book swap/sale

I’ve been complaining for years about how many books I have piled up in my house that I haven’t read yet. Well, in preparation for moving across town to a new apartment, I’ve pulled out a bunch of them that I’ve decided I can re-acquire or borrow if/when I get around to reading them. Please do me a favor and take some off of my hands!

The books I have for trade are listed on PaperBackSwap, so they’re only available in the US. I thought about listing them on BookMooch, which is international, but I have a pile of credits over there and almost never get a book coming to me, whereas with PBS, I seem to have more luck.

The books I have for sale are listed on Half and Amazon, but you’ll get a better deal by purchasing them through Half. Two reasons: I priced them lower there because I get about $0.50 more per book due to different fee structures, and you save on shipping if you buy more than one, which Amazon does not do.

Finally, I have some BookCrossing books that I need to, um, bookcross. If you’d like any of them, please let me know and maybe we can work something out.

2009 reckoning

Once again I attempted to read 50 books in a year, and once again I failed. Well, actually, I pretty much gave up on it early on, so it’s no surprise to me that I didn’t get there. Anyway, here are the books I read last year (I read a lot more than just books, but these are all that I’m counting):

  1. Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life by Brian Raftery
  2. Vulcan’s Forge by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz
  3. Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz
  4. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book One: Exodus by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz
  5. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Two: Exiles by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz
  6. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Three: Epiphany by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz
  7. Slurp: Drinks and Light Fare, All Day, All Night by Jim Hensley, Nina Dreyer Hensley, and Paul Lowe
  8. Of Mule and Man by Mike Farrell
  9. The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education by Maya Frost
  10. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
  11. I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling
  12. Libyrinth by Pearl North
  13. Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa by Michel Moushabeck & Hiltrud Schulz
  14. Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino
  15. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
  16. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

My pleasure reading was mostly Spock, and all of the non-fiction was either for review or for a book group discussion. This weekend I went through my bookshelves and pulled about 80 books that I’m either selling or trading away because I haven’t read them yet and will probably get them from the library if/when I ever get around to reading them. The nice thing is that in the process of doing this, I was reminded of books I’ve wanted to read for a long time but have forgotten I have them sitting on my shelves already.

One book down already for 2010, and hopefully more to follow it. In fact, I think I’ll go start on The Ghost Brigade right now.

#11

I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

I’ll bet you thought I forgot about this whole 50 books thing. No, it’s just that once again, my intentions are much more noble than reality. I have also been rather poor at reporting on the books I’ve read this year, but most of the time, I assume I’m the only one who really cares about all this, anyway.

#11 is I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling, translated by Shelley Frisch. This one landed on my doorstep the other week as the latest in a slow trickle of review books coming in from Library Journal. (You can search for my recent reviews, if you’re so inclined.) A little uncertain about it at first, I quickly found myself lost in the story and read it cover to cover in one sitting.

Kerkeling is a German comedy performer of some renown. Not being up on my European comedians (aside from nearly memorizing all of Eddie Izzard’s routines on YouTube), I hadn’t heard of the fellow before this book. After failing to track down any recording of a performance in English or with subtitles, I gave up. Considering that my German linguistic skills are virtually nil, I’m not surprised I hadn’t heard of him before. (If you are interested, Amazon has a short interview with him in English.)

The book is essentially the diary he wrote while hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2001. It’s not strictly a recording of events and people from the pilgrimage, but the stories he tells about his background and prior experiences add import to the things that happen to him on the trail. By the end of the story, I felt as though Kerkeling was a long-lost friend with whom I had recently reunited over a cup of coffee. In many ways, this book reminded me of Kelly Winters’ Walking Home, and that is a good thing.

Kindle 2 is kind of cool, actually

I’m not going to gush about how I fell in love with the device, because I didn’t.

My library (as in, the library where I work) has the good fortune of being blessed with both funds and leadership that allow us to experiment with some emerging technologies. When Amazon released the first version of the Kindle, we purchased one to experiment with. It was simply the latest in a long history of ebook readers that we had hoped to be able to incorporate into the library’s function on campus.

I took a turn at using the Kindle, and I was mightily unimpressed. The interface seemed very clunky, to the point of preventing me from getting into the book I tried to read. When the Kindle 2 was released and we received permission to purchase one, I was skeptical that it would be any better, but I still signed up for my turn at using it.

Last week, I was given the Kindle 2, and since it already had a book on it that I was half-way through reading, I figured I would start there. However, I was not highly motivated to make the time for it. Yesterday afternoon, I took the train up to DC, returning this morning. Four hours round trip, plus the extra time spent waiting at each station, gave me plenty of time to finish my book, so I brought the Kindle 2 with me.

I’m not going to gush about how I fell in love with the device, because I didn’t. However, I finished the book with ease before I arrived in DC, and out of shear boredom I pulled down a copy of another book that was already purchased on our library account. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to go from one book to another without having to lug along several selections from my library “just in case” I ran out of something to read.

Right now, I’m at least a third of the way in on the second book, and I plan to finish reading it on the Kindle 2.

I don’t think I’ll end up buying one anytime soon, particularly since I’ve put a stop to buying new books until I’ve read more of the ones I own. However, I have a better understanding of those Kindle enthusiasts who rave about having their entire library (and more) at their fingertips. It’s pretty handy if you’re someone who often has time to kill away from your library.

#1-6

I read a book a bout karaoke and then a series on the Vulcan/Romulan/Reman history through the present.

Kicking off 2009 with a bunch of books read. I’m sure this spurt will be the only one of the year, but at least it’s a good place to start.

1. Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life by Brian Raftery

I reviewed this one for Blogcritics, so I’ll write more about it later in the January roundup. I will say now that it is an engaging read and inspired me to be a bit more regular in my karaoke outings.

2. Vulcan’s Forge by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

This is a Star Trek book, as one might surmise from the title, and it’s the first of five connected books by these two authors, spread out over a number of years. The events take place in the present day, which is set shortly after Kirk was taken by the Nexus as seen in Star Trek: Generations, as well as in the past, which is set around the time when Spock officially enters adulthood. As one might expect, the events are connected, both by the individuals involved and the similarities of the locations.

Spock is a favorite character of many fans, and I am not an exception. Sherman and Shwartz clearly spent a great deal of time getting inside his head, and the readers benefit from this. Throughout the book, we see his inner struggle between his Vulcan and Human heritages. It’s one of the things I like most about him – that struggle between multiple identities and ways of life, which are all valid and true to himself.

The story itself, though, was only passable, and the best thing I can say for it is that it set up the events told in the next book.

3. Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

This book, in contrast to the first one, stays almost entirely in the present, which is set around the time of Picard’s captaincy of the Stargazer. The story begins, however, a few years earlier with the betrothal between Spock, who is now an Ambassador for the United Federation of Planets and no longer a Starfleet officer, and Commander Saavik, who is well on her way to becoming a Captain.

These two end up separately traveling under cover to the Romulan homeworld to help dissidents (and the Federation) stop the corrupt government’s plans to start an interstellar war. Unfortunately for both, they don’t realize until it’s too late that they have begun to enter pon farr, which adds an unexpected layer of difficulty and danger to their respective missions.

Sherman and Shwartz deftly weave in events familiar to those of us who have already seen their aftermath, such as the fate of the Enterprise C and her crew, and draw connections between events and people that are pleasantly unexpected. I was so wrapped up in this book that even though it was very late and I was very tired, I couldn’t fall asleep until I finished it.

4. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book One: Exodus by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

This was the book that inspired me to read the others first. When I bought it and read it a few years ago, I didn’t realize that it was the start of a trilogy and the middle part of an over-arching story line, so I struggled to fill in the gaps of information referenced by the authors. It was not a pleasant experience, but it inspired me to collect all of the related books and read them, as I have done now.

This book tells a version of the events of the Vulcan philosopher Surak’s life that led to the embrace of logic over emotionalism and the eventual end of the devastating wars on Vulcan. However, rather than the usual history that those who left Vulcan at that time to become Romulans were those who rejected Surak’s logic, this story tells of scientists and others who embraced logic and decided to take their knowledge out of the war machine equation in order to preserve the Vulcan race, as it seemed that the eventual destruction of the planet was inevitable.

The Vulcan/Romulan history is only part of the story, though. The book alternates between the history (“memory”) and the present, which is set shortly after the end of the Dominion War. An unknown and powerful species calling themselves the Watraii have destroyed a Romulan colony and have declared that they want nothing less than the total destruction of the Romulans, who they claimed stole their homeworld. Admiral Spock and Captain Saavik, along with Admiral Chekov and the Romulan exile Ruanek, are sent on a clandestine mission to somehow stop the Watraii and attempt a peaceful negotiation with them, if possible.

Now that I have read the two books that introduced some of the characters involved, such as Ruanek, and the events referenced, this book makes a little more sense than it did the first time I read it. However, the jumping around of times and places makes it very difficult to follow what happened when, even thought the authors have helpfully noted the years when appropriate.

5. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Two: Exiles by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

Unfortunately, not everyone who left with the ships were followers of Surak, and not everyone who left made it to what became Romulus and Remus. This book tells the story of their 100+ year journey across uncharted space, and their search for a livable planet that did not already have sentient life on it.

It seems that the politics and fighting that drove them into space have followed them there. Ultimately, this leads to death and betrayal, and we learn more about the history of the Remans — the Vulcans who made Remus, Romulus’ non-rotating twin planet, relatively habitable — and the reason for their second-class status in Romulan society.

Meanwhile, in the present, tensions between the Watraii and the Romulans remain high, as well as those between the Romulans and the Federation. The Romulans believe that the Federation’s unwillingness to side with them against the Watraii is a betrayal, particularly since the Romulans had fought along with the Federation against the Dominion. However, the Federation is unwilling to trust their long-time enemy and sometime ally, particularly since it is not unreasonable to believe that the Romulans would have taken a planet that was not theirs, as the Watraii claim.

Once again, Captain Saavik and Ambassador Spock lead a clandestine mission to retrieve a valuable historical object that the Watraii stole from the Romulans, as well as to rescue Chekov who had been captured by the Watraii and who the had believed to be dead. This time, they are joined by Captain Scott and Commander Data, as well as Ruanek, of course.

By the end of this book, it is fairly clear where the story is going, and I had a pretty good idea of who the Watraii are and the source of their beef against the Romulans, but Sherman and Shwartz had a few more surprises left for the next book.

6. Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Three: Epiphany by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

While it is true that the Romulans are essentially the same race as the Vulcans, with a few adaptations that came from the radiation exposure in their long voyage and the biology of the planet they found, it is not true that the Remans are the same. We learn why in this book, and it is not at all what I expected. We also, finally, learn the origins of the people calling themselves the Watraii.

Things are not going very well in the present, either, and once again the usual cast of characters are called in to rescue a captive and stop a war, with a little help from Captain Picard’s Enterprise. As you might expect, they succeed.

The book ends on an odd note. You might recall the female Romulan Commander from the original series episode “The Enterprise Incident.” She wasn’t given a name in the episode, as far as I can tell, but Sherman and Shwartz have dubbed her Charvanek. She has played an important role in the events of the previous four books, and surprisingly, the authors chose to make her reflection upon the events between the cessation of hostilities with the Watraii, through Shinzon’s praetorship, and finally to whatever may come after the events depicted in Star Trek Nemesis. It’s an interesting element of character development, but it also leans a bit too far towards being an info dump.

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)

reviews on blogcritics: december

Things I reviewed in December.

December was a busy month for me, which left me little time to do much reviewing. I had hoped to get quite a bit done over the holidays, but instead I relaxed with friends and family. I think it was worth it, but it means working a bit harder in January.

A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa, Vol. 1 & 2

If you’ve heard a country version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” one too many times this season, or if any other rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” performed by your grade school child/sibling/cousin/whatever will push you over the edge, then I suggest you pick up either or both volumes of A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa. With the selections of classic and classical Christmas songs performed by musicians who care more about the music than about cashing in on the season, these are Christmas albums worth owning.

Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller

In addition to the fairly comprehensive 60-year overview of Parton’s life, the book contains a selective discography, source notes, a bibliography, and an index – all useful tools for researchers. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 16 pages of plates of photographs of Parton at various points in her life. Unfortunately, only the most dedicated fans are likely to read the book from cover to cover.

reviews on blogcritics: november

So, I didn’t end up catching up as much as I thought I would. Hopefully, I can do that in the next few weeks.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Live in Japan

This live album includes many of the band’s popular tunes, and serves as a “best of” recording much better than any compilation of their past studio work could attempt to do, mainly because as precise and flawless as the studio recordings can be, they do not convey the energy contained in a live performance, which is a significant part of their appeal. [more]

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte

…Duarte outlines the elements that make up an effective presentation design, and provides many real-world examples of these elements in action. She does not give too many details on specific tools and functions within particular slide presentation programs; instead, she provides the reader with the design theory needed to create an effective presentation. [more]

P!nk – Funhouse

Beginning with the post-relationship celebrity breakdown of “So What,” P!nk tells stories of substance abuse, co-dependency, and emotional/physical abuse. Alternatively cursing her lover and also pleading with them to not leave, she explores the complexity that led to the broken ending that began the album. [more]

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 3 Remastered

The visual enhancements, for the most part, are not noticeable unless one is obsessively familiar with every detail of the original format, and in most cases, they stand out only against scenes that did not clean up quite as well.

#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.

#19

I was doing so well on my 50 Book Challenge goal this year, and then the busyness of this past fall hit and I haven’t taken the time to read books. This one is in fact a book that I listened to rather than read, but I think that counts.
#19

Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty takes place in the near future. Set in an east coast city, the story revolves around the protagonist, Keepsie, and her relationship with the city’s protectors: genetically enhanced human superheroes. Unwillingly thrown in the middle of a conflict between the superheroes and the supervillains, Keepsie and her friends are forced to choose sides or make their own way with their collection of “useless” super powers. As it turns out, their powers are not as useless as they’ve been led to believe, and even the ability to control elevators comes in handy at one point. In the end, this is a story about using your gifts and abilities to the best you can, even when everyone around you believes they (and you) are worthless.

The book was originally released as a (free) serialized audio book, then as a (free) PDF download, and then finally in print (not free) through Lulu.com, before it was picked up and published by Swarm Press in August. Thanks to the efforts of many fans and supporters, the book hit #1 on the Science Fiction best seller list at Amazon the day it was released, even though it had been available in other formats for free. Aside from being a fun read, I think the story of it’s success is a nifty one and for me, added to my motivation to finally read the damn thing.

As a fan of Lafferty’s other works, I highly recommend that you also check out her other serialized fiction. Namely, the Heaven series.