Microblog Monday- book discovery

I recommended an author to someone at work last week, and today I got an email following up, plus with a commentary about struggling to find new authors.  It got me thinking about authors I recommend.  So some of the authors I reread, in no particular order

1. Connie Willis- she writes time travel and near future sci fi and science books.  Her books are either going to make you giggle( Bellwether or to say nothing of the dog) or sob (Passage or Doomday book). She is also a very slow writer. I went in once to place a preorder with my local sci fi and fantasy bookshop, they asked me where I heard of the new book (the Internet) and said a new book was predicted often, but appeared rarely.  It would be another two years!

2. Lois McMaster bujold.  I think I write about her books often.  Just go read them


3. Terry pratchett. I love the Discworld series. I have been reading them since high school, the early books are a bit tough, but the later ones are amazing.


4. Kate Baker – another author I recommend often. Time traveling cyborgs, a mysterious company manipulating human history and chocolates as the most intoxicating substance available.  The last couple of books do get weird.


What all of these authors do is make me reflect on what it means to be a human, to be in our world and what people are really like.  They are also about what brings out the best in people, what motivates us.  There are also people behaving badly.

In high school I had a friend who would reread Narnia every year.  A lot of the books by these authors are like that- series I return to periodically to remind myself to the power of books.

Any recommendations?

books I have been reading

Well, a book I have read.  I have been reading a lot of romances in Scribd, but I can’t take pictures so easily.

1215 The year of the Magna Carta is by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham.  It’s a light history book about the state of England And Europe in the year the Magna Carta was signed.  I had read another book by one (or both) of the authors on the year 1000 so this was an easy pick up.  It’s not academic, more like the USA Today of history books.  If you have serious history habits, probably not the best choice (I did find it a little light on in some places) but it is a good summary of the time period and debunks some of the more persistent myths about that time.  I enjoyed it, but it’s not a keeper.


10 books

So, there is this meme going around farcebook about 10 influential books, or movies.  I have been tagged.  But I am not a fan of posting on the book of face.  So, putting it here.

Books that have stuck with me

Some of these will be children’s books- books can have a much bigger impact as a child

1. Pride and prejudice- Jane Austen.  There is just so much to get out of the book, it was once the only book I took on a three day solo hike.  

2. Alanna- Tamora Pierce. One of the first fantasy books I read, with a very strong heroine

3. Warrior’s Apprentice- Lois McMaster Bujold. I would list the whole series if I could. Books that both entertain and make you think.  

4. Guards, guards – Terry Pratchett. Not the best of his, but the book that got me hooked on discworld.  Another author who entertain and make you think

5. My fathers dragon- Ruth stiles gannet. My second grade teacher read this to the class, and many many years later I tracked the series down ( in japan)

6. The drawing of the dark- Tim Powers- beer saves the western world.

7. Fire and Hemlock- Diana Wynne Jones- another author who I want to include all of her books.  Elements from this rebelling  of Tam Lin pops into my head at random moments.

8. To say nothing of the dog- Connie Willis. It is a toss up between this time travel romp and the awesome Bellwether.  Both really good.

9. In the garden of Iden – Kage Baker.  This is another one where it is the series, rather than individual books

10. Once a hero- Elizabeth Moon. A space opera book that convinced me to try others ( with varying levels of success). You can hide from your true personality, but under pressure, it will come out.


A List of 10 books, but ask me on another day and it may change.

What I have been reading and thoughts

One of the books I read on the train journey was Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom. I liked buyology a few years ago, and this one was also interesting.

Basically all about how brands form a fundamental part of our lives, and how hard it is to escape. What was interesting to me was the idea that essentially what we eat, see and hear from very early childhood influences our tastes ( including brand preference).

This was interesting, because it explains why I don’t really drink much soft drink (none in the house as a child) and some of my lack of care on brands- we lived in south Africa when I was very little, so many of the brands that I would have seen, don’t exist! It is a scary concept of how much we are influenced, unconsciously. But I find the idea that are preferences are set so early fascinating.

But it was also brought home to me, when we went on our wine tour in Sonoma and napa. The hills we saw our my image of landscape- that was the landscape that imprinted on me the most. The yellow hills in the middle of summer, and the dark trees.


Current reading and thoughts

I am in the process of reading a book called the secret life of pronouns:what our words say about us by James W. Pennebaker. It’s fascinating, about how our words, spoken and written, reveal our inner thoughts and predilections. The words we choose, the structure and formality all have markers. And even though we don’t consciously analyze them, we understand what the underlying words symbolise.

There are a lot of good points, and I can recommend reading this. Apparently talking about traumatic events can help us recover. But not too much focused talk to close to the event. So blogs are a healthy way to cope with issues. Sometimes

What I find interesting is how the way we communicate can indicate our personalities and obsessions. And it seems so obvious when others do it, but less so when analyzing oneself.

It has made me realise a few things about myself, and about my blogging style. Because everything is always about meeeee.

I have realized that I use this blog as a form of stream of consciousness writing. But not consciously. Which explains why I rarely manage to put the posts I write in my head down. I have “written” them already. And why I am so unlikely to edit. Or to carefully craft posts. You will have to take my word for it that I actually write in a careful, polished fashion elsewhere in my life.

But that fits into how I view myself. I think my inner self image is a bit absent minded professor type. Smart, but not that focused on the details of life. Huh. And it explains why I am so resistant to my husbands desire to change my clothing style ( another post I never wrote). I might daydream about being polished, but the reality is, slightly disheveled is more me.

Interesting, but disconcerting.

What I have been reading

Rain and illness have contributed to quite a bit of reading. This is not necessarily the order in which they were read, rather the order and collection they were in as I put them in my book journal.

Doughnut by Tom Holt. I have been reading Tom holt since high school, he is kind of like a mash up of Doug Adams and terry pratchett. Writes in the fantasy space but waaaay more British than pratchett. This book was weird. Lots of physics concepts, alternate realities, bending causality. Engrossing, but strange. And the ending ( as with most of his books) is not completely conclusive.

the princess bride By William Goldman. The book that the movie is based on. A reread of an old favourite. The book is structured as him abridging a pre-existing book- the princess bride, so lots of asides. Just fun.

the belly of the wolf By R. A. MacAvoy. This is the third book in the lens of the world series. It’s fantasy I guess. Another reread. The protagonist is an aging scientist/philosopher/writer who must stop a potential civil war in his country. This is complicated due to his potential to be crowned as king and the fact that he wrote about the philosophy that the rebellious side believe in. These are interesting books on what it means to be human.

love a little sideways by Shannon Stacey. This is one of Kowalski series, and is the story of Liz Kowalski. I like this series, they are are happy contemporary romances in a small town, and have realistic people. But this book ( and several of the others ) can be tough- a lot of her heroines are my age of older and they easily fall pregnant/consider it, and there are babies in this book. The issue of kids is a bigger issue in this one because the hero and his first wife divorced ( a few books back) because she never wanted kids, and lied about it. Fun read, but some issues.

Christmas kismet Jemma grey. Novella. My notes say jilted woman accidentally spends winter weekend in remote cabin with widower, romance ensues. Widower has two daughters conveniently not present. Meh

A gentleman and a scoundrel by Norma Darcy. Dreadful. Regency romance that borrows plot lines from all over the place and smushes them together. Young woman is supposed to marry a duke, because her older sister, who was originally to do so married someone else. She isn’t sure she wants to. Duke is secretly in love with her. Random plots all over the place. She toys with finding him a new bride. Matchmaking for her other sister and a friend of the duke. Falls in love with a callow young neighbor. Dire

the diakos baby scandal Natalie rivers. A harlequin presents novel. Secret baby, rich Greek businessman, secret family problems.

The greek’s forced brideMichelle Reid. Another harlequin presents. Repressed young woman walks in on her fiancé and sister getting it on. She flees and ends up marrying her fiances stepbrother. Drama

taken with you Shannon stacey. Another Kowalski book, but not actually about any of the kowalskis. Town librarian, not a wilderness girl, get a lost on a single woman’s weekend and is rescued by a holidaying ranger, who turns up in town as the new ranger in the area and her neighbor. Fun, interesting take on contrasting people and how it works. Only baby is her friend’s and not a major plot point.

smitten Janet evanovich. Prior to the Stephanie Plum novels she wrote romances. A tad slapstick, divorced mom begs for job from local construction company, boss falls for her, hijacks ensue. There’s a flasher, a crazy old lady and a hungry puppy

moosed up tiffinie helmer. Yes, that is how her name is spelled. A nurse, recently arrived in a remote Alaskan township falls for the local ranger ( ok, perhaps ranger in both this and the Kowalski book is not quite the right name- the parks and wildlife enforcer). He’s hot and he talks to animals. Kind of madcap, kind of thriller ( she gets held up by poachers) not great.

The Nekkid Truth
. Nicole Camden. Erotica. Photographer with face amnesia ( she cannot remember faces) works with police at crime scenes, in love with with one of the detectives, involved in a case. Pretty good

So I have read a bit in the last couple of weeks. Escapism reading

Books I have been reading:Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

I actually read this book a couple of weeks ago, and have been pondering the review ever since.  I really like Lois McMaster Bujold’s work (she would be the author).  However I have been avoiding her books for the last couple of years.

For starters, most of the Vorkosigan series, which this book is part of, have either subtle or unsubtle parenting analogies.   Major plot points. This can sometimes be ok, and sometimes not.

Secondly, and I think this one matter more, one of the main themes (unconscious to begin with I suspect) is the impact that changing reproductive technology can have on a society.  This is pretty explicitly discussed now.  One of the central pieces of technology in this universe is a uterine replicator.  Civilised worlds do not see many body births anymore, most people use the replicator.  Many of the plot points through the series have elements that rely on this.  The main world, Barrayar, is one that was cut off from galactic civilisation for centuries, and as a result retreated into feudalism.  The impact of the uterine replicator on this society is subtly rippling out.  The impact on the wider galaxy has been one that allows for significant genetic modification, in very interesting ways.  While this is a very pertinent and interesting issue to focus on, it is somewhat hard to read, because now one of my reaction is jealousy over the replicators.  If those were available, much of my issues would be gone.  It sounds so petty, but it is true.

So, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is a book I was fairly certain would not be heavy (some of the books in the series are darker than others) and would not be overly focused on the parenting metaphors. It is the story of Ivan Vorpatril, who is the cousin and foil of the main hero of the series, Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is an extremely bright physically disabled individual.  He has compensated for significant damage done in utero (his mother was poisoned) by being an overacheiver, in a society that is very very hostile to birth defects.  Ivan has always been the contrast, perfectly formed, charming to women but not that bright.  Ivan was the comic relief in many of the novels, although in later ones he has started to develop more personality.

This is the story of Ivan in love.  It turns out that he isn’t stupid, he just isn’t as fiercely intelligent as his cousin, and he has cultivated the art of being bland and not triggering political maneuvering.  This is necessary because both he and Miles are potential heirs to the Emporer, and subject to plots.

The story opens on Komarr, a conquered planet subject to Barrayaran rule.  Ivan, who serves as an aide to a high level military man, is asked by another cousin to seek out and protect a young woman.  He is only on Komarr for a short stay, an inspection of spaceships. She turns out to be a little paranoid, and he ends up as her (and her sister’s) captive.  In the process he foils an attack on them, and is forced to take them back to his apartment in order to keep them safe.  He thinks everything has been smoothed over, then everyone descends- the cousin who sent him after them, the immigration officials, the local police.  In a panic, to ensure that neither he nor the two women are taken away he proposes to her.  (I’ve forgotten her name and am too lazy to go and find the book !)  They have a hasty traditional marriage with the cousin and her sister as witnesses (traditional for Barrayar) and she is now protected as his wife.

This foils more than one plot.  Then he, his wife and her sister head back to Barrayar along with his boss and the assorted military contingent.  The two women are refugees from another planet.  Their parents ran one of the Houses on this planet which is a planet full of criminal syndicate organisations.  Their House was aggressively taken over and they are on the run, not sure where their family is.

So Ivan is offering shelter.  Once they return to Barrayar, they learn exactly who he is, and where he fits in the puzzle- not quite the unobtrusive fall guy they thought he was.  Then their family shows up, both to “rescue” her, and to dig up some long lost treasure.  The plot becomes a bit of a madcap comedy at this point.

Essentially both the heroine and Ivan are the non-ambitious underacheivers of their families, but have to work hard to convince their families to accept them for who they are and allow the marriage to continue.

I enjoyed the book.  It’s light and entertaining and allows us to catch up on one of the more significant characters from the series.  I really like the way the author uses different perspectives on the same story.  One of the more interesting segments is a story of Ivan’s birth, in the midst of a civil war.  Long time readers will already know this story from an earlier book, Barrayar.  The perspective in that book is Cordelia Vorkosigan, and here it is Alys Vorpatril.  The tale is slightly different.  Bujold has done this with other stories and characters, and I like it, because it is a reflection of how life is, we all see different stories.

Another enjoyable element, especially after reading romances, is the acknowledgment of sex but the lack of sex scenes.  Badly written sex scenes can be very jarring, particularly when the book is focused on elements other than the relationship.  Dated sex scenes can cause undue hilarity as our preferences for wording change Sex is acknowledged, and exists, but is not overly described.  It’s nice to see a relationship develop through the emotions of the participants, not their lust at first sight.

It could be read as a standalone, but for full enjoyment, is best read as part of the continuum.  If you are looking to start the series, I would recommend starting with The Warrior’s Apprentice.  It isn’t the first in chronological terms, but it is the best introduction.  the first in chronological terms is Shards of Honor- and it is a tough read.