"I didn't notice that I was being set upon by a pickpocket, which I am glad of, because I like to work only with professionals. Everybody else in the...more"I didn't notice that I was being set upon by a pickpocket, which I am glad of, because I like to work only with professionals. Everybody else in the shop did notice, however, and the man was hurriedly manhandled away and ejected into the street while I was still busy choosing buns. The baker tried to tell me what had happened, but my Zaïrois French wasn't up to it, and I thought he was merely recommending the curranty ones, of which I therefore bought six."
Douglas Adams wrote this series of essays as he traveled with zoologist Mark Carwardine to try to get a glimpse of animals on the verge of extinction. There's wonderful humor to it as they navigate these exotic locations and unfamiliar cultures, but he also manages to capture the seriousness of the situations for these creatures and for the balance of life on this planet if extinction rates continue to accelerate.
As much as I loved the Hitchhiker's Guide books back in the day, I think this might be my favorite Douglas Adams book. It had been at least ten years since I last read it, but it held up amazingly well. I'm reminded once again that Adams left us far too soon.
Gaiman is one of those authors that I haven't read much of, but I somehow love him anyway, perhaps because he just seems like such a great guy. And th...moreGaiman is one of those authors that I haven't read much of, but I somehow love him anyway, perhaps because he just seems like such a great guy. And this book, I did love. It's modeled upon the The Jungle Book, though the boy is raised by the ghostly inhabitants of a graveyard rather than animals. Sounds like it could be creepy, but it is beautifully done. Made me cry like a baby.(less)
I always want to love these books where the characters are solving puzzles and uncovering mysteries in art and literature, but more often than not, th...moreI always want to love these books where the characters are solving puzzles and uncovering mysteries in art and literature, but more often than not, they seem to fall flat. I think part of the problem is that so much historical information has to be passed onto the reader to provide enough context to make the mystery matter. This book chooses one of the most unfortunate methods of conveying all this information: lecturing. The characters attend lectures and also lecture one another at great length. Bo-ring.
But, it helped that the main characters were students, so while not exciting, it still made sense that they'd read and research extensively and then convey the new information to each another. (This was unlike the moment in The Da Vinci Code where the experts, including the Harvard "symbologist," didn't immediately recognize Da Vinci's mirror writing -- puleeze.) So, it didn't offend me in the same way that The Da Vinci Code did, though it committed some of the same sins. And I have to admit that Dan Brown's book was way better paced than this. I still somehow hated The Rule of Four less.
All the Princeton tradition stuff seemed self-indulgent, too. I didn't care about the "funny" songs, the pranks, the recruitment systems of the clubs, etc. Perhaps if I were seventeen and preparing to go to college myself I might eat that up, but years out of college and grad school, it just seemed unnecessary to me. It didn't add anything. I think it even diluted the narrative. More text should have been spent making the thesis advisors and other peripheral characters more than cardboard cutouts.(less)
Another entertaining and thought-provoking read from Jon Ronson. Most of the interviews (and adventures) take place in the late 90's, so in a way, it...moreAnother entertaining and thought-provoking read from Jon Ronson. Most of the interviews (and adventures) take place in the late 90's, so in a way, it feels like a time capsule of pre-9/11 extremism. I'm sure the basics of Us vs. Them haven't changed, but they've certainly been refocused and intensified for some.
The title doesn't mislead either. Ronson jumps right in and goes to rallies, KKK meetings, and even enters an Aryan Nations compound to try to speak with someone. (Ronson is Jewish, and though he doesn't draw attention to it, the extremists often notice or at least suspect it.) He also tags along with conspiracy theorists as they attempt to infiltrate secret meetings and observe rituals performed by the elite cabal that really rules the world.
Along the way, he explores the basis of some of the extremists' beliefs and with them visits the sites that inspired their views (such as Ruby Ridge and Waco). While he plays along well enough to avoid getting kicked out of their entourages (for the most part), he still asks the logical questions from the non-extremist's point of view. Sometimes the answers are disturbing, sometimes unintentionally funny, sometimes both. Another reviewer aptly described the book as "deceptively light" given the subject matter. Fascinating stuff.(less)
Easily one of my favorite nonfiction books. I had no interest in horses or horse-racing, but my husband coaxed me into reading it and I completely lov...moreEasily one of my favorite nonfiction books. I had no interest in horses or horse-racing, but my husband coaxed me into reading it and I completely loved it. Hillenbrand does such an incredible job capturing the excitement and danger surrounding the sport, as well as putting horse-racing as a pastime in the 30's into perspective.
And, of course, the story of Seabiscuit is a great one. Well worth the read! In book discussions, I always recommend this one to anyone who enjoys nonfiction.(less)
I've binged on writing books in recent weeks and this is by far my favorite. It's not the first one to cover plotting and structure, but something abo...moreI've binged on writing books in recent weeks and this is by far my favorite. It's not the first one to cover plotting and structure, but something about this one resonated with me more than the others.
It's partly Bell's voice that was so effective for me -- he's delightfully unassuming. He offers plotting systems for both outliners and non-outliners and leaves the whole process feeling very modular. It's easy to pick and choose and experiment with the systems he suggests. That sort of experimentation is key in discovering the best plotting strategy for you.
With many sections, I found a little something extra that none of the other books considered, too. Lots of plotting books put the end of Act I at the 25% mark, for example, but Bell suggests that while this is great for plays and screenplays, it often feels a little too late in novels. So, he suggests the 20% mark, and in my WIP, this feels perfect. (That's part of why this gets five stars. Might be serendipitous, but I solved a few specific issues with my WIP while reading it.)
A lovely piece of word-nerdery, no doubt even more enjoyable if you're big into Tolkien. I'm a casual fan, having read The Hobbit twice and The Lord o...moreA lovely piece of word-nerdery, no doubt even more enjoyable if you're big into Tolkien. I'm a casual fan, having read The Hobbit twice and The Lord of the Rings books just once. I still really liked The Ring of Words, though I can imagine it being even better if you recognize all the names and terms without explanation.
The second section was much more interesting. It described the creative aspects of philology and gave some insight as to how Tolkien's work uncovering word origins and histories inspired elements of his stories. Where the real histories of words ended, Tolkien's imagination often continued. This is how the Ents were born, for example.
The third section was the most fun: a collection of terms from Tolkien's works, alphabetically arranged, each with anecdotes about their origins and how Tolkien may have encountered them, invented them, or transformed their modern use through his work. It's strange to think that certain words common now had nearly died out until they cropped up in a piece of popular literature. This book mentions that the word "warlock," for example, was nearly dead until it appeared in a Sir Walter Scott poem. Tolkien did the same for quite a few words commonly associated with the fantasy genre. Some of his interpretations and inventions are now considered standard. Some of his original terms and names have unexpected dimensions, as well. My favorite entry was on the origins of "Smeagol" and "Deagol." I won't spoil it... :)(less)
This is a simple story with a slow burn and a zinger of an ending. I finished it before bedtime last night and it made me hesitate to t...moreIn a word: eek!
This is a simple story with a slow burn and a zinger of an ending. I finished it before bedtime last night and it made me hesitate to turn out the light.
The illustrations add to the classic feel. There aren't many, but I think it's worth reading a physical copy of the book for the added dimension. A few times, I admit I was a little bit afraid to turn the page.(less)
Again, a bit of a mixed bag for me. ((view spoiler)[The rape stuff was gratuitous -- we get it, the governor is evil. (hide spoiler)]) It was much bet...moreAgain, a bit of a mixed bag for me. ((view spoiler)[The rape stuff was gratuitous -- we get it, the governor is evil. (hide spoiler)]) It was much better paced than the last issue though. Feels like the plot is finally moving forward again. Can't stop reading now... (less)
It's tempting to give this five stars because I really enjoyed it, but I suspect I'm assigning some additional depth to the characters and situations...moreIt's tempting to give this five stars because I really enjoyed it, but I suspect I'm assigning some additional depth to the characters and situations because I've watched the first two seasons of the tv show.
Independently of that, I still found this to be very well-paced and some of the differences from the show (characters and situations) were quite surprising. (less)
This compilation of interviews is an interesting snapshot of King's thoughts on books, movies, the horror genre, and other odds and ends during the ea...moreThis compilation of interviews is an interesting snapshot of King's thoughts on books, movies, the horror genre, and other odds and ends during the earlier part of his career (1979-1985). His early books are my favorites, so it was fun to get his perspective from back then. My favorite tidbit was about a scene one of his editors removed from 'Salem's Lot. It turns out the new scene he replaced it with was one of the most memorable for me from any of his books. (view spoiler)[Remember the basement staircase that suddenly ended after just a few steps? Aah! (hide spoiler)]
In a way, this also feels like a prequel to On Writing, offering a taste of what it might have been like to hang out with a younger (and less sober) version of King. It lacks the finesse of On Writing, likely because it was not produced by King himself. The editing is a bit clunky. I know interviewers tend to ask the same questions over and over (just ask Hugh Laurie), but I could have forgiven the repetition had the interviews otherwise felt complete. They are awkwardly lumped by topic. Some felt pared down, others seemed disjointed. There's plenty of interesting stuff for the diehard fan, however, if you're willing to wade through it.["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I didn't totally love House of Leaves, but there were some cool and interesting things about it. I'd not read any Danielewski since then, so when this...moreI didn't totally love House of Leaves, but there were some cool and interesting things about it. I'd not read any Danielewski since then, so when this hit my radar, I thought I'd give it a try. I didn't even read the synopsis, I just requested it from the library and hoped for the best.
I read the first pages while my son was playing on the library computers. Excessive line breaks, colorful quotation marks, and someone called Chintana. I peeked deeper into the book to see the stitch artwork. Some of that was cool, but I couldn't understand wtf was going on in the story no matter how many times I started over.
I surrendered and read the dust jacket blurb. It actually sounded intriguing, if a bit pretentious, but that's sort of what you get with Danielewski and his postmodern shtick. So, I gave it another try from the beginning after we got home, knowing that Chintana was going to attend some sort of interesting party, with some sort of interesting storyteller, something about a box with five latches...
I gave up about fifty pages in. (I don't think she'd even made it to the party yet.) It reads like impenetrably bad poetry, with made-up words like "fortipify" and "stitchimicated." Apparently this has been performed as a shadow show or something like that, so maybe it makes more sense when heard, with whatever imagery is offered. I don't know. It just did not translate well at all for me in this format, even with the stitchwork.(less)