bobcatmoran: (yay books)
What are you reading now?

Les Misérables, the Denny translation. I'm nearly done, but taking a bit of a break because I've hit the end of the barricades. this got kind of long )

What did you just finish reading?

Yotsuba&!, Vol. 10. I needed something that was the polar opposite of Les Mis, and a manga with a cheerful four-year-old as a protagonist that carries the motto "Enjoy Everything" was just the ticket. Yotsuba makes pancakes in this one. It's hilarious.

What do you expect to read next?

I'm not sure, but it's definitely going to have a) fewer than 900 pages and b) be nice to its characters.
bobcatmoran: (ed asleep)
Nearly done with A Dance With Dragons, and I'll probably have more to say later, but for now I would just like to say, "Reek, Reek, it rhymes with George R.R. Martin, you are terrible to your characters! Eek!" (spoilers in the comments)

I'm actually done with A Negro Explorer At the North Pole, by Matthew A. Henson, which I picked up off the free bookshelf at the library. The subtitle is, "An Autobiographical Report by the Negro Who Conquered the Top of the World with Admiral Robert E. Peary," which pretty much sums it up. For those who don't know, Henson, Peary, and the Eskimos Ooqueah, Ootah, Egingwah, and Seegloo, were the first to reach the North Pole, back in 1909. Kate Beaton has a marvelous comic about it here. more under the cut )
bobcatmoran: (yay books)
Y'know that thing where I said I'd be posting reviews of everything I've read? I've been writing them, but since I don't have internet access on anything resembling a regular basis, they've just been sitting on my computer, piling up. So here's everything from, like, mid-February to yesterday.

Lots of books, mostly Temeraire and Ultimate Spider-Man with a couple of nonfiction books mixed in there, 'cuz that's how I roll )
bobcatmoran: (Default)
Hi, I've just spent the last two hours on H&R Block online.

*does the dance of tax completion*

*for an encore, does the dance of book reviews*

Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects *** (* if you're squeamish about bugs — the cover has a large photo of a Cambodian woman eating a skewered tarantula, and the whole volume is heavy on the pictures) )



In His Majesty's Service (a collection of three Temeraire novels) **** )

*audience boos, throws root vegetables*

*gathers up root vegetables, makes tasty turnip gratin*
bobcatmoran: (yay books)
I actually made a New Year's resolution this year, that I was going to keep track of all the books I read and write up reviews. We'll see how long this lasts.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus **** )


The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country ** )


The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen *** )


Mastiff: Beka Cooper Book Three **** )

In other news, I finally got my replacement driver's license in the mail today. I thought that meant that I was now done with replacing stuff that was lost, except I just realized today that my Health Savings Account debit card was also in my wallet, and I need to cancel and replace that. Fortunately, no one has used it, although given that it's solely for medical purchases, a thief would be hard-pressed to use it to buy, say, a 50" plasma TV. I also lost a $50 Gamestop gift card, but there's nothing to be done about that, unfortunately.
bobcatmoran: (yay books)
Office day today. At one point, we were about to go out since the trees had mostly dried out and we could therefore see any potential beetle damage. The weather clearly had other ideas, as the skies opened up again literally the moment we all walked into the parking lot. So I've been powered by several cups of Darjeeling, supplemented by the delicious Italian pastries a coworker brought in. I have no idea what they were, but they were shatteringly flaky and smelled of oranges. Thus, I'm a bit bouncy from all the sugar and caffeine.

Speaking of Darjeeling, I just finished the nonfiction book For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose. The subtitle is "How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History." It's about the appropriately named Robert Fortune, a botanist who snuck into China to smuggle out tea plants and the know-how of how to transform them into the beverage that was by that point in time important enough to Britain that they'd be willing to do things like, say, send a botanist to travel incognito and steal away the secrets of making it. Lots of interesting stuff about the East India Company, early 1800s advances in horticulture and botany, and how the tea and opium trade became intertwined in a truly appalling manner. It did induce some low-level squeamishness in me, as Fortune is the main focus of the book, and he was about as culturally sensitive as one might expect from a Victorian-era Englishman. Still, it's a very good read (a fast one too, at less than 250 pages), and it's good to know the history behind the cups of tea that I drink on a daily basis.
bobcatmoran: (yay books)
Well, the Catherine the Great biography (technically a dual biography — the title is Elizabeth and Catherine, although the focus is definitely on Catherine) was a mixed bag. The subject matter was ridiculously interesting and full of "wow, you couldn't make this stuff up" moments of intertwining personal and political drama (starting with, "Hey, Sophia Catherine, y'know how it's been a few years and you and your husband still haven't consummated your marriage? Well, we kind of need an heir to the throne. Stability and all that, even if your Prussian fanboy husband isn't so stable himself. So here's a couple of hot guys, you can pick one, get down to it, and bam! Problem solved"). But there was also this really unfortunate tone to the way the book was written. The phrase "feminine urges" was used a lot, although the "deep within her womanly heart" sort of phrases fade out after Catherine takes the throne. Either that or I had learned to block them out by that point. Overall, it was an entertaining, if occasionally problematic, read.
bobcatmoran: (yay books)
Haven't posted in awhile because I've been mainlining Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series.The books are, in order, The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia. There's also a fourth book out, A Conspiracy of Kings but since it literally just came out today, I haven't read it yet. They're YA books, and thus fairly quick reads, but that certainly doesn't mean that they're not COMPLETELY engrossing.

Gen, the titular Thief, has become one of my all-time favorite fictional characters, and one of the things I love about the series is how Turner lets him grow and develop. The Thief was an excellent book, and she could've very easily have done more of the same for the second book — have Gen go on some crazy mad quest to steal something Big And Important — and it would've been a very good book. Instead, within the first couple dozen pages of The Queen of Attolia, she went and did something crazy huge which I will not give away here save to say that it made it abundantly clear that this was not going to be a retread of the first book. At all. In fact, Gen grows up enough within the span of that book (which I think takes only a year or two of book time at most) that, had I skipped from the first to the third book, I'd have been all, "Oh, come on, you can't ask me to believe this is the same person, really now." But it makes sense if you read it all in order. Actually, come to think of it, it might also make perfect sense if you start with the third book and then go back to the first two. That might be really interesting, actually, although it'd spoil the big surprise at the end of the first book and a good chunk of the second book.

Oh, and did I mention that the series takes place in a world that's a bit like Ancient Greece with late medieval/early renaissance level technology? And that Turner constructed her own, incredibly fascinating mythology for this world? It's pretty awesome.

In conclusion, I highly, highly recommend these books.

ETA: There is a much more coherent review here, still pretty much spoiler-free.
bobcatmoran: (al/toaster)
I ended up devouring The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan in only two sittings — it would've been just one sitting, but the first was my lunch break and although I'm a fast reader, I'm not that fast. Gooood book. Urban fantasy is a hit-or-miss genre for me — I think it has something to do with my suspension of disbelief having a harder time with magic in a modern real-world setting than magic in Once Upon A Time In A Kingdom Far, Far Away. However, this one sucked me in after I reconciled myself to the fact that the main character has some serious socialization issues (which are eventually justified, big time). For reasons I can't quite pin down, the book as a whole reminds me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones' writing — which is a good thing.

There's a small part of me, though, that wonders if my "Yay, good book!" reaction isn't being colored by the fact that the book I finished just prior to that was Twilight. I don't think I've ever seen a book series that's more polarizing, and I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.

In the end, I didn't find it to be the complete travesty against the English language that some people seem to think it is — several of the minor characters were compelling, and the setting felt real enough to me. On the other hand, I couldn't connect with either of the two leads or their relationship, which is a problem since that excludes like, 90% of the book.

Also, Bella really should get that inner ear imbalance checked out. Falling over that often can't possibly be healthy. And someone should tell her that her sparkly vampire boyfriend is a creepy stalker. As an example, here is a condensed version of a scene from the book:

EDWARD and BELLA: [have a relatively normal, if riddled with sexual tension, conversation until...]
EDWARD: You talk in your sleep, you know.
BELLA: No I don't. Wait, what?
EDWARD: I've been breaking into your room to watch you sleep for the last couple of weeks. The whole non-sleeping-vampire thing means I have a lot of spare time on my hands and I couldn't think of anything else to do.
BELLA: I feel strangely violated. What do I say while I'm asleep?
EDWARD: My name, mostly.
BELLA: Oh, this must be further proof of my deep, passionate love for you, my sparkly vampire boyfriend!
ME: No, that's proof that you should get a restraining order.

Yeah. That's not a healthy relationship there.

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