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Posts Tagged ‘Books!’

“Alas, Babylon” revisited: You call THAT an arsenal??

Posted by Lissa on February 27, 2012

Remember this review of “Alas, Babylon”? I re-read it yesterday and came across the following passage on page 129:

He stared at the gunrack on the opposite wall. Until very recent years guns had been an important part of living on the Timucuan. Randy guessed they might become important again. He had quite an arsenal. There was the long, old-fashioned 30-40 Krag fitted with sporting sights; the carbine he had carried in Korea, dismantled and smuggled home; two .22 rifles, one equipped with a scope; a twelve-gauge automatic, and a light, beautifully balanced twenty-gauge double-barreled shotgun. In the drawer of his bedside table was a .45 automatic and a .22 target pistol hung in a holster in his closet.

That’s all. THAT’S what was thought of as “quite an arsenal.”

Good lord. What does that make y’all’s collections? Batteries? Armories?

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Book Review: Life of Pi

Posted by Lissa on February 7, 2012

The book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The short review: Wonderful! I loved it!

The long review: …. wow. Just wow.

I feel a bit like the movie promoters who were trying to advertise The Princess Bride. I mean, it’s got everything. Zoology! Spirituality! Swimming pools! Religion! Atheism! Tigers! Indian food! Adventure! Miracles!

The book starts out by exploring the life of Piscine Molitor Patel, whose family owns a zoo in Pondicherry, India. I thought it was going to be a light, dryly humorous account of boyhood – you know, Coming of Age type book with rather large hints of whimsy. Then suddenly halfway through the book it morphs into a fantastical Robinson Crusoe type epic and you’re riveted.

One might find the abrupt shift unsettling. For me, the author’s “tone” matters more than anything else. I can read about all sorts of different subjects involved in many different plots. Historical fiction, romance, drama, comedy, whatever; if I like how the author turns a phrase, I’ll read him/her. As such, it didn’t bother me; but it might bother you.

For this book more than most I’d recommend downloading the sample chapter first. If you like how the author “sounds”, I think you’ll be very pleased by the book. If it’s not your style, then don’t shell out the $8.

But me? I loved it. One of those books that I put down after reading the last page and just murmured, “My god. Oh, my god. Wow.”

May you get as much pleasure out of it!

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When in doubt, post the Top 100 SciFi list

Posted by Lissa on August 30, 2011

Because I have no post fodder for today, and all the cool kids are doing it, and better late than never . . .  (I’ve added comments and questions in parentheses)

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (I made it through the first three or four books, so that counts, right?)

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (I adore how this book is set up)

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan (I stopped at number two or three, bored)

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore (I saw the wretched awful terrible movie, but that doesn’t count)

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov (again, saw the movie, but that one was okay)

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein (a birthday gift from my mom, who loved it as much as I do)

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (scifi? huh?)

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein (I thought the movie was okay until I read the book. Then I realized how terrible the flick was.)

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (ummmmmm scifi what?)

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey (I think I read maybe three of these?)

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys (I wouldn’t have pegged this as scifi, but it was really good)

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny (I tried this one, it just didn’t suit me)

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (was this really worth reading? I did the trilogy plus the hobbit multiple multiple times, but maybe I need to add this to my list . . . )

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White (literally at least forty times – one of my fave books growing up)

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle (this was one of my favorite movies as a kid; if I read the book, is it going to ruin the film???)

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (I just started this and it’s not clicking for me)

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks (started this and hated it; thought it was a poor woman’s Tolkien)

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (ummmmm this is a romance novel and I love it, but scifi? huh?)

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey (oh come on.  historical fiction romance, not fantasy.)

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley (whoa. I love this book, but the top 100 novels? I don’t think so.)

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

 

I can’t believe they didn’t list “Discworld” as an entry.  So I didn’t make it as far as “Small Gods”, so what? I did at least the first three . . .

Lots of people are pointing out that this list is kind of silly and sort of random. So what?  It gave me both blog content and ideas for books to put on my Kindle list, so I’m happy :)

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Book Review: The Land of Painted Caves is the Godfather III. Just longer.

Posted by Lissa on April 6, 2011

The book: The Land of Painted Caves (Book Six of the Earth’s Children novels) by Jean Auel

Short review: Booooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Longer review: THIS? THIS IS WHAT I ANTICIPATED FOR NINE YEARS?!?!?

What a piece of shite.

I loved The Clan of the Cave Bear.  I first read it when I was thirteen and I’ve re-read it more times than I can remember.  I liked the next three books, too, although they weren’t as good, and although they had more than one foot planted firmly in bodice-ripper land.  The fifth book was good and interesting, in that Our Two Heroes (well, really, The Heroine and her Sexy Sidekick Manlove) met characters from Manlove’s past and prepared to live there happily ever after.  We even got to meet a few delicious villains chugging on the Heroine Hateraid.  I was SO looking forward to this final, satisfying conclusion in which Heroine and Manlove would raise their daughter, make a few more miraculous discoveries (pretty much the entire history of human innovation is thanks to ideas from the Heroine), and suitably punish the villains — 1) Mean Whore, Manlove’s former bang-mate; , 2) Brute, the self-hating part-Neanderthal; 3) Drunky, the neglectful alchoholic father; and 4) Evil Priest, who isn’t that interesting.

Here’s what I got instead:

45% of the book: re-hashing events and characters from the previous five books.  Because apparently when a new book comes out it magically inflicts amnesia on anyone who read the former books.  Who knew you could insert a Neurolyzer into an electronic book?  Or maybe it was working correctly in the hardcover version and it’s only eBook readers who didn’t get wiped and thus suffered through the insane amount of rehashing the past.

45% of the book: Descriptions of painted caves in Europe, stone age practices and techniques, and the time-appropriate flora and fauna.  Especially the painted caves.

DUDE.  IF I WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CAVES OF EUROPE I WOULD BUY A NON-FICTION BOOK ON THE CAVES OF EUROPE. THIS IS NOT THE FRICKING DA VINCI CODE. THERE ARE NO PICTURES TO ACCOMPANY THE TEXT. I DO NOT CARE WHICH REINDEER IS FACING LEFT AND WHICH IS FACING RIGHT. I DO NOT CARE WHETHER THERE IS A MAMMOTH SUPERIMPOSED ONTO A HORSE.  YOU ARE BORING ME PAST TEARS AND INTO SHEER SOUL WITHERING. DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200, JUST KILL MY PSYCHE WITH BOREDOM.

8% of the book: “New” stuff about the characters.  Junk that’s supposed to be character development or plot continuation but is so poorly written that I found myself shrieking and jumping up and down in protest.  REALLY???

Allow me to give you an example:

Ayla found herself truly enjoying the company of Levela, Beladora, and Amelana when they weren’t visiting another Cave or Summer Meeting. They did things together with their children.

And then they collectively saw Spot run.  “They did things together with their children.”  That’s a sentence with all the poetry, majesty and interest of a cat turd on my carpet.  Although I’m pretty sure Rajah puts more effort into those than the author put into that craptastic sentence.

Or how about this one?

She untied the waist thong and squatted down, but when she stood up to pull her leggings back on, she was surprised to see four strange men staring at her. She was more offended than anything.

“She was more offended than anything.”  Somewhere in Cali a valley is missing its teenage girl.

1% of the book: Actual new information, occurrences or developments that involve our characters and are interesting.

And the final 1% of the book: Finishing off the Book 5 Villains.

(That’s overgenerous, by the way.  It was more like 0.03, but whatever, I’m rounding up.)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Want to know how they end up?

 

 

 

 

Evil Priest . . . ummm . . . gets kicked out of the priesthood for lying that he was called into the priesthood.  Then he steals a bunch of stuff and leaves to go pretend to other tribes that he really is a priest.  *yawn*

Brute, the semi-neanderthal, goes crazy and runs off into the night.  I’M NOT KIDDING.  THAT’S LITERALLY HOW THE AUTHOR TOOK CARE OF HIM.

Mean Whore . . . gets back together with Manlove.  Despite the fact that the entire series is built around the great love between Our Heroine and Manlove, despite the fact that Auel told us FOR FOUR WHOLE BOOKS how AMAZING and INTENSE and UNIQUE and UNMATCHABLE Manlove’s feelings for Our Heroine are, he gets all frisky when the Heroine is busy becoming a priest and decides to bang Mean Whore, who’s been trying to get back in his pants for a long time.  When Our Heroine finds out, he deserts Mean Whore because he never cared about her, and so Mean Whore moves back to her former cave.

THAT’S ALL.  SHE REALIZES THAT MANLOVE DIDN’T CARE ABOUT HER ANY MORE THAN SHE CARED ABOUT HIM SO SHE MOVES.  Sweet sappy sassafras, I came up with better punishment plots when Malibu Barbie tried to steal Ken from Island Barbie.

Drunky the neglectful alcoholic father . . . is invited to get busy by our hurt and devastated Heroine.  He promptly gets beat to hell by Manlove for screwing Our Heroine right in front of him.  Drunky will, as long as he lives, be the martyred victim and a reminder that Manlove screwed Mean Whore and went Mike Tyson on Drunky.

The End.

It makes me want to cry.

There was this beautiful world, and wonderful characters, and a really interesting past, and all these amazing potential plots, and the author decided instead to lovingly vivisect every bit of it over 757 pages of dreck.

What a frickin’ WASTE.

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Dr. Seuss on the election

Posted by Lissa on November 2, 2010

As forwarded by my father.  Enjoy!!

I do not like this Uncle Sam,

I do not like his health care scam.

I do not like these dirty crooks,

or how they lie and cook the books.

I do not like when Congress steals,

I do not like their secret deals.

I do not like this speaker Nan ,

I do not like this ‘YES, WE CAN’.

I do not like this spending spree—

I’m smart, I know that nothing’s free.

I do not like your smug replies,

when I complain about your lies.

I do not like this kind of hope.

I do not like it. nope, nope, nope!

Go green – recycle Congress in 2010!

***************************************************

And for an extra treat — Mr. P.J. O’Rourke, in Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages The Bastards:

  • “Yet it was two consummate American politicians who supplied us with a model for the universal formulation of tolerance: “Mind your own business and keep your hands to yourself.”  These may be rightly called the Bill and Hillary Clinton Rules.   Hillary, mind your own business.  Bill, keep your hands to yourself.”
  • “The free market is not a creed or an ideology that political conservatives, libertarians and Ayn Rand acolytes want Americans to take on faith.  The free market is simply a measurement. The free market tells us what people are willing to pay for a given thing at a given moment.  That’s all the free market does. The free market is the bathroom scale. We may not like what we see when we step on the bathroom scale, but we can’t pass a law making ourselves weigh 165.  Liberals and leftists think we can.”
  • “But freedom is not fair.  Much can be made of the fact, I suppose.  Personally, I’m immune to the complaint.  I have a twelve-year-old daughter, Muffin.  All I hear is, “It’s not fair! It’s not fair! It’s not fair!” I say to her, “Honey, you’re cute.  That’s not fair.  You’re smart.  That’s not fair.  You were born in the United States of America.  That’s not fair.  Darling, you had better get down on your knees and pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.” “

And I’m off to the polls.  Keep your fingers crossed!

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Bathroom meme!

Posted by Lissa on June 15, 2010

I was cleaning up the bathroom for guests this weekend, and I realized how very odd/eclectic my reading habits are.  Want to know what’s sitting next to the porcelain litter box in my bathroom?

1. A People magazine (Free with Delta points, yay!  Though I suppose I treat it like a Playboy: I’m not interested in the articles, I just like the pictures of pretty dresses and stylish shoes.)

2. Silent America by Bill Whittle

3. Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media by John Stossel.

4. The entire Little House collection.

Yeah.  It’s THAT mixed-up and random.

So.  What reading material is lying around your bathroom?  I’m tagging Jay G, Borepatch, Calvin’s Mom, Mike W and Carteach.  (And Shoothouse Barbie, but only as an honorary mention ’cause I know she’s got a writing assignment.)

Pass it on!

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Book Review: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Posted by Lissa on May 19, 2010

Good morning all!  I know it’s Wednesday, and I’m going to work out, I honestly am, but I haven’t written a whole lot this week so I wanted to put actual content down today.

I came across this book — Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick — in a mention from Seraphic Secret. As with all interesting-looking Kindle books, I sent a sample to my iPhone (God I love technology) and tried it out.  I was fascinated. I love stories — it’s the only way I can learn history; dates and rulers go in one ear and out the other — and North Korea is such a weird, sad, mysterious place that I was hooked.  I bought the rest and gobbled down the rest of the book over the next day or so.

It’s not a historical analysis. It’s not comprehensive, and it doesn’t claim to be unbiased.  What it is, is a first-person account and description of North Korea from nine defectors that managed to get out.

A few themes in particular stood out for me:

- The “Eurasia has always been at war with Eastasia” doublethink is real, folks.

A sarcastic inflection when referring to Kim Il-sung or a nostalgic remark about South Korea could get you in serious trouble. It was especially taboo to talk about the Korean War and who started it. In the official histories (and there was nothing but official history in North Korea), it was the South Korean Army that invaded, acting on orders from the Americans, not the North Korean Army storming across the 38th parallel. “The U.S. imperialists gave the Syngman Rhee puppet clique an order to unleash a Korean War,” goes the account in Rodong Sinmun. Anybody who remembered what really happened on June 25, 1950 (and which Korean could forget?), knew it was wise to keep one’s mouth shut.

- One of the big, obvious, flashy signs of living in an oppressive country is whether, once arrived, they allow you to leave.

In the evening, Jun-sang’s father would sit and smoke, sighing glumly. It was not that they thought anyone was listening—one of the advantages of a freestanding house was a certain degree of privacy—but they wouldn’t dare give voice to what they really felt. They couldn’t come out and say that they wanted to leave this socialist paradise to go back to capitalist Japan. So the unspoken hung over the household: the realization sank in deeper with each passing day that a terrible mistake had been made in going to North Korea. Returning to Japan was impossible, they knew, so they had to make the best of a bad situation. The only way to redeem the family would be to play the system and try to climb the social ladder.

- I didn’t realize that North Korea has its own unique flavor of Communist ideology.

Kim Il-sung’s goal wasn’t merely to build a new country; he wanted to build better people, to reshape human nature. To that end, he created his own philosophical system, juche, which is commonly translated as “self-reliance.” Juche drew on Marx’s and Lenin’s ideas about the struggle between landlord and peasant, between rich and poor. It similarly declared that man, not God, shaped his own fate. But Kim Il-sung rejected traditional Communist teachings about universalism and internationalism. He was a Korean nationalist in the extreme. He instructed Koreans that they were special—almost a chosen people—and that they no longer had to rely on their more powerful neighbors, China, Japan, or Russia. The South were a disgrace because of their dependence on the United States. “Establishing juche means, in a nutshell, being the master of revolution and reconstruction in one’s own country. This means holding fast to an independent position, rejecting depen dence on others, using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength, displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance,” he expounded in one of his many treatises. This was seductive to a proud people whose dignity had been trampled by its neighbors for centuries.

- And yet, unique flavor or no, some uniting factors appear:

To a certain extent, all dictatorships are alike. From Stalin’s Soviet Union to Mao’s China, from Ceauşescu’s Romania to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, all these regimes had the same trappings: the statues looming over every town square, the portraits hung in every office, the wristwatches with the dictator’s face on the dial.

- Universal healthcare sounds great, assuming that you have doctors who are willing to doctor, machines to do diagnoses and treatments, and enough drugs for painkilling and antibiotics:

For all its shortcomings, North Korea’s public health system provided the public with better care than they’d had in pre-Communist times. The right to “universal free medical service … to improve working people’s health” was in fact written into the North Korean constitution. Dr. Kim was proud to be a part of the health-care system and gratified by the service she provided her patients. But by the early 1990s, the deficiencies in the system became more pronounced. Much of the medical equipment was obsolete and broken down, with spare parts impossible to obtain since the factories in the Communist-bloc countries where they were manufactured were by now privatized. The pharmaceutical factory in Chongjin curtailed its production due to a lack of supplies and electricity. There was little money to import pharmaceuticals from abroad. The bag that Dr. Kim carried on her rounds had gotten progressively lighter until she had nothing inside but her stethoscope. All she could do for patients was write prescriptions and hope that they had a connection in China or Japan, or a stash of money to buy the drugs on the black market.

- The constant, ridiculous brainwashing.  I know we complain about toddlers being brainwashed by the TV or fast food ads and somesuch, but DUDE:

Whether they were studying math, science, reading, music, or art, the children were taught to revere the leadership and hate the enemy. For example, a first-grade math book contained the following questions: “Eight boys and nine girls are singing anthems in praise of Kim Il-sung. How many children are singing in total?” “A girl is acting as a messenger to our patriotic troops during the war against the Japanese occupation. She carries messages in a basket containing five apples, but is stopped by a Japanese soldier at a checkpoint. He steals two of her apples. How many are left?” “Three soldiers from the Korean People’s Army killed thirty American soldiers. How many American soldiers were killed by each of them if they all killed an equal number of enemy soldiers?”

- Even in totalitarian Communist hell, the free market works when given a chance:

THOUSANDS OF MIDDLE-AGED women were doing much the same thing as Mrs. Song. They were self-employed. They ran no workshops or stores; they didn’t dare to set up the kiosks that were so ubiquitous in Russia during the time of perestroika. They knew nothing of business other than what they had been taught—all private endeavor was egoistic. But out of hunger and desperation, they were reinventing the concept of a free-market economy, which required unlearning a lifetime of propaganda. They had figured out that there was value in bartering skills; young people with more endurance could make the hike into the distant mountains to get the firewood that Mrs. Song couldn’t reach and trade it for her cookies. If you owned a ladder, you could collect copper wire from the electric lines (no danger of electrocution anymore) and sell it for food. If you had the key to an abandoned factory, you could dismantle the machines, the windows, and the flooring to put to new use. [snip]

During the 1990s, even as the death grip of famine tightened around Chongjin, strangely, more and more food appeared at the markets. Cabbages, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, and potatoes were for sale. The vegetables came from secret gardens that dotted the mountains in the countryside. Farmers had discovered their best chance of survival was to dig their own plot into the slopes, even on land that in the past they had thought too steep to cultivate. Attention was lavished on the private plots, the vegetables in rows as perfectly even as typewriter keys, the beans and squash tied to stakes and trellises, while the collective farms were slovenly with neglect.

In summary, I found Nothing to Envy a very readable, interesting, sad and illuminating book.  I’ll leave you with this last quote:

Dr. Kim staggered up the riverbank. Her legs were numb, encased in frozen trousers. She made her way through the woods until the first light of dawn illuminated the outskirts of a small village. She didn’t want to sit down and rest—she feared succumbing to hypothermia—but she knew she didn’t have the strength to go much farther. She would have to take a chance on the kindness of the local residents. Dr. Kim looked down a dirt road that led to farmhouses. Most of them had walls around them with metal gates. She tried one; it turned out to be unlocked. She pushed it open and peered inside. On the ground she saw a small metal bowl with food. She looked closer—it was rice, white rice, mixed with scraps of meat. Dr. Kim couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a bowl of pure white rice. What was a bowl of rice doing there, just sitting out on the ground? She figured it out just before she heard the dog’s bark. Up until that moment, a part of her had hoped that China would be just as poor as North Korea. She still wanted to believe that her country was the best place in the world. The beliefs she had cherished for a lifetime would be vindicated. But now she couldn’t deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.

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Eff-You, Penguin.

Posted by Lissa on April 28, 2010

And no, I don’t mean the website about cursing at cute-ish animals.  I mean the publisher.

Apparently Penguin and Amazon are warring* about which price model to use in distributing ebooks.  Both entities are willing to earn less money — in Amazon’s case, to actually sell books at a loss — in order to maintain control and retain what each feels is the best cost structure for distributing ebooks.

Look, I’m not unsympathetic to Penguin.  They want to make sure they can still make a profit off of bestselling books and they’re nervous about losing hardcover sales, which were always the most profitable.  But the times, they are a-changing, lads; you see more and more Kindles on the T in the morning.  Not to mention the folks reading on their iPhones (me!) and Blackberries and eventually iPads.

Amazon’s model is designed to please its customers — it’s willing to lose money on sales while still paying Penguin MORE than Penguin’s preferred pricing model would.

Penguin’s model is designed to please itself — it’s trying to maintain the current publishing  business model, which thinks that people who can afford iPhones and iTouches and Blackberries and iPads will still want to drag around books that weigh five pounds.

Guess where my sympathies lie?

And yet . . . I’m just a humble book-crack-addict.  I admit it.  I downloaded the Barnes and Noble ebook app and bought the coveted book from them.  B&N’s contract with Penguin hasn’t expired yet so they haven’t re-negotiated the business model.  (I think.)

What can I say?  It was worth an extra three dollars to me to get the book yesterday instead of three weeks from now, and I need my book-crack.

*For the millionth time, I really, really wish I could draw.  Does anyone feel like whipping up a penguin battling an amazon?  With books?  It would be fun!

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Marko and xkcd seem to be telling me . . .

Posted by Lissa on March 22, 2010

That’s it’s time to re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Make sure you click through for the hover-over text!

Marko’s post is here.  I just love it when the universe falls into order.  Say “friend” and enter . . .

UPDATE: I didn’t get it from Heath J, but he should get credit for being first!  Also, Mike thinks it should be “Speak, friend, and enter.”  I think I posted the correct version, despite what Gandalf may have originally believed.  Your thoughts?

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Book Review: Kinfolk

Posted by Lissa on January 28, 2010

Short review: Excellent!

Longer review:  Good morning, everyone!  How was your weekend?  I took a few days off from blogging to play hostess, but really, what was the news over the last few days anyway?  Did Darth Cheney return?  Did I want to blog about John Edwards?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I decided to do a quick review on Kinfolk when I learned that a friend of mine — who’s MUCH better read than I am — hadn’t read The Good Earth.  I think I first read Buck in eighth grade and never looked back; I can count up at least five of her books on my shelf.  In retrospect, I didn’t know how lucky I was; I used to go to a local library and grab Buck books, not knowing that half of them were out of print and unavailable elsewhere.

Pearl S. Buck was the child of Presbyterian missionaries who raised her in China; she grew up listening to stories from her amah and speaking Chinese*.  If I recall correctly, when she published The Good Earth she was raked over the coals by Chinese intellectuals.  They were horrified that she’d write about the peasants in China; they wanted Westerners to see Chinese culture purely from the view of the elites and the intellectuals, not the dirty commonfolk.

Such an intellectual heads up the family from Kinfolk.  Dr. Wen Hua Liang is a writer and lecturer living in New York City with his wife and four children.  The story follows the children as they fulfill their lifelong dream and, against their father’s wishes, return to China.  Nothing is as they expect; we follow them as they try to reconcile their American upbringing and their father’s glowing, ethereal views with the actual folks on the ground.

I find Buck to be a very entertaining writer.  Part of that stems purely from the fact that she’s an American who wrote a lot of books about China and I’m half-Chinese; not complicated!  But I also love her flow of words.  For example, describing a well into which a body has just been thrown:

Such old wells were deep.  They had been dug in the palace gardens, long ago, so that the Empress might have ample water with which to water her peonies.  Now they were foul with age and death and nobody drank their waters, and all the flowers were dead.

I find that imagery haunting.

My own personal favorite Buck book is out of print, but you can buy used copies from third-party vendors.  Likewise, her short stories are fabulous.  Pick up a book; you won’t be disappointed!

*Yes, I know “Chinese” is not a spoken language, but I don’t know what dialect she spoke and I don’t care enough to go a-Googling.  Knock yourself out. :)

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