ru: (Default)
Absorbing books are really a double-edged sword. On one hand, it's good that they're absorbing, because that means it's a good book. On the other hand, they can make it veeeeery hard to work on other things. Ever had that happen? I ended up having to sit down and finish Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen) when I got home, because it would not leave me alone all day. It's a neat book, about a kitchen witch and her family and the apple tree in her garden that ends up being very much a character in the story. The idea of kitchen witches really intrigues me, I think because they use a type of magic that's very rooted in reality. It was actually a really sweet story too, but thanks to the revelation of a big secret early on in the story, I ended up having to keep reading, because I knew it would come back to bite everyone in the end, and I had to see what happened. Putting the book down meant being driven to distraction while I tried to work on measuring. So I'm glad I finished it and finally have some closure.

Well, maybe. The book has made me really interested in trying out cooking with edible flowers. And there has been interest expressed in making a flower bed to go with the vegetable and herb beds. Hmmm...
ru: (strange)
Good GODS that book sale is dangerous. I came out with an armful again. >_>;;;;

But I got some really cool things, including:

--A gardening encyclopedia from the 1940's. Let's see how many plants in it are considered invasive now! XD
--A book on literary humor by Elliot Engel. I'm fond of his lectures, so let's see how he handles humor. It appears to have also been signed by him, which is neat.
--A cookbook from the 1930's. There are some interesting-looking recipes in it that I thought might be fun to try. There's also a section on cooking for invalids. And apparently they were fond of drinking egg whites in the 30's.
--Finally, and what I think is the neatest thing I found, a pair of biology textbooks from the 1860's. Those'll be neat to read, I think. It'll be interesting to see how they saw the world back then.

Darn it, now I have more books to read! I'm never going to see the end of my reading list, am I?
ru: (strange)
I'm starting to think I need a good reading icon. Since starting to read at lunchtime, I've really started going through books. This is a good thing, considering my reading list is gargantuan.

Slant by Greg Bear: After being enthralled by Blood Music, I thought I'd give another one of Bear's books a try. Sadly, it just didn't live up to the insane awesomeness that Blood Music was able to convey. Maybe I'm spoiled now. Anyway, it takes place in the future, where nanotechnology has Made Things Great, and any sort of mental imbalance is cured through the use of medical monitors implanted in people (also known as getting therapied). Now, though, people are starting to have mental breakdowns, which is where the story actually starts to pick up--about halfway through the novel.

I think the problem with Slant is that it's too big. Blood Music was a short book, based on a short story, so things moved fast and furious. Slant, on the other hand, seems to be crushed under its own weight. There are about five character threads being followed, with little relationship between each other until well into the book. The result, for me anyway, was that I had to keep flipping back to remind myself of who the characters are every time the perspective changes. It made reading rather difficult. I also found the amount of sex in the book off-putting. It felt like it was going on every ten pages, to the point where I felt like saying "Not now, I have a headache." to the book. It cleared up once the story really got rolling, but until then it felt like it was filler that, with a couple exceptions, had no real bearing on the book itself. The climax and conclusions felt rather lackluster, where it seemed it could've gone so much further, but didn't. Everything just sorta flopped into place at the end. From what I can tell, it's the middle book in a trilogy. In retrospect, it makes sense, as it seemed there were a couple plots that seemed they could've gone further. Still, if so, it probably was suffering a bit from Middle Child Syndrome.

In its favor, though, it showcased more of Bear's ability to think wild things, and featured some incredible ideas that made me go "ooh", much like the intelligent microbes of Blood Music. In general, though, and not having read the other two books in the apparent trilogy (which are on my reading list, at least), I get the feeling there are better Bear books out there than Slant.

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison: I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. As the novel that spawned everyone's favorite movie about conspiratorial cannibalism, Soylent Green, it definitely wasn't going to be winning any awards for cheerfulness. Despite having been written in 1966, and having gotten past the book's setting of 1999, it still remains eerily plausible. It features a future where man has gotten too big for the Earth, has overpopulated too much, and so the Earth itself has collapsed under the strain. Famine and overcrowding run rampant, resources are scarce, and life, in a rather blunt understatement, sucks. It follows Andy Rusch, police detective, as he investigates a murder, and the events that transpire because of it, all while trying to survive in an overcrowded New York City.

The book definitely shines at establishing setting. More than once in the book I felt the need to take a shower just to wash off the imaginary grime I was feeling as I read about the squalid conditions 99% of the population is living in. When Andy visits the apartment of the murder victim, an upper class citizen, I was feeling his relief as he was exposed to air conditioning, a rare luxury, and especially welcome during an August heat wave. Despite Andy's mean temperedness, I found myself liking him much of the time. He seemed to be a good guy in a world gone bad, him and his roommate, Sol, an old relic from a world long lost, and the voice of reason in the book.

If you want a cheerful book, don't read it. The happy moments are few and far between, and last much too short before the next difficulty comes along for the characters. The world the characters is slowly dying, and the chilling part is that it could still become our world, if we don't take care of it. If you're feeling the need for a reminder to be thankful for what you have, read it. Seeing as I do most of my reading at lunch, I found myself feeling suddenly very grateful for my delicious soup and central heating. Things could always be a lot, lot worse.

...I just realized I wrote two book reviews. Go me, I guess?

Either way, after reading two rather depressing books, I think I need a change to something lighter. But keeping in my current theme of armageddon, I've started reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It's already making me chuckle out loud, despite the fact that I just started it, which is, well, a good omen. ^_^

Books!

Dec. 27th, 2008 10:13 pm
ru: (strange)
Amazingly, I've actually managed to finish a couple of books recently! I'm so pleased with myself. <3 So, some quick reviews are in order!

Blood Music by Greg Bear: I finished this book in only a few days, thanks to the fact that 1.) It's fairly short and 2.) I couldn't put it DOWN. Seriously. It gripped me early on and wouldn't let me go until I finished it. In a nutshell, it's about a guy who develops a microbe with intelligence, and in order to save it, injects it into his own bloodstream, where it evolves into a plague that's able to communicate with its hosts. That idea alone got me interested in the book, but what the plague does to its hosts suddenly made it a serious page-turner as I wondered what the microbe was up to--after all, it was THINKING.

About two-thirds of the way through, it took a turn for the WTF-WEIRD. Seriously. The ending made me think of other stories like End of Eva or the Narnia: The Last Battle. It completely messed with my head and left me going "BWUH?". But despite that, I still loved it. It got me thinking, and I think it got my juices flowing in other venues (The idea of thought dictating the laws of physics totally makes me think I should adapt that for Sadriel somehow). Since the book was written in 1985, it shows its age, but that doesn't stop it from being a fascinating story. If you're looking for something different and don't mind having your head messed with, I'd recommend giving it a try.

The Planets by Dava Sobel: After Blood Music I wanted something that was both on a much larger scale and wouldn't grip me as hard so that I could actually put it down and do something more productive once in a while. The Planets gave me both. It's basically a treatise on the planets of our solar system (including Pluto <3), sprinkled with the occasional anecdote, such as about the scientists that worked on it or the missions that explored the planet in question. It's light and fun, and goes a lot into how the planet was discovered (in most cases anyway), the nature of the planet, and so on. Sobel mixes it up too, with some chapters written from a different perspective. The Mars chapter, for example, is told from the perspective of a meteorite from the planet. The novel's not very deep, but it's educational, and harboring a love of the planets myself, I enjoyed it.

Next up to get off my gargantuan reading list: Slant, also by Greg Bear.
ru: (strange)
Holy crap you guys, holy crap.

Do you know what I actually managed to do? I finished a book. AN ACTUAL FUN BOOK. I think I started it, oh, when I started grad school? And it's only about 270 pages long? Yeah. My reading time has been reduced to the occasional 5 minutes or so I get whilst waiting to be picked up.

Nevertheless. Do you know what this means? I get to pick a new book!! And I have twelve thousand to choose from, because that's about how long my reading list is. XD Do I read Doctor goodness? Do I read about surfers who also get Nobel prizes? Do I read fairy tales? Do I read about intelligent viruses? Decisions decisions...
ru: (strange)
Dangerous things in the world:

1.) Falling from a skyscraper
2.) Black mambas
3.) Library book sales

The uni library has been holding its annual book sale, today being the last day. I went with Eien-chan on Sunday, and came out with a large armful of books, so I don't quite know what possessed me to go back. I think maybe because I was half-hoping I'd find the first volume of Le Morte d'Arthur, the second volume which I acquired on Sunday. I didn't find it, but what I DID find when I walked in was that they were using the standard last-day-of-a-book-sale pricing scheme. Namely, that you could fill a shopping bag to the breaking point full of books, and pay only $5. I wasn't planning on buying any more books, but guess what? I came out struggling with the bag that I had, yes, filled to the breaking point. *sighs at self*

I did find some interesting things, though! Among others, I found a British copy of "Make Room! Make Room!" (a.k.a. the book "Soylent Green" is loosely based off of), a somewhat beat-up, but still readable book of Mythology, looking like it may have come from the late 1800's, a book of Isaac Asimov short stories, and the book "Twisted Tales from Shakespeare". I've read a little of the last one, and it looks like it's great fun. Basically it appears to be a Cliff's Notes version of several of Shakespeare's plays, written very casually and having way too much fun with the language. I quoth a passage from the recap of "Hamlet" from the segment, "Ophelia goes to pieces":

"But he and the Queen get a nasty jolt when Ophelia comes in, singing off-key and strewing (Footnote: It is one of the oddities of the English language that everything else you throw, but flowers you strew.) flowers all over the place. The death of her father and the madness of her lover have lowered her I.Q. to a point where it can no longer be measured. To make matters worse, Laertes has suddenly returned from France and makes a scene (Scene V) because his father was buried before he could get to the funeral. Here they've spent all that money for mourners, when he would have done it for nothing."

Each recap also has discussion questions at the end, such as "How long can you discuss Rosencrantz without mentioning Guildenstern, and vice versa?", "What did Queen Gertrude see in King Claudius?", "Where did Polonius spend his time when he was not skulking behind an arras?", and "Consider the effect on Ophelia's future if she had known how to swim." It looks to be great fun. XD

I am so so dorktastic today.
ru: (Default)
So I ventured forth and baked a pie today. A key lime pie, to be exact. Things I've learned during this little culinary escapade are that I need more practice separating eggs, that making lime zest is hard work, and that juicing limes is even harder. Thank goodness I didn't go with my original plan to use actual key limes. I'd be ripping my hair out by the end. Furthermore, the recipe said that you could get a half a cup of juice out of four limes, but I came up short. I guess if I decide to try this recipe again, I'll use five limes. It's finished, topped with cool whip, and is chilling in the fridge now, and I'm wondering how it's going to turn out. I used a bit more zest than the recipe called for to try and compensate for the juice shortage, so I don't know how that affected the texture. Perhaps my dad (a key lime pie lover) can give me more feedback when he tries it.

If this recipe doesn't work, I'll go looking for another. I'd like to find a good key lime pie recipe to experiment with. I got a wild idea the other day to try making a key lime pie with a dark chocolate layer. I have no idea if it'll work or not, but I think it could be tasty. I had a key lime truffle the other day that was totally delicious, so I've been wondering if it would be possible to replicate the effect in full pie form. Either way though, I'm very proud of the fact that I managed to make the pie all by myself, from start to finish without any help, save for second opinions from Mum about whether or not the pie was ready to come out of the oven. And my hands now really smell of limes.

I also made a pitcher of iced tea and got some more books, so I've been a busy Ru today. ^_^

On the subject of books, I'm debating whether or not to try doing the 50 book challenge or not. It might be a little late to try, seeing as mid-year is coming upon us, and I dunno if I could get 50 books read by the end of the year. Or maybe it's just reading 50 books over a one-year period. Either way, I'm debating whether to try it or not. I have more time for reading now, and I have a huge backlog of books waiting to be read, so maybe that would help motivate me even more to read. I guess I'll have to ponder that.
ru: (Default)
Okay, until I get through some of it, I'm not allowed to add any new books to my reading list. No more. It's gotten to be astronomical in size, and I think adding any more would be simply dangerous.

On Friday one of the library groups held their annual book sale. I love book sales like this, seeing as you can get nifty books really cheaply. I came out of it having spent $6 on 6 books. Considering I wanted to limit myself to $5, this isn't too bad. I picked up a drawing book, two Terry Pratchett books, a book of warped fairy tales, and Dante's "The Inferno". Not too shabby. I was feeling rather proud of myself for having found them there.

Today I come back to the area where the sale was held and discover that the tent is still up. Interesting. I come closer and realize that not only is the book sale going on still, but that it's been turned into a book giveaway. All the books are free. SCORE. Well, not score so much, because all I ended up doing was accquiring more books and adding to my list. It was pretty picked over (I found it interesting that the majority of the fiction books still left were mysteries), but I still managed to snag some interesting finds, among them being a couple sci-fi books, a book on landscaping vocabulary, a book on the nature of serendipity, a satire that I peeked in and featured the Buddha being annoyed at Michael, which intrigued me, and a horror-type book that initially drew me to it due to the fact that the title of the book was "MEG" in big huge letters. Yes, I am enough of a dork that mention of a certain grumpy electrician fizzy is enough to make me take a closer look at a book. I went ahead and picked it up, because from the looks of it, it essentially involves people being terrorized by a megalodon. So it's like Jurassic Park, but in the water. Sweet.

So now, not counting the drawing book and the landscaping book, I have ten books added onto my reading list. At this rate, I'll never see the light of day, reading-wise. Oh well. At least I'll have plenty of time to dive into my book list in about a week and a half.

On that note... )

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