Two quick notes

Note the First:

Apparently I have a +5 modifier to “things occurring for the good if I randomly mention I have the ability to do a particular task to someone important” which, looking back on my life these last few years is not surprising. I can’t mention anything more until I get confirmation but I think it’s neat. This modifier by the way is why I tend to not go to church all that often at the moment. If I don’t pay attention I could end up on a committee and have to deal with religious people.

Note the Second:

Book 20: The Flaxen Femme Fatale by John Zakour

Nothing like the last Private Investigator on the planet Earth (in the 2070’s to boot) with a holographic high-powered computer assistant attached to his brain to help a guy relax after a long day of work. Absurd, funny, and light. I still enjoy DOS and Gates being swear words. Rating: B+

Wherein the only work is done with a razor

I finally managed to get called by the union the other day and, not surprisingly, started work. I’m on another industrial site, another co-generation plant, and with another company.

As with most industrial job sites, one spends the first day going through some form of orientation. These usually entail someone telling you where all the evacuation points are, a firm reminder to stay out of clearly marked areas (as in if you show up in these areas you will be fired), and a basic summary of the safety precautions specific to the site. The general contractor on this site has a very well done set of in-house videos that they use to convince you to work safely. The summary? Work safe or you, or someone else, will die. Seriously. These videos were very direct in the consequences of failing to follow safe practices.

That was the morning.

The afternoon was spent filling out forms, going for a walk, filling out more forms, and shaving. That’s right. Shaving. One of the issues on this site was that someone kicked up a fuss (rightfully so) about the air quality at the end of the day when the welders had been working for hours and no one had turned on the freaking fans. So we had to be fitted for respirators but no one realized it when the call for workers went out. As a result, the lot of us (about a dozen or so guys) waited for someone to drive to Walmart to buy some shaving cream and disposable razors so that we could shave our facial hair with cold water. Fun. Very fun. I still don’t think I look like myself. Mind you I now have a piece of paper that says I have a mask that fits.The fitting process involves a computer measuring the air movement around our face while we sit, stand, read something aloud, and bend over touching our knees.

So I’m at work again. Not that I did much the first day but I was paid so I obviously did something.

One up, one down

Book Fail: Loose Balls: the Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

This was one of Doug Smith’s suggested readings. I just couldn’t get into it. The story of the oddities surrounding the league that really shouldn’t have existed is interesting in theory but nothing I really care about right now. Compounding the fact is the style. Since the ABA kept no records whatsoever this book is an oral history which is just not my thing at the moment.

Book 19

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Sigh. Terry Pratchett. Such fun. Such irreverence. This time the irreverence is directed at the twin institutions of football (the one where you use the foot not the one where you use your hands) and academia. Rating: A

Books and More

Random Notes:

The only problem with using the wonderful Inter-Library Loans (ILLO) system we have here is that it occasionally works too well. I now have a stack of basketball books sitting on the kitchen table that I was  expecting to trickle in over the course of a month or two. Eeks.

Book 17: Marque and Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon

I mentioned earlier that I love Elizabeth Moon’s writing and I suppose I should explain my thoughts a tad. In Moon’s universe humanity has had faster than light (FTL) drives for eons and have scattered across the various parts of the galaxy. With me so far? Good. What makes her universe a little more special is the fact that she uses her history degree to make sense of the future. In the Vatta series (of which this is book two) independent traders load up their ships, spend weeks at a time out of communication traveling to the next port of call, and hope to whatever deity they believe in that they picked the right goods so they can sell them for a profit, fill their ships with more goods, and continue the process. Think of it as an intergalactic version of the 16th and 17th centuries. This is what the future looks like in my mind or at least close to it. I have the galaxy running along the same lines of the government of Canada, a whole bunch of people who live together, don’t really get along, but take solace in the thought that we’re not them, with intergalactic trading being done under a revised version of the Hudson’s Bay Company charter. But I digress. Did I mention pirates yet? No? Well there are pirates. This is the equivalent era of the privateer and letters of marque. Again, a perfect use of history to show that we’ll end up doing the exact same damned things in a few centuries.

The other part of Moon’s writing I enjoy is that each book is a stand alone novel but still manages to exist in an overarching plot with series galateo-political consequences (is that the equivalent of geo-political?)  I admit I’m one of the few readers in the world who love political space operas and these books fill a need.

Oh yeah, this book itself is really good too. I’m enjoying the character progression and the darker side of military life that’s appearing. Rating: A

Book 18: Life on the Run by Bill Bradley

This is one of Doug Smith‘s suggested reading list for basketball fans and I can certainly see why he put it there. This is a compelling story of a man existing in the realm of professional sports and the sort of mental trials that come from living such a life. You don’t become a professional basketball player to be famous, you do it because basketball is what you are good at, in many cases it is the only thing you can do. It is an addiction. It is isolating. The first part of the book deals with life on the road and how separate from reality it actually is. It is a stunningly beautiful, yet emotionally brittle, painting of life as a player in the era of social and economic changes. There are so many details that I want to write about but I cannot seem to put them down with any semblance of justice to the book. Let me put it this way, I’m going to be putting it on my wish list and will no doubt read it many times, gaining new insight each time I read it. Rating: A+

Book 16

Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

Squee! Spaceships and Capitalism with a side order of Military Bearing. I love Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano Legacy. This is, to me, what FTL space flight should be: a whole bunch of traders, mercenaries, military officers (ex or otherwise), and intrigue. She even keeps up with her Dick Francis legacy and has people using polo horses as a particularly non-plot event.

Book 15

The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China From the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu

My first non-fiction title of the year is a doozy. Liao Yiwu, a dissident poet, interviewed people from the bottom rungs of Chinese society to provide a glimpse of what their lives entailed. Think of him as a Chinese Henry Mayhew (which leads me to wonder where the hell my copy of London Labour and the London Poor is living as it is not on the bookshelves I’ve checked). He interviews those who lived through the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent famine, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tienanmen Square and Falun Gong crackdowns. He interviews the good, the bad, the persecuted, the villains, the saints. The life stories are heartbreakingly open and direct. These people tell the stories of what life was like during the craziness of these times in sometimes brutal detail. Although they are the dregs of society it is amazing how many of them were at one point in the highest regard. This is not to say he focuses on the persecuted. He interviews a man who specialized in kidnapping women and forcing them into slavery marriages. He interviews the so-called Peasant Emperor who attacked a hospital and made the nurses his concubines. He does not sugar coat his stories. Many people at the bottom of society are there for a reason.

Of all the interviews, “The Retired Official” struck me as startling. Despite the craziness, despite the zealotry, there were still those trying to make things work properly. If anything, people are more responsible for what happened in China than the Communist Party. In fact a surprising (to me) number of the people he interviews, despite the unbelievable levels of persecution they underwent, still do not harbour ill will towards the Communist party. Human corruption and zealotry overrides common decency and sense. This does not remove the Communist Party from attack but points out that many of those persecuted want the government to simply acknowledge what happened. They don’t want revenge, they want recognition.

I highly recommend this book. Rating: A+

Books 11 — 14

The one nice thing about excessive amounts of  laundry days is that I can finally get caught up and finish the 8,000 books I have on the go at any one time.

Book 11: Undead and Unworthy by MaryJanice Davidson

So I was wrong. This is the book where the series changes. Thank goodness I asked to have it brought home as I had no memory of what happened. The summary: Quick, tie up any loose ends and dramatically change the series in one fell swoop. And make sure that when you fell swoop, you fell swoop. Rating: B

Book 12: Undead and Unwelcome by MaryJanice Davidson

Quick: crossover all unresolved werewolf plotlines that bled into this series from the other one and stuff all the plot you can think of into this book so you can do little bits of the consequences over the next four titles (a standard Besty trope btw). Rating: B

Book 13: Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham

This was a nice story about some of the stories Bill wasn’t able to put into the story about the Fables. Or something like that. I really enjoyed it even though it took me forever to read it. I think that’s more the fault of my wanting to switch genres to hard-core sci-fi than anything in the book. When I did sit down to read it I was absorbed. There are some nice little tie-ins to the overall Fables universe that I think add an amazing amount of depth and answer a question I had not really even thought of asking. I love how Willingham takes some of the cute little rhymes we know and turn them on their head.  Rating: A, A+ if you’ve read the graphic novels.

Book 14: R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton

In anticipation of U coming out I’m rereading the last few. Can you believe that she has been writing this series since 1982? Crazy. R is essentially summed up in the epilogue “In the passing drama of live, I’m usually the heroine, but occasionally I’m simply a minor character in someone else’s play.” I thought it was a neat twist to the series having Kinsey essentially just along for the ride without anything to really solve. She just has to survive. Rating: B+

Book 10

Book 10: Plum Lucky by Janet Evonovich

This is the third between the numbers novel and although it started out slower than the others I could not stop laughing towards the end. The final phone calls to Morelli and Ranger were great. The bits with Connie and Lula towards the end were awesome. And, honestly, this was the best destruction of Stephanie’s car EVAR! I’m still giggling at the end sequence. Rating: A

Books 07 — 09

Book 7: Undead and Unappreciated by MaryJanice Davidson

The wife brought this home from the library by accident she was trying to get Undead and Unworthy so I can catch up before reading the newest.  This is a Betsy the Vampire novel. Light, little nutritional value, but sweet and happy. The series is the lemon meringue pie of the literary world. And I love it. This particular book starts getting into the whole Book of the Dead and what can happen if Betsy actually reads it. We meet a new character, kill off a bunch of stupids, meet an old character in a new way.  Rating: B

Books 8 and 9: Dead Witch Walking and The Good, The Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

My biggest problem with Kim Harrison is the fact that I’ve read her completely out of order and haven’t the foggiest idea where anything is supposed to happen in the Hallows series. We were house/dog sitting for my in-laws and they have the omnibus collections and the novels that follow. I decided it was a good a time as ever to try and read the series properly. DWW is a great introductory novel to a rather neat universe. Instead of focusing on hard science the world went to microbes and genetically modified everything.  Tomatoes killed the world by accident and the ‘supernatural’ element came out of the broom closet to keep life working. Harrison works hard at pointing out the little things that make her universe unique like mundanes having a panic attack at tomatoes (and the subsequent move of pizza parlours to the realm of the vampiric) to witches not knowing how to swallow an aspirin.  The GB&U however has always bothered me. I found it boring in parts and this time around I just skipped over a whole section (dinner in the restaurant). However I now know what it is that bothers me. These two novels should, by rights, be one gigantic novel. I understand why they aren’t. I understand why the second novel can stand on its own. I simply like it less and quite frankly there are probably a lot of readers out there who will consider it to be the deeper novel of the two. I do like the series and will keep reading it, in order this time. Rating: A + B = B+

Books 04 — 06

Book 04: Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

Where the first book focused on how Harper Collins dealt with the emotional disruption caused by her abilities, the second book focuses on how her abilities affect the people around her. The narrative is tightly focused and brilliantly executed. Yet again the Harris is able to create another moving scene where the characters are fully revealed to the reader. The premise is dark and chilling, much like the weather in the novel. The more we experience Harper’s connection with the dead, the further we see into the darkness in the human condition. Rating: A.

Book 05: Fish Out of Water by MaryJanice Davidson

As I suspected, book two in the series exists to create the back story necessary for this novel. I found it to have far fewer moments of true hilarity than the previous two. The plot was not necessarily obvious. You knew who the “bad guys” were but you weren’t really certain what it was they were doing until the very end. Ironically, for someone trying to mess around with the Disney mermaid motif we ended with a happily ever after scene. That being said the series did portray Fred as a decidedly different Mermaid, sorry, Undersea Folk. A fun read but only if you’ve finished your other fun stuff. Rating: C

Book 06: An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

Despite being the darkest of all the plots thus far, the third book in the series begins the process of displaying the light that can be created through Harper’s abilities. We see the characters involved moving past resentment and anger. The clients are grateful despite the horrors that are found. The human condition has both sides, good and evil. I will admit that I preferred the previous two books but that is more due to the poignant moment revolving around romantic rather than emotional revelations. I still feel that the series is a very worthwhile read and I am looking forward to the next installment. Once again I am impressed by the tight focus and narrative style. It continues the interesting weather motifs that have been building throughout the series yet momentarily juxtaposes the light and dark emotional moments of the human condition with the dark and light weather moments [Aside: This sounds clunky because I’m trying to write spoiler free. I’m seriously debating creating a literary essay for the first time in years, a shocking development seeing as I feel wretched about my abilities in that regard, based on the weather motifs in the novel]. Rating: A