April & May reading

More fiction this time, which I mostly read in April, but I was too lazy to write this up until now.

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi is mainly a retelling of the events of The Last Colony, but from Zoe’s perspective. It felt like Scalzi wanted to give a different first-person perspective of the events, as well as filling in the gaps when the protagonist of TLC was not present to witness things. I liked it, but not as much as the trilogy.

Cat of the Century by Rita Mae Brown is the latest in the Sneaky Pie series, and possibly the most disappointing. When she’s not using the characters to be the mouthpiece of her political views, she’s writing vapid and uninteresting narrative. I keep hoping she’ll stop writing this series so I stop feeling compelled to read it, but a note at the end of the book indicates there’s at least one more on the way. I was smart this time and borrowed the book from the library rather than adding it to my hardcover collection as I have done with the previous books in the series.

Heaven – Season Five: War by Mur Lafferty is a podiobook that is responsible for making my gym visits over the past six months much more tolerable, although even that wasn’t enough to keep me going regularly through the holidays. However, I managed to kick start my workout routine again, and with that, finish listening to the book. This is the finale of Lafferty’s metaphysical spec fic series, and while I am sad that it has ended, it was satisfying enough.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell was my workplace’s book group selection for the spring. I don’t think anyone should take this book too seriously, as he tends to find facts to fit his theories and ignores or discounts facts that go against them, but he does make some thought-provoking points about the outside forces that determine if someone is “successful” by his definition of success. I would be interested in seeing some authoritative social science research on the factors he identifies.

books read: 2008

No surprise that I did not meet the 50 book challenge again this year, and considering how few books I read in the latter half of the year, I’m not surprised to discover that I read fewer than I did in 2007. Oh, well! I’ve come to accept that the goal will likely not be met, and is simply the carrot I dangle in front of my bookshelf face.

This year featured much more non-fiction than what is reflected in my TBR collection, since I ended up mostly reading books I was reviewing for publications, or in a few cases, books that I was discussing with others at work. I’ve been keeping track of my reading on GoodReads, and you can follow it in real time if you are so inclined.

  1. Open Your Heart With Geocaching by Jeannette Cézanne (non-fiction)
  2. Lipstick & Dipstick’s Essential Guide to Lesbian Relationships by Gina Daggett and Kathy Belge (non-fiction)
  3. Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between (fiction)
  4. The Purrfect Murder by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
  5. Eccentric Cubicle by Kaden Harris (non-fiction)
  6. Stewards of the Flame by Sylvia Engdahl (fiction)
  7. Wikipedia: the Missing Manual by John Broughton (non-fiction)
  8. Star Ka’at by Andre Norton and Dorothy Madlee (fiction)
  9. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation by Marc Bousquet (non-fiction)
  10. Scion’s Blood by Pat Nelson Childs (fiction)
  11. Dragon Harper by Anne & Todd McCaffrey (fiction)
  12. Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas (non-fiction)
  13. Everyday Cat Excuses: Why I Can’t Do What You Want by Molly Brandenburg (non-fiction)
  14. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (fiction) (re-read)
  15. Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov (fiction)
  16. Out Front With Stephen Abram: A Guide for Information Leaders by Judith A. Siess and Jonathan Lorig (non-fiction)
  17. The Starship Trap by Mel Gilden (fiction)
  18. The World Is Your Litter Box: A How-to Manual for Cats by Quasi, with Minor Help from Steve Fisher (non-fiction)
  19. A Year of Festivals by Lonely Planet Publications (non-fiction)
  20. Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty (fiction)
  21. Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
  22. slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte (non-fiction)
  23. Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller (non-fiction)

#20

I have been collecting Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series in hardcover, but after reading the latest, Santa Clawed, I’m beginning to wonder why I bother to buy the new ones as they come out. The mystery is a hodgepodge of recycled ideas from previous books, and about the only thing that’s different is the bits about what’s going on in the lives of the main characters in Crozet. As much as I like reading about Harry, Mrs. Murphy, and all the rest, I’d rather go back and re-read the good stories than see Brown pump out more half-assed books like this one.

#4

I have been reading Rita Mae Brown’s (& Sneaky Pie Brown’s) mystery series for at least ten years, if not longer. I have read all of them, and in the past few years, I’ve begun to collect them in hardcover. In fact, I have bought the last three new in hardcover as soon as they were released, so you can imagine that I was pleased to greet another January with another new book in the series. Except that I didn’t pick up my copy until the first day of February….

Anyway, The Purrfect Murder is now available, and I have spent a lovely evening reading it. After the boring local and unpleasant characters of the last book, and the gruesome and dark murder in the book before it, I was pleased to note that Brown has returned to her tried and true formula for this book. Some might say it’s worn and dated, but for me, it’s just the right kind of predictable-yet-new brain candy that I crave from time to time.

Brown has allowed her characters to grow and develop over time, and she has also continued to incorporate some into the core that were originally introduced as side characters in previous books. Sneaky Pie notes in the afterwards that each book is meant to represent a season, and that four books equal one year in real-time. This was good to know, and something I hadn’t quite consciously noted before now. However, since Brown references events from previous books, it might be difficult for someone not familiar with the series to understand the context.

My only complaint with this book is that it is more noticeably preachy at times. Brown seems to use her characters to make statements on current politics, social issues, and just about any other hot-button issue of the day. I found this distracting, even when I agreed.

books read: 2007

I tried and failed once again to complete the 50 book challenge last year. However, I did a little better than the year before, and probably would have read at least two more books if I hadn’t made a cross country move.

  1. The Empty Chair by Diane Duane (fiction)
  2. A Librarian Is To Read by Betty Vogel (non-fiction)
  3. Wordplay: The Official Companion Book by Will Shortz (non-fiction)
  4. Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  5. Puss ‘n Cahoots: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
  6. So Say We All: An Unauthorized Collection of Thoughts and Opinions on Battlestar Galactica (Smart Pop series) edited by Richard Hatch (non-fiction)
  7. Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (fiction)
  8. Gauntlet by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  9. Progenitor by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  10. Reunion by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  11. The Valiant by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  12. Three by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  13. Oblivion by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  14. Enigma by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  15. Maker by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
  16. Journey Between Worlds by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (fiction)
  17. Orphan’s Quest by Pat Nelson Childs (fiction)
  18. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (fiction)
  19. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie (fiction)
  20. At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie (fiction)
  21. Nemesis by Agatha Christie (fiction)
  22. Ordeal By Innocence by Agatha Christie (fiction)
  23. First Have Something To Say by Walt Crawford (non-fiction)
  24. Social Software in Libraries by Meredith Farkas (non-fiction)
  25. Beer & Food: An American History by Bob Skilnik (non-fiction)
  26. Guinness – The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne (non-fiction)

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#5

Puss ‘n Cahoots: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown

Meh. I’ve been a fan of the Mrs. Murphy series from book one, and this is the first to disappoint me. The author spent more time describing the setting and the technical elements of saddlebred horse shows than on character development or suspense. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem because most of the rest of the books take place in one area (Crozet, Virginia) and with some of the same characters throughout.

Brown usually has only a handful of newcomers to introduce and maybe one or two new locations. However, this time all of the action takes place in Kentucky, and the only constant characters are Harry, Fair, Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tee Tucker. Everyone else is new, and frankly by the end of the story I could care less about what happens to them.

I guess this is one problem with long-running book series — there is an expectation that each book will be as good as or better than the last one, but sometimes the author can’t deliver on that promise.

#9

Yesterday I came home to find my recent Amazon order had arrived. Last week while browsing LibraryThing, I discovered a new book in one of my favorite mystery series, so I pre-ordered it. It was officially released the next day. I’ve never done this before, but I’ve started collecting this series in hardcover and I decided to treat myself to a brand new tome.

Anyway. New book arrived yesterday. I finally had a chance to crack it open at 10:30pm, thinking I’d read until midnight and then finish this evening. As if. Check the time stamp on this post. I’m gonna need a grande latte when I wake up. Possibly with an extra shot.

Sour Puss is the latest in the collaboration between Sneaky Pie Brown and her person, Rita Mae Brown. As with the previous books in the series, the authors take time to set the scene, refresh our memories of the old characters, and introduce us to the new characters. The action doesn’t happen until the penultimate chapter, but Mrs. Murphy fans have come to expect that. We like spending time with our friends and family for a while before we have to get our paws hands dirty with some icky murder.

The back story deals with current events and concerns regarding bioterrorism. H5N1 makes a brief appearance, as well as theories about biological weapons used by Iraq in Desert Storm. Most important to the plot is the Supreme Court decision striking down state laws that prohibit direct sales of wines to out-of-state customers. Wine drinkers rejoice.