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July 2006: Book Reviews

This is an archive of my shorter book reviews and notes, which historically have been posted over at the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal, but which I’m starting to move over here. I’m posting them with altered date-stamps, but they might show up in my LiveJournal cross-post anyway. Bear with me, please.

Note: Many of these books also have full reviews available in the book review podcast (RSS).

#21: Two Twisted Nuts: A Chapbook of Testicular Terror by Jeff Strand and Nick Cato. It’s two novellas bound in one volume. They’re short reads, which is good, because the subject matter is…. um………. okay, you have to be able to read “exploding testicals” and laugh. The novellas also, I am sure, raised the question for editors of “what is the plural of scrotum?” They are comedic horror novellas about, well, um, testicles. They are also a bit funny, in an extremely strange way. If you do not like extremely strange, 90-degrees-from-everyone-else humor, then this is not the chapbook for you. If you enjoyed volumes like Now We are Sick, and think Edward Gorey could have taken things further, then this is the right thing for you.

I’m also abandoning a book I was reading, Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch. I listened to about an hour of it before turning it off as the subtext being too obvious, and it being too Chinese. That sounds racist– it’s not. Every Chinese novel I’ve read (and I’ve read several) has at some point a chapter that is all about an effluviance of human waste (feces, urine, etc.), and despute finding tremendous humor in Two Twisted Nuts, the approach taken in these novels bores and sickens me.


There were editing problems with this novel, but it was fairly short and a good intro to the series. The editing problems spanned from simple typos to some dialect issues. See, I don’t mind dialect in my fantasy fiction. I can even deal with “poor/simplified language due to the limitations of machine translation” kind of thing, and “shorthand lingo because we’re in space.” In both cases, the author has chosen to express this dialect as a lack of articles (the, a, etc) and a looseness of structural similarity to the human language of English (so we have “I no go” instead of “I won’t go”).

What I cannot deal with are:

* characters who speak in the same shorthand between two members of the same species who are standing next to each other.

* expository paragraphs using the same shorthand/translator-speak

* a matrix of communication that is supposed to represent the thoughts/sentences of an alien species and which is a crucial piece of information and which the protag immediately knows what it’s supposed to mean, even though it’s really unclear whether “help help help help help help help” is a command, a statement of intent, or a request.

Otherwise, it was an entertaining book, and I just kind of skimmed over the parts that got to be too non-English, and the rest I read them as if I were reading a piece written by a non-native-speaking Freshman.


The history of an infamous basketball fight in 1977, a fight which changed two men’s lives forever, and influenced the rules and image of professional basketball.


The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums, by David Boruchowitz. An informative book about fishkeeping for the beginner. After keeping bettas for 2 years, this one was a little more beginner than I needed, but it was still a good refresher read.


A great second in the series (first was His Majesty’s Dragon). I like this series for its originality, as well as the good writing, good storytelling in the books.


Jhereg. Good book, first in a series I have wanted to read for a long time. I read one of them a long time ago, but it was a chaotic time in my life, and I’d forgotten the author until recently. Brust also has a LiveJournal, which I read.


Young Adult, so I give it a lot of leeway in terms of quality. It was repetitive and tended to hit one over the head just a little bit with the theme. On the other hand, it was a good, easygoing story, a nice, strong heroine, and a plot that I didn’t have to try to remember from one listening session to the next.

#28: Yendi (part of the above omnibus)

Brust needs to learn the value of multi-word titles in English. Anyway, this was a good yarn, enjoyable, but I think I prefer the novels with Cawti in them.


The Rainmaker, by John Grisham

An audiobook, read by Frank Muller. This one got my interest because it’s read by Frank Muller, who is a terrific audiobook reader. The man could read the phone book and I’d be swept away. He read the first 4 books in the Dark Tower series, before a car accident rendered him unable to work. The novel itself was okay, but I had to do my “forgive the ending” thing, where anything in the last 10 pages (the denouement) can be ignored or forgiven, if the rest of the book is good. The rest of the book was good, but the last bit at the end was a disappointment for me.


Because, well, my husband and I are considering moving there in a few years, and it seemed like a good book to read.

By the way: it was. I downloaded a “teach yourself Spanish” audiobook today. Step #1, begun!


About a year after I decided I should read it, I finally read this book on human societal behavior. Amazing. Well-written. Great ideas. It’s easy to understand, and easy to apply. I really enjoyed this and learned from it, as a small business owner, as a writer, and as a blogger.

#32: Teckla (see omnibus above), by Steven Brust. I actually finished this yesterday, but forgot to post about it. Entertaining 3rd book in this series about Vlad Taltos. There are some very precise domestic scenes that I find charming (even though the events themselves are emotionally wrenching). Good book– I liked it.

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