make the problem go away. It doesn’t make things any better.” “And what would make things better?”
Page 66

You said I had three options.” “Align yourself with a greater power,” Arachne said. “Become a greater power. Or die.” I nodded.
Page 67

“First and foremost is self-knowledge. Understanding who you are and what you can do. Recognising when you are being influenced. Knowing when to walk away.”
Page 71

“You told me that you woke up one morning and couldn’t think of any reason to get out of bed,” I said. “And you decided that you needed to find someone who could help. Because if you didn’t change something, then one day you’d just stop getting out of bed altogether.”
Page 82

“Then what do you want to do?” Luna shrugged helplessly. “Okay,” I said. “Then the first thing you’re going to have to do is answer that question.” “How?”
Page 83

“Most important is aggression and willingness to hurt the other person. Second most important is willingness to be hurt yourself. Third would be skill and knowledge, fourth would be strength and power.”
Page 114

“Because everyone’s got their limits,” I said at last. “The one thing they just won’t do.”
Page 118

Probably my biggest surprise in the five months I’d spent working for Morden had been coming to realise that he wasn’t actually a bad boss. He was ruthless with any challenges to his authority, but as long as I didn’t do that, he was fairly easygoing. He didn’t threaten or bully, or give me pointless tasks just for the sake of it. Oddest of all, he actually seemed willing to listen. He’d rarely change his plans based on my input, but he did pay attention, and if I didn’t understand what he was doing, then he’d take the time to fill me in.
Page 136

When you’re surrounded week in, week out by people constantly lumping you in with a particular group, it’s hard not to start thinking of that group as “your side” and the others as “their side.”
Page 136

“If you write down someone’s life, do they live forever?”
Page 192

Now that I look back on the whole thing, I wonder if there was anything I could have done. Maybe there was, but it’s a lot easier to see warning signs in hindsight.
Page 209

“The powerful and the great can be as petty as anyone else,”
Page 235

They would have had to genuinely care for the jinn they were dealing with. Inner nature isn’t so malleable.”
Page 239

“If you’re competent, then violence is your first option and last resort.”
Page 245

Every now and then you wind up in a situation that calls for violence, and when that happens, you need to know what you’re doing. But even if you live an especially dangerous life—which, to be fair, Luna and I do—all of those times put together are going to average to less than twenty-four hours per year. The other ninety-nine-point-something percent of the time you’re going to spend doing something else. And if you try to solve problems with violence when you don’t need to, it really doesn’t take long before you turn into the kind of person other people are worried about protecting against.
Page 245

Everything changes. Pick any constant about your life and wait long enough, and it’ll be different. We all know that, but for some reason, it’s a hard lesson to remember. I suppose it’s because to do anything, we have to assume that things won’t change—you can’t make plans without assuming a certain degree of permanence. And for the most part, that assumption turns out to be true. Until it isn’t.
Page 248

But one of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older is that while everything changes, the change usually isn’t obvious. Sometimes that’s because the change is so slow and gradual. A pair of shoes wears out, a person ages, the tree outside your window grows; every day it’s different, but in such tiny increments that you never notice.
Page 248

When you know what’s relevant and what you can ignore, then everything is obvious, but it’s not so obvious when you’re caught up in surviving from day to day. At least until life reaches out and smacks you over the head.
Page 249

The city’s a busy place, and if you wait for people to notice your problems, you’ll be waiting a long time. You want to fix your life, you have to do it yourself.
Page 253

George Carlin Reads To You

Book Notes

I had this book in audio format, so I'm not really sure it counts as having been "read," but let's just go with it. I "read" this book because I had it, and, well, pretty much have listened to every book I have in my audio collection.

So, okay, I had the book, I might as well listen to it before I start in on another book. I was curious how the man could top his Seven Dirty Words (and no, in the shit, piss, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits world, I am still not going to use the word c---, I don't care how much the Game Of Thrones makes it acceptable to today's youth or how much it is used naturally in England or Australia or wherever it is a common speech pattern.

And here's the thing about George Carlin: in small doses, the man is hysterical. Like gut-splitting, stop stop I can't breathe, stomach aches for days hysterical. In large doses, good lord, the man is an asshat.

So, the book is three of his smaller books, read by Carlin himself. I like that part of the audio book, the man himself, immortalized (somewhat, all things end, his works will, too) in these recordings. And there are a large number of laugh out loud lines in the books. There were a few repetitions, too, which was fine if you didn't listen to the whole thing in two days of walking.

I don't know. The book had its moments. I'm glad to have finished it, I'm not sure I recommend it. I'd be more inclined to recommend watching his standups on Youtube, to be frank about it.

The Shepherd's Life

Book Notes



This book.

Highly recommended.

Unsurprising, given that it is a bestseller, but I hadn't heard of it before, and, well, it likely wouldn't have caught my attention at all except that Kris has been talking a lot about his desire for a sheep farm and Ryan Holiday recommended it in his last book newsletter. The serendipity of the two occurences caused me to pick up the book and I am very glad I did.

On the surface, Rebanks tells us about a year in the life of sheep farmer. Under the surface, he tells us about the world that has existed for centuries, about the world where boredom created by modern society doesn't exist, about the world where a community exists because the only way to survive is with that community intact, about the world that exists not the world that has been romanticized into a rom-com.

And Rebanks shows us what a life where you know who you are and where you want to be and what you want to do can be like.

I remember hiking at dusk one evening with Kevin, college-roommate-Lisa's boyfriend, to Sturtevant Falls, where we were planning on camping at the bottom (totally illegal, by the way). We were talking about a mutual friend who commented he didn't want to hear about the plight of some tribe somewhere because if he knew too much about them, he'd want to dedicate his life to helping them. My reaction was, "WOW, if that's the outcome, I would WANT to hear about them, imagine having something you're willing to dedicate your entire life to! That's something worth having!" Kevin's reaction to my reaction was, "I KNOW! I think the same."

My reaction to Rebanks story is much the same. I am sad that I don't have that all-consuming love to return to, that guides me, that challenges me, and that keeps me going. Modern life, or maybe just human life, is kinda sucky in that way. Very very few people have that passion (and not in the over-used cliche use of the term). I am envious, but also in awe and wonderment of him.

Highly recommended, this book.

Hell, let me buy you a copy.

Quotes from the book. I actually used up 1% of the publisher allowed export of the book with these. So many good things in it.

The Arrows Of Time

Book Notes

This is book three, and the conclusion, of the Orthogonal series.

Having become invested in the storyline of Egan's Eternal Flame (read: fission reactor), I, of course needed to finish the series. No, no, not of course, but in this case, worth finishing.

We still have some of the physics going on, so realizing Egan had written up the physics of his world in more depth and posted it on his website was a delightful discovery.

This book continues another three or so generations past the previous generations book, with women being able to survive childbirth instead of splitting into their children, dying in the process. Which is great, yay, women are on more equal footing, though the society does have the echos of "better when" and "oh, shit, how do we integrate our progressive thinking with the antiquated beliefs of the homeworld when we return?"

In this book, time travel is possible, with people being able to send messages back to their own selves. Information can't just create itself, however, and the mountain becomes stagnant, with the utter domination of the council and its control of information backward in time.

Just the sort of thing rebels would work to destroy, lest the world stagnate. Which it does. Of course.

I liked this book more than the first one, less than the second one, with the conclusion being realistically improbable and fictionally necessary. I ended up enjoying this series and recommend it to anyone who likes science in their science fiction.

Eternal Flame

Book Notes

This is book two of the Orthogonal series.

Okay, this book continues the Orthogonal series, following the Clockwork Rocket. The premise of the last book was that the world the heroine, Yalda, lived in was threatened by emmient destruction by hurtling stars invading their solar system, so they launched a mountain top to relativistic speeds so that time will slow for the occupants of the mountain and they will have time for intellectual pursuits. The expectation is that the people in said mountain will advance beyond the linear years of the homeworld, and return with technology needed to save it.

Great. With you there. This book continues where we are three generations into the flight. While Egan delightfully continues with the exploration of advancements in physics, mirroring much of our discovery of physics in the twentieth century, Egan also explores some of the cultural issues an isolated society with restricted resources might encounter.

And there is where I become emotionally invested in the book.

The characters of the book are shapeshifting amoeba-like sentient beings whose natural form is six limbs and four eyes. They give birth by the mother splitting into four parts, two girls and two boys, one of each of which are bonded into pairs that continue the cycle.

Okay, fine. Except that if a woman of this species doesn't want the cycle to continue, if she wants to delay fission, she has two options: take a drug holden, or starve herself. And here is where the commentary starts. That the male of the species could starve himself and not trigger the fission is considered and discarded. That a woman of the species has a right to choose not to split (and hence immediately die) isn't allowed, she is only borrowing the flesh of her mother to give to her daughter.

You might be able to see where this would catch my attention just a bit.

I liked this book better than the first of the series. I liked the characters better, was more outraged at the injustice that happened in the book, and was overall more invested in this book. I'll read the third book to see how the story ends. I know this series is recommended by a lot of science fiction readers, but the science is a turn-off for some. One can skip the science parts and still enjoy the book, if that matters.

Clockwork Rocket

Book Notes

This is book one of the Orthogonal series.

I am struggling to remember where this book was recommended, but I know that it was recommended at least twice, as when I went to buy it a second time, I realized I already owned it. Given I'm known to buy books multiple times, it was refreshing not to buy yet another one multiple times accidentally. On purpose, that's fine.

Anyway, the book, and it's subsequent two books, are not about the human world, but rather about a world, a universe, where time is an extra spacial dimension, which means it has a direction (hence the name of the series, "Orthogonal"). I was really unsure about reading a book about non-people, such worlds pretty much don't interest me, but the physics in the book totally caught my attention.

Yeah, the physics described in the book are pretty much the physics I learned in my first year at college, and wow, what fun it was to revisit the discoveries.

One of the quirks of the characters of the books is that the women split into their sons and daughters to give birth, no child has seen her mother as the mothers die in the splitting into two to four kids. The men raise the children, that's what their life goal is all about, and part of the presented culture and tension in the book.

I didn't save any notes from the book, which is odd for me recently. I am uncertain about continuing the series, but do have books two and three, so likely will read the next two.


Book Notes

I picked this book up on BenCody's recommendation. I had it in my inbox for I don't know how many months (quite possibly a year), before I started reading it.

Entertainingly enough, Cal recommended it to me as I was about half way through. "What was it about again? I read it years ago." "Vampires in space?" "??? OH, yeah!"

Except, it wasn't really about vampires in space. Vampires are a small part of the book, mostly there to give plausibility to plot, but also to add a number of critical plot twists. I probably shouldn't have mentioned the vampire part, because that wasn't anywhere near the interesting part of the book, where we begin to ponder what it is that makes us human, to ponder what exists in the gaps of our perception, to ponder where the self ends when there are multiple selves, and wow, just what defines the self.

The end of the book was all O_O.

That the main character's name is Siri, and the book came out before the Siri of talking fame, cracked me up. The book is available under a generous Creative Commons license. Said license did what I believe it should do, it rewarded the author: I bought the book, even though I could read it for free. I want to support the author. A book I recommend.

You needed someone real at your side, someone to hold on to, someone to share your airspace along with your fear and hope and uncertainty.
Page 27

I am not an entirely new breed. My roots reach back to the dawn of civilization but those precursors served a different function, a less honorable one. They only greased the wheels of social stability; they would sugarcoat unpleasant truths, or inflate imaginary bogeymen for political expedience. They were vital enough in their way. Not even the most heavily-armed police state can exert brute force on all of its citizens all of the time. Meme management is so much subtler; the rose-tinted refraction of perceived reality, the contagious fear of threatening alternatives. There have always been those tasked with the rotation of informational topologies, but throughout most of history they had little to do with increasing its clarity.
Page 35

I'm just fatalistically cheerful. We all come into the story halfway through, we all catch up as best we can, and we're all gonna die before it ends.
Page 104

Humans didn't really fight over skin tone or ideology; those were just handy cues for kin-selection purposes. Ultimately it always came down to bloodlines and limited resources.
Page 107

There was a model of the world, and we didn't look outward at all; our conscious selves saw only the simulation in our heads, an interpretation of reality, endlessly refreshed by input from the senses. What happens when those senses go dark, but the model—thrown off-kilter by some trauma or tumor—fails to refresh? How long do we stare in at that obsolete rendering, recycling and massaging the same old data in a desperate, subconscious act of utterly honest denial? How long before it dawns on us that the world we see no longer reflects the world we inhabit, that we are blind.
Page 160

It had been my mistake, all along. I'd been so focused on modelling other systems that I'd forgotten about the one doing the modelling. Bad eyes are only one bane of clear vision: bad assumptions can be just as blinding...
Page 234

Unbroken Brain

Book Notes

When I bought this book, I made the "mistake" of buying it in Kindle and audio format. Wasn't really a mistake to buy it in audio format, as I really like being able to switch from reading to listening (when I can't read) and back to reading. Reading a book is preferable to reading an ebook is preferable to listening to audio, but being able to progress through a book without stopping is preferable to not reading, so, digital formats it was. Taking notes, however, is really hard with the audio version, hence, my "mistake."

Claire recommended this book. I am glad I listened to her recommendation, as I highly recommend this book. I recommend this book not only for anyone with an addiction, but also for anyone with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, students, or awareness of someone with an addiction (which, if you're counting, is everyone).

This book presents addiction not as a moral failing, as is how the United States treats all addictions, but as a learning disability. Before you go, "Poo poo, what the f---?" the book is worth a read. It is backed by study after study after study. Along with examples of how the current system does not work, examples of how approaching the problem of addiction from a learning disability changes the whole solution of addiction are given.

I spent much of this book highlighting sections, bookmarking parts, and thinking, "Yes, yes, yes." A couple times, my thoughts went to "hoollllllleeeee sheeeeeeeeeeeet," when the revelation happened. I'm positive I didn't capture all of these moments, and I'm not summarizing the book well. The author doesn't present new research, but she does provide a good layman's interpretation of the studies, with lots of references that can be independently reviewed.

I want to buy a zillion copies of this book and insist that anyone who thinks punishment is an appropriate response to addiction read this book. Harm reduction, empathy development, recognizing racial prejudices with drug law enforcement, and understanding the _why_ of addicton, instead of treating the people who already hate themselves for the addiction as criminals, all ring true as needed for actually fixing the problems of addiction.

Given that opiate addictions are FINALLY being openly discussed, finding statistic-based ways of helping people out of the addictions seems even more needed these days. I can recommend this book as a starting point all day and not come close to recommending it enough.

I had close to all of the book bookmarked or noted in some way or another. If I included them all, you'd have the whole book right here, so, no.

Some I did grab though:

Moreover, as parents and teachers everywhere know well, it’s almost impossible to force or coerce learning—especially to alter behavior that has already become habitual.
Page 6

Childhood ideas about oneself shape later self-concepts, in ways that can either increase or decrease resilience... Early interactions shape later ones, and over time, families aren’t just reacting to the person’s current behavior, but to their own interpretations of the person’s past behavior and the results of this whole iterated process.
Page 47

Here are a few cocaine addicts’ descriptions of what it feels like:

“I can remember many, many times driving down to the projects telling myself ‘You don’t want to do this! You don’t want to do this!’ But I’d do it anyway.”

“My body’s saying no and my mind’s saying no, but … we started all over again. I didn’t need it, I didn’t want it … it’s like some kind of molecular thing in my cells would go for it, you know. I felt like a fucking robot.”
Page 114

Instead, addiction is defined by using a drug or activity in a compulsive manner despite negative consequences. And “negative consequences,” of course, is simply a less morally charged phrase for a whole range of experiences that can be experienced as punishing; the terms are fundamentally synonymous. In other words, if punishment worked to fight addiction, the condition itself couldn’t exist.
Page 171

Harm reduction’s fundamental principles are these: stop trying to fight drug use, most of which does not cause harm. Don’t focus on whether getting high is morally or socially acceptable; recognize that people always have and probably always will take drugs and this doesn’t make them irrational or subhuman. Instead, work to find practical methods that reduce risk and minimize damage—and understand that everyone can learn, just not all in the same way.
Page 232

An Obvious Fact

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 12

Well, this one, too, didn't take me long to read. For some reason I do not understand, I felt like reading five books this week. This means either I'm prioritizing reading well, or I'm working to escape something. Given I've been reading Meditations, too, I'm not escaping, so there's that.

I've also been "watching" (ne, listening) to the Longmire television series and hate, hate, hate what they've done with the Longmire character. He is such an ass in the show And Branch? Stupid rewrite.

ANYWAY. This book.

Loved it. Still enjoying the wit (so many laughs out loud), cultural references (love these, and the rabbit holes of Wikipedia that I go down), and history lessons in these books, with this book being no exception. This time, I wrote down most of the references, because I'm doing that lately. This book is about how Standing Bear goes to race in a vertical-mountain motorbike race near and during Sturgis, and Walt walks into a crime to be solved, even though everyone warns him away. The mystery was well unrolled, making the surrounding character development interesting.

Again, if you're a Longmire fan, keep reading, this is one of the good ones. If you haven't tried the Longmire books yeet, read one of the earlier books to see if you like them. Well, read one of the good ones at least.

Now, on to the extracted quotes and history lessons!

“He’s calling it the Pequod; even ordered up decals to put the name on the side. Now where did he get that name from?”
page 70

Pequod is the name of Moby Dick's Captain Ahab's ship.

"Better than the Andrea Doria.”
page 70

Andrea Doria is an Italian ship that sank in 1956, killing 46 people.

He crossed back and sat, reaching a hand out to Dog, who pulled back a lip, giving his interpretation of the night of the long knives.
page 73

Night of the Long Knives was a Nazi Germany purge from June 30 to July 2, 1934, where the Nazi regime carried out a series of political extrajudicial executions intended to consolidate Hitler's absolute hold on power in Germany.

Was not expecting that reference in a Longmire book, but it fits with parts of the book.

“Not all fair maidens are worthy of rescue, Walt.”
page 76

Sometimes it was like that, I suppose; some people become so important in your life that they’re almost like a trademark, but then they’re gone. Sometimes they might reappear, but they’re nothing at all like what you’ve assembled in your mind since their departure; sometimes you can’t even stand them anymore, because they break up the legend and nothing dies harder than a good, personal legend.
page 76

“Then don’t you get involved.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Planning has nothing to do with it.”
page 78

Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with Lola. Maybe it was just what happens when you finally get something you want and it turns out not to be what you wanted after all. You spend most of the time in life running after things that aren’t that important, and the pursuit becomes more desirable than the prize.
page 100

Friedkin film.
page 110

William Friedkin is the director of The French Connection and The Exorcist.

"'There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.’”
page 158

Quoting Conan Doyle.

... let slip the Dog of War.
page 175

This one is a play on words. "Dog" is the name of Longmire's dog, where "dogs of war" is a quote from Shakesspeare's Julius Caesar, "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war".

“One of the disadvantages of operating in the contemporary American West is that not all the bad guys have handlebar mustaches.”
page 182

We stared at each other. “Look, I know she hurt your feelings, but do you really think she’s involved in the criminal element of this investigation?” His dark eyes went back to the table. “Why not? What, other than her gender, leads you to believe that she is in any way innocent?”
page 201

This one stopped me because it explicitly calls out Longmire's bias. We all have biases, but how often are they called out, much less accepted?

“You care.”
“Yep, I do.”
“It is one of your most annoying traits. ... Don't change.”
page 202

Herodotus’s The Histories... “I taught world history at Black Hills State.”
“‘Men trust their ears less than their eyes.’”
page 236

Yep, need to add The Histories to my list of books to read. Assuming I can get a "good" translation.

... the fourth estate ...
page 247

The media.

... his trophy tied to the headlight a la Marlon Brando in The Wild One.
page 311

Adding watching this movie to my to-do list.


Book Notes

I bought this book twice. I don't know why I did this, other than something must have caught my attention. Might have been the Wayward Pines show, which has M Night as a producer of some sort (could be in name only, could be active participation, only the people who are doing the work really know). Might have been the placement of the book in a stack in the bookstore. I don't actually know why I purchased the book not once but twice.

That all said, I read it in two nights. Would have been one night of reading, the book was that interesting, but, well, sleep and work caught up to me, and I couldn't finish it.

The book is about Ethan Burke who wakes up from a car accident not quite remembering where he is who he is, that sort of thing. He remembers parts, but not enough of it.

I liked the Twin Peaks feel of the book, only to realize at the end of book in the author's note that Twin Peaks was, indeed, the inspiration for the book.

I'll be checking out books 2 and 3 in this (just realized) series.

Perfection was a surface thing. The epidermis. Cut a few layers deep, you begin to see some darker shades.
Page 28

How many lived day to day, in the moment, banishing any thought or remembrance of the life they had known before? It was easier to accept what could not be changed than to risk everything and seek out the unknown. What lay beyond. Long-term inmates often committed suicide, or reoffended, when faced with the prospect of life outside the prison walls. Was it so different here?
Page 167

There were moments when you saw the people you loved for who they really were, separate from the baggage of projection and shared histories. When you saw them with fresh eyes, as a stranger might, and caught the feeling of the first time you loved them. Before the tears and the armor chinks. When there was still the possibility of perfection.
Page 217

Mindfulness in Plain English

Book Notes

I f'ing love this book. If I could, I would have this as required reading for every school-aged kid (not just this country, every country). Well, no, I'd have it required reading for everyone, not just kids. Yeah. That.

I read this book a number of years ago after having it recommended to me by Tom Croucher. He had a stack of them at his place, and would hand them out when someone asked him for recommendations for books on how to meditate. I read the book, enjoyed it, practiced a bit, but wasn't nearly the student of the process that Tom is. Not then, likely not yet.

But when the student is ready, the teacher arrives. I've been more than a bit lost these last few years. I had the luck of being at the right place at the right time to help a friend through a rough patch, and he's returned the favor, reminding me that I will change only when I choose to change. And so, I picked up this book again.

Love this book. Highly recommended.

As is my way recently, parts of the book that caught my attention. This was hard, as pretty much the whole book had my engrossed attention.

It allows you to blow aside the illusions and free yourself from all the polite little lies you tell yourself all the time. What is there is there. You are who you are, and lying to yourself about your own weaknesses and motivations only binds you tighter to them.

Somewhere in this process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pellmell down the hill, utterly out of control and helpless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way, and you just never noticed. You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation.
What to Do with Your Mind, Page 75 · Location 1080

You must remember that you practice loving friendliness for the purification of your own mind, just as you practice meditation for your own attainment of peace and liberation from pain and suffering.

We humans are very odd beings. We like the taste of certain poisons, and we stubbornly continue to eat them even while they are killing us.
Dealing with Distractions II, Page 135 · Location 1903

Related: sugar.


Book Notes

This is a collection of short stories by Scalzi. Unsurprisingly, I will read most anything this man writes, and this book is no exception. The man, and the fact they are short stories, of which I have a fondness, means I will read it.

Most of the works have been published before. All are pure Scalzi.

A quick, fun read. Normally, I'd be more inclined to seek out the stories elsewhere than buy the book, but I really want him to keep writing, and that means buying the things he writes, so, yeah, bought. Read. Entertained. If Scalzi is your thing, recommended.

Unrelated, my book reviews have to be a minimum number of lines long to format nicely on my site. As a result, I find myself padding some reviews to get to the minimum lengths.

Really, I should fix the design so that this isn't required.

Also unrelated, this sentence brings this review to the minimum. Sigh.


Book Notes

I haven't read a Stephen King book in a long while. I really enjoyed King's Eyes of the Dragon when it was released in the late eighties (alas, my copy was in a box of my favorite books that I stored in student summer storage at Tech, and it disappeared, along with my childhood copy of Where The Red Fern Grows), and delight in King's non-horror fiction. While I don't recall where I picked up this book in paperback, I enjoyed it. In typical King fashion, the reading is fast and easy, the plot straight-forward, and the emotional parts appropriately hit you in the gut.

The book is about Devin Jones, who works at an amusement park for a summer. There was a murder at the park four years before. The ghost is said to still roam the park. Devin has a summer, makes friends, wears the mascot costume a lot, meets his neighbors, has an adventure, lives a life. The book is a quick read. I recommend it, yes.

Unsurprisingly, I nicked a number of pages while reading.

When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.

"Son, do you know what history is?"

"Uh... stuff that happened in the past?"

"Nope," he said, tying on his canvas change-belt. "History is the collective and ancestral shit of the human race, a great big and ever-growin pile of crap. Right now we're standin at the top of it, but pretty soon we'll be buried under the doodoo of generations yet to come. That's why your folks' clothes look so funny in old photographs, to name but a single example. And, as someone who's destined to be buried beneath the shit of your children and grandchildren, I think you should just a leetle more forgiving."
p 70

"We do it the way they do in the navy -- see one, do one, teach one."
p. 73

But the mind defends itself as long as it can. After the first shock of such news dissipates, maybe you think, Okay, it's bad, I get that, but it's not the final word; there still might be a chance. Even if ninety-five percent of the people who draw this particular card go down, there's still that lucky five percent. Also, doctors misdiagnose shit all the time. Barring those things, there's the occasional miracle.
p. 93

You start to worry, then you start to get it, then you know. Maybe you don't want to, maybe you think that lovers as well as doctors misdiagnose shit all the time, but in your heart you know.
p. 95

"Maybe your parents are getting a divorce. Mine did, and it damn neared killed me..."
p. 104

I think so but can't say for sure, because passing time adds false memories and modifies real ones.
p. 110

We could see other fires -- great leaping bonfires as well as cooking fires -- all the way down the beach to the twinkling metropolis of Joyland. They made a lovely chain of burning jewelry. Such files are probably illegal in the twenty-first century; the powers that be have a way of outlawing many beautiful things made by ordinary people. I don't know what that should be, I only know it is.
p. 117

Money mattered to him. I never got the sense it completely owned him, but yes, it mattered to him a great deal.
p. 122

I would argue that -- fantasies aside -- the majority of men are monogamous from the chin up. Below the belt-buckle, however, there's a wahoo stampeder who just doesn't give a shit.
p. 127-128

It's hard to let go. Even when what you're holding onto is full of thorns, it's hard to let go. Maybe especially then.
p. 144

"I can't understand why people use religion to hurt each other when there's already so much pain in the world," Mrs. Shoplaw said. "Religion is supposed to comfort"
p. 183

On this, I would begin to argue that this statement isn't necessarily true for religions other than that of the mono-theistic Judeo-Christian-Islam type. Maybe not even for the Judeo and Islam part. Of note, see Hays' comment on Christian Atheism and the problems it's caused since its founding.

"Young women and young men grow up, but old women and old men just grow older and surer they've got the right on their side. Especially if they know scripture."

I remembered something my mother used to say. "The devil can quote scripture."

"And in a pleasing voice," Mrs. Shoplaw agreed moodily.
p. 183

Page 183 had a lot of quotes that struck true.

I remembered something Mike had said to her in the hospital parking lot: It doesn't have toe be the last good time. But sooner or later the last good time would come around. It does for all of us.
p. 266-267

"Some people hide their real faces, hon. Sometimes you can tell when they're wearing mask, but not always. Even people with powerful intuitions can get fooled."
p. 301

The last good time always comes, and when you see the darkness creeping toward you, you hold on to what is bright and good. You hold on for dear life.
p. 307-308

All page numbers are from the paperback. I'm looking now to see if a hardback was published.

The Skull Throne

Book Notes

Why is this book called The Skull Throne? This isn't the Skull Throne, this book is the second half of The Daylight War, and okay, yes, this is the book of war. So many f'ing deaths. So much stupid male ego.

I suspect that Brett has been taking lessons from George R. R. Martin, including the detail of death on a commode.

This is the first book full of non-stop action. In Brett's style, we have backstories, multiple ones, filled in, but the bulk of the plot was in the "current" time frame.

Arlen and Jardir are pretty much non-existent in the story after a few philosophical conversations early in the book, pretty much discussing the merits of democracy (yay, Arlen) and authoritarianism (boo, Jardir, but we pretty much already hated him), so the next book should be interesting as we catch that plot in the current timeframe.

Yay for the introduction of the new characters, if only they were actually interesting.

Boo for the loss of the main characters we all cared about.

I mean COME ON.

Daylight War

Book Notes

Yep, can confirm Brett's style of story plot is 80% back story fill-in and 20% plot advancement.

This is book three of the Demon Cycle, and Inevera's back story. Since we know Jardir and we know the story of Arlen, Brett fills in Inevera's history, and moves the plot of her world along. We have her history, her trials, her fights, her losses, and her victories. We have drama. We have death. We have victory. We have temporary defeat. We have spins and twists and loops.

And we have the f'ing ending. If I didn't have book four already handy, I would be mad. As it is, I'll have to wait for book five until August.

Anyway, Inevera's story. She makes a vow to stop senseless deaths by men's hubris, which she fulfills. She makes a vow that women can fight just as well as men and that they will be able to, which she fulfills. She plays her husband like a fiddle, which, well, one can learn from, even if from a fictional character.

Speaking of fiddles, wow, there wasn't really much plot advancement in this book, we hear little of Rojer, not much more of Leesha, with much of the story being backstory. Well, okay, wedding and sex and the like. Apparently in this world everyone has sex with everyone else even though everyone is a hypocrite about it. Fine.

Still, I found this book interesting, and enjoyed it more than the last one. I'll keep reading, I'm enjoying the series, and GAH THAT ENDING.

Desert Spear

Book Notes

Book Two of the Demon Cycle, this book follows directly after The Warded Man, telling the story of Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer.

Except it isn't just their stories. Brett's style in this series appears to be continue the main story line of the three main characters, and also merge in the backstory of surrounding characters. I'll confirm when I read the next book, Daylight War. In this book's case, we follow Jardir's story, and I have to say, well, yawn.

Not a fan of the guy with delusions of power who attempted to murder Arlen. But, that's likely how it is supposed to be. Authors weave tales in specific ways so that the reader bonds with the "good guys" and jeers at the "bad guys." In this particular case, the bad guys believe that women are second class citizens, so, yeah, I really don't like the bad guys. We also meet Renna, whom I'm not a fan of either, so there's that.

Yeah, so, this book is about the Kaji side of the Thesan world, and moves the plot along a couple months while we learn Jardir's backstory. I'm not a fan of the first part of the book, but neither was Andy, so I'm okay with reading that part really fast to get to the parts I did enjoy. Even if, wtf, Leesha is with whom? Come on!

I'll keep reading.

The Warded Man

Book Notes

The Warded Man, book one of the Demon Cycle, has been on my list for a while now, along with books two, three, and four. It was often mentioned in the same breath/suggestion as Name of the Wind, though different authors and different worlds. This book is where meet Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer. I can't say I was excited about three main characters and following along different story lines. When Jordan did it with the Wheel of Time, and Martin did it with the Song of Ice and Fire, well, I skipped over the perspectives that are just so boring. Didn't have that problem with this book.

I enjoyed this book. The big time gaps in the story didn't bother me as much as they did in, say, the Saga of the Seven Suns, which is odd, because there are big time gaps, a year spent warding a library, a lifetime (not really, but let's call it 7 years) learning to juggle and entertain a crowd. We skim the highlights of the lives, not seeing the tedium of a daily life.

One of the things I really like about the book is the practical application of both Stoicism and Buddhism. Neither is explained outright, but both are strongly present.

The world is engaging, and the story a fun ride. I'll keep reading the series.

Quotes from the book that caught my attention:

“We are what we choose to be, girl,” she said. “Let others determine your worth, and you’ve already lost, because no one wants people worth more than themselves...." - Bruna

“Welcome to adulthood,” Cob said. “Every child finds a day when they realize that adults can be weak and wrong just like anyone else. After that day, you’re an adult, like or not.” - Cob, page 192

“No one, no one, ever goes to the Creator with all their business complete. We all get a different length of time, but it needs to be enough, regardless.” page 364

“It doesn’t serve the dead to stop living yourself, out of guilt,” she said. page 364

Stories of Your Life and Others

Book Notes

Jonathan was reading this book. I don't know why he was reading this book, or where he came by it, but he was reading this book, so I also picked up this book. Included in this collection of short stories is the story, "Stories of Your Life" upon which the movie The Arrival is based. I haven't seen the movie, but Jonathan said he was enjoying the short stories, so I picked up the book.

And read it nearly straight through.

I read a review that said something about how this was some of the best new-idea science fiction out there. I'd say yes, some of the best. The ideas are delightfully new, with a different twist on the why and how. And really, how can you not love the idea of the variational principle in physics?

I mean, come on, one must love an author who can make that an interesting topic in a short story.

(Yes, yes. you must.)

I enjoyed the stories. The author notes at the end of the book are worth reading, too. Several of the stories have lingered with me, which is always a good sign.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Book Notes

Okay, this book starts out with a warning from Rothfuss about how you, the reader, shouldn't buy this book. In as much as I had already bought the book, the warning was a bit too late.

Amusingly enough, the last part of the book continues this trend, with an explanation of how the book came to be, and came to be published.

I enjoyed the book, even if I know that Andy hated the book. It's about Auri, and the perceived workings of an off-drummer, but-I'm-sane-from-my-perspective mind. It has nothing to do with Kvothe, which puts it in a weird place.

I wouldn't recommend the book.

The illustrations, however, are delightful, and could make really nice woodblock or letterpress prints.

Babylon's Ashes

Book Notes

That this book took me a week to finish would have me concerned about my reading speed, except there are so many good parts, so many relevant parts, in it that I'm okay with my reading it slowly. The arc of the book is predictable, the character development is expected, the action is as imagined. What caught me in this book is the wording, the details, the smaller message, and the underlying lesson in the book.

That, and the relevancy of the book to today's politics. If I didn't know any better, I would swear that Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck KNEW how the election would turn out and published the book as a road map to dealing with the aftermath and provide comfort to rational, good people around. There were so many good quotes from the book, so many places where I had to stop reading and just think about what I had just read, that I highly recommend this book. Problem is, to read this book, you kinda need to read the previous five books in the Expanse series (including the one that just pissed me off).

I have been really enjoying the series (minus that one book), so yeah, have to say read it read it read it, but will temper it with, "If you can get through the previous five."