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Why did it take me this long to get around to playing Portal? It's a simple download, not too horribly many Live points, and I don't think I've heard a bad thing about it. So why did it take me until now to play it? I don't know, and it doesn't really matter at this point, because I've played it, and I loved it. It took most of my first run to get the hang of thinking with portals, but I think I've got it now. My second run took a whole hour off my first, and I got through Portal 2 without too much total bafflement. Yes, GLaDOS and the companion cube and everything that's been quoted to death, but the big thing for me is how incredibly satisfying it can be to solve a tricky test chamber. I kind of want to play again right now.
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I just recently got caught up on the Fallout: New Vegas DLC. Life is fun once you've topped level 30 and you have a Holorifle, several thousand microfusion cells, the Desert Ranger combat armor, an awesome cowboy hat, and more caps than you could ever spend.

The DLC for NV is, btw, somewhat mixed. Dead Money had a great story, but seemed to have been designed by people trying to make it as difficult to complete as possible. And a bug that killed my game. Honest Hearts was much better, but had a bittersweet ending no matter what you did. Old World Blues is mostly a fun homage to bad science fiction movies, but had an uncomfortably bizarre tendency towards weirdly vulgar humor. And Lonesome Road won't be out for weeks. But the really important thing is that I got a great gun, incredible armor, and the ability to wipe out Deathclaw nests while barely breaking a sweat.

So I ran out of things to do in the Mojave, and felt inspired to go back to DC. Playing the two back to back, I was surprised at how much more I'd enjoyed FNV. I still love 3, of course. I'm having a great time in my run, and I'm making good progress. (I had started up an evil run, but then realized that I didn't actually want to play evil so started all over again after blowing up Megaton.) But I will try to remember, if ever I play it again, that starting out with energy weapons is for suckers. I was hours into the game before I could stop carrying around a pistol, because of low ammo for my energy weapons. That shouldn't be an issue at this point.

But probably what I miss most about NV is the hats. The pre-war hat just isn't the same, and I miss my extensive collection of cowboy hats.
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Or half bad. I haven't touched my LJ in ages, at least not to blog anything. But I have been reviewing books over at Goodreads religiously. So, let's see. Since early April, I've read a little more than 80 books. Wow, that's a lot. Which puts me at 131 for the year. Oh, and that list of books to read? It's now standing at 843. Which, accounting for the books I've read, means I've added nearly 150 books to the list in just a few months. Um. This isn't going to work out long term. I think my eyes are bigger than my reading time.

I've set my Goodreads to autopost my reviews on my Twitter account, because why not? I can't seem to get it crosspost automatically to my LJ, though. Hm.
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I have a shiny new toy: a bright blue Toshiba netbook. I'm loving it. I've been wanting one for over a year, and I finally found one at a good price when I had the money to pay for it. We already had wifi in the house, for the consoles, so it's been very easy to just sit down in the living room and get online for a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

I've also started a Goodreads account. This was... maybe a bad idea. Remember how a couple of weeks ago, I had a list of about 530 books to read? Now it's a list of about 770. What can I say? It's easy to add stuff. The fact that I'm now following about half a dozen or so YA book blogs is also not at all helping. But YA books are so shiny! And it's my professional duty to read them, right? Of course right!
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47. Creature of the Night, by Kate Thompson

Odd book. The summary I read describes a sort of dark fantasy featuring fairies. What I ended up with was mostly gritty urban contemporary mixed with a dash of... I'm not sure what. Maybe a bit dark fantasy, maybe a bit of murder mystery. It's about Bobby, whose mother has moved him and his brother from Dublin to get him away from his bad (read: stealing cars, mugging, and doing drugs) to the countryside, and their nocturnal visitor. Now, I'm not a gritty urban contempory sort of person, so I was surprised that I ended up liking it this much. It's very, very well-written, and the main character's voice is spot on. The book is far more about Bobby's shift from thug to something more, and that part is very well done. We don't end with a quick and easy turnaround, we end with the moment he decides to change. And that's where a slightly longer epilogue might have helped. I would have liked to know more about what became of him, and his family. The fantasy element is less developed, and could have used a few more pages. Still, there were some great scenes in that subplot, and I did end up determined to read Thompson's books that are really fantasy.

48. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune is such an institution in science fiction that I was actually intimidated to read it. I didn't have to worry. The 75 pages or so are a little slow going, but once the story picks up it went much more smoothly. There is a certain effect of being thrown in the deep end with the Dune-verse culture, but I'm used to that and I can deal with it. It's also very, very internal. The society is very focused on showing absolutely nothing on the surface, that you have to be shown characters' inner thoughts to even have a clue what's going on. That didn't bother me, either, because I thought that was fairly well done. But it does make it a very particular sort of book, and I can easily see why some people end up totally hating it. I'm glad I wasn't one of those people, though. I actually added the rest of the series to my to-be-read list. Well, the rest of the series written by Frank Herbert. I didn't add what was written by his son, because I haven't really heard a single good thing about those books.

49. Torn to Pieces, by Margot McDonnell

Anne lives with her mother, just steps away from her grandparents. Her mother, a writer, is strange, and she knows it. She's always flying away to do interviews. Her career takes her away for long periods of time, sometimes at very short notice. It isn't until her mother goes on an unusually sudden trip, not even calling home for her birthday, that Anne starts to really investigte just how strange her mother is. Now, in many stories like this, the clues are anvils, and you're left wondering what's wrong with the main character that she couldn't pick up on this sooner. Not the case here. I saw it coming, but I also saw exactly why Anne never did. It gets very suspenseful towards the end. I was actually nearly late for a hockey game because I just had to finish reading it, and couldn't wait until I got home after the game. I'd say that's high praise, from a die-hard like me.

And the plus one, a book I listened to on tape in my car to and from work: Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Of course I liked it. I've liked virtually everything Neil's ever done. It's not his best adult book, but it's still very good. The audio book was read by Lenny Henry, which disappointed me at first. I love listening to Neil read his books. But I ended up probably liking it better than if Neil had done it. It also ended up being funnier than the average Neil Gaiman book, but that's probably the trickster influence on the thing. Made me want to read American Gods again, though.

Book 46

Mar. 30th, 2011 11:18 pm
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46. The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

A few years ago, I watched a special on either Discovery or the History Channel (I can't remember which) called Life After People. It seems that special was sort-of-but-not-quite-in-a-way-that-we-can-avoid-lawsuits based off this book. But it was better. Both were using a hypothetical scenario where humans simply vanished, no wars, nuclear winter, or geography-changing catastrophes. The difference is that Life After People was primarily about life after people. It was fascinating, to see how cities would slowly crumble over time. The World Without Us, on the other hand, is much more about exactly how humans have changed the world, and how those changes would last. Which was interesting, in a way, and something that Life After People would have been even more interesting with. Like the discussion about how long it would take for the oceans to completely rid themselves of plastics. (A really, really long time, for the records) But it was unfocused, and rambling, and repeated itself, and sometimes forgot to get into that whole world without us thing that was the draw of the book. The cover is gorgeous, though.
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44. 1688: A Global History, by John E. Wills, Jr.

The title tells it all, really. The year 1688 is probably best known (amongst those who have studied British history, that is, not me) as the year of the Glorious Revolution. This book touches on that, of course, but it also tries to give a fairly complete snapshot of life pretty much everywhere else in the world at the same point in history. It's very interesting to compare the same year in Edo, Australia, Mexico, and Paris. Of course, it's all very brief, but I did kind of like that. Considering what the author was trying to do, there was no way to get in depth with anything and still cover, well, everything. But if you can get past that, it's a very enjoyable history.

45. The Bone Magician, by F.E. Higgins

Not that long ago, I read The Black Book of Secrets, and really liked it. This is a paraquel to it. Which means, essentially, that the stories were taking place roughly at the same time, in the same fictional country, and have some overlapping points that you'll only realize if you read both books, but otherwise can be read entirely independently. And I liked this one, too, every bit as much as The Black Book of Secrets. This one is set entirely in the fictional, Victorian London-esque city that The Black Book starts in. I liked the new characters, and I'll be interested to see how the two stories collide in a later book.
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42. Black: The History of a Color, by Michel Pastoureau

A few years back, I read Blue: The History of a Color, by the same author. This is the sort of history that's right up my alley, microscopic almost to the point of absurdity. It's very interesting, and beautifully illustrated. The meaning of the color black hasn't changed that terribly much, but it's still interesting to see all of the different meanings, in art and fashion and everything else, gone through all in one place.

43. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 1: Orientation, by Thomas Siddell

This is a collection of the first 14 chapters of the online comic Gunnerkrigg Court. I love online comics, they're about the only ones I read anymore. I don't remember now what brought the collected book to my attention, and what made me read the book instead of just going online and reading the comic itself, but I'm glad I did. It's a good presentation. As for the comic itself... Well, I'm working on catching up on it from chapter 15 onwards now. I really like the art style, which has always been important for me in a comic. Ugly and generic art is one of the reasons I've drifted away from comics in the first place. I also like the characters, and the story is shaping up nicely. It was a bit of a hodgepodge of stuff at the start, but it always seemed to work, and it seems like the author has settled in to a story (but still with a lot of nice side stuff).

44. Giraffe, by Edgar Williams

Just another Animal book. Not much to say. But this is the book that sort of did it for the Animal series for me. Rather, it was the next one I'd checked out, Pigeon. I just realized that I don't want to read about all of these animals. Yes, I'll read Fox, happily, but Fly? Cockroach? I'm happy somebody wrote them, and I'm sure many people will read and enjoy them, but I won't be one of them. So now there's only a few more Animal books left for me to read. Yay!

I've been doing my reading list a "favor" lately and binging on YA book blogs. What a horribly, terribly bad idea. My list has now topped 530 books to be read. I currenly have a 22 month turnaround time from when I add a book to the list and when I read it. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, look at all those books! On the other hand, look at all those books!
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39. Coal: A Human History, by Barbara Freese

Another commodity biography, yay! A quick read, pretty well-written. And, contrary to some reviews I saw (most of which were admittedly from mining families) about as fair as one could be without being terribly biased. It isn't biased to spend a significant proportion of the book talking about the health and environmental issues related to heavy coal use. It's reality.

40. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

I've seen the movie before, back when I was binging on classic SF. I think I saw it the day after I watched 2001 for the first time. Anyways, the book is indeed very much like the movie, or vice versa. A finely crafted work about a thoroughly reprehensible person. It does remind me a little of American Psycho, but more topically than anything else. For one, I hated American Psycho. The non-gore segments were flat-out boring 80s narcissism, and difficult to read through, and the gore was so far over the top that it was impossible for me to read. What A Clockwork Orange has that American Psycho doesn't is Nasdat. And it's not just the barely decipherable slang, though that's obviously a big part of the book's legacy. There's something about how the language flows that keeps you going (it helps that there's a lack of loving, overly graphic descriptions of the violence- it's vaguer, and has more impact aside from just grossing you out). Burgess is just a better writer, I'd say. Oh, and a note- the final, 21st chapter is omitted from most editions, since it was gone from the first American edition and therefore doesn't factor into the movie. The movie, and most books available now, end at chapter 20. And well they should. The 21st chapter doesn't leave the reader with nearly the impact that the 20th does. The American publishers that insisted on cutting it were right. I don't often say that a book is better off abridged, but this is one.

41. The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber

I read this based off the lovingly enthusiastic reviews of Neil Gaiman, and I'm very glad I did. It's very much a fairy tale, which I love. After I finished it, I thought of Phillip Pullman's equally fairy tale-like, and equally wonderful, Clockwork, and I wondered if Pullman inspired Thurber at all. Maybe not, but I love both.

Books 34-38

Mar. 9th, 2011 11:43 pm
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34. Faberge's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire, by Toby Faber

I've been fascinated in the Imperial Faberge eggs since I first played Shadow Hearts: Covenant. One of the party members is Anastasia Romanov (yes, really) and her weapons are Faberge eggs (yes, really!). I was surprised at how many of them were (however loosely) based on real Imperial eggs. I really enjoyed this book, getting to learn the backstory behind all of these eggs. Most of them are beautiful, some of them are a little gaudy, but all of them are masterfully crafted. The story of the eggs after Revolution is every bit as interesting as their Imperial history.

35. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

I like Bradbury, but from reading this book, I decided that I'm much more of a fan of his short stories. I read There Will Come Soft Rains almost fifteen years ago, and it still sticks with me. Bradbury's style, that works so well in short stories, tends to drag a bit in full length novels. I felt the same about Fahrenheit 451 when I read that years ago. That said, there's still much that's brilliant about it, and it's prodded me to (someday) make a much greater effort to read more of his short fiction.

36. Beating Heart, by A. M. Jenkins

An interesting not-love story between a live boy and a dead girl. Evan's just moved into an old house with his family and starts having dreams about a beautiful girl, the ghost. The book alternates between his perspective, in prose, and the perspective of the ghost, Cora, in verse. It actually works. Cora's sections give just the right sense of being insubstantial, and Evan does sound like a real teenage boy. Not that many of those in paranormal YA anymore. They all sparkle and stuff.

37. Cow, by Hannah Velten
38. Duck, by Victoria Rijke

Not much new to say about this series at this point. Cow felt a little sparse, but of course the topic is so big. Duck was a little disjointed. Not a favorite of mine. And any book about ducks in relation to human culture is incomplete without a mention of Scrooge McDuck anyways.
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27. Falcon, by Helen Macdonald
28. Bee, by Claire Preston
29. Otter, by Daniel Allen
30. Snake, by Drake Stutesman

Another batch of Animal books. I'm moving through them quickly, as long as I can keep them coming from the library. This was another good batch. I hate snakes, but I still think they're beautiful, and very interesting to read about. Birds of prey are, of course, fascinating. I've long had a soft spot for books about bees and honey. And how can you not love a book with lots of lovely pictures of otters?

31. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

I had never read a book by Agatha Christie before. Oh, I saw Mousetrap when I was in London, but that hardly counts, especially since I can't remember what happened in the end. This was probably a good choice for a first Christie, since I loved it and added a bunch more of her books to my queue right away. You know, I'm not much of a mystery reader, but this one certainly worked for me.

32. The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, From Samurai to Supermarket, by Trevor Corson

This book was later republished as The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice. Neither is an accurate representation of the actual content of the book. Expecting a nice history of sushi? You won't really get it. Instead, it's mostly about one particular class of an American sushi school that trains sushi chefs in three months. There are scattered bits of historical information about sushi, and practical information about fish in general, but they're drowned out by the school storyline. This wouldn't have been so bad if it were entirely focused on the actually interesting students. Takumi, say, a former Japanese pop idol turned chef who has already mastered Italian cooking. Or the Danish ex-supermodel. Or the (never named) pregnant woman who is unable to actually eat what she makes (she spits it out). Or anybody, really, except Kate. I'm not sure why the author chose to focus on her, except that she's cute (he's quite eager that we know exactly what she wears in her off hours, especially that it's tight). She doesn't know that much about sushi when she starts- she thinks bonito flakes are bacon. She doesn't know anything at all about cooking. She's so afraid of her knives she holds them at the very tip of the handle. I have no idea how she didn't cut something off of herself, holding her knives like that for over two months of the three month class. She's shocked- shocked!- and disgusted to learn that she'll have to cut up a whole fish. She wants to be a sushi chef because it's yummy, she likes interacting with people, and she has absolutely nothing else to do with her life. Now, I'm happy that she's apparently doing well now. But when I read about food, I want to see someone who is talented and devoted, not somebody who bungles her way to competence. I guess she's still a sushi chef. She's probably also learned that, when you comment on, your username appears with your comment, and it is therefore not a good idea to claim that you are your own hero when somebody criticizes your portrayal in a book.

33. The Black Book of Secrets, by F. E. Higgins

Interesting premise: the main character attaches himself to a pawnbroker who deals in secrets. The pawnbroker himself is a pretty secretive character, and it's not until late in the book that everything comes out. I understand there are companion books, and I'll have to look those up. I'd almost consider this magical realism, just from the very heavy hand of fate in the events of the book.
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22. Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan

I loved the Percy Jackson books, and I liked the first book in the new Half-Bloods series. This one just didn't do it for me. It's written well enough, but I just don't think this series is for me. I'll probably read the rest, but I'll really be hoping for the next book with the demigods. It's probably partly because I've never cared all that much for Egyptian mythology, and partly because I just don't like Carter and Sadie as much as I have his other protagonists. Nothing against Carter, but he's no Percy or Jason, and Sadie is no Annabeth or Piper. The baboon probably wasn't helping matters any.

23. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, by Iain Gately

The entire history of alcohol in 500 pages? It's very thin in spots, of course, but that's because it's just trying to fit in way too much. An enjoyable read, but I probably would have liked it even more if I hadn't already read full-length books on whiskey, rum, gin, wine and absinthe already. I certainly read a lot of books on booze for somebody who doesn't drink.

24. Moose, by Kevin Jackson
25. Horse, by Elaine Walker
26. Penguin, by Stephen Martin

A good set of the Animal books. Horse could use a little more space to fully develop, but I've got a longer book lined up for that.
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17. Owl, by Desmond Morris
18. Spider, by Katarzyna Michalski
19. Rhinoceros, by Kelly Enright
20. Parrot, by Paul Carter

More of the same, really. I especially liked Owl, because I love owls. Spider was hard to read, since I hate spiders and there were waaaaaaaaay too many pictures for my taste. Parrot was somewhat dull: too much of that philosophical rambling. If it were much longer, I wouldn't have finished it.

21. Beans: A History, by Ken Albala

I think this may be the first non-Reaktion food history I've read this year. Very enjoyable. It made me hungry for chili, which is good in a book about beans. And I did make chili, and it was good. At any rate, it's divided into chapters based on type of bean, which means that some chapters were way longer than others. Probably the best way to do it, though.
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Think I'll ever get around to posting these at shorter intervals? Me either.

12. Peacock, by Christine Jackson
13. Elephant, by Dan Wylie
14. Whale, by Joe Roman
15. Lion, by Deidre Jackson

Now that I've read five books in the Animal series, I think I can give a general impression of them. They usually start out with a chapter or two dealing with the animal on an evolutionary and biological level. For me, the most boring part. Then they move on to the animal in relation with humans: folklore, mythology, customs, fine arts, and historical interactions with. The proportions aren't constant, and seem to make sense with the focus animal. There's a lot more focus on peacocks in fine art than lions, for example, and a lot less about peacock hunting. I like them for what I guess you'd call the social history aspect. So far, Peacock is my favorite book in the series.

16. The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas (Not the edition I read, but close enough.)

I expected to like this, and I did. I was pleasantly surprised by how much more nuanced the book is than the many movie versions: the cardinal is not unmitigated evil and the four protagonists are not always noble. I'd never read anything by Dumas before, and I'm sure I will again. (I have read Lady of the Camellias by Dumas fils, and it was excellent.)
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8. Milk: A Global History, by Hannah Velten
9. Tea: A Global History, by Helen Saberi
10. Cavier: A Global History, by Nichola Fletcher
11. Curry: A Global History, by Colleen Taylor Sen

These were the last four books in the Edible series that have been published so far. There's four more coming out in a month or so, and if you believe the coming attractions at the front of the books, many more than that. Of these four, the only foodstuff I've not read a longer book on already was Cavier, and I don't know that one exists. I read the tea book so long ago that I don't really remember it. The milk book was very, very much like this one, just longer. And the curry book had been focused on curry in India and in England, while this one was delightfully global. All in all, I've greatly enjoyed this series, and I hope that some of the more interesting titles end up getting published. (Porridge!)

And the one I couldn't finish: Thames: The Biography, by Peter Ackroyd

I came to read the history of the river, not wade through Ackroyd's philosophical ramblings. I got 100 pages in and realized I couldn't bear to read the next 250.
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Well, I'm doing good so far on the reading, not so much on the journaling. I'll work on that!

1. The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan
So, this is the first book in the companion series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Which I loved. A lot. Just like I loved this one. Still great characters, mostly new. Piper especially. One thing I really liked about the Percy Jackson books is that Riordan knows his mythology, and he plays fair. If you know Greek myths, you'll understand a lot more a lot faster. (My circulation of books on Greek mythology has spiked since my students started reading them. Yay!) The same holds true in this book, but you need Roman mythology, too. And I'm terrible with Roman myths, so I need to brush up before the next book comes out in the fall.

2. Whiskey: A Global History, by Kevin R. Kosar
3. Cake: A Global History, by Nicola Humble
4. Sandwich: A Global History, by Bee Wilson
5. Chocolate: A Global History, by Sarah Moss and Alexander Badenoch
Not too much special to say about these. All good examples of the series, of course. I especially liked Sandwich. These books really work best when they're unique. I don't know of any other history of the sandwich, for example, and I really enjoyed that one. If you've read a more in-depth history of a food substance (like chocolate) it starts to feel a little thin. Still, very enjoyable reads, the lot of them.

6. The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor
I regret this one. The basic premise is that the story of Alice in Wonderland is based on the true story of Alice Liddell, who is really Alyss Heart, princess and rightful heir to the throne of Wonderland. And that's about all that deserves to be said about the plot of the book. Everything about this book is so cookie cutter that it smells faintly of gingerbread. The plot is standard and unremarkable. The villain, Redd, is a boring collection of cliches. It shamelessly steals the concept of the Force and turns it into White and Black Imagination, which effectively makes the only two characters who can use it properly, Redd and Alyss, nearly invincible. I have the very distinct impression that it was originally written as a vanilla fantasy, with one Wonderland inspired character (Hatter Madigan, the only one who's even remotely interesting) and the other Wonderland references were added in later. They, too, are so thin that you need to be told outright that they're meant to be allusions. Take Bibwit Harte, for example. He's meant to be an allusion to the White Rabbit. The only commonality is that his name is an anagram for White Rabbit. He's not even actually a rabbit! Or General Doppelganger, who can split into Generals Doppel and Ganger. Tweedledee and Tweedledum, of course. Even the author knows that the parallels between them are almost nonexistent, because he patiently explains them, at length. Of course, he had to eventually cut his explanation of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, because he didn't do his research and didn't know that they're from Through the Looking Glass, not Alice in Wonderland. There's another thing. I love the Alice books, but I get the impression that Beddor doesn't like them much. He doesn't seem to know that much about them, for one, and his tone is always hostile when he refers to them. The prologue has Alice calling them "stupid nonsense". Not the best way to introduce to your book to someone who thinks that the Alice books are quite clever nonsense. The writing can be surprisingly juvenile. Outside of comics, there's no reason to write "ARRRRRRRGGGGHHHH" instead of using your words to describe what it sounded like. Sure, it's a scream, but is it a scream of rage, of frustration, terror, what? And then (last thing!) there's how he treats the real Liddell family. He alters their family history to suit his purposes (making Alice adopted, for example, and nearly marrying her off to Prince Leopold). And then, the kicker. Once Alice has returned to Wonderland, she thinks about the entirely loving family in England that she's spent thirteen years with and says to herself that she's come to love them, as one might come to love kindly captors. Charming. The Liddells were real people, and the only reason that we know their name today is because of the family connection to the Alice books. They deserve better, all of them. The cover is nice, but those robots sure do look familiar...

7. Cat, by Katharine M. Rogers
So, the Global History food books I've been reading? This is the same publisher's series on animals. Same basic concept, a concise and readable history of a particular animal. Very focused on social history, which is fine. I'm more interested in that than the biological history anyways. This series is massive, and I'm looking forward to some of the more unique books. (Eel! Giraffe! Cockroach!).
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I'm playing my second run on Oblivion. I know it's only my second in a full year, but I play a lot of different games! This time, I'm playing a Breton thief and assassin. She graduated to assassin after a robbery gone wrong, of course. Level 17, but very close to 18. I've gotten to the point in the Dark Brotherhood quest where I'm supposed to be killing my entire cell. And I'm putting it off. I really like those people! I've finished off the thief quests, though. Sooooo much fun. I think I really did much better at them this time around. I did have a little problem with Ocato hanging around in the last one, but a couple potions of invisibility at least got me through the fireplace unscathed. I'm also filthy stinking rich, probably partly because I'm not buying and furnishing all of the houses this time around.

Oblivion has also become my favorite winter game. My first run was last year, in the winter. We ended up having ten days called off for snow, and several others late. So I could play more Oblivion, naturally. Now I'm playing again, and we've already had five snow days and one late day/early dismissal. (My Northern background snickers at the Chicken Little-ing over an inch or two of snow, but I'll take the days off with pay!) Naturally, I'll be playing again next winter. In fact, I hereby declare Oblivion the Official Video Game of Winter.
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What's the word for really good Pokemon luck? Because I seem to have gotten it. My friend [ profile] allete got me a used copy of Pearl for Christmas, and got herself a used copy of Diamond. Imagine our surprise when we booted them up today and discovered both had complete Pokedexes.

Ok, so they didn't have all of the Pokemon still. We're not that lucky! But between the two, we have four event Pokemon (Darkrei, Shaymin, Manaphy, and Arceus), a bunch of legendary Pokemon (including three Giratana, Palkia, Dialga, Ho-Oh, Kyogre, Rayquaza, Entei), a few Eevee evolutions (Flareon, Glaceon, Jolteon, Leafeon), and several starters (Torterra, Infernape, Blaziken, Larvitar, Chikorita, Chimchar, Typhlosion) and all of the Regi- series. There's also an unhatched egg in one of the games, and who knows what that could be. Needless to say, there won't be any new games on either for awhile. We're planning on transferring the good ones from Pearl into Diamond, since Diamond has more nice ones, and using that as a Pokemon treasure chest. I think every type is represented by at least one high level Pokemon, with a lot of level 100s thrown in there. This is going to make completing my Pokedex a lot easier.
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Hope everyone's had a great Christmas so far. Mine's been wonderful. My knitted gifts seemed to go over really well, even the ones for my teenage cousins. I got some Pokemon games for Christmas, and I started playing HeartGold today. I haven't played in years, but it didn't take long for the old addiction to come back. Which lead to me spending hours looking for a Hoothoot.

I've also kept reading, of course:

A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans and A Treasury of Great American Scandals, both by Michael Farquhar: I'm grouping these two together because they're so similar. They're both in that genre of popular history that is entirely made up of shorter vignettes that don't really relate to each other. Enjoyable to read, but somewhat lacking in substance. I read the author's Treasury of Royal Scandals a few years ago, and liked it well enough to eventually add his other books to my list (I'll be reading A Treasury of Deception next). I liked Foolishly Forgotten Americans more, because there's actually more of substance in there. (Though what Anne Bonny was doing in there, I don't know. I wouldn't call her forgotten, not the way that everyone else has been.)

Fly by Night, by Frances Hardinge: Ok, I admit it: I basically read this book because of the Brett Helquist art on the cover. I was disappointed to discover that was all he contributed: no interior illustrations. At any rate, the book has a very interesting and unique (to me, at least) premise. It uses the English Revolution as a sort of starting point, the main divergence being that, revolution over, Parliament is given half a dozen or so contenders to become the new monarch and twenty years later, they still haven't decided. Individual cities are ruled by the trade guilds and by whatever lord holds the territory. Strict censorship is in effect: only books approved by the Stationers Guild can be read. The main character is a girl named Mosca (that's her and her stolen goose, Saracen) on the cover. She finds herself mixed up in political machinations in the city of Mandelion. And that's about the best I can do with a fairly complicated plot. I'll probably read more by the author, since it was well-written. And I'll certainly be reading the book she used as reference: 1700: Scenes from London Life. You know, someday.

Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix: This is the first book in the Missing series. I've heard really, really good things about this book, and they're all true. I almost read it in one sitting, not bad for a 300 page book. A plane mysteriously appears at an airport, carrying only 36 babies. No pilot, no crew, no adults at all. As soon as the babies are unloaded, the plane vanishes again. Thirteen years later, Jonah (adopted) and his new friend Chris (also adopted, though he doesn't know it at the beginning of the story) start getting strange (identical) messages, and begin researching their adoptions to find some strange things. The mystery of who they really are and where they really came from is (mostly) solved by the end of the book, but there's still a lot left to cover. I'll be reading the rest of this series.
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It's been a bit, but in my defense, I haven't really been on much the last week. Anyways, I've read three books since.

I am Legend, by Richard Matheson: Another of those classics of speculative fiction I'm trying to crack away at. And it was quite good. Foretold pretty much the entire zombie genre, even though it's about vampires. And quite an ending. The copy I read had ten more short stories afterwards, (Hell House was not one of them) which were a mixed bag. It seemed that the shorter the story, the better it was. I skipped the last few entirely.

Soup: A Global History, by Janet Clarkson: This is part of a series I've been reading on: Edibles, published by Reaktion Books. All of the books are very similar: 100-150 pages of pretty solid and very readable history of one particular food item, nicely illustrated and written by somebody knowledgeable. The covers all look about the same, too. The more I've read previously on a specific subject, the more I can see how it's just scratching the surface (Spices, for example, was more than a bit vague in spots.) but it's good for an introduction or for food items for which there is no more comprehensive history. Pancakes, for example. I'm obsessed with food history, so I read a lot of books like this.

Skin, by Adrienne Maria Vrettos: The other books I've seen by the author fall into the realm of the fantastic, so this seems quite a departure to me. The main character is the younger brother (Donnie) of an anorexic girl (Karen) whose death scene is the first chapter. Then we're shuffled back in time to (almost) watch the progress. This is the only YA book I know of that deals with the issue of eating disorders from the perspective of a close family member, not the person dealing with it. Which is a good thing, and a bad thing. A book from this perspective was sorely needed, and when it deals directly with Karen it's very, very good. But Donnie is flat out obnoxious. I don't want his perspective, because I don't want to deal with him. His issues (many of them of his own making) distract away from what I felt should have been the main point of the book: Karen, how it affects his family (this also hamstrung by a breaking-up-the-family plot with a pretty nasty father), and what happens after she's gone. When the book is focused on that, it's excellent, and makes a good counterpart for Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, which was probably the best YA I read all year.
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