15 Following


I read widely and in most genres but romance and westerns. Here you'll find my reviews since 2007, with a few reviews of previously read books as well.


In 2012, I completed an "authors of the world" challenge, reading a book for every country (and a few other entities) by someone who'd lived there for at least two years. I expect to tag these books by challenge and country in the near future. I'm still refining my list by adding books that better meet my challenge criteria.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #9) - Alexander McCall Smith

More plot and more psychology than previous volumes. This one feels like it moves the characters along, and the resolution of the dilemmas, crises, and cases is better than adequate.

Codex Seraphinianus - Luigi Serafini

An extremely delicious illustrated encyclopedia of a not-quite-existent world. It is bettered by both its deeply amusing illustrations and its pages of unreadable but very official-looking text. All manner of persons, places, and things have their sections. Think Edward Gorey meets Shaun Tan meets Diderot meets De rerum natura. We may speculate much, but confirm little, about the world by the organization of illustrations and intriguing but ultimately unfathomable diagrams within the text. If we know the mind of G-d through the structure of the Law, perhaps we could know the mind of something through the structure of whatever this Codex may be.

The Martian - Andy Weir

Though there's little emotional or psychological depth, Weir's novel (to be physically published next month) is enjoyable for hard SF fans. If you enjoy playing "What if I were snowed in and the power went out?" or "Could I get from DC to LA with only the contents of my car and my wits about me?", you'll probably enjoy this novel of "Can I survive being abandoned for dead on Mars?" 


I'm not able to evaluate most of the science. I do note, however, that the initial windstorm that begins the novel is at speeds that are not well-attested on Mars.

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

I've read it before, and doubtless I'll read it again. This time I read it because a friend wanted to read and discuss it. My observations this time around: 

  • The foreshadowing is reasonably strong if you know what's coming, both in the book and later in the series.
  • The giant (and how it appears later in the book and series) is still wonderful.
  • I'm convinced that young Card was sexually abused by a male peer, perhaps a relative, and that this accounts for the repeated appearance of this threat or slightly homoerotic violent trope in a great many of his works, and perhaps that this explains his vituperative stance on LGBT rights. It's only a speculation, but do watch for this undercurrent in his oeuvre.
Saturn's Children - Charles Stross

 A good reason to retain control of your covers. 


The background idea is that at this point in history, there are no longer any biological creatures. Everyone, regardless of degree of sentience, is a robot/created being. Against this very interesting backdrop, Stross sets a fast-paced potboiler-y tale of intrigue, not-knowing, double-dealing, and sisters who are not sisters. It's fun (including the homage a everyone in SF), though the worldbuilding is ultimately more interesting than the plot.

2013 totals

Books: 132

Pages: 36,277

Average pages/book: 275


1. Steven L. Peck: A Short Stay in Hell (108)

2. Mary Prince, Sara Salih (Editor), et al.: The History of Mary Prince Bermuda [British overseas territory] (160)

3. Don DeLillo: The Body Artist (128)

4. John Varley: Slow Apocalypse (438)

5. John Varley: Red Lightning (Red Thunder, #2) (355)

6. Anonymous, Barbara Stoller Miller: The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War (176)

7. Giuseppe Rossi: The Republic of San Marino: The Oldest and Smallest Republic of the World [San Marino] (64)

8. Jay Bell: From Darkness to Darkness (Loka Legends, #2) (290)

9. John Varley: Rolling Thunder (Red Thunder, #3) (344)

10. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit: Pocket Edition (276)

11. Robert Laxalt: Sweet Promised Land (198)

12. Richard Dawkins: The Selfish Gene (384)

13. Hugh Howey: Wool (Wool #1) (49)

14. Hugh Howey: Proper Gauge: (Wool #2) (106)

15. John Scalzi: Zoe's Tale (Old Man's War, #4) (335)

16. R. Zain: My Arab Spring [Bahrain] (108)

17. Hugh Howey: Casting Off (Wool #3) (122)

18. Hugh Howey: The Unraveling (Wool #4) (166)

19. Hugh Howey: the Stranded (Wool #5) (254)

20. Pam Penick: Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard (192)

21. Paul Murray: Skippy Dies (661)

22. Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull: The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong (192)

23. Karen Armstrong: Buddha (240)

24. Katherine Boo: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (288)

25. Fan Huang: Zero and Other Fictions [Taiwan (Republic of China)] (152)

[26. H. Beam Piper: Little Fuzzy (174)]

27. Thomas Eccardt: Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City (360)

28. Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion (420)

29. Erin L. Hawkes: When Quietness Came: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey with Schizophrenia (246)

30. Marjane Satrapi: Chicken with Plums (84)

31. Arthur Phillips: The Tragedy of Arthur (368)

32. Julie Holland: Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych E.R. (320)
33. Penn Jillette: God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (231)
34. William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope [Malawi] (270)
35. Yann Martel: Life of Pi (319)
36. Haruki Murakami: 1Q84 (945)
37. Deborah Fallows: Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language (208)
38. Tahir Shah: The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca [Morocco] (368)
39. John Scalzi: Fuzzy Nation (303)
40. Peter Moore: The Little Book of Pandemics (144)
41. Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking (290)
42. Vikram Seth: From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (192)
43. Sergio Atzeni: Bakunin's Son [Sardinia (autonomous region of Italy)] (82)
44. Karen Armstrong: The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (336)
45. Gregory David Roberts: Shantaram (936)
46. John Scalzi: The Human Division (432)
47.  Charles Palmer: Living in the Turks & Caicos Islands: From Conchs...to the Florida Lottery [Turks and Caicos (British Overseas Territory)] (146)
48.  Martin Booth Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood [Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China)] (352)
49. Karen Lord: The Best of All Possible Worlds (308)
50. John Scalzi: The God Engines (136)
51. Christopher Hitchens: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (307)
52. Angie Sage: Fyre (Septimus Heap, #7) (720)
53. Lois Lowry: The Giver (179)
54. Matthew Goodman: Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World (480)
55. Anne Elizabeth Moore: Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh (96)
56. R. Crumb: The Book of Genesis (224)
57. Louise Erdrich: The Round House (321)
58. Barbara Kingsolver: Flight Behavior (436)
59. Rémi Carayol, Soeuf Elbadawi, Kamal'Eddine Saindou: Une suite à Moroni Blues [Comoros replacement] (56)
60. Tahmima Anam: The Good Muslim (320) [Bangladesh]
61. Roberto Bolaño: Nazi Literature in the Americas [Chile] (260)
62. Robert D. Lupton: Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (208)
63. Paul Theroux: A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta (288)
64. Madhur Jaffrey: Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India [India] (320)
65. China Miéville: Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1) (623)
66. Anonymous: The Upanishads [excerpted] (144)
67. Sharma Bulbul: The Ramayana [loosely adapted] (~180)
68. Mike Resnick: Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge (46)
69. David Finch: The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband (255)
70. Kathleen Winter: Annabel (480)
71. John Scalzi, Jack Campbell, Robert Charles Wilson, Mike Resnick, Elizabeth Bear, Allen Steele, Daryl Gregory, Lavie Tidhar, Mary Robinette Kowal, James Patrick Kelly: Rip-Off! (~360)
72. Xiaolu Guo: UFO in Her Eyes [People’s Republic of China] (208)
73. Salman Rushdie: Joseph Anton: A Memoir (636)
74. Neil Gaiman: The Doll's House (The Sandman #2) (232)
75. Khaled Hosseini: And the Mountains Echoed [Afghanistan] (404)
76. Alan Dean Foster: Star Trek Into Darkness (Star Trek: Movie Novelizations #2) (312)

77. Alexander McCall Smith: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #6) (233)
78. Alexander McCall Smith: Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #7) 256)
79. Scott Westerfeld: The Risen Empire (Succession #1) (352)
80. Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (310)
81. Alexander McCall Smith: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #8) (213)
82. Scott Westerfeld: The Killing of Worlds (Succession #2) (336)
83. Neil Gaiman: Dream Country (The Sandman #3) (160)

84. Christopher Hitchens: The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (98)
85. Kiera Van Gelder: The Buddha and the Borderline: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism, and Online Dating (248)
86. Jo Walton: Among Others [Wales] (302)
87. Cinda Williams Chima: The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms #4) (598)
88. Peter Sís, Farīd al-Dīn ‘Aṭṭār: The Conference of the Birds [Iran] (160)
89. Neil Gaiman: Season of Mists (The Sandman #4) (192)
90. N. J. Dawood (Tr.): The Koran (456)
91. Neil Gaiman: A Game of You (The Sandman #5) (192)
92. Robert Galbraith [J. K. Rowling]: The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) (455)
93. Miss Lasko-Gross: Escape from "Special" (136)
94. Angie Sage: The Darke Toad (Septimus Heap #1.5) (96)
95. Salman Rushdie: Haroun and the Sea of Stories (216)
96. Peter Pringle: Experiment Eleven: Dark Secrets behind the Discovery of a Wonder Drug (288)
97. Rabindranath Tagore & William Radice: Particles, Jottings, Sparks: The Collected Brief Poems [India] (214)

98. Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, & Fréderic Lemercier: The Photographer (288)
99. George R. R. Martin: A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) (1016)
100. Francesco Marciuliano: I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats (112)
101. Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon: Birds: Mini Archive with DVD (288)
102. NoViolet Bulawayo: We Need New Names (298)
103. Christina Thompson: Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A New Zealand Story [New Zealand] (288)

104. Oliver Sacks: Hallucinations (352)
105. Reza Aslan: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (327)
106. H. G. Wells: The Time Machine (104)
107. Jeffrey A. Lockwood: Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War (400)
108. Neil Gaiman: Fables and Reflections (Sandman #6) (168)
109.  Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: Heat and Dust (192)

110. Neil Gaiman: Brief Lives (Sandman #7) (168)
111. H. G. Wells: The Island of Doctor Moreau (160)

112. Gary Snyder: Passage through India: An Expanded and Illustrated Edition (152)

113. Uwem Akpan: Say You're One of Them (358)

114. Sarah Vowell: Unfamiliar Fishes (238)

115. Karen Armstrong: The First Christian: Saint Paul's Impact on Christianity (192)

116. James Cook: Hunt for the Southern Continent (Great Journeys) (120)

117. Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson: The One Minute Manager (111)

118. Paul Bowles: Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue: Scenes from the Non-Christian World (240)

119. Susan Ee: Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) (247)

120. Salman Rushdie: The Enchantress of Florence (355)

121. John Price: Notes from the Jungle - Teaching Abroad in an International School [Brunei] (274)

122. Diane L. Goeres-Gardner: Oregon Asylum (Images of America) (128)

123. Neil Gaiman: Odd and the Frost Giants (128)

124. Belle Sukraw: Teaching Mustafa and Other Young Terrorists [Qatar] (126)

125. Veronica Roth: Allegiant (Divergent, #3) (544)

126. Huy Vannak: Bou Meng: A Survivor from Khmer Rouge [Cambodia] (86)

127. Chum Mey: Survivor: The Triumph of an Ordinary Man in the Khmer Rouge Genocide [Cambodia] (108)

128. Susan Ee: World After (Penryn and the End of Days, #2) (320)

129. Khamboly Dy: A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) [Cambodia] (84)
130. Paul Garrigan: Muay Thai Fighter: A Farang's Journey to Become a Thai Boxer [Thailand] (223)

131. Philip Roth: The Human Stain (384)

132. Charles Stross: Saturn’s Children (336)


The Darke Toad - Angie Sage

A novella slotted between the first and second Septimus Heap books. It's fun to read after finishing the series because it reminds us of Septimus's vulnerability, and Marcia's affection and concern for him. It also pokes fun at DomDaniel, which is never unenjoyable.

Heat and Dust - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Somewhat mannered, somewhat overwritten, and perhaps with too much parallelism, yet I still enjoyed this exercise in comparing and contrasting two women's lives in India across generations. The unnamed contemporary woman's experience seems like a somewhat tawdry version of Olivia's, but I suppose it is progress of a sort for exoticism to yield to the prosaic, and for one woman's Nawab to be another woman's anxious civil servant.

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

Re-reading Wells's classic after many years, I'm struck by the "scientific" style, also used by Poe for his science fiction. The learned exposition about physics or the material world; the careful articulation by the protagonist of the limits of his expertise or possible lack of objectivity at times; the proofs that lead to the suspension of disbelief; the citing of authorities (here, though unnamed, Darwin plays a major role)--I just love the tone and the techniques used to reel the reader in.

Strip away the science and you've got a story which, although ostensibly about the future degradation of human nobility, reads very much like a colonial tale about the debased indigenes. This makes me think about how much of science fiction follows this model, though the noble rather than monstrous savage sometimes takes center stage.

I can poke some holes in the plot, but why bother? It's still a good story and in its day must have galvanized many readers.

Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War - Jeffrey Alan Lockwood
In The Simpsons, Season 7, Homer finds occasion to taunt: "Or what? You'll release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you?" At its best, Six-legged Soldiers is very much about dogs with bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you. Or at least, about bee and hornet nests catapulted over the parapets. Or the biblical plagues of Egypt understood through the lens of causal insect action. Or scorpions in overhead trap doors. Or torture involving fleas and lice. Or the refinement of insect-delivered diseases, or the development of insectoid weapons. This is all riveting. Unfortunately, Lockwood's writing drags and bogs down at times, even with such exciting subject matter. It's worth working your way through it, though there isn't really a conclusion or climactic payoff. Still, despite the sometimes-slog, you'll learn a lot about attempts to weaponize bugs.
The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections (The Sandman, #6) - Neil Gaiman, Stan Woch, Bryan Talbot, P. Craig Russell

These are stories loosely linked by the help or meddling of Morpheus over a long span of time. Notable in introducing Orpheus, of whom more later.

Heat and Dust - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Somewhat mannered, somewhat overwritten, and perhaps with too much parallelism, yet I still enjoyed this exercise in comparing and contrasting two women's lives in India across generations. The unnamed contemporary woman's experience seems like a somewhat tawdry version of Olivia's, but I suppose it is progress of a sort for exoticism to yield to the prosaic, and for one woman's Nawab to be another woman's anxious civil servant.

The Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives  - Peter Straub, Jill Thompson, Vince Locke, Neil Gaiman

Perhaps the best so far, this is the family drama volume. Delirium is sheer visual pleasure and a contrast to the always somber Morpheus. More back story on Morpheus and Orpheus; much loss and sadness, well-portrayed and emotionally deep.

The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells

Fascinating less for the story (which is entertainingly horrifying and must have been quite scandalous in its day) and more for the pseudoscientific tone, including the disclaimers and apologies of the narrator. This might be usefully compared to Atwood's Oryx and Crake as a cautionary tale about how humans paradoxically degenerate when they play god.

Sadly, as with Paolo Baccigalupi's halfmen, I can't help but picture McGruff the Crime Dog at times.


Passage Through India: An Expanded and Illustrated Edition - Gary Snyder

A delightful and sometimes deep travelogue of Snyder's visit to India. Spare language and targeted details make this narrative, which was written more or less as a letter based on his journals, both insightful and poetic even when the prosaic is being described. Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky figure, as do a certain number of drugs and a reasonable amount of gastric upset. There's one photo of a Buddha statue that I could look at for hours--and have.

Say You're One of Them (Oprah's Book Club) - Uwem Akpan

This collection didn't work for me in many ways (not even including the very accented readers for some selections on the audiobook). There was entirely too much telling and not enough showing. Several of the narrative child voices seemed contrived and overly expository. Overall, this seemed like a writing workshop thesis. That's a fair place for a writer to start, but it feels like it got big play because it's about how terrible life in Africa is, not because it's written well.