terriko: (Default)
2015-01-12 03:17 am
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2015 Reading Challenge

I got this list from popsugar. Well, actually from some social media post long forgotten, but I tracked down the original source. Here's a link.

It's a fun list, but I'm irked that it's an image that doesn't have enough space for me to scribble down notes in between. So here it is in text, for my use later. I doubt I'll chase down all of them, but it might be fun to search for a few of the ones I wouldn't have checked off on my own!

❑ A book with more than 500 pages
❑ A classic romance
❑ A book that became a movie
❑ A book published this year
❑ A book with a number in the title
❑ A book written by someone under 30
❑ A book with nonhuman characters
❑ A funny book
❑ A book by a female author
❑ A mystery or thriller
❑ A book with a one-word title
❑ A book of short stories
❑ A book set in a different country
❑ A nonfiction book
❑ A popular author's first book
❑ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
❑ A book a friend recommended
❑ A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
❑ A book based on a true story
❑ A book at the bottom of your to-read list
❑ A book your mom loves
❑ A book that scares you
❑ A book more than 100 years old
❑ A book based entirely on its cover
❑ A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
❑ A memoir
❑ A book you can finish in a day
❑ A book with antonyms in the title
❑ A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
❑ A book that came out the year you were born
❑ A book with bad reviews
❑ A trilogy
❑ A book from your childhood
❑ A book with a love triangle
❑ A book set in the future
❑ A book set in high school
❑ A book with a color in the title
❑ A book that made you cry
❑ A book with magic
❑ A graphic novel
❑ A book by an author you've never read before
❑ A book you own but have never read
❑ A book that takes place in your hometown
❑ A book that was originally written in a different language
❑ A book set during Christmas
❑ A book written by an author with your same initials
❑ A play
❑ A banned book
❑ A book based on or turned into a TV show
❑ A book you started but never finished
terriko: (Default)
2014-11-10 10:40 pm
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Book reviews: more brief than usual

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt…
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits
by Matt Fraction, David Aja (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator), Steve Lieber (Illustrator), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)1 more, Jesse Hamm (Illustrator)

This was decent, but I found it a lot more confusing than the last volume and was starting to wonder if it was overhyped the way some movies are when people don't understand them and don't want to admit it.

X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer by Brian Wood
X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer
by Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel (Illustrator)
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas by Brian Wood
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas
by Brian Wood, Terry Dodson (Illustrator), Kris Anka (Illustrator)
X-Men. Vol. 1, Primer and X-Men. Vol. 2, Muertas

My goodness, it's much nicer to read these in collected volumes instead of single issues full of ads interspersed every few pages. Seriously, I don't think I'm ever buying single issues in this series again.

Other than that... it's X-men. This series made a minor splash because it's really the x-women -- the main team is pretty female dominated, just because that's the way it happened to be. But they don't make a big deal out of it. I liked the first volume quite a bit, but I think I was missing some key backstory to really feel for the characters in the 2nd. This is unfortunate because I'd thought this was supposed to be a pretty good starting point for new readers, but I'm not sure it really is... and I'm not even a really *new* reader. Still, if you don't mind feeling like there's some history you haven't seen, the art is great and the story is interesting even if it feels a little all climax no backstory without knowing the characters better.

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10
by Kiiro Yumi
Library wars : love & war. 8-10

I can't remember if I reviewed this series before, but it's set in a future japan where censorship has run rampant and only public libraries stand in the way of the censors. We're following the story of a young woman who is the first woman on her library's Special Defence Forces, a paramilitary organization that protects the libraries, the books, and the patrons. These volumes dive more into the politics and machinations around the library, and I'm really enjoying the series.

Late Eclipses (October Daye) by Seanan…
Late Eclipses (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

After the previous novel in the series, which I found good but incredibly disturbing, I needed a break from the October Daye series. But I was reminded of it when I encountered a short story from the author on tumblr that gave a sweet little happy ending to part of this story, and realized I wanted to know what else had happened. The series is great, but dark, however, this was less nightmare inducing than the last book, and left me eager for more. Maybe it's time to finally get caught up again!

Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)…
Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)
by Jenn McKinlay

The second in the series of library mysteries. It's a pleasant little cozy set in a town with our main character as a librarian and periodic sleuth. It's got pretty much everything I want from a cozy: fun characters, mystery, a nice backdrop and now even a cute dog. I've already gotten the 3rd one out of the library!

Chosen (Alex Verus) by Benedict Jacka
Chosen (Alex Verus)
by Benedict Jacka

In this 3rd book in the series, we're starting to delve more deeply into Alex's (disturbing) past in order to figure out what's going on in his present. I'm a bit worried that this will go all grimdark (my problem with the Dresden Files, which this series clearly and even explicitly was inspired by), but the book is ultimately as much about friendship as it is about dark pasts. Looking forwards to the next in the series.
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2014-08-18 09:23 pm

Book review: Stormdancer

I haven't really kept up on reviewing much of anything lately, even though I still read lots of books and try makeup and stuff, but life is busy and I'm pretty sure I'm less likely to regret missed reviews than I will other things, so I don't feel that guilty.

That said, here's a book review:

Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay…
Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One)
by Jay Kristoff

It was a snippet describing this book as "Japanese Steampunk" that made me curious enough to request this from the library. I'd personally describe it more as "feudal Japanese dystopia" than steampunk, but I seem to have a penchant dystopian young adult stuff, so that works out ok for me. There are some robot-suits and flying machines so it fits the bill if you're looking for steampunk rooted in something other than victorian England culture. Frankly, it's worth a read just for that cultural quirk, although the technical-cultural aspects are barely touched upon in this volume.

Stormdance is mostly the tale of Yukiko, daughter of the famed "Black Fox" -- a hunter whom the shogun has sent on what seems a fool's errand: he is to find and bring back a "thunder tiger" (griffon) in a land that is so polluted and poisoned that there are barely any animals left. As Yukiko accompanies the hunters on their quest, the way she sees her father, other people, and the world winds up irrevocably changed, and she soon finds herself on a quest of her own...

I admit, I found this one a bit hard to get into: it starts with lengthy descriptions and more Japanese-style pacing than I'm used to in my young adult novels, and I found having to learn terminology sent me on enough tangential trips to the glossary that I had trouble immersing myself. But once I did, it's a great story with a few great characters and a fascinating world.
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2014-05-20 07:16 pm
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Book review: Half-Off Ragnarok

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid) by Seanan…
Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid)
by Seanan McGuire

I admit, I was disappointed when I first heard that this would follow Alex rather than his sister Verity, who was the heroine of the previous two books in the series. But the minute I opened my new paperback, I realized how very wrong I was.

From the opening scene, I found myself totally enchanted with crypid herpetology and of course Alex. As an amateur field-naturalist who used to be one of those teenaged volunteers wandering around the bog for the annual turtle count, I could identify with Alex right from the get-go. On top of that, as one might expect for the InCryptid series, it's still a fast paced story of magic, family, love and biological science. And, oh, it's also a murder mystery where people are being turned to stone.

To avoid any further spoilers, I'll just say that I loved it. Highly recommended if you enjoy urban fantasy... or field biology!
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2014-04-23 05:53 pm

Book Reviews: Straight Punch by Monique Polak

Straight Punch by Monique Polak
Straight Punch
by Monique Polak

When Tessa gets caught leaving one too many graffiti tags, she finds herself kicked out of school and sent to "New Directions" a last-chance school for troubled teens with an impressive boxing program. Unfortunately, Tessa hates violence and isn't sure how she'll ever fit in given that most of the kids have situations much more dire than her own, but she's not getting out of this.

The backdrop of Montréal (a city with more than a little street art) works well for this coming of age story. I chose to read this while visiting the city, so the setting felt rich to me in ways that it might not have if I'd read it at another time. I was expecting more boxing out of Straight Punch, but actually the thing that struck me most about this were the moments you were seeing the world through Tessa's artist eyes.

I agree that it does feel a little "after school special with troubled teens" but the messages about standing up for what's right and what matters aren't any less true for having been told a thousand times. This book is perhaps better for teens than jaded adult readers, but it's still a nice little story about a teenager finding her inner strengths.
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2014-02-17 10:30 pm
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Book review: Cress

Cress (Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
Cress (Lunar Chronicles)
by Marissa Meyer

This is book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles, which started with Cinder and continued with Scarlet.

This is a sci-fi series with characters inspired from fairy tales. Some of the big moments are there, and the motivations (Scarlet, for example, is looking for her missing grandmother), but for the most part the characters are their own. If you like princesses who also fix androids and get covered in grease, this is a series you should be reading.

Cress is a Rapunzel who's trapped in a communications satellite being forced to hack spaceships and newsfeeds as a spy for the evil queen. I was horribly disappointed, given her repeatedly demonstrated computer skills, that unlike the other girls, she had to be the one who's sitting around dreaming of a dashing hero to rescue her from her "tower" in space. But in many ways, having her start there is giving Cress (and even the man she casts as her hero, much to his disbelief) a fair bit of room to grow. I quickly got so caught up in the adventure story that it didn't seem to matter so much that I thought she was a bit too traditional a princess.

It's hard to tell you much about the book without spoilers, but there's adventure and politics and daring rescues (more than one!) and spaceships and hacking and opera. (There's also violence, mind control, and torture. The latter is definitely not described in great detail, but it's definitely worth warning about.) If you liked the Vorkosigan series but wanted it to be mostly about women and less about women-that-Miles-totally-has-a-crush-on, this might tickle your fancy. If you like fairy tale retellings and also space ships, ditto. If you're looking for a book for your kids that isn't too heavy handed about feminism and social justice but it's still there *and* with romantic subplots, this is not the best in the series, but it's still there.

I continue to love the series, and despite my initial misgivings about Cress, I found myself caring about her along with the motley crew that's being assembled here. I am eagerly awaiting the next book!
terriko: (Default)
2014-02-17 08:24 pm

Audiobook Review: A Wounded Name

This is a review of an audiobook I got free-in-exchange-for-review from Librarything. Flipping through reviews, it seems I'm of the minority opinion in that I thought this was brilliant despite being hard to read/listen through:

A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
A Wounded Name
by Dot Hutchison

When I heard about this retelling of Hamlet set in a semi-modern private high school and told from the point of view of Ophelia, I was worried that it would be like the dubious graphic novel retellings I've seen of other classic literature.

This, however, is different. It's more like a fairy tale retelling, haunting and odd, where the fairies are as terrifying as they are magical. It's a picture of madness and depression told with a modern psychology eye but in almost classical prose.

I though the audiobook narrator did an excellent job of rendering Ophelia, mad and sane at once, filled with the passions of a teenager who you know is never going to see the end of the story.

It's a beautiful rendering of the classical tale from another perspective, shining light into different smaller tragedies within the whole. It's not an easy thing to read, watching the characters spiral into oblivion, but it's definitely a unique take on the tragedy.

Note: this book is likely very triggering for depression, self-harm, suicide -- some of it is as one might expect from the source, some goes beyond.

Edit: Those local to me, feel free to ask to borrow this!
terriko: (Default)
2014-02-17 07:42 pm

Book Review: Mara

I've been reading a lot of stuff that didn't grab me quite enough to recommend or not-recommend, but my sister's careful reviews of the novels she reads has made me feel guilty about my lazy evaluation strategy. ;)

So, here's a graphic novel I finished yesterday:

Mara TP by Brian Wood
Mara TP
by Brian Wood, Ming Doyle (Illustrator)

A quick flip through the book told me that it was dystopian sci-fi volleyball, and that was enough reason to take it home from the library. I recognized Brian Wood's name, because I've liked him on some things, but not so much on others.

The story starts by grounding title character Mara into a world of expensively-sponsored high-stakes sports in a world that drafts children for sports and war, but Mara herself seems to care more about her brother and her friend and teammate than she cares about the politics of sponsorship. I guess it's because of this solid grounding that I found the second half of the book was a bit too emotionally adrift. It's a great concept, and I can see the bones of a story in there that I would have loved, but it didn't quite come together for me.

Would I recommend it despite the ending? Yes. But I still mourn for the story it maybe could have been.
terriko: (Default)
2014-01-20 11:55 pm
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Book Reviews: The Dragon Slippers Series

Dragonskin Slippers by Jessica Day GeorgeDragon Flight by Jessica Day GeorgeDragon Spear (Dragon Slippers) by Jessica…

Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George

Creel's aunt tries to sacrifice her to a dragon in an attempt to attract a knight who will marry Creel and raise the status of her whole family (and most importantly, her aunt), but it goes awry when Creel decides that she doesn't want anyone to get hurt and decides she's going to make a deal with the dragon instead. But who'd have thought dealing with dragons could have such far-reaching consequences?

Fun! Adventure! Girls and dragons as friends! A smart and resourceful heroine! Politics, culture, embroidery, annoying little dogs and monkeys! For all that it definitely plays into archetypes, it's still clever enough in the details to warrant a read. My inner 10 year old is very pleased with this trilogy.

Note: I came at this one having read the first two of the author's Twelve Dancing Princesses books, one of which I previously reviewed.
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2013-10-30 12:19 am
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(audio)Book reviews: Catching Fire and Waterfall (what a combo...)

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger…
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
by Suzanne Collins

I'm not sure what I can tell you about this book that you haven't already heard, or will soon hear with the movie coming out. It's popular enough that you've probably already heard way too much about it. So I'll just add that I thought the audiobook was nicely done, I liked that this focused more on the political weaving and less on the action, and that this book made my excessive amount of travel in October much nicer.

Waterfall: A Novel (River of Time Series) by…
Waterfall: A Novel (River of Time Series)
by Lisa T. Bergren

I got this out of the library because I needed another audiobook and it was available the day before one of my many flights. An archeology/time travel romp seemed like some nice escapism for my own travel. And by and large, it was... Up until halfway through the book when the main character's constant thoughts about God and sudden desire to pray in a meaningful way started to intrude upon my enjoyment of the story and constantly worrying that the whole thing was going to turn into a heavy-handed parable rather destroyed my enjoying of the ending.

To be fair to the author, it never did get *that* heavy-handed, but I felt miffed by the bait-and-switch because rather than letting the character's faith develop in a natural way (as it seemed it might at the beginning), the cases where she thought about God seemed to be less and less connected to what was actually happening to her, and more grafted in to the story as it went on. Not the worst I've ever read, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it, and it's a real shame because it's a nicely acted audiobook and I think with a lighter hand and better editing, it might have worked.
terriko: (Default)
2013-10-17 04:47 pm
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Book reviews: Rampant and Renegade X

And now that I've got the new book review code, here's two book reviews! These are more young adult fiction, because I find it easier to have some shorter fiction when I'm traveling so much. At least this way I'm pretty sure I'll finish before the library reclaims my ebooks!

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
by Diana Peterfreund

This is a story about poisonous killer unicorns, and the virgin unicorn hunters who protect the human race from these monsters. If that's not enough hook to get you curious, I'm not sure you and I have even remotely the same taste so you're probably wasting your time reading a review from me.

This unusual concept brings you into a fairly typical young adult reluctant-hero narrative, something along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only it's Astrid the Unicorn Hunter, whose mother is thrilled when a supposedly extinct unicorn shows up and gores Astrid's boyfriend, because she just knew her little girl had a destiny.

I enjoyed it, but I'm going to warn you right now that the series should be rated the same as Buffy: there's plenty of monster hunting violence as one would expect, but also much more intimate violence. No graphic glorifying descriptions and I don't think the treatment is awful, but I'm kind of sick of rape in half the fantasy I read, so consider yourself warned.

Overall, I didn't love this the way I loved "For the Darkness Shows the Stars" which is the novel that introduced me to author Diana Peterfreund, but "Rampant" was probably good enough for me to give the others in the series a try.

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M.…
The Rise of Renegade X
by Chelsea M. Campbell

Damien is planning his life as a supervillain when his life is turned upside down by discovering that maybe he's not nearly as villainous as he thought...

Like a few other superhero/villain YA stories I've read, this focuses more on the characters and less on the powers. It's got snarky dialog, hijinks, sidekicks, gadgets, and some kind of dubious romance. Looking fowards to the next book!
terriko: (Default)
2013-10-17 03:32 pm

Book review code

One of the things that bugs me when I'm doing book reviews is that I prefer it when reviews have a picture of the cover and link to the book of some sort, but I didn't love the output from Amazon's referal link generator, which would have been the easiest solution. I've been doing it manually, but that's a lot of cut and pasting and I kind of abhor doing tasks that are easy to automate.

Thankfully, I'm a coder and a user of greasemonkey, so I have all the skills I need to automate it. Seriously, being able to tweak web pages to suit my own needs is the greatest thing.

In the spirit of sharing, here's the script I'm using to generate the code I wanted for my reviews using the book page on LibraryThing:

// ==UserScript==
// @name        Book review header generator
// @namespace   tko-bookreview
// @description Takes any librarything book page and gives me a nice link to the book with cover and author details
// @include     http://www.librarything.com/work/*
// @version     1
// @grant       none
// ==/UserScript==

// Get all the data we'd like to display at the top of a review
var coverimage = document.getElementById('mainCover').outerHTML;
var title = document.getElementsByTagName('h1')[0].innerHTML;
var author = document.getElementsByTagName('h2')[0].innerHTML;
var librarythinglink = document.URL; 

// Trim down the title and author info
title = title.replace(/ *<span .*<\/span>/, '');

author = author.replace(/href="/, 'href="http://www.librarything.com');
author = author.replace(/<hr>/, '');

// Generate the code for this book
var reviewheader = '<a href="' + librarythinglink + '">' + 
   coverimage + '<br />' +
   '<b>' + title + '</b></a> ' +
   '<em>' + author + '</em>';

// Add code around this for embedding it into the page
var textbox = '<h4>Review Code</h4>' +
	'<textarea name="embedHTML" onFocus="this.select();" rows="5" ' + 
	'style="width: 250px;" wrap="virtual">' + reviewheader + '</textarea>';

// Find a good spot and add it to the page
var insert = document.getElementsByClassName('gap')[0];
insert.outerHTML =  textbox + insert.outerHTML;

Please feel free to consider this open sourced and free for any type of use: alter it to suit your needs as you will!

Edit: Github link, for those so inclined.
terriko: (Default)
2013-10-16 09:54 pm
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Book Review: Shift

You know what I haven't done in ages? Book reviews. That's not entirely true since I still review on librarything for their early reviewers program, but I haven't been posting much to this blog.

So here's a short one that I finished a few moments ago:

by Em Baily

This one's worth reading, but explaining why would spoil the twist of it all. It skirts the edge of the paranormal and the standard teen drama with popular girls and mental health all in there... but it's how the mysterious pieces click together that makes it just a bit more.
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2013-01-21 03:16 pm
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Book review: Under Wraps

I haven't been keeping up with my book reviews here although I do add them to librarything and should probably just write myself an export script so it's easier for me. But whatever, that's not done yet, and I finished a book this afternoon while I was waiting for my experiment to run, so here it is.

Under Wraps (The Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles)
by Hannah Jayne

I liked the characters and the world of this funny urban fantasy, but they seemed almost out of sync with the murder that Sophie is supposed to be solving: the serial murder case seemed to take a back seat to the banter and internal monologuing of our somewhat hapless heroine. If you're looking for serious urban fantasy give this a miss, but it's fun in a first season Buffy sort of way. I'm not sure if it really grabbed me enough to read the next one, but who knows, maybe it'll grow into something more as the series expands?
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2012-10-31 12:34 am
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Book reviews: Darklandia

Darklandia by T.S. Welti

This is an amazing novel, a utopian-dystopian world and a teenager slowly becoming aware that the world around here is not as she's been led to believe. I found it reminiscent of young adult sci fi I loved as a kid, such as Devil on My Back by Monica Hughes, or more recent takes on the genre such as Maria V. Snyder's Inside Out. Perhaps Brave New World would be a closer match to the Felicity-medicated world in Darklandia, but this walks the careful line of feeling familiar without feeling unoriginal.

What blew me away the most is that even though I was noticing clues that should have led me to the shocking ending, I didn't make the connection until the very end. Masterfully done, and while I could see how others might feel unsatisfied, I thought it was brilliant.

It's quite the page turner: I caught myself finishing it hours past my bedtime. I highly recommend this one, especially to fans of this type of speculative/science fiction, just make sure not to start it too late in the evening!

I was fortunate enough to win this in a LibraryThing member giveaway, but regardless of how I obtained the book, I can honestly say that this is among the top books I've read this year... and it's nearly November! The rest of my reading list will have a lot to live up to.

terriko: Yup, I took this one. The eyes are paper, not photoshop (chair)
2012-10-01 12:42 pm
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Urban fantasy and the rape trope

It's a sad, sad statement about the tropes of urban fantasy that Seanan McGuire's "No, I will not rape my characters. Ever." statement makes me want to Read All The Books. I mean, I was a casual fan before, but knowing that they'll be staying rape-free? This is actually a huge selling point for me.

I don't suppose anyone else wants to recommend any other good rape-free modern fantasy?
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2012-09-13 04:20 pm
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Book review: Guardians Inc.: The Cypher

Guardians Inc.: The Cypher

by Julian Rosado-Machain

I got this book free as part of a librarything program and wrote up my review there ages ago. But you can get it on amazon for free right now and you can also get it for free on Barnes and Noble, too, so I thought this would be a good excuse to revisit my review:

I *love* the world here, and I'm loathe to say much more about it lest I spoil the discovery for someone else. Adventure, strange magics, unusual creatures, a special library, and a teenaged boy and his grandfather at the centre of it all. The characters don't feel fully fleshed out yet, but I have faith that they'll grow to be as deep as the world and its history and magic apparently are.

My one complaint is that although the author had me believing in animated grotesques and magical libraries, I utterly didn't believe the "romance" and I was so skeptical that I found it distracting and was kind of hoping for some variant of an "it was all a dream" explanation. Surely if you can make robots and centaurs seem reasonable, it can't be that hard to portray a teenager's crush?

That complaint aside, I really enjoyed this and am looking forwards to future stories!

In short, the world is amazing and I recommend the book. There are libraries of awesomeness and magical doorways used to get the best food the world over, which is totally a thing I would do if I had a magical doorway of that sort. I even recommend it for your children as long as they're old enough to be critical about the romance. I don't know how long it'll stay free, maybe a week? So go now and take advantage of the promo!
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2012-06-30 11:52 pm
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Book review: Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success
Ken Segall

When the thesis of your book is that simple is important and the best way to do many things, you really should try saying so in a simple way. I find verbiage to be a flaw of many pop non-fiction books, but it *really* stood out badly here because the wordiness and repetitive padding of some sections was so out of sync with the message.

That said, I enjoyed the book, though I disagreed with lots of it. It weaves a compelling tale out of anecdotes about Steve Jobs and the author's work at Dell and Intel (for examples of complexity, by and large). The stories are well-told, but sometimes the justification for why simplicity works ranged from dubious to outright scientifically wrong from my knowledge. But I liked the flow of ideas, and it kept me thinking, and even where the justifications were wrong it doesn't mean the conclusions necessarily are.

It *did* irk me considerably that I felt like I'd gotten more out of this book than out of Schneier's Liars and Outliers, but I think I liked this book partially because I disagreed with it and it forced me to think critically. Plus, I can't get my Age of Persuasion marketing story fix anymore, so this fit a similar niche for me.

Insanely Simple is worth reading for the stories alone, and it'd be possible to just skim to them and have a good time. But the weave of simplicity-as-solution as a way to tie the stories together is worth a look too, just be careful to leave your critical thinking caps on.
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2012-06-28 12:10 pm
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Book Reviews: Liars and Outliers

Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
Bruce Schneier

I want to tell you that this book is amazing and I loved every moment of it. It's smart, I agree with most of what he says, and I very much appreciate Bruce Schneier's candidness when he's making statements more on gut instinct and doesn't yet have full scientific work to back it up, or the work he has isn't actually very convincing. He could have written a compelling book without those admissions (and many authors of pop non-fiction do exactly that) but I found his insights much more interesting when he acknowledges where they're more speculation than anything else. The anecdotes, stories and analogies are interesting and work with the ideas contained therein, and the applications to social structures and laws and whatnot were clear and convincing.

Without reservations, I can say that the book is great. But I've got to be honest: I didn't love every moment of it. I was bored. It's a brilliant book about... exactly the sort of things I think about every day at work, or argue about with my friends in my spare time. Because I read Schneier's blog, I'd already seen most of the studies that piqued my interest, so there wasn't any rush to go out and use my university library subscriptions to find the original scientific papers. The biological predator-prey ideas were mostly stuff I learned in grade school for goodness sakes. That's perhaps a sign of my parents' enhancement of my education than anything else, but the end result definitely had me skimming quite a lot to keep from boring myself to the point where I put the book down and never pick it up again.

So if you're curious about trust and security but not immersed in it, I can recommend the book heartily. But if you're like me and do this stuff for a living, this is a great book to lend out and skim, but it's maybe not something you're going to need to spend time reading cover-to-cover.

Edit: I just noticed the Schneier's linked to this review, so it may well get read by people who have no idea what I do for a living. At the time of writing this, I am working as a researcher in biologically inspired computer security and complex systems. That may explain why so much of this comes up in my day job.
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2012-05-28 04:53 pm
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Book Reviews: Tunneling, Vampires, Telekinesis, and Dog-inspired Psychology

I've been reading as normal (a book or two a week + graphic novels) but it's been a while since I posted here, so here's a couple of the most interesting books I've read that you might want to know about:

The Man Who Crossed Worlds by Chris Strange
The Man Who Crossed Worlds
by Chris Strange

Fans of the Dresden Files are going to find a lot of similarities between Miles Franco and Harry Dresden: personality, economic status, penchant for one-liners at inopportune moments, inability to deal with women (which I think is an incredibly ridiculous character trait, but there you have it). If you can get over the frequent sense of deja vu, you'll find an engaging story that isn't just a Dresden knockoff. Interesting world, interesting problems, interesting mystery and the start of some interesting characters. It all adds up to a story that's hard to put down, and leaves you eager for more from that world. And it's nice to see more urban fantasy that doesn't rely on werewolves, vampires or faeries!

Chris Strange is definitely an author worth watching in the future: I have this sense that it won't be long before he blows past more urban fantasy tropes and into something fantastically new.

[Disclosure: I received this book free as part of a Member Giveaway in exchange for a review.]

by Scott Westerfeld

This brilliant blend of parasitology, biology and mythology makes for the most novel interpretation of vampires I've read in forever. Plus, it's a book that's hard to put down with ideas that linger with you. I don't want to say any more for fear of spoilers; you should just go read it yourself! This is now my favourite vampire book ever, probably because it's so different from most.

(Note: I also read the sequel, which is good, but not AMAZING the way I thought Peeps was.)

Chasing Yesterday Series: Awakening, Betrayal, and Truth
by Robin Wasserman

A teenaged girl wakes up with no memory of who she is and is told she was the only survivor of a huge building collapse. So what does it mean when her nightmares tell her that she was the one who can destroy buildings with her mind? This series follows the mystery of who she is, both to herself and to those who seek to control her. I read the first two books in single sittings, caught up in the story of a girl who seems to have telekinetic powers... but isn't sure that she isn't just mentally damaged, as the adults around her seem to think. The third book slows down some, but I definitely don't regret reading through 'till the end.

The Nose Knows: A Spunky Mystery
by Holly L. Lewitas

This mystery is told from the point of view of Spunky, a terrier mix who despite her advancing age, lives up to her name. I was initially worried this would be too cheesy, but Spunky's unique point of view complements the story in a delightful way. The big mystery doesn't really start 'till halfway through the book, but the lead up as Spunky and the cats of the family do their best to meddle in their Mom's life and practice as a psychologist in a benevolent way is utterly charming. Lots of thoughts about animal and human minds. This is a fun read for pet lovers, a decent mystery, and a book I'll definitely be recommending to friends.

[Note: This book was received as part of a members giveaway in exchange for a review.]