Christmas lights at Meredith

November 29, 2016 Leave a comment
Categories: Book Reviews

Facebook Meme: 10 Books

About a month ago, a Facebook meme was spreading:

In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag 10 friends, including me, so I’ll see your list.

Below are the books that I listed quickly, with a comment or two on each one.
1. Dune by Frank Herbert

I have re-read the book and listened to audio readings dozens and dozens of times.  I find that it is extremely deep and I discover something new each time I read it.

2. Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

Incredibly detailed world building.  Gradations of morality for each character.  Have no idea whether a character will live or die.

3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg .  My review here.

I intensely remember some of the scenes in this book.  I re-read the book recently just because of this meme.

4. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Incredible world building.  Moving, lyrical passages.  Depth of story.  In my opinion, better than LOTR.

5. Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz

I was fascinated by the alternate world created by the author.  Also, probably some wish-fulfillment to have some of the Deryni powers.

6. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.  My review here.

The descriptions of Teddy Roosevelt’s early life and his drive were inspiring.

7. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

One of the first books I can recall ever weeping over.  Intense, wracking tears.

8. Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir.  My review here.

The book that first interested me in the Tudor dynasty.  Also remember reading it in the hospital while awaiting results for my mother-in-law.

9. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Wonder at the ingenuity of the kids.  Great ending.

10. Beneath the Wheel by Hermann Hesse

Powerful book.  The main character burns himself out through intellectual studies.

and one more since I thought of it just as I was posting — Decision at Doona by Anne McCaffrey

One of the first science-fiction books I read — given to me by a very important junior high school teacher.

Categories: Book Reviews

Review: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

January 1, 2014 1 comment

Mixed UpThe start of the new year is often a time for reflection or nostalgia.  From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a throwback to some of the books I read in elementary school. I remember being mesmerized by the idea that two elementary school aged kids could run off to New York City and hide out in a museum for over a week.

I decided to reread the book based on two events recently that brought the book to my attention. First, I completed a Facebook meme that asked readers to list 10 books that were in some way memorable, influential, or just meaningful to the reader even if they might not be fine literature. From the Mixed-Up Files was one of the books that immediately came to mind to me. The second event was a Wikipedia reference in a movie article that mentioned that two adaptations were made of the book; I wasn’t aware that it had ever been made into a movie.

The plot itself is wrapped in a frame story written by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. In it, two children, Claudia and her brother Jamie, run away to New York City and hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Claudia’s initial intention is to escape the “injustice” she perceives at home, but she eventually realizes that her real goal is to experience something new and come home changed. She brings her young brother along because he is extremely “rich” — having about $25 saved up. During their stay in the museum, in which they must deal with security, find a place to sleep, ensure that they can eat, do laundry, and discover additional means of funding, they determine to uncover a mystery of who sculpted a newly acquired sculpture.

For me, one of the most memorable scenes, which has stayed with me for (gasp!) 30 years, is the use of the museum restaurant’s fountain in order to bathe. In it, they discover that patrons have thrown wishing coins, which help to fund their stay a bit longer.

The adventures are simple and the book is quite short, but it is easy to see why it was awarded a Newberry. The banter between the siblings — grammar corrections by a self-satisfied older sister and squabbles over how money is to be spent — is clever and not stilted. The two children are portrayed as uniquely different individuals with different personalities and goals.

Does the book hold up to 2014 vs 1967? In large part, I think yes. The children are not dumbed down nor are they portrayed as adult surrogates. The advent of cell-phones, internet searches, and heightened security concerns are probably the areas of most difference from current day. But the only jarring item is the value of money — having lunch for 75 cents, for example, and surviving in NYC for over a week with little more than $25.


4 out of 5 stars (finished January 1, 2014)


Currently reading:  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Categories: Book Reviews Tags:

Books read in 2012

January 1, 2013 1 comment

This is my annual summary of books that I have read during the year.  First some statistics:

I read 39 books this year, significantly lower than last year’s 77.  Not only did I read less, I posted almost no blog entries (reviews or otherwise) during the year.  Shame on me.

Breakdown by genre (my definitions only)

Genre Count
Science Fiction 19
Fantasy 13
General Fiction 3
Classics 2
Mythology 1
History 1

I read a number of acclaimed young adult series this year and was rather underwhelmed.  The Hunger Games trilogy was rather awful — posting some notes here from April.  The Witch & Wizard series (I have only read the first two) was poorly written, plotted, and the young adults in the books didn’t speak or act like real people.

I very much enjoyed The Phoenix Legacy (Sword of the Lamb is book 1) by M.K. Wren which had some Dune-like elements to it.  Politics, intrigue, and an underground revolution, as well as an interesting narrative style.  I’ve had the books for awhile but had never read them before.

I’m not sure what to think about A Confederacy of Dunces, which was on a reading list that I am slowly completing.  I suspect it is a better book than I’m qualified to “get”.  I think it is hard to like a book when you don’t like any of the characters.

Also really enjoyed the Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.  Not sure why I had never read it before.

By media type

Media Count
Audio 15
Physical Book 13
Kindle 11

Surprisingly, there was a rough even split across all of the media types this year.  I read a higher percentage of physical books this year because I either re-reading some series (some of the newer Dune books, for example) or catching up on some books which I’ve had for awhile, or weren’t available in an electronic format (such as The Phoenix Legacy).

For audio books, I listened to almost 275 hours during the year, which again, was lower than last.


  • The Ballad of Beta-2 by Samuel R. Delany (science fiction)
  • The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (science fiction)


  • The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (science fiction)
  • Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)


  • (Genesis)
  • (Exodus)
  • The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (science fiction)
  • (Leviticus)
  • (Numbers)
  • (Deuteronomy)
  • (Joshua)
  • (Judges)
  • (Ruth)
  • Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis (mythology)
  • (I Samuel)
  • (II Samuel)


  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (science fiction, young adult)
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (science fiction, young adult)
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (science fiction, young adult)
  • Sword of the Lamb by M.K. Wren (science fiction)
  • The Sacrifice by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fantasy)


  • The Dark Lord’s Handbook by Paul Dale (fantasy, parody/humor)
  • The Changeling by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fantasy)
  • The Rival by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fantasy)
  • Shadow of the Swan by M.K. Wren (science fiction)


  • The Resistance by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fantasy)
  • House of the Wolf by M.K. Wren (science fiction)
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare (classics, play)
  • Witch & Wizard by James Patterson (fantasy, young adult)
  • The Gift by James Patterson (fantasy, young adult)
  • Victory by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fantasy)


  • The Black Queen by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fantasy)
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (fiction)
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (science fiction)


  • In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman (science fiction)


  • The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (classics, fiction)
  • The Wilding by C.S. Friedman (science fiction)
  • Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes (fiction)
  • Midshipman Henry Gallant by H. Peter Alesso (science fiction)


  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (fiction)


  • The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron (fantasy)
  • The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron (fantasy)
  • The Spirit Eater by Rachel Aaron (fantasy)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • Witch World by Andre Norton (science fiction/fantasy)
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy, young adult)
  • Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert (science fiction)


  • Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • The Tudors: The Kings and Queens of England’s Golden Age by Jane Bingham (history)
Categories: annual summary

Review: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

These are some belated notes on The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, which I made back in April, but am just posting now.

I was very underwhelmed by the story and the series got worse as it went on.

  • I didn’t buy the main plot point of using children for the games and glorifying their deaths.  I could buy something closer to The Running Man with criminals, but not children.
  • I did think it was a good move to have some breaks in time between the books — it doesn’t have to be a continuous narrative
  • I appreciated the fact that not all characters are going to make it through alive (although I’m not sure there were any characters that I cared enough about)
  • The world building, for me, was too light. A bit of mystery left to the imagination is good but I would have liked to have seen a few more glimpses into how things got to be how they were.
  • The second book was essentially a rehash of the first, just worse.  The plot for book three was messy, chaotic (not in a good way) and seemed to just fizzle out as if the author ran out of ideas and just decided to stop.
  • The love triangle was weak.  It went on so long and so angst-y, that I didn’t care anymore.
  • For me, it’s easier to read first person narratives with the main character being male, which may be one reason that female readers (including those that may not typically read in the genre) may find it appealing.
  • So many of the characters had little depth to them.
  • I liked the idea of some of the Machiavellian politics and intrigue, but thought it was underdeveloped in the books
  • I think the author needed to introduce a bit of humor from time to time
  • What might be interesting is if the author wrote a few additional books or short stories from another point of view — perhaps President Snow, one of the gamemasters, or just someone else in the know — and find out that much of what Katniss though was going on is actually wrong à la the Ender books (Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow are prime examples) by Orson Scott Card.

I haven’t seen the movies yet and might watch the first one if it shows up on Netflix Instant.

Average 2 out of 5 stars (finished April 2011)

Categories: Reviews Tags: , changes to titles with multiple download files

One really positive change I’ve seen in more recent titles produced (or perhaps distributed?) by relates to how they split the audio files into multiple parts.  Often the titles I read are too large for a single file, so they are split into 3-5 parts “to make the download easier”.  I’ve noticed that audible seems to be adding some verbiage at the beginning of the title saying, “And now part two of <insert title here>” which is extremely helpful when I am listening in the car or mobile.

I hate accidentally skipping a part and questioning myself why a character is suddenly dead who was alive a few seconds ago….

Categories: Musings, Product Reviews

Books read in 2011

January 10, 2012 Leave a comment

This is my annual summary of books that I have read during the year.  First some statistics:

I read 77 books this year, up from 64 last year.

Breakdown by genre (my definitions only)

Genre Count
Science Fiction 55
Fantasy 16
History 2
Biography 1
Historical Fiction 1
Children’s 1
Trivia 1

Unlike last year, where fantasy was the primary genre, science fiction made up the vast bulk of my reading list.  This was largely due to a number of series which I read or re-read during the year.  In particular, I reread the Starship books by Mike Resnick, 15 of the Dragonriders of Pern series (some of which could arguably be called fantasy vs. science fiction), the Galaxy Unknown books by Thomas Deprima (I reviewed the first one somewhat negatively but the later ones got a bit better), and the first 11 books of the Honor Harrington series by David Weber.  I read the first three classic Dune books twice, partially to prepare for some chapter summaries which I am eventually going to do and partially because the audiobooks were loaded on my iPhone when I was out and about.

At long last, A Dance With Dragons was released which I devoured quickly.  The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt was particularly interesting and inspiring.


By media type

Media Count
Audio 34
Kindle 27
Physical book 16

Although I listened to the same number of audio books as last year, the largest change was in Kindle/electronic versions of books (last year there was a tie between the two).    For audio, I listened just over 395 hours during the year — almost 16 1/2 days!


  • The Infinite Day by Chris Walley (Christian science fiction)
  • Lord Sunday by Garth Nix (fantasy)
  • Dissolution by C.J. Sansom (historical mystery)
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (biography)


  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (biography)
  • So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane (young adult fantasy)
  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini (fantasy)
  • Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick (science fiction)
  • Starship: Pirate by Mike Resnick (science fiction)
  • Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr (fantasy)


  • Starship: Mercenary by Mike Resnick (science fiction)
  • Starship: Rebel by Mike Resnick (science fiction)
  • Starship: Flagship by Mike Resnick (science fiction)
  • Darkspell by Katharine Kerr (fantasy)
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (fantasy)
  • The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy)
  • A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (fantasy)
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (fantasy)
  • A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (fantasy)
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Eldest by Christopher Paolini (fantasy, young-adult)
  • The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Nerilka’s Story by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction/fantasy)
  • Live Free or Die by John Ringo (science fiction)
  • Citadel by John Ringo (science fiction)
  • Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction)
  • The Golden Acorn by Catherine Cooper (young adult fantasy)
  • Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction)
  • The Hot Gate by John Ringo (science fiction)
  • God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction) re-read for project
  • A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (fantasy)
  • The Dolphins of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction)
  • A Galaxy Unknown by Thomas DePrima (science fiction)
  • Valor At Vauzlee by Thomas DePrima (science fiction)
  • The Skies of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction)
  • The Clones of Mawcett by Thomas DePrima (science fiction)
  • Dragon’s Kin by Anne McCaffrey (science fiction)
  • Milor! by Thomas DePrima (science fiction)
  • Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn (history/biography)
  • Castle Vroman by Thomas DePrima (science fiction)
  • Against All Odds by Thomas DePrima (science fiction)
  • The Birth of the Dread Remora by Aaron Rosenberg (science fiction)
  • The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace (science fiction)
  • Way Station by Clifford D. Simak (science fiction)
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (young adult fantasy)
  • Grandpa Hates the Bird by Eve Yohalem (childrens fiction)
  • Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (young adult fantasy)
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman (fantasy)
  • On Basilisk Station by David Weber (science fiction)
  • The Honor of the Queen by David Weber (science fiction)
  • The Short Victorious War by David Weber (science fiction)
  • Field of Dishonor by David Weber (science fiction)
  • Flag in Exile by David Weber (science fiction)
  • Honor Among Enemies by David Weber (science fiction)
  • In Enemy Hands  by David Weber (science fiction)
  • Echoes of Honor by David Weber (science fiction)
  • Ashes of Victory by David Weber (science fiction)
  • War of Honor by David Weber (science fiction)
  • At All Costs by David Weber (science fiction)


  • Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (science fiction)
  • Seinfeld: The Totally Unauthorized Tribute by David Wild (trivia, entertainment)
  • Paul of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (science fiction)
  • The Winds of Dune  by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (science fiction)
  • Birthright: The Book of Man by Mike Resnick (science fiction)

Categories: annual summary