Thursday, October 30, 2008

Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder

Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder Yesterday, I started reading a fantastic book, Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder. This book appears to have been self-published, and I'm generally a bit leary of books that have not been through the usual editing and production process. Most of the self-published or print-on-demand books I've read have been average at best. I'm pleased to say that this is not the case with this book. It is well-written in every way. Sporting a great fantasy concept with excellent character development, I can strongly recommend this book. It appears to be available at,, and I bought the Kindle eBook and I'm thrilled that someone recommended it to me.

According to the author's blog the book has been optioned for a movie and he is busy writing a sequel. And, given that the author has discovered BookCrossing and thinks it's a cool idea and he built his own MobiPocket eBooks, he's got to be a good guy all around.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman

Staying Dead (Retrievers, Book 1) Staying Dead by Laura Anne Gilman

My review

A thoroughly delightful Urban Fantasy that is far off the beaten track. There are no werewolves or vampires. But there is magic—a semi-scientific kind of magic that can be wielded by Talents. Powered by "current" (which has a lot in common with electricity), a Talent might employ Psi-like extra-normal capabilities like telekinesis, levitation, translocation, etc. I'm glad that it's the first in a series, so I'll be able to read more about Wren and Sergei and the NYC they inhabit.

I won this book from Xeyra in the July PUF swap at BookObsessed. I decided to offer it up in the October PUF swap, so I had to get busy reading it so I'd be able to mail it off as soon as possible. It's going to Pepper in Cincinnati.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

BTT: What’s Sitting on Your Shelf?

This week's Booking Through Thursday prompt asks "What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?"

My TBR stack takes up four shelves in a bookcase and has overflowed into stacks on the floor. This picture shows the bookcase and the stacks as they were in February. Those stacks are now waist high and I've added a fourth.

So what are all those books? Many of the books are those that I've traded for over at BookObsessed which I will read and then either swap or give away. My first swap at BO was for the first five books in the Weather Warren series by Rachel Caine. I later swapped for the sixth book and therefore I have all six of them sitting here to read. I also have the fourth through sixth books in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I read the first three in this series late last year. I'm hesitating on starting back into the series because the books are so long! (1070, 1443, and 1439 pages respectively.)

Jaime comes over and raids my bookshelves from time to time, so the books are getting read. I also share my books with my mother-in-law, so most of the time, she's already read the books by the time I get around to them.

I keep saying that I could be housebound for at least six months before I'd need to buy or swap for another book. I can definitely identify with Christopher Schoppa, whose article in the Washington Post instigated this prompt. "...I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Daughter of the Sun

Daughter of the Sun, by Barbara Wood Chaco Canyon, in remote northern New Mexico, is a historical site full of mystery. Archaeologists know that the area was first settled around 200 AD by farmers who lived in small pit houses. Then, for no known reason, around 850 AD the people began building large stone buildings four and five stories high containing hundreds of rooms, kivas and even water containment systems. Three hundred years later, the site was abruptly abandoned. Again, no one knows why.

In Daughter of the Sun, Barbara Woods tells the story of the last days of Chaco habitation. At the center of her story is Hoshi'tiwa, a young teen kidnapped from her small farming community and taken south to the fabled "Center Place" ruled by a powerful and violent Dark Lord, Jakál. Hoshi'tiwa is put to work making pottery—and is expected to produce a rain jar so exquisite that the gods will send rain to break the drought of many years.

Center Place, as Woods describes it, is an outpost of the Toltec empire from Mexico. Its leader, Jakál, is a priest of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of Life. The army is devout to the Blue Hummingbird, god of war and death, to whom live sacrifices are offered. Along with the rising conflict between two factions in Toltec culture there's also the desperation of Hoshi'tiwa's people—worshipers of nature and believers in peace and balance.

In the span of only three years time, Hoshi'tiwa grows from a shy captive girl to an outspoken spiritual leader and eventually the Moses who leads her people home from Chaco Canyon.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank

Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank The most recent book I have read is Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank. Having read several other books by Frank, I felt sure that it would feature the low country of South Carolina as did Isle of Palms and Pawley's Island, which I read in 2004 and 2006, respectively. It did ... and it didn't.

Yes, the setting is Hilton Head and Charleston, but the characters are immigrants from New Jersey—and Italian Catholics at that. They aren't low country people at all.

Grace of the title is Maria Graziana Russo, only daughter of Big Al and Connie, granddaughter of Nonna. She's living with her boyfriend Michael, who is a lapsed Irish Catholic and a doctor doing stem cell research. And, in their eyes, being Irish is as much a reason to dislike him as the abomination of working with stem cells and sex outside of marriage.

I was lulled along, getting to know the Russos through Grace's visits with them—the conflicts being played out over a dinner table loaded with holiday goodies. Then, the family has to face two crises. First, Nonna falls and breaks her hip. In considerable pain, she refuses to cooperate with her therapists and demands to go home, expecting Connie to care for her around the clock. Then, Michael is diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer and Grace needs her family's support as never before

My favorite character in this book is Father John. I'd like to meet him in real life. In one scene, discussing en vitro fertilization, he says, "I think that the Church's major area of concern has always been that children are begotten not made. Is it right to make children in a laboratory setting just because we can?" And also, "The trick is not to rationalize your decisions knowing that they displease God."

I was only looking for a good story, but along with that, I got some wise spiritual guidance. A good deal in my book.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Risen from the Ashes

I spent most of today reviving this blog. First, I copied in all the posts about books and reading that I had made to my LiveJournal site. Fortunately, this Blogger software allows me to specify the posting date and therefore back-date posts to get them in to the correct order in the archives. Then, I created a page to hold the books I've read in 2008 and updated the home page as well. This involved making small changes to my cascading style sheets and the imbed code that gets pulled into each page.

But now the place looks all spruced up and happily lived in instead of dusty and abandoned.

While there was quite a bit of tedium in coding all the HTML to bring the blog up to date, I really enjoyed reading old postings. For example, in January 2005, I posted about the Baen Free Library. At that time, I commented "It's too difficult to read in bed with an electronic book" since the only way that I had to read an electronic book at that time was to use my laptop computer. Happily, three years later, I am now the proud owner of a Kindle from and a Sony PRS 505, and both are quite comfortable to use when reading in bed. Not only that, but I've read nine books from Baen—some free and others purchased through their WebScription web site.

And, when looking at the top 100 lists—The Big Read Top 100 and BookCrossing's Top 100—I saw that there were some books that I have now read and some that I definitely have on my TBR stack. I think that maybe I'll update my status in these lists at the end of the year.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Book Meme October 9, 2008

This meme comes from Booking Through Thursday.


What was the last book you bought?

I was sitting in the Admiral's Club in Philadelphia and wasn't happy with any of the books I had with me, so I turned on the antenna on my Kindle, connected to, and purchased Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris. Not only does the Kindle give me the ability to carry many books with me, but it also enables me to buy a book at any time and any place.


Name a book you have read MORE than once

The most recent re-read was Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.


Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

I'm not sure I'd say "fundamentally changed", but there's a scene in A Canticle for Leibowitz that sticks with me. Near the end of the book, during a short lull in a world-wide atomic war, an Abbey offers shelter to refugees fleeing the regions affected by fallout. A doctor from the a government emergency response team brings his euthanasia van to the Abbey, but the Abbot refuses to allow the doctor to park the van at the Abbey. A long argument results and the doctor finally sighing and saying that he might agree with the Abbot's beliefs regarding the sinfulness of suicide if he believed that he had an immortal soul. To which the Abbot replies, "But you don't." To the doctor's surprised look, the Abbot continues, "You are an immortal soul; you have a body.

That one concept resonates so much with me. What is me is my mind and soul. The body is just what houses the essence of me.


How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

All of the above. I love browsing the shelves -- real or virtual -- and looking at all the lovely books.


Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Fiction, definitely fiction. I have only read one non-fiction book in the past two years: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.


What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Plot and characterization are particularly important, but if the writing isn't at least attractive, it can spoil the book for me. Yesterday, I started reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I haven't gotten far enough into it to know if the plot is gripping, but I have read some of the most lovely words.


Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Now that's difficult. To date, I've read 109 books this year and I don't think any of them sported a character that I have particularly loved or thought memorable. I definitely liked many of the characters—particularly the recurring characters in the several series that I have read. I guess I'll ponder this question and see if some character of note comes to mind.


Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

I don't leave a book on the nightstand. I take it with me when I get up and bring it back to the bedroom when I turn in at night. I'm currently reading Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank. I knew I was going to enjoy it—as I have all her other books that I have read—but I'm now quite caught up in it. Speaking of characters, there's a very minor character named Father John whom I would love to meet in real life.


What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

I finished reading Living Dead in Dallas yesterday. I thrashed around most of yesterday trying to find something to read. I had both the Kindle and the Sony with me and any number of books loaded on both. Eventually, I got into The Night Life of the Gods, a classic by Thorne Smith, Cryptonomicon, and Full of Grace. I'm about 3/4 of the way through Full of Grace and should finish it tonight or tomorrow.


Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Rarely. I used to think it was shameful to give up on a book without finishing it. However, after I had struggled through Lord Foul's Bane thinking that surely it would get better, only to discover that it never did get better, I backed off from that opinion. Most recently, I abandoned Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I did note the page number, some 500 pages into the 800-page tome in case I decided to tackle it again.


This was fun. Having just discovered the Booking Through Thursday site, I definitely plan to go back from time to time and pick up a prompt for my blog.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Reading update at the end of 3Q

I can hardly believe that this year is now 3/4 over. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.

In this quarter, I read even more books than in the previous two, completing 37 books and 14,503 pages. I can easily attribute that to the fact that I had a couple of long car trips which gave me plenty of time to read.

69. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A Heinlein (2 July)
70. Sense of Evil, Kay Hooper (3 July)
71. Out of the Deep I Cry, Julia Spencer-Fleming (6 July)
72. Oracle, Mike Resnick (8 July)
73. In the Midnight Hour, Patti O'Shea (12 July)
74. Prophet, Mike Resnick (12 July)
75. The Trouble with Magic, Madelyn Alt (14 July)
76. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer (17 July)
77. Star Surgeon, Alan Nourse (19 July)
78. Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews (21 July)
79. Magic Burns, Ilona Andrews (24 July)
80. The Nerd Who Loved Me, Vicki Lewis Thompson (27 July)
81. Old Man's War, John Scalzi (30 July)
82. The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart (2 August)
83. New Moon, Stephenie Meyer (6 August)
84. Love Over Scotland, Alexander McCall Smith (11 August)
85. Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer (12 August)
86. Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer (16 August)
87. The Door Through Space, Marion Zimmer Bradley (16 August)
88. The Bookfair Murders, Anna Porter (17 August)
89. The Last Templar, Rayond Khoury (18 August)
90. Freedom's Price, Suzanne Brockmann (19 August)
91. To Darkness and to Death, Julia Spencer-Fleming (20 August)
92. The Onuissance Cells, Steve Jordan (22 August)
93. On the Trail of the Space Pirates, Carey Rockwell (22 August)
94. Little Brother, Cory Doctorow (22 August)
95. Jean Lorrah Collected, Jean Lorrah (27 August)
96. Earth Has No Sorrow, Michelle Blake (31 August)
97. Shield of the Sky, Susan Krinard (6 September)
98. The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett (12 September)
99. Justice Denied, J A Jance (13 September)
100. The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch (19 September)
101. Dreamer, Steven Harper (22 September)
102. Finders Keepers, Linnea Sinclair (25 September)
103. Night Life, Caitlin Kittredge (27 September)
104. Nightmare, Steven Harper (29 September)
105. Trickster, Steven Harper (29 September)

There were 10 books which qualified as Chunksters this quarter, each exceeding 450 pages. Stranger in a Strange Land: 528 pages, Twilight: 544 pages, The Mysterious Benedict Society: 512 pages, New Moon: 608 pages, Eclipse: 640 pages, Breaking Dawn: 768 pages, Shield of the Sky: 502 pages, Pillars of the Earth: 976 pages, The Lies of Locke Lamora: 752 pages, and Finders Keepers: 453 pages.

Breakdown by genre

  • Adventure: 1
  • ChickLit: 1
  • Fantasy: 10
  • Historical: 1
  • Mainstream: 1
  • Mystery: 8
  • Romance: 1
  • SciFi: 14

In early August, I purchased a second-hand Sony PRS 505. It came with a couple of books on it that I want to read before I register it with the Sony store. I've finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and I want to read Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I've downloaded several copyright-free or creative commons books and loaded them onto the Sony, and I'm all set to go with plenty of books to read, regardless of the format.

So, finishing up the statistics from last quarter's reading...

Breakdown by format:

  • Mass-market paperback: 15
  • Trade paperback: 1
  • eBook/Kindle: 17
  • eBook/Sony: 3
  • audio book: 1

Sources for eBooks:

  • Free downloads from Feedbooks: 3
  • Purchased from Amazon: 9
  • Purchased from Fictionwise: 4
  • Free from author: 1
  • Free from TOR: 2
  • Unknown: 1

I read through a couple of series during this quarter. In particular, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and the Silent Empire series by Stephen Harper. The Twilight books were all purchased for the Kindle from The Silent Empire books are destined for a swap at BookObsessed.

Speaking of BookObsessed, of the 16 paper books I read this past quarter, ten were offered in swaps or virtual book boxes. Eight were taken and six of those have been mailed and received. Four others are planned to be swapped soon.

105 / 120 (87.5%)