**spoiler alert** I have a great weakness for books about the Los Alamos Project - not the bomb itself so much as the community. I read Inside Box 166...more**spoiler alert** I have a great weakness for books about the Los Alamos Project - not the bomb itself so much as the community. I read Inside Box 1663 an estimated 14 million times when I was a kid, and I read just about anything else I could get my hands on, too. So this book was a natural for me.
And I did enjoy it a lot. Dewey is a great character, and I love how Klages got the girls *right* - she did a great job of depicting smart girls of that age.
That said: every other day or so, the fan fiction world has a warnings debate, and inevitably someone says, "You wouldn't get warnings in a published novel!" To which my response is always: "Yes. And that's one of the reasons I love fan fiction so much." This novel contains major character death, and for person reasons, I'm trying to avoid stories like that right now. The death had a disproportionate impact on me and really colored my view of the rest of the book. I managed to like it anyway. But if I had been warned ahead of time, I would have been prepared, and I would have liked this book maybe 50% more.
(And if anyone reading this wants to know who dies, let me know.)(less)
I stopped reading you a while back, when it seemed like you were floundering and had no clue what to do with your series and it w...moreDear Janet Evanovich,
I stopped reading you a while back, when it seemed like you were floundering and had no clue what to do with your series and it was really getting pretty embarrassing. But this week I've needed something that was all candy, no brain, and you were there. And - well. It seems like you've found something to do with your series. But it's obvious that you don't understand what that is.
I know! I know it can be hard to pay attention to all the subtleties, the subtext of what you're writing. I know it's easy to miss things. That's why we have friends who read our books and help us see the things we don't.
Except apparently you don't have very observant friends. So I'm going to help you out.
Here's the thing: I know you think you're writing a protracted love triangle, but in fact, you are writing a threesome. There. Doesn't that make more sense?
It's totally understandable that you got to this point. It's hard to write an extended love triangle; for one thing, after about the first three books, your readers tend to be snapping, "Oh my god, would you just CHOOSE?" at the character who is in the middle, or else, "Oh my god, GET OVER IT" at everyone (or both!). Also, in your case, you had two choices: either you could take the route that ends up with Morelli and Ranger killing each other (hint: not really appropriate for your neck of the genre) or you could take the route that ends up with Morelli and Ranger kind of buddies. Except then they start working together. To protect Stephanie. And also spending a lot of time, you know, bonding. Over their mutual craziness, to be all het up over a woman who is, frankly, a walking Bermuda Triangle with a strange addiction to pastry. (I mean, she's funny, no doubt, but more in the oh-my-god-no way.) And then they're sort of handing off Stephanie and negotiating the boundaries of their relationships with her and - do you see where this is headed?
Maybe you don't! Maybe you totally don't. So I will help out. This is another one of those decision points, and here you can go one of four routes:
1. Kill either Ranger or Morelli. (Hint: not really appropriate for your neck of the genre.)
2. Have Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger come to an arrangement, which would probably look something like: Stephanie lives with Morelli but sleeps over at Ranger's occasionally and what happens there in no way counts as cheating.
3. Have Stephanie choose Morelli, which I think is where you're trying to go, except you've written yourself into a corner on this one. Ranger is a big part of her life, and she's demonstrated many times she can't be around him and not want him, so that kind of leaves you nowhere.
4. Have Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger hop into bed with each other and see how it goes. (Hint: it will be hot. Also, you're obviously really tired of writing het sex scenes now; this will give you many new avenues to explore.)
I myself would go for option 4. You could also consider option 2, although I think there's less opportunity for a) hilarity and b) hotness there.
Whyyyyyyyyy is this series so addictive? I read the first one and immediately ordered two more and twitched until they arrived. Then I got one on my K...moreWhyyyyyyyyy is this series so addictive? I read the first one and immediately ordered two more and twitched until they arrived. Then I got one on my Kindle, because I could not stand to wait for an order to arrive. I read each one over the course of a single day, at the fastest possible pace, reading while doing things like changing diapers and failing to sleep. And this book is good, and the series is good, but it's not, you know. That good. I don't understand it at all.
Okay, I partly understand it: Meluch knows pacing and action. If you make it to page 40 in one of these books, you're probably going to keep reading until the end, even if you don't like it. (Her Amazon reviews have a lot of bewildered people going, "I didn't like it. I mean, I read it very quickly and couldn't put it down, but...")
But the thing is - lots of writers have a great sense of pacing and write fabulous action sequences. Many of them write things I prefer to military SF (and especially to military SF like this; in the even-numbered entries in this series, the US and Rome are fighting each other, and I like both sides and don't want them to fight). But still. This series was crack for me. I could not stop reading. I couldn't even stop rooting for the US, even though I liked Rome, thought they were mostly in the right on the original cause of the war, and didn't want the two groups fighting.
For me, this is probably the weakest book of the series, largely because it doesn't contain much of Augustus, who is my favorite character by far. But "weak" in this case still translates to "OMG addictive," so it's the kind of weak that's, you know, still pretty strong.
I can't say who I would recommend this book to - I wouldn't have recommended it to myself, after all, but I loved the series - but I will say that anyone who picks it up should probably have some free time blocked out for reading. Just in case. (less)
Three years after reading this, I'm still pissed off about it. It was educational, but not about not shopping or our consumer culture; rather, it perf...moreThree years after reading this, I'm still pissed off about it. It was educational, but not about not shopping or our consumer culture; rather, it perfectly encapsulates a specific overprivileged mindset.
The idea is fascinating. The book is also fascinating, but only in the way a trainwreck is; the author announces she's only buying necessities, then decrees that everything is a necessity - the New York Times! Expensive haircuts! Basically, she spends the year not buying new clothes or dinners out. (And she manages to save $8000, which - wow, I do not spend 8k a year on new clothes and dinners out.)
That's problematic enough - seriously, I know people who never in their lives have bought even half the things she declared as essential; I know people who live on what she spends on dinners out and clothing in a year - but then there's the whining. Levine considers herself wildly underprivileged despite her two homes and three cars and new wardrobe every year, and she dedicates a lot of this book to explaining a) how she might look privileged, but she's not, because - she has to live in New York City (part of the time)! She'll die without real culture! (Which she refuses to pay for, and whines that the government should pay for, demonstrating a fascinating failure to understand where the government gets its money.) She has to have expensive clothes and glasses! They're part of her style and identity!
I just - especially now, thinking about how many of my friends have lost their jobs, and how they're really not buying it this year - I am so frustrated by this book that I could spit. I would like to see a person like Levine genuinely deconstruct her spending habits - force herself to stick to a tight budget, force herself to evaluate each item she spends. But she didn't have the guts to do it, and I'm only glad I didn't buy her book. (less)
I was hoping that this would be the book that would reunite me with SF; we're having a rather rocky relationship at the moment, and we've almost reach...moreI was hoping that this would be the book that would reunite me with SF; we're having a rather rocky relationship at the moment, and we've almost reached the stage where we return each other's gifts and can't be invited to the same party for six months.
Was this the big reconcilation of my dreams? I don't know. I read it, I enjoyed it, I only occasionally wanted to hit the author with something heavy. But this book is far from perfect.
First, the flaws.
This book feels vaguely first novelish, even though I know it's anything but. The exposition is at painful levels of telling rather than showing, although fortunately things get better in a hurry when the real action starts.
And the characters - look. If you're going to have United States Marines, and you're going to call them that, I'm going to expect them to act like U.S. Marines. Marines don't spend a lot of time crying while on duty (and, yes, it bothered me that only the female Marines cried), and they sure as shit don't break into laughter while they're in full dress as honor guard during a meeting with a foreign (alien) head of state. For some reason, I had a harder time suspending my disbelief over that than over, you know, the Roman Empire having been underground for two thousand years.
And, dear god, this contains possibly the worst romance subplot the world has ever seen: if Meluch never writes any more Kerry Blue/TR Steele, I will rejoice and rejoice and rejoice. I had to skip some pages of that, because it was like the worst romance novel ever written. Right down to it making it okay that he's an asshole to her, because he loooooooves her.
Which brings me to the biggest flaw this book had for me: the misogyny. It's obvious that Meluch loves Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, but did she have to pick up their trick of having every alien race have nonsentient females? I am so damn tired of that. And I am tired of women who have lots of sex being dumb sluts - Meluch's words, not mine. I could have done without any of that.
However, on a happier note: gay character! Some characters with other than lily-white skin! (Although not, of course, in command. I think the universe would explode if that happened.) That puts this book way at the forefront of all military SF novels in terms of diversity.
But the bottom line is: I enjoyed this. I read it quickly. I want to read more. I liked some of the characters. I liked the action. I loved Augustus and his relationship with Farragut. The twist honestly surprised and impressed me.
So this book wasn't perfect, and it wasn't my great reconciliation with SF. So what? It was fun. Frankly, in SF these days - and especially in military SF - I will totally take that. (less)
I wanted to like this book. I expected to like this book. And I did like it. I liked about a third of it, to be exact.
In this book, Barbara Kingsolver...moreI wanted to like this book. I expected to like this book. And I did like it. I liked about a third of it, to be exact.
In this book, Barbara Kingsolver is preaching to the choir as far as I'm concerned; I agree with the importance of local, sustainable eating. That's one of the big reasons I expected to like this. But let's go back to that word "preaching" - I used it advisedly, because, wow, does she. She spends at least a third of her own part of the book preaching, using a tone anyone who has spent any time with a recent religious convert will recognize only too well, and then she brings in her husband (for more factual, less condescending preaching) and her older daughter (for basic recipes and some of the worst preaching of all, since Camille doesn't quite have her mother's knack for writing), too.
The thing is, that's not what I was expecting from this book. I was expecting the tale of how one family ate locally and off their own land for a year. If the entire book had been like the bits that actually discussed that - ideally, like the part with the turkey breeding, which was truly the highlight of the book for me - I'd have been fine with everything else. I would have been happy with the insane levels of privilege, the sexism-is-alive-and-well-and-living-in-Virginia, the random contradictions, all of it, if she'd just left the lecturing to her husband and daughter.
But she didn't. So I wasn't. And even though I totally agree with her, I really, really wanted to tell her to shut up. Or, more to the point, I wanted her to stop telling and start showing. When she finally does, the book is great. But you have to wade through a huge manure heap of the worst kind of telling to get there. (less)
If you ever feel competent as the parent of a baby or a toddler, this would be the ideal book to pick up to disabuse you of that notion.
Which is not...moreIf you ever feel competent as the parent of a baby or a toddler, this would be the ideal book to pick up to disabuse you of that notion.
Which is not to say that I hated it. I didn't. (I was irritated by it, but that's not the same thing.) It's research-based, which is rare and wonderful in the dubious arena of parenting advice books. It does contain useful information and suggestions on dealing with emotions, emotional development, and emotional problems in babies.
But. But. Basically, this book seems to have been written by the grandparents from hell - you know, the people who are just far enough removed from parenting that they can believe they know it all, that they did it all right, that they never erred. Oh, sure, they do mention that parents can't be expected to be perfect - in the conclusion. The conclusion is not the place to be introducing vital new information, book authors! That's for, you know, the actual book.
And against that belated admission, we have their insistence that even once failing to respond to your baby's cries within ninety seconds will undermine attachment. That ever failing to respond appropriately to your baby's facial expression will undermine attachment. (Uh, some of us wear glasses and can't always see our child's face to mirror expressions. I suspect our kids will survive this.) And, best of all, their statement that you have to know what your baby needs all the time for attachment to occur. I don't know if other parents have a magical sense that allows them to tell, absolutely without error, why a baby is crying. I don't. And, again, I'm guessing (and hoping) that my kid will manage to attach to me anyway.
But if you can get past the condescending, you-must-be-perfect tone, there's good stuff in this book. (Also about a million advertisements for baby sign. I sign with my baby, and I think it's important, but, seriously, there's only so many times I want to hear about it, people.) I did find it interesting, and I am glad I read it, but I won't be picking any other books by these authors up. (less)
I've been hearing about a friend's experiences working in Antarctica for more than a year now. The things she's said have made me cringe at the introd...moreI've been hearing about a friend's experiences working in Antarctica for more than a year now. The things she's said have made me cringe at the introductions to most books about the place. This one, though - this sounds exactly like the stories she tells.
So this book is, as far as I can tell, authentic and honest. It's also funny. And it's basically a primer in mismanagement. If you want to laugh helplessly while simultaneously fantasizing about stabbing a bunch of managers in Denver in the face with a clue fork, this is definitely the book for you.
Which isn't to say that it's perfect. The editing and layout are disasters, and the book is somewhat disorganized. None of those was a serious problem for me, though - I even managed to ignore the editing problems, which should indicate just how readable this is.
More of a problem for me was the, shall we say, rugged and faithful recreation of Antarctic conversation, complete with a lot of racism, homophobia, and sexism (just a given in that environment, although most of the time the author reported it without seeming to condone it), plus a really disturbing focus on animal harm and death. The latter made me skim a number of pages, and took this book from four to three stars. (I'm not saying it shouldn't be in there, but wow did it affect my enjoyment of the book.)
However. Even though I cringed away from some of the pages, and even though there were stories that actually raised my blood pressure in sheer fury, I really enjoyed this book. Just, you know. With caveats, enough of them that I'd hesitate to recommend the book to just anyone. (But for anyone considering a season in Antarctica, this should be mandatory reading.)(less)
Someone needs to write a book called How to Turn Your Blog into a Real Book, because a lot of the people who get blog-to-book contracts just...can't....moreSomeone needs to write a book called How to Turn Your Blog into a Real Book, because a lot of the people who get blog-to-book contracts just...can't. Which is not really surprising, and yet. It's sad to read a book and think, "Huh. This would be better as a blog. Oh, wait." Obviously, that's what happened here. This book has all the usual blog-to-book flaws - it's structureless and vaguely empty, without much focus or discussion of events.
Plaut kind of wanders between the chronological structure that probably made sense to her because that's how the blog worked and some thematic groupings of stories sort of at random. In other words, this has structure only in the sense that it has chapters.
There's also not quite enough material here for a book - again, super common in blogs-to-books. She doesn't really relate anything she discusses to larger issues, which is optional in real books but often rather nice, especially if there's not enough story to go around. And Plaut can't quite decide whether or not she should include discussion of her non-cab-driving personal life, so she sometimes does and sometimes does not. The result is that I, at least, ended up knowing too little to care about her personal life and yet way more than I wanted to.
But my biggest problem was that I finished this and wished I'd read it in small chunks in Google Reader, where I would really have enjoyed it. As it was, it was just a null reading experience: not pleasant, not unpleasant, just something to kill time with while nursing. Not every blog should be a book. This one, even though it's a great idea, shouldn't have been. (less)
Here's what I learned from this book: those who can, do. Those who can't, write for television. Seriously, this is a book about the most incompetent t...moreHere's what I learned from this book: those who can, do. Those who can't, write for television. Seriously, this is a book about the most incompetent travelers ever to make it back home without losing a limb. And I realize that was part of their shtick, but even when they're not being incompetent for humorous effect (which is a tough trick to manage, and they mostly don't, because, hey - incompetent!), they're still hopeless. I spent a lot of this book wondering why it wasn't called Two Mostly Useless Guys Wander Vaguely Around the Globe Running into Things.
And, sadly, one of the (many) things they can't do is write a book. They know how to write - although Vali has some annoying tense switches - and they know how to be funny, but they can do these things only in short bursts. So this isn't so much a book as it is a collection of very brief set pieces. And when I say "very short," I mean "several paragraphs." On the up side, this means it's easy to pick this book up and put it down. On the down side, this means it has absolutely no flow whatsoever, and the humor's a lot less, well, humorous, because there's no build at all.
So why did I give this book four stars? Because it is - or it contains - a rare, rare bird, one I've longed to see for the last ten years or so. See, travel and adventure writing is almost exclusively a white man's game. Occasionally I can find travel or (more rarely) adventure books written by women. But I basically never find any written by people of color. And Vali is Indian. It was fabulously refreshing to find anything, anything at all, written about traveling that wasn't from the perspective of a white man. I'd give a lot worse book than this one four stars for that.
Of course, that means I wish this entire book had been written by Vali; Steve's narrative, while it covers more off-the-beaten path areas, could have been written, and written better, by any of a thousand writers in this field. Vali's, on the other hand, is basically unique. Depressing? Yes. But it makes this book worth reading for anyone who enjoys travel and adventure writing, just so we can see how it could be. (less)
This book is kind of an unholy union. Half of it is an interesting memoir about Allen Shawn's family, his life, and his phobias (and the intersections...moreThis book is kind of an unholy union. Half of it is an interesting memoir about Allen Shawn's family, his life, and his phobias (and the intersections of the three). The other half is a relatively boring summary of neurological and psychological aspects of phobias.
The memoir part of it is, well, like I said: really interesting. Shawn's family background is fascinating. That's a little disingenuous, because I honestly think that almost anyone could write a good book about their family and childhood if they wrote honestly and well. But. Still. The family stuff was good. Even better, though, was Shawn's description of the development of his phobias and how they affect his life. He does a fabulous job of describing what phobias feel like and how he, as what we might call a high-functioning agoraphobic, lives and copes.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of that, because much of the book is dedicated to the science side of things. If he'd been writing in depth about that, it would also have been interesting, but as it was, he kind of skims along the surface. He doesn't go into a lot of depth, and what he does cover is the stuff most people already know. There's nothing new in this information, and he's not a science writer, so it's not presented particularly well, either. A lot of the time I felt like he was using the science portion more as filler than as content, which was a pity, because he could have said a lot more about his family and his life (or a lot more interesting things about neurology and psychology, if he was more of that kind of person).
So the melding of the two types of book was unsuccessful. Still - the parts that were personal were good enough to make me glad I'd read the whole book. (less)
I read this one because kristiinthedark made me. (Okay, she made me by saying, "Well, I liked it." But she said it in a very coercive way, trust me.)...moreI read this one because kristiinthedark made me. (Okay, she made me by saying, "Well, I liked it." But she said it in a very coercive way, trust me.) And I did like this better than the last two books I read by Notaro. This one was truly funny in places, and not nearly so cringe-inducing in the places where it wasn't funny, and if I didn't exactly love it, I'm still giving it four stars because a) hey, it was funny, what more can I want? and b) my problems with it were more idiosyncrasies of mine than they were actual flaws inherent in the book.
But this is my review; I'm going to list those problems.
First, I've seriously, seriously overdosed on Notaro now. I'm DONE with her uneven narrative voice and her incredible self-loathing. I mean, I'm glad I read this, but, seriously: she's told me she's dumb so many times that I now totally and completely believe her, which makes me wonder why I'm bothering to read her books.
Second - um. I'm trying to think of a nice way to put this, but I can't, so I'll just go with it. Notaro's twenties looked just like my early teens: stupid. Filled with drugs (although I drank less and smoked entirely different things), random sex, bad bad choices, and stupid stupid friends. But, well, I grew up and stopped that shit. And we all know that no one judges you more harshly than someone who has been there but isn't anymore. So I had some judgment I had to get over before I could enjoy this book. (Like, a great desire to shriek, "STOP BEING STUPID.") It really helped, though, that this was not the first book of hers I read; I knew while I was reading this that she also grew up. (Thank god. Stupidsville is not somewhere you want to settle.)
Besides those two things - which, again, the problem is all me - this was about as good and about as funny as The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death. Which is the book that got me reading her in the first place. So I thank kristiinthedark for her encouragement/coercion. And I'm really, really, truly done with Laurie Notaro now. (less)
I think I'm done with Notaro for right now. It's not that I didn't enjoy this - I did, in places - but I think I'm getting diminishing returns - less...moreI think I'm done with Notaro for right now. It's not that I didn't enjoy this - I did, in places - but I think I'm getting diminishing returns - less laughter with each subsequent book. I'm also getting sort of tired of Notaro. One book is apparently my recommended yearly dose of her, and now that I've had three times that, I'm definitely feeling like I've overdosed.
The good news is that this book didn't make me flinch the way I Love Everybody did - there's less childishness and less shrieking. Notaro really has refined her voice a lot. It's just that she's kept in some parts I really wish she'd get rid of, and the number one entry on that list is self-deprecation. I have a few friends who can't open their mouths without insulting themselves, and I love them anyway, but talking to them can make me twitch. (And I can insult myself with the best of them, I truly can. I mean, I'm female, of course I can. But I try to keep that from being my primary mode of communication, is all.) Laurie Notaro is just like them - I'm so fat! I'm so clumsy! I'm so dumb! I'm so messy! I'm such a walking disaster of a person! - except here's the thing: she's not my friend. And so, it turns out, I don't love her anyway.
I guess the thing is - I want to laugh with Notaro. Not at her. And after three books, I'm just not doing much of either. Instead, I'm asking myself a lot of depressed questions, like: is this the only way a woman can be funny? By cutting herself down before anyone else gets the chance to?
In short, I need to back away from Laurie Notaro for a while, until I can read her books with more joy than sadness again. (less)