Farewell, Discworld
Posted in Books
Afternoon watch, 1 bell (12:52 pm)

It's both a happy and a sad thing to read a book by an author you love when you know there can never be another one to follow. Today, with a heavy sadness, I finished The Shepherd's Crown, the final Discworld novel by Sir Terry Pratchett and the final book of the Tiffany Aching stories set therein.

It was a wonderful book, but leaves a disc-shaped hole inside you that can only be filled by old stories and your own imagination.

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Pandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks
Posted in Books, Reviews
First watch, 8 bells (12:07 am)

I was invited by the author to read and review his book, Pandora's Succession before it was released. A few weeks ago I received a PDF of the pre-release manuscript and began reading.

If I had to summarize it in one quick phrase it would have to be "Action-packed, Hollywood-style spy novel."

In more depth, this story is about Ridley Fox, a CIA agent with a troubled past of loss and regret who is out for revenge. Ridley is approached by a scientist working for The Arms of Ares, a weapons consortium that plays on the wrong side, who wishes to defect. This drags him deeper and deeper into a crazy-evil-scientist-style plot to wipe out most of the Earth's population with a terrible new bio-weapon called Pandora.

Now let me preface the remainder of this review by saying I'm excited about today's publishing technology. Newer, up-and-coming writers that have a tough time "breaking in" to the market due to overloaded publishing houses and plain-old rejection have more options than ever before. And we're starting to see the results of that change. Fiction podcasts, webzines, and other non-traditional methods of publication are available to both new and established writers. But what does this mean to us, the readers?

A lot more choice in our reading pile!

Brooks has done what I have always wanted to do, write a story and, by hook or crook, get it published and available to the masses. Now let me tell you what's great about his writing. Brooks writes action and he writes it well. Pandora's Succession was very well-paced, a difficulty for many writers. There was a definite build of tension as we approach the climax of the story. Brooks, to me, seems like an expert with modern weapons, so he either has a huge gun collection or he did great research. His characters are believable people, too. And he's good at writing dialog, too.

The one thing I think the story could have used would be a good run-through by an editor. Not that there were plot problems or sections that need to be cut, but a few times in the story I was distracted by a repetitive sentence or word that popped up too frequently. That aside, I've read books by recognized authors who've published many books that have more problems than Pandora's Succession. My complaint here is only what kept me from being totally immersed in the story. Be aware though that what I read was an early copy, and is not the verbatim manuscript that will make it to final publishing.

All-in-all, if you like spy novels you should read Pandora's Succession, and keep an eye on Russell Brooks, because he's only going to get better!

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Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber
Posted in Books, Reviews
First dog watch, 2 bells (5:02 pm)

I tried to like this book. I really did.

I stopped reading it around page 120 because I ran across the third case of the author using then instead of than. It completely took me away from the story each time it happened, and by the third time I was done.

How an author, and a popular one, can get away with such sloppy work is beyond me. I wonder if anyone even looks at his work. Certainly neither he nor his editor use a proofreader, not to mention the fact that the editor couldn't have read the book without uncovering the problem.

There was another error, but it was a simple typo: the word everything was spelled wrong. Even a spellchecker would have caught that error!

I give this book 0 stars for failures on many levels. The publisher should have caught the errors. A spellchecker should have been run. The author shouldn't have made the mistake in the first place.

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Alastair Reynolds: 10 More Books!
Posted in Books
Afternoon watch, 4 bells (2:00 pm)

Alastair Reynolds, one of my absolute favorite modern-day science fiction writers, just signed a 10 book contract. Woohoo!

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Finally!
Posted in Books
First watch, 5 bells (10:58 pm)

After over a decade, I finally have collected all of Jin Yong's books. Yesterday on our trip to Seattle I stopped at Kinokuniya Bookstore and picked up the last twelve books I was missing.

I've been fearing for years that they would have discontinued the old book style and published them with new covers. And right next to my books on the shelf sat an entire new set with new covers. I think I completed the set just in time.

Jin Yong's Novels

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Bone-Crunching Zombie Action
Posted in Books
Afternoon watch, 6 bells (3:00 pm)

You wouldn't expect this from the post title, but check out this new upcoming book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone crunching zombie action.

Awesome. 100% pure awesome.

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Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Posted in Books, Reviews
Last dog watch, 3 bells (7:50 pm)

Last night I finished reading the first of C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower novels, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga)

I've always had a bit of a thing for nautical fiction (Powell's has a Nautical Fiction section!). I really enjoyed this book, which is comprised of several short stories detailing Mr. Hornblower's early naval service in the late 18th century. The Hornblower series is a classic, and though I've only read the first of eleven books, I really liked it. Hornblower far outshines Stevenson's Jim Hawkins (from Treasure Island), his adventures are more exciting and overcomes adversity despite the mistakes he makes.

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Rest Day
Posted in Books, General
Last dog watch, 2 bells (7:26 pm)

I had a terrible night's sleep last night, I only managed about three and a half hours. I just could sleep, then when my phone went off (work issue) at 3am, I couldn't get back to sleep. I laid in bed for two hours, but finally got up and read a book until I felt tired, which never really happened.

I finished Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, which was an excellent book if you like action/spy novels. They're not really my thing, but I saw the movie and thought I'd see what the real story is like. You wouldn't believe how different it really is. The only things the movie and book share are some character names and some vague plot points. I really recommend it, though. And if you do like this type of book, you should look in to Ted Bell's Alexander Hawke novels, they're pretty good too.

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The Compleat Simile
Posted in Books
Last dog watch, 8 bells (8:26 pm)

Yesterday I started reading a book by Keith Laumer called The Compleat Bolo, written in the 1960s with a follow-up story in the mid-80s.

I've only gotten about 55 pages into the book, but I had to stop and talk about this. Laumer uses similes. A lot of them, sometimes even in the same paragraph. It's crazy. For instance:

A sound brought me awake like an old maid smelling cigar smoke in the bedroom

My chances had been as slim as a gambler's wallet all along…

Without them it was no more dangerous than a farmer with a shotgun—

…towering over its waiting escort like a planet among moons.

The broken arm hung at my side like a fence post nailed to my shoulder…

…but they slid aside for my electropass like a shower curtain at the YW.

These are just some of the similes I've read in the last 10 minutes or so, finally forcing my hand and making me quote them. I want to keep a pad of post-it notes with the book now so I can mark them all.

Is there something about the "YW" and their shower curtains that is different from everyone else's? Do they have some newer sliding technology that the common 1960s home lacks?

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Pirate Freedom
Posted in Books, Reviews
Afternoon watch, 5 bells (2:40 pm)

I started reading Pirate Freedom the other day, and it's very different from most books I've read. Despite this (or perhaps due to it), I find it both interesting and engaging. I'm not even half way through the book yet, but can't wait to pick it back up.

It's about Chris, a priest, who somehow finds himself transported back in time from his monastery in Cuba to the heyday of pirates in the Caribbean ocean. Chris finds himself becoming a pirate, and tries to reconcile it with his faith he grew up with. It's written backwards, as a memoir after he returns, although (so far) the method of transport through time is not explained. The book seems to have plenty of action and is excellently researched and written.

I highly recommend it, even though I'm not even finished with it yet. I find myself wanting to read other books by Gene Wolfe, although this is the first I've read of his works.

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Leather Bookbinding
Posted in Books, Hobbies
Forenoon watch, 2 bells (9:14 am)

You may know that last weekend I was in the Portland area attending a bookbinding class. I went to Green Heron Book Arts in Forest Grove, about 45 miles west of Portland. The instruction was great, and I'd recommend it to anyone that is interested in this kind of thing. I really went to learn the process of tooling, adding gold accents to leather covers. I ended up learning a lot more, including how to do pleated corners on my books. Pleated corners are a pain, but they look great and are very traditional.

So to cut to the chase, here are some pictures of the book I made last weekend.

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Nick of Time
Posted in Books, Reviews
First dog watch, 2 bells (5:22 pm)

Yesterday I finished reading Nick of Time, by Ted Bell.

This was a great book, and I really enjoyed it. It was an adventure story with time traveling, secret Nazi submarines, evil pirates, and even Winston Churchill! If you liked Treasure Island you would almost certainly like this book.

You can read a longer review at the LibraryThing page for Nick of Time.

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25 Books
Posted in Books
First watch, 1 bell (8:30 pm)

I just finished my 25th book for 2008. I enjoy reading, and mostly this year it's been science fiction. At least if you look at page count. Book-wise, it's pretty split between scifi and fantasy. By page count, I think scifi is in the lead with twice as many actual pages read.

You can always view my books on LibraryThing. Choosing Style B will display acquisition, start, and finish dates, which can be sorted so you can see what I've been reading. This will continue to work until my wife uses the feature, which she may or may not do, so YMMV.

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More Books!
Posted in Books
Forenoon watch, 4 bells (10:05 am)

Yesterday we made our semi-annual pilgrimage to Powell's Bookstore here in Portland, OR. It's frustrating, sometimes, driving in a big city like Portland. There was a lot of traffic considering it was a non-work day, but it was also a beautifully warm (nearly hot) day, so a lot of people were out doing things.

We broke all previous records for money spent at a bookstore, too. In our defense, though, we did buy quite a few books for other people. I personally found two Alastair Reynolds books in hardback, and I'm very excited about adding them to my library. One of them is the very book I'm currently reading.

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Going to Portland
Posted in Books
Forenoon watch, 6 bells (11:09 am)

Tomorrow we're heading off to Portland for the weekend. We're bringing Lorien's cousin Kyndal with us this time. She wants to join us on our semi-annual trip to Powells. Yay, books!

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