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The Girl Who Played Go: 01/31/07

Girl Who Played Go

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa has a story laid out like a game of go. Each chapter is like a new move. Song of the Night, a young Manchurian girl plays the black side while the Japanese soldier takes the white. Anyone familiar with the game or with the history of Japan's invasion of China will know that this book won't be a happy one.

As with a game of go, the two characters don't meet or interact until half way through the book (page 127). As pieces are laid at opposite corners the soldier and the student seem to have very separate lives save for their shared interest in go. Once they meet in the middle the book's disjointed plot finally comes together and the story goes from a false sense of light-heartedness towards a tragic confrontation at breakneck speed. The second half can be read in half the time .

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Cork Boat: 01/30/07

Cork Boat

The summer that Sean was born John Pollack and a crew of friends sailed a self built cork boat up a river in Portugal. Some of the event was covered on NPR but I completely missed it. I came across the story through BookCrossing when the memoir of the ship's construction was offered up at one of last year's meetings.

The book is an interesting glimpse at the way things were in the 1990s and early 2000s. Now by 2007 things have already so changed since the time that Pollack decided to finally follow his childhood dream and actually build Cork Boat. He started it while Clinton was in office (and worked for him as a speech writer in his second term). Like so many young professionals then he tried to break free of the traditional job scene to do his own thing (in this case, building a ship). Companies were willing to sponsor just about anything and Pollack found a willing sponsor (and provider of corks) with Cork Supply USA.

The ship was finished in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center and Bush's presidency (which continues to stagnate). The ship was finished with grim determination and without the naivety under which it was started.

It's only until near the end of the book that any diagrams are included to explain how the cork boat was built. Most of the book covers the collection process of the project and his other side jobs (like working for Clinton). I know that it wasn't until late in the process did he and his friends have a schematic for building Cork Boat but the book could have provided more illustration in the form of photographs or maps or perhaps even diagrams of the different types of corks.

I enjoyed reading the book. It was nonfiction fluff and a nice mental vacation from the classics I've been reading.

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Mr. Funny: 01/29/07

Mr. Funny

While cleaning up the house the other day I found Sean's collection of Mr. Men books. Most of them he received as a baby from Ian's parents. Mr. Funny is one of those books. He received it back in 2002 when he was just a newborn.

Mr. Funny is one of the more surreal of the Mr. Men books. Mr. Funny lives a very odd life. His house is a tea pot. He drinks toast for breakfast and drives around town in a shoe. As with many of the Mr. Men books, the story follows Mr. Funny through the course of a day, starting with breakfast and going through the course of a day, usually with a trip into town.

Mr. Funny goes to the zoo where he is called into service to entertain a bunch of animals suffering from colds. Here is where the book falls apart. Mr. Funny is apparently a very entertaining fellow, although from his antics, I'd qualify him more as just funny in the head. He entertains the animals by pulling faces which are apparently so funny that everyone ends up laughing themselves silly. Unfortunately neither the text nor the illustrations are able to capture whatever it is about his face that is funny enough to cause spontaneous laughter but's apparently just what the elephant, lion, bear and giraffe all needed to cheer up.

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Our Lady of Darkness: 01/28/07

Our Lady of Darkness

Written originally in 1978 after fighting depression and alcoholism after the death of his wife, the second of the two books in Dark Ladies is a much darker view of magic in the modern world. Whereas The Conjure Wife could take place in any college town, Our Lady of Darkness is set specifically in San Francisco.

The novel supposes that modern magic, specifically black magic is tied to the building of large cities. San Francisco with its hills, history of earthquakes and of course the Transamerica pyramid is a 20th century necropolis.

Take then a skeptic who finds a copy of Megapolisomancy: A New Science of Cities and his undying curiosity. Add in his friends who egg him on, some believing and some not and soon the protagonist is in the middle of a supernatural mystery involving a curse and a long forgotten building. What is 607 Rhodes?

While I preferred the quirky charm of The Conjure Wife more than the dark mystery set in San Francisco I still enjoyed the story. I like horror stories that center around old architecture, especially old cities. I figured out the solution to the story much sooner than the protagonist did and the story felt like inspiration for a Charmed episode (or perhaps the entire series) but it was still a fun read and a good compliment to The Conjure Wife.

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London: The Biography: 01/27/07

London: The Biography

London has about a two thousand year history and has survived numerous fires, plagues, wars, over crowding and so forth. It's no wonder then that Peter Acronym's biography of the city is 801 pages long. While book is heavy enough to make a nice door stop it is written in a way that makes it feel like a light and easy read.

It slowly progresses from earliest history to modern history, though not in a linear timeline as most history books do. Instead it divides the city's biography into themes. There are chapters on the numerous fires, the city's love of the color red, the wall and where it still travels through the city (London continues to grow outwards), a brief history of Cockney and so forth. There are 79 chapters (each chapter being no more than about 10 pages) so it would take too long to list every single theme.

I really enjoyed this book. I like history that is categorized rather than just being a long list of dates and facts. I bought this book over the Christmas holiday based on the 501 book list that N8an posted on his LiveJournal. As I do plan to visit London some day, I plan on keeping this book to reread in greater detail many times.

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Tipping the Velvet: 01/26/07

Tipping the Velvet

I had meant to write my review for Tipping the Velvet last night but I completely forgot; that's how unimpressed I was with the book. Sarah Waters appears to be a one note writer. Sure, she changes the setting and the time period but her cardboard cutout characters are the same. There is always the naive young woman who falls for the more worldly but jaded woman and learns of the forbidden love only to scare her new soul mate straight! There you go, that's the twist to every one of Waters's books that I've read so you might as well save yourself the time and read something better.

Also in Tipping the Velvet you might learn something about oysters and where the best ones are apparently harvested. You can learn how to prepare oysters and how to eat them. All this information is in the first chapter. It is by far the most interesting chapter of the entire novel.

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Fighting Angel: 01/25/07

Fighting Angel

Pearl S. Buck was the daughter of a Southern Presbyterian missionary. Though she was born in the United States, she grew up in China. Fighting Angel is her biography and memoir of her father Absalom Sydenstricker (or Andrew as he's called in the book). The book is written with Buck's usual straightforward approach of weaving simple words together into fully realized worlds.

Her memoir though is written without warmth. Though she refers to herself sometimes in the first person, she calls her parents by their first names (Carie and Andrew). I don't know if these names were their actual nicknames or if she altered them slightly on purpose. She also sometimes refers to herself as Comfort (her middle name) making it seem as if she is speaking of a different person.

The portrait she paints of her father isn't complimentary. She focuses on his religious zeal for saving souls but repeated notes that he only believed a certain subset of humankind had souls worth saving (namely men of certain means). She goes on to describe how her father hated women, hated the rich, hated fat people, hated most of his family and so forth. Yet somehow she seems to expect her readers to respect this man that was her father!

While I enjoyed her style of writing I came away not feeling I knew her any better and knowing that if I had met her father I'd have to restrain myself from punching him in the nose. I am glad I read the book but it isn't a book I would want to reread.

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Stormy Weather: 01/24/07

Stormy Weather

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew inspired Carl Hiaasen to write Stormy Weather. This dark comedy pokes fun at the lowlifes and bad behavior that surface after a natural disaster. The book follows about a dozen characters and their interactions with each other as they try to screw each other over.

The problem is there are just too many characters and too much action for a book that's only 380 pages long. The scenes jump around from one absurd set of circumstances to another without time for good character development.

Of these characters I was most interested in Bonnie Brooks (the wife of kidnapped Max Lamb) and Ira Jackson who was looking for retribution for the death of his mother due to shoddy construction of the trailer park. Unfortunately their stories are watered down by stupid stuff like the ex-governor turned recluse and kidnapper and the on again and off again relationship between the two state troopers.

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Uncle Tom's Cabin: 01/23/07

Uncle Tom's Cabin

My third read for the "Winter Challenge" was harder than the second. I normally like Harriet Beecher Stowe's style of writing but the other stories I've read were written for fun. She made a comfortable living as a writer of boys adventure novels (under the pen name "Christopher Crowfield") and was a neighbor and mentor of Mark Twain. Uncle Tom's Cabin had a definite political agenda and while it proved to be a significant and influential story (as well as a best seller) it is a flawed story.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write Uncle Tom's Cabin after one of her servants admitted to being a run away slave. Then later she witnessed a desperate mother cross an icy river to save her son from being sold. These along with her heart felt anti-slavery views compelled her to write a story outlining the evils of slavery. (Harriet Beecher Stowe Center)

The book was originally serialized abolitionist newspaper, The National Era. Like Dickens' many serialized novels, the style changes significantly between each chapter. These changes aren't as apparent when the chapters are divided up by days, weeks or months between publication dates but when they sit next to each other in bound form and can be read one after the other the changes can be very jarring and off putting.

As Uncle Tom's Cabin is meant to illustrate all the evils of slavery, all the different aspects of society are represented through a large cast of characters. A lot of these characters get in the way of the central characters: Eliza, George, Harry and "Uncle" Tom. Eliza, George and Harry are the examples of the good that can come at the end of slavery and Tom is the martyr to the status quo.

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The Floppy Friends Go to the Beach: 01/22/07

The Floppy Friends Go to the Beach

The floppy friends must have been one of those attempts to make cartoons and books based on a toy line. In this case, the "floppy friends" are overly cute stuffed animals. Apparently they are all friends and everything is peachy.

The first in the series was apparently The Floppy Friends Go to Camp and this beach story is the second. In this story, the protagonist bear is upset because he has learned that he'll be moving to a new school in fall. He's afraid of saying good-bye to all his friends and of being the "new kid" at the school.

The book then goes on a saccharine tangent about a trip to the beach where the friends have lunch, go swimming and go to the boardwalk. After all these adventures, the protagonist realizes that he won't be the "new kid" after all because all his friends from camp actually attend this new school. Of course they couldn't just tell him this; they had to surprise him and scare him half to death in the process.

It's no wonder that these books are no longer in print. The story is flawed and boring (an amazing thing to pull off for only 40 some pages). The illustrations are cute enough to cause a gag reflex.

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Not Before Sundown: 01/21/07

Not Before Sundown

Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi is a Finish urban fantasy retelling of the fairy and the troll, where the "fairy" in this case is a gay photographer specializing in advertising. His current gig is to help create an advertising campaign for "Stalker" Jeans and he chooses the perfect model for them, a young troll he's named Pessi.

Not Before Sundown (aka Troll: A Love Story in later translations) isn't a typical fantasy. There aren't lengthy sections of description or discussions of the nature of magic. In fact, there are no traditional chapters. Most scenes are no more than a paragraph or two. Every few pages, the book includes a tidbit on trolls: either a piece of lore, a bit about the biology, or a piece about sightings of the elusive troll.

Trolls as described in this book remind me a great deal of a cross between a bouvier des flanders and Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. Trolls are both aluring and dangerous. What started as a good deed, the taking in of an orphaned and injured troll, completely changes the protagonist's life.

Over all I enjoyed the book, though reading it wasn't always pleasurable. There are some scenes bordering on bestiality and there is one graphic death scene.

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But Not the Hippopotamus: 01/20/07

But Not the Hippopotamus

But Not the Hippopotamus is one of three Sandra Boynton books Sean received as a Hanukah present back in 2005. Now that Sean is beginning to read, these books have come back into his rotation of "current reads."

But Not the Hippopotamus rings true to anyone who has felt excluded. On each page a pair of friends are doing something fun while the hippopotamus looks on. The story is told in verse with the title of the book ending each stanza. For this hippopotamus, he does eventually join the group of friends but not the armadillo.

The illustrations are cute and poignant. Boynton captures the growing sadness of the hippopotamus perfectly. Each page his frown gets a little longer and his eyes a little sadder. When at last the punchline comes the eyes pop open first to surprise and then to glee.

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McTeague: 01/19/07

McTeague: A Story of San Francisco

Frank Norris's 1899 novel, McTeague: A Story of San Francisco was the inspiration for the Erich von Stroheim film Greed. Greed is probably best known for being the film that was nine hours long until the studio forced Stroheim to edit it down to something manageable (either 2 hours or 4 hours; there are two extant versions). I used to think that the 9 hour version must have been wonderful before it was butchered but now I'm not so sure having read the book that inspired the film.

McTeague is a book filled with fundamentally broken characters who have little or no redeeming qualities. The one vice they all seem to share is (surprise!) greed. Their ideal little world begins to fall apart just as everything appears to be going well at the winning of the lottery and a prize of five thousand dollars.

The greed theme is laid on too thick throughout the book. McTeague wants to live off his wife's winnings rather than work. Trina fears losing their nest egg and turns miserly. Old time friend Marcus covets both the money and Trina (Mrs. McTeague).

Since so much time and energy is spent on this one theme, little is left for character development. McTeague remains a dull, lazy, stupid and somewhat infantile character. He somehow transforms from gentle and bashful giant to a violent drunk. Meanwhile Trina devolves from being an industrious (albeit somewhat dishonest) toy maker to a wretch who does nothing but count her hidden earnings. The only reason given for these sudden changes of character is money and that alone isn't enough to carry a book through twenty-two chapters.

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Rubaiyat: 01/18/07

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

A rubaiyat is a quatrain or four line poem. Omar Khayyam was a poet, astronomer, algebraist and former tentmaker. Each rubaiyat reads like a haiku and though short often time requires contemplation. Put together they form a 444 line examination of the human condition in terms of love, life and death, nature and science.

The most famous translation of the Rubaiyat was done by Edward Fitzgerald in 1852. He apparently took quite a few liberties with the translation, turning vague poetry into gay poetry. Although the version I read still shows Fitzgerald as the translator, the text is very different (and I suspect cleaned up) from Project Gutenberg has online. The copy I read was a "book club" edition and I suspect the publisher didn't want to insult the sensibilities of its readers (pity).

Although the text I read was cleaned up, I did enjoy the spirit of the poems. Someday though I would like to own an older edition, one that hasn't been cleansed.

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The Conjure Wife: 01/17/07

The Conjure Wife

Ian enjoys Fritz Leiber's fantasy novels so we own a good number of them. I think he started buying them back in 2003 or 2004 but so far I haven't read an of Leiber's work. I've been swamped under my own "to be read" pile and BookCrossing commitments to spend time on one of my least favorite genres. However, when I saw a copy of Dark Ladies, a two book volume of what now-a-days would be classified as "paranormal fiction" by Fritz Leiber, I had to grab the book and give it a read.

So far I've flown through the first of the two stories, The Conjure Wife, a novel originally published in 1937. This story of a young and up and coming professor and his liberal minded wife reminded me of what would happen if Christopher Moore decided to rewrite The Witches of Eastwick (John Updike) and The Stepford Wives (Ira Levin) as one novel. Save for the mention of some outdated technology (like phonograph needles) the novel reads like a modern paranormal fiction.

I absolutely loved this story and managed to tear through it in a couple of hours. It is part romance, part satire, part mystery and part horror. All these pieces work together beautifully to tell the story of a skeptical husband learning that magic is real and his wife suffering the recoil of magic for personal gain.

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Ghost Girl: 01/16/07

Ghost Girl

I'm not sure what to make of Ghost Girl. This memoir of a year teaching an elective mute and her three classmates is simultaneously charming and horrifying. The book uses horror genre conventions: a mater of fact tone, cliffhangered surprises at the end of chapters and the combination of graphic sexual description with the occult. There's just problem: the events described are based on reality.

The book is a memoir but other than it being presented in the first person it doesn't read like a memoir. It reads like fiction. Other than one's prior knowledge of Torey Hayden's work as a teacher and therapist and note below the copyright that says the names were changed to protect the privacy of those involved there is nothing in the text to suggest or remind one that the story is non-fiction. There are no footnotes and no bibliography. Both would have been helpful as Hayden refers to her previous work or to something she has read on a subject without providing enough information to look up what she is mentioning.

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The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School: 01/15/07

The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School

Sean has received a wonderful selection of books from his grandmother Judy. Her latest find is The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Through verse, Judy Sierra tells the classic story of hubris and nemesis, this time in the third grade.

The main character, afraid of losing in the science fair decides to cheat. In the quest for an easy win, she unleashes a green hungry blob who soon has devoured her cat, father, and class. Can she stop her monster before it is too late?

Gammell's illustrations bring to life to Sierra's humorous verse. The paintings are watercolors and the colors bleed together just as the monster oozes from scene to scene. It's the perfect blending of talents.

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Kim: 01/14/07


When I was cramming to learn as much about one of the earliest cultures in human history and followed the development of sanskrit as a language down the Indus river and the later political division of India and Pakistan for my 2006 Nanowrimo I figured I was pretty much done with what I had learned once I had finished my novel and November ended. Then I started reading Kim and Rudyard Kipling's story made all that late night reading come to life for me. The book does include a map of all the places visited but it was nice not to need it because the story flowed so well that I wouldn't have wanted to disrupt it to follow a map.

Where Mogli, Kipling's jungle savvy boy is an exploration of man's relationship with nature, Kim the street urchin is his vehicle for reexamining the tenuous relationship between Britain and its then colonial subjects. Kim's story brings together a wide array of cultures: British, Tibetan, Muslim and Hindu. Unsure of his own origins at first, Kim picks and chooses the pieces he likes from all these different cultures. As a very clever child, the adults around him take advantage of him for their own cross purposes.

Of all the different relationships in the book it was Kim's role as a chela to the Tibetan lama that interested me the most. It seemed that the countryside was the most open to them when they traveled together and I liked being along for the ride. The next most interesting character is the horse trader Mahbub who used Kim to gather information and pass along secrets encoded in non-sense horse trading information. The most poignant piece should have been Kim's dead soldier father but those details seemed the most forced and unnatural of all the other pieces of the story.

Regardless of the few minor quibbles I have with Kim, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.

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(Invasion of) The Body Snatchers: 01/13/07

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The original title when published in 1955 was The Body Snatchers but the 1956 film forever changed the name in the mind of popular culture to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The version of I read (for a BookCrossing bookray) was retooled in the 1978 and flushed out from a novella to a full length novel and has the movie title. It also has the ugliest cover art for a science fiction cover I've seen in a long time (but Sean thought the missing noses and mouths were funny).

This updated version also brings the story forward to the mid 1970s (noted mostly in the models of cars described in the books). These little changed details are minor annoyances in an otherwise fascinating tale of domino effect style invasion that ultimately ends in total ecologic destruction. The book uses science fiction and horror elements to question broader themes of culture, immigration and xenophobia.

Best of all, the story takes place in the Bay Area (Mill Valley and Marin mostly). Often times when the Bay Area is used as a setting, geographical areas get moved around or mushed together either for plot reasons or just laziness. Thankfully Sausalito this time is on the correct side of the Golden Gate bridge. This added realism made the story all the more enjoyable (and scary).

While the movie versions are fun, the book is better. It is more coherent and the characters are more believable.

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Moo, Baa, La La La: 01/12/07

Moo Baa La La La

Sean received Moo, Baa, La La La! as a Hannukah gift two years ago. It is a cute non-sense book that takes the typical animal themed board book and turns it on end. It starts out in a straight forward manner with cows saying moo and sheep saying baa, but then the pigs aren't saying oink. Instead, they are sining "La la la!"

After the initial gag that explains the title, the book wanders on to more exotic animals and what they might say. These last few pages lack the rhytmn and humor of the first half, which is a shame for such a short book.

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Bad Cat: 01/11/07

Bad Cat

Any regular reader of this site will know that I am a cat person. Caligula, my cat for the last eleven years has her rebellious moments and can nap on anything in any position. Bad Cat, the book version of the My Cat Hates Me website celebrates felines at their worst, their least photogenic, their clumsiest and goofiest moments.

The book has 244 full color photographs, each one with a caption, the cat's name, age and hobby (if any). The photographs were done by amateurs and are often times low quality. Many are staged but it's the captions that make the book so funny. There are enough funny photographs to have me laughing out loud every few pages.

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The Wilcox Quilts: 01/10/07

The Wilcox Quilts

Some of my favorites books come my way with help from serendipity; The Wilcox Quilts in Hawaii is one of those books. It is a history of the Wilcox family and their influence over the years in Kauai. It is also a pictorial catalogue of the family's quilts, sewn and collected over the last hundred or so years until the museum's opening in 1985 after the death of the last surviving Wilcox.

The Wilcox family came to Hawaii from the midwest as missionaries and ended up becoming one of the founding families of modern day Hawaii. The Wilcox name is still a part of many institutions, especially on Kauai. It is on schools, hospitals, and all sorts of other businesses. The Wilcox family is to Kauai what the Sammis family is to Huntington Long Island.

I am not a quilter but I enjoy the art of quilting. The Wilcox Quilts in Hawaii explains the different techniques in making what would be considered a quilt: applique, patchwork and quilting. Before reading the book I knew the words but never thought about them as they applied to the actual process. The traditional Hawaiian quilt is a combination of applique and quilting in contrast to what would be considered the traditional American quilt of patchwork and quilting.

The Hawaiian quilts for the most part resemble snowflakes of circular patterns except that the shapes radiating from the center are mostly floral patterns. Bread fruit and pineapples and other foliage. A couple of the more colorful quilts are made up of the Hawaiian flag and coat of arms.

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Sagittarius is Bleeding: 01/09/07

Sagittarius is Bleeding

Sagittarius is Bleeding falls in the timeline of Battlestar Galactica season 2 episodes of "Black Market" and "Scar." Unlike The Cylons' Secret, all of the current characters make an appearance and it reads more like an episode (or perhaps miniseries) than book number 2. Of these two most recently published books, Sagittarius is Bleeding is more faithful to the series but The Cylons' Secret is the more interesting of the two because it dares to stray from canon.

It takes a while for the book to get started. The first two or three chapters are rather sloppily written and come off as being big budget fan-fiction. The meat of the story doesn't start until about chapter seven.

The book's weakest point is its inclusion of Boxey (who is given two different first names: Andrew and Alexander). He was probably chosen to be one of the main characters to avoid interference with any future story arc because Boxey hasn't been a part of the series beyond the initial miniseries (thank goodness!) Boxey is by far the series' weakest character. The Boxey in this book read like a strange amalgam of the original Boxey and the one from the miniseries. He cycles between asking naive questions ala "Saga of a Starworld" and while being an angst ridden teenager.

Having Boxey accused of being a Cylon was fun but the book should have gone one step further and have Boxey found to be a Cylon agent just to write him out of any future books. Of course with the series premise that there are only twelve models for the Cylon spies it isn't likely that Boxey could be one. Those twelve slots are probably reserved for more important characters.

Beyond the silliness of Boxey being one of the protagonists of the story and getting to interact with all the major characters there are two interesting mysteries: how did the latest hyperspace jump end up almost putting the fleet into a sun and why is the president having visions? Neither of the flogged possible answers ends up being true, making for a fun mystery tucked in amongst the characters making sure they speak their standard lines and perform their standard actions.

This book could have been a lot better than it is. It suffers from fan-boy dialogue, poor editing (note Boxey's changing name), and some laughably bad descriptive paragraphs early on. With all of its flaws, it is still good enough that I ultimately enjoyed the story and would probably read future books in the series.

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How Long Has This Been Going On?: 01/08/07

How Long Has This Been Going On?

What Lassie? Timmy's trapped down the well and he's gay? That's what it felt like to read How Long Has This Been Going On? It is supposedly a well written epic of modern American gay history but it certainly has high reviews on but I found it annoying at worst and laughable at best.

The book covers from the end of World War Two through the mid 1990s. A lot happened in that time but I spent so much time rolling my eyes at the characters that I couldn't take the important parts seriously. The story is told in two main ways: in the form of dialogue between a naive character and a his (or her) older lover who has to stop and explain everything.

The second way the story is told is through the overly chatty omniscient narrator. I wanted to slap some duct tape on the narrator's mouth to get him to shut up long enough for the story to actually get somewhere. Some authors can pull off this sort of chit-chat approach to story telling (Christopher Moore and Armistad Maupin for example): Mordden can't. My four-year-old is better at telling this style of story, for goodness sakes!

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Mr. Small: 01/07/07

Mr. Small

Ian's parents have a large collection of Mr. Men books and when we visit, Sean likes to read them. Over the recent holiday I read three ones I've haven't read before: Mr. Bounce, Mr. Noisy, and Mr. Small.

My favorite of the three Mr. Men books that I read on new year's day is Mr. Small because it brings together world of the Mr. Men and the human world. Mr. Small is probably the smallest of the Mr. Men and his size provides a unique series of challenges. Ultimately though Mr. Small's biggest problem is boredom. He wants something to do in his life and he decides the best way to do that is by getting a job.

It is through the job search the the two worlds collide. Mr. Small goes to work for a variety of human employers. Over and over again Mr. Small finds himself too small to perform physical labor. At last though the perfect job lands in his lap. What is it? Ask Roger.

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Steps: 7000

Mr. Noisy: 01/06/07

Mr. Noisy

Ian's parents have a large collection of Mr. Men books and when we visit, Sean likes to read them. Over the recent holiday I read three ones I've haven't read before: Mr. Bounce, Mr. Noisy, and Mr. Small.

Mr. Noisy might as well be Sean. Like my son, he is loud from sun-up until sun-down. He is so loud that a town has been named for him (in a way). The town is called Wobbletown because everything wobbles when Mr. Noisy comes to town.

Mr. Noisy likes to stomp. He likes to shout. He also likes to do his shopping daily. Unfortunately the shopkeepers of Wobbletown wish he'd stay home or learn how to be quiet. Can a little reverse psychology do the trick?

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Mr. Bounce: 01/05/07

Mr. Bounce

Ian's parents have a large collection of Mr. Men books and when we visit, Sean likes to read them. Over the recent holiday I read three ones I've haven't read before: Mr. Bounce, Mr. Noisy, and Mr. Small.

Mr. Bounce as the cover art suggests is the size and color of a tennis ball. He also bounces like a tennis ball. In fact, he bounces so much that it's interfering with his quality of life. What does a little yellow man who is too bouncy do? He goes to his doctor of course.

Sean likes this particular Mr. Men story because Mr. Bounce is a ball and later he's a ball with big heavy shoes. Sean knows of another ball with shoes, namely, Kirby. When playing Melee and Air Ride, yellow is one of the options for Kirby. So it makes perfect sense to Sean that Mr. Bounce is actually a yellow Kirby.

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The Museum at Purgatory: 01/04/07

The Museum at Purgatory

People define themselves by the things they collect in life and in the afterlife: that is the idea behind The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock. Those who know themselves and are comfortable with what they've become can move on to one o the utopian or dystopian worlds. Those who can't come to terms with themselves (for good or bad) or those who don't know themselves must stay in Purgatory, the holding pen for the afterlife.

The narrator of The Museum at Purgatory is Non, curator of the museum. He came to the afterlife with amnesia, a rare but not unheard of condition. As he can't know himself, he is stuck in Purgatory. The hope is that he can jog his memory by cataloguing the items others have brought with themselves to the afterlife.

Any good museum book must have examples of its collections and Nick Bantock provides the illustrations but as drawings (as he does for the Griffin and Sabine books) and as photographs of what I assume are sculptures he produced for the book. The artwork isn't as big a player in the story as it is in the Griffin and Sabine books and the book suffers a bit for it. He's a better artist than he is a writer.

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Bimbos of the Death Sun: 01/03/07

Bimbos of the Death Sun

Parody is hard to write and yet lots of people try their hands at it. Bimbos of the Death Sun purports to be a murder-mystery parody of a sci-fi/fantasy convention. All the stereotypes are there: the obese and desperate women, the pimply geeky fan-boys who forget to eat, the gamers who can't face reality and of course the obnoxious author who is appalling and yet loved by all. In a word: boring!

At the heart of the story is the newly published engineering professor who is too embarrassed by his success to admit it. He's so unlike any science professor I've ever met to be a complete distraction and detraction from the book. He's supposed to be the likeable character in the book but he's so two-dimensional and so far removed from reality that I didn't care what he did, said, thought or felt.

Finally at just past the halfway point of this train wreck of a book there is a murder. It comes so late in the book that there isn't any time to give it a good investigation or to even make it a coherent piece of the plot. There is more time spent on the description of the role playing game at the end of the book than to the resolution of the mystery. If I want to read transcribed games, I'll suffer through Weis and Hickman!

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The Carrot Seed: 01/02/07

The Carrot Seed

My in-laws have a very old copy of The Carrot Seed among their collection of children's books. As I am a fan of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon books, I had to read this book while visiting for New Year's.

The Carrot seed is one of Crockett Johnson's many collaborations. In this case, Ruth Krauss tells the story of an optimistic and patient boy who plants a single carrot seed even though he's repeated told "it won't come up."

According to Crockett's website The Carrot Seed is the first American picture book. It is certainly the oldest example of a classic picture book I've ever read. It follows the now standard method of story telling for the youngest of readers: a bold illustration which takes up most of the page and a few sparse words (a sentence at most) to counterpoint the drawing.

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The Cylons' Secret: 01/01/07

The Cyclons' Secret

Last month I was one of a lucky few to be given two books based on the new Battlestar Galactica series. In order of publication, The Cylons' Secret is the second book. While the cover art may sport "Number Six" looking both beautiful and menacing, she has nothing (thank goodness!) to do with the plot.

In fact, there are only three characters from the series in this book, the rest are new characters as this is a prequel right in the middle of that time listed as "The Cylons Send No One" in the opening credits of season one. Save for the invention of four ships larger than the Battlestars, the tries to connect the dots left in the flash backs of Tigh, Adama and Zarek's lives. While the story itself may not be canonical (good novelizations rarely are) it does offer interesting interpretations of these three characters that adds something to their characterization in the series.

The story itself reminded me a bit of Alan Dean Foster's interpretation of The Black Hole (1979) as it is told from the perspective of a group of outsiders trying to find the truth behind a station long since forgotten and apparently populated both by humans and Cylons. I liked how Gardener explores the tension between the four humans and the companions. Also some of the choices that the Cylons make for how the treat humans in this book provide some possible explanations for why the future Cylons "evolved" as they have.

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