Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Book Review] Confessions of a Librarian

Confessions of a Librarian : A Memoir of Loves / Barbara Foster
In the spirit of such classic female erotic adventurers as Anais Nin, Erica Jong and Toni Bentley, Barbara Foster shares the story of four women who meet to tell the lurid details of their worldly romantic encounters in Confessions of a Librarian: A Memoir of Loves. From Istanbul, Buenos Aries, Israel and back to New York, featuring young women to women of a certain age, with threesomes and everything in between, these inter-connected tales of love and lust are sure to keep you rapidly turning the pages.


I was expecting a whole lot more from this one.  Even the intro made it sound like this would be a somewhat salacious collection of tales, stories of an intelligent, worldly woman's sexual adventures across the globe.  What I got felt a bit too grounded in the mundane, in the depression and weight of life, the cattiness between the women of the writing group.  The stories are solely told by Barbara, though perhaps more stories were shared off screen.  She tells us about her attraction to men she meets, of their attraction to her, and the basics of their assignations, but I would definitely say that calling the details "lurid" is a vast overstatement.  The book isn't bad, but in the context that it was presented, I found it boring and uninspiring.

I'd say what better describes this book is a woman owning and sharing her sexuality, and deepening her bond with the women she knows as she shares the stories of her explorations as they move through the tumultuous present days.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

[Book Review] Golden Son

Golden Son / Pierce Brown (Powell's Books)

Coming soon, to a bookshelf near you... ROMANS IN SPAAAAAACE!

(Actually, it's already out.  My bad)

If you read Red Rising, Golden Son follows in its predecessor's expected footsteps  A book that draws influence from bestsellers like The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, Game of Thrones and probably some other book with the word "game" in its title.  A bit more Gladiator than Spartacus this time around, more plots within plots, and more untimely yet inevitable betrayal.  Don't get me wrong, if you really liked Red Rising, I highly recommend Golden Son.  It's a rollicking near-space opera with dastardly villains, stalwart companions, and traitorous friends.  We have painful revelations and machinations within machinations.

Darrow's work for the Sons of Ares has run afoul due to political power-plays and a disregard for lower-caste life.  Disgraced, Darrow must forge an alliance with a once enemy to reclaim his position of power and continue his mission.  Needing the help and trust of his friends more than ever, can he reveal his true origin and keep them still?

For many readers this should make for a riveting read, for me it sort of skirted the target for me and went a little too far after.  A little overdone, a little too much pretention.  But again, I really want to state, that I think this is more of an issue of me as the reader, as I can easily see this being a highly enjoyed novel

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

[Book Review] 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake

50 Ways to Ruin a Rake / Jade Lee

Mellie Smithson and Trevor Anaedsley both have problems.  One is a woman with a brilliant intellect too far from society to have any suitors on the horizon.  At least, except for her overly dramatic and poetic cousin.  Trevor Anaedsley is the grandson of a duke, one who has cut off all of his funds until Trevor finds a bride.  When Trevor goes to visit his mentor seeking at least temporary residence, if not aid, he realizes that another option exists, one that benefits both himself and Mellie in the short term, and allows them both to go their own ways later without any messy emotional entanglements.  Of course, as they come closer they learn maybe there's more to their relationship than fighting like cats and dogs.

Overall, a fun and naughty historical romance.  Mellie is intelligent, Trevor isn't a complete domineering asshat (actually, he's really not your usual historical romance duke at all), and things get hot and heavy (explicitly so, not just alluded to).

While 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake is the first book in a new series, it is not Jade Lee's first rodeo, she has an extensive backlist of romance and paranormal romance novels, and she seems to do pretty well.  However, this book reads to me like a second book in a series, with a well established network of friends that include a couple with a story.  And dear lord the manly response to insults of honor were a bit over the top (to be honest, Mellie was pretty damn fed up with them too).

Mostly the characters are well done (but I can't condone cousin Ronnie at all, but maybe that means she wrote the obnoxious and unwanted love interest well?), with good setting flavor.  A good read for fans of erotic historical romance.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

[Book Review] Blindsight

Blindsight / Peter Watts

Available to read online or download here:
"Two months have past since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since—until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who should we send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet?

Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder and a biologist so spliced with machinery that he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find—but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them. . . . "
This was my first foray into the works of Peter Watts, but he had been brought to my attention through reviews of Blightsight's sequal, Echopraxia.  Morgan Crooks describes reading Peter Watts as:
"a simultaneously bracing and discouraging experience. Bracing because his depiction of the future and the oddities who inhabit it continue to get better and better, his plots more complicated and more involving, his characters less like sock-puppets for his ideas and more like actual human beings (or whatevers).

Discouraging because Watts uses his considerable gifts, artistic and academic, in the service of a singularly depressing set of ideas gaining percolating up from fields as diverse as physics, neurology, and nihilistic philosophy."
Having now read Blindsight, I have to agree with this assessment of reading Watts.  His writing is ambitious and delivers on its promise.  This isn't a story of plucky heroes prevaling against an overwhelming threat.  Siri and the crew of the Theseus are in way over their head, and success may mean little more than limping home in time to warn humanity of what is out there... unless it gets there first.

Before this point, all my picks for Virtual Speculation were books and authors I was familiar with.  After all, half the reason I started the book club was as a way to share books I love.  Blindsight was our April pick, and it is an intelligent and solid, if perhaps depressing, hard science fiction read.  I strongly recommend reading the "Notes and References" at the end of the book as well, some very interesting information there, both expository and source.

Discussion Fodder:
  • Siri Keeton underwent a partial lobotomy as a child to treat severe epilepsy, afterwards he needs to relearn how to be, and his best friend believes that person who Siri was is dead, and that the Siri of now is a different person.  Even Siri refers to the reason his mother chose to leave as "she couldn't stand to look at the thing who'd replaced her son."  Do you think that physical and chemical transformations of one's brain can change who someone is?
  • In Blindsight, vampires are a triumph of technology, a resurrected race "stitched together from junk genes and fossil marrow steeped in the blood of sociopaths and high-functioning autistics."  What do you think of Watts' interpretation of vampires/vampirism?  What do you think of the application in the context of this novel?
  • Siri's ex had a "fetish" for "first-person sex."  In Blindsight, as well as in other futuristic novels, there is a trend towards the isolation away from physical intercourse, be it backlash from anti-biotic resistant disease or a result of shifts in technology use and integration, or something else altogether.  What do you think of this prediction of fetishization of traditional intercourse?  Did Siri cheat on Chelsea by using a skin based on her?
  • Do you think that "technology implies belligerence"?  That technology tramples over ways of life and competition?
  • If something like the virtual reality Heaven existed, how do you think society would respond?  Do you think it would become, as Siri describes them, "the Tribe That Just Didn't Give a Shit"?  Do you think that "tribe" already exists?
  • Watts has created a distinctly non-human biology for the aliens, borrowing from some of the more 'alien' multi-celled lifeforms on our own planet.  Does he convince you of his alien systems?  What do you think of the alien biochemistry, their communication, their attacks?  Do you think the aliens have any concept of individuality?
  • What is the role of language in humanity and personality in Blindsight?
  • Siri and Susan identify the intelligence speaking to them from the Rorchach as a "Chinese Room" - a cipher tool mimicking language comprehension.  Do you think the aliens truly understand the language they use to communicate with the crew of the Theseus?
  • What do you think of Siri's parents?  Jim, a half-absent father, called away on assignment, and Helen, uploaded into her own private reality and resentful of her husband?  Was Jim a neglectful, abusive father as Helen claims?  Do you think that Siri read's his mother correctly?  What about the fight Siri remembers where Jim assaults Helen?  Was Helen abusive of Siri by giving him that medication?
  • Susan James is a single body, single brain, that contains four distinct partitioned identities.  How truly separate are her identities, her memories?  What about the fifth identity that arises?  How is Susan similar or different from persons with Multiple Personality Disorder?
  • On the Rorschach, are the crew hallucinating or seeing things that are actually there?  Was the Rorschach manipulating the crew all along?  For what end?
  • What do you think Siri will find when he returns home?  Will there be a home left?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Link Smorgasbord, March 2015

A Teenager’s View on Social Media (Written by an actual teen)
As someone who regularly ends up in the position of active contribution (if not managing) my work's social media, in addition to someone who's interested in going into teen library services, definitely of interest to me.

BBC Radio 4: Sir Terry Pratchett
A selection of Terry Pratchett programs.

Sir Terry Pratchett: Shaking Hands with Death
Sir Terry Pratchett is a favorite author of my mother and myself.  We were both incredibly saddened by his Alzheimer's diagnosis several years ago.  I don't know if she ever came across this talk, but she was a strong advocate for death with dignity, the ability to chose to die on your own terms.

Government The Internet Your Rights Online FCC Posts Its 400-Page Net Neutrality Order
Worth taking a look at if you're interested in such things.

Rakuten buying eBook firm OverDrive for $410 million in U.S. push
So, that's interesting.

Windows 10 will be free for software pirates 
I'm tentatively excited for Windows 10 (and not just because of this, and not just because it's not Windows 8...)

Why SpaceX photos aren’t public domain (yet)
Short story: nothing can be actually placed in the public domain, just licensed for free use on top of existing copyright until the copyright term expires.

She Can Fly: By Any Other Name…
On fandom, labels, and inclusion/exclusion.

The Plot of YA Novels If They Actually Reflected Real Teenagers' Lives

James Patterson Giving Even More Money to School Libraries
Thank you, Mr. Patterson, for aiding school libraries, they need it.

Hell with books, the rich need a tax cut 
On cuts to library funding.