keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
The Fifth Elephant
by Terry Pratchett
321 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

My friend, who is a fellow ardent Pratchett fan, thrust this library book into my hands with the damning words, "Carrot and Angua." I didn't have the time to read it, but I did anyway, because those two are just that cute.

This is one stop amongst many on the Discworld tour; my fannishness started with Small Gods, which I of course highly recommend. I find it difficult to describe the novel without resorting to Discworld shorthand, but let me try... Carrot is a long-lost heir who has contrived to remain lost, a six-foot-tall dwarf, and a scarily good person. Angua is a female werewolf with--interesting--familial relations. Together they fight petty crime and treason as members of the Watch, and are all-around awesome.

That's not quite right; it makes the book sound like a thriller, which it's not, though there is a fascinating mystery element of the plot. So, um, in Discworld shorthand: Carrot/Angua in Uberwald, with a healthy dose of Vimes and politics, plus a sprinkling of Vetinari on top.

I have realized what I love so much about Terry Pratchett, to the point where he deserves a place in my personal gallery next to Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner, and George R.R. Martin: he is consistently great. (Sylvia Kelso and Alison Sinclair have the potential for greatness, with Amberlight/Riversend and Darkborn respectively, but they haven't proven consistency yet.) There are some Pratchett books that I adore, some that I love, some that I merely like... but each has enthralled me as I read them for the first time. A rare and valuable quality, consistency--few authors can I trust as I trust Pratchett to always write a worthwhile book.
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* Via Dave Wolverton's email list, how to sketch a novel in an hour (a free writing exercise). I'm going to try this tonight, hopefully--the Snowflake Method is a bit too overwhelming when I've only got a tiny inkling of what's going on.

* [ profile] yhlee and [ profile] rachelmanija have launched [ profile] springfluff, "a no-stress, no-deadline fandom gift exchange"!

* Why skilled immigrants are leaving the United States--the same reason why my father, who has a Ph.D. and is a Canadian citizen (so not even from the high-immigrant countries of China and India), waited five years to receive permanent residency.

* Jo Walton ([ profile] papersky) on real world reading for fantasy writers. An old link, but obviously still relevant.

* The Bush Administration's memos regarding the War on Terror.

* For Asian faces, M. Night Shyamalan goes to Virginia--not the most informed news article ever, but it does give [ profile] aang_aint_white much-needed press coverage.

* Via [ profile] yhlee, Cake Wrecks on the problem with phone orders. Laugh-out-loud funny.

* Did you know there's a Discworld MUD? I haven't tried it yet, but it tempts me...
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* A NYT article on what carriers aren't eager to tell you about texting.

* JournalSpace loses everything in a malicious database wipe--this is why mirroring is not a backup solution, folks.

* Terry Pratchett is knighted for services to literature!

* Another NYT article, this one relevant to ableism, which I don't know enough about. Assistance animals now come in all shapes and sizes

* Via Dear Author: LJ has sent out a reassuring message, of course, but at this point I don't know how much to believe them. 12 of 28 employees have been axed. I've backed up everything with LJArchive, and I also hear that LJ-Sec is good.

* To end on a brighter note, via [ profile] yhlee: 50 modern and creative bookshelf designs.
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* Strange Horizons has a wonderful column on genre boundaries.

* [ profile] varkat on 10 epic fantasy themes we don't see enough [of].

* A cool cheatsheet on the major publishing imprints.

* SF Signal presents various contributors' favorite F/SF subgenres.

* I'm finally reading xkcd, and the fiction rule of thumb is beautiful.

* A moving article on contemporary human bondage.

* [ profile] copperwise on politics and Joe Six-Pack.

* [ profile] rachelmanija asks for manga donations to benefit a Native American reservation. I should probably send those two random volumes of Prince of Tennis that are gathering dust on my bookshelf--I love POT, but it's not something one rereads.

* I weep for Terry Pratchett, and am ashamed of it because I know he wouldn't want my pity.

* Top ten weirdest bible verses. I really need to read the danged thing front-to-back someday. It'd definitely be interesting to analyze from a literature, and atheist, perspective.

* What happens if you're locked out of Gmail? Eek.
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Night Watch
by Terry Pratchett
338 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

I'm apparently on a Pratchett binge; only The Light Fantastic is left at the local branch though, and hopefully I will resist requesting until I work through some of my personal TBR backlog. Annoyingly common typos in this volume as well; which speaks to sloppy copyediting. I hear this is the first Vimes book; if so, I"m surprised. It seems to hint at an uncommon amount of backstory and would be an awkward introduction. A great book for development of Vimes's character and discovering his history, but I'm more interested in the here-and-now characters. That said, I love the glimpses of young Havelock Vetinari--where is his aunt now? And I really want to read a Vetinari book, one that actually centers on him. Vetinari seems to be in the margins of everything, but never smack in the center foreground. I suppose that's appropriate.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Terry Pratchett
373 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

Damn title made me commit a sin of punctuation, up in the subject. Sigh.

I'm on a Pratchett binge, which will have to stop soon because my local library branch only has one more unread Pratchett on the shelf (Night Watch). Anyway, Thud! is about a historic troll-dwarf conflict, but also about werewolves vs. vampires, Vetinari vs. the rest of the political world, the Watchman vs. the Dark, good vs. evil (always, in this case often the same side), and Sam Vimes not-vs. Young Sam. Where's My Cow? is so cute, and I believe Pratchett has actually published it as a children's picture book. Hee.

I did notice several typos in this, which speaks to sloppy copyediting. Tsk tsk. The mystery plot was nicely suspenseful, and I'm now madly curious about the past histories of Nobbs, Carrot, Angua, and Vimes. Light, engrossing read; I think I personally prefer Monstrous Regiment, though.
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Monstrous Regiment
by Terry Pratchett
353 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

A lovely, quick read that I needed; a refreshing break from Jon Krakuer's Into Thin Air and Valente (which I finally started reading). Polly Perks decides one day to enlist in the army, to find her brother Paul. Her country Borogravia, which is ruled by a dead Duchess and worships an officially insane god named Nuggan, happens to have involved itself in yet another war. This time Ankh-Morpork is also drawn into the conflict, and I get my first glimpse at the legendary Commandar Vimes. (Yes, I haven't read any of the Vimes books yet. Soon.) Of course, Borogravia prides itself on being strictly fundamentalist, aided by the regular issue of Nuggan's Abominations appendix. Polly finds herself now called "Oliver," nicknamed "Ozzy," and her squadmates are not quite whom they seem either. This Discworld book is a satire of religion and gender roles, which Pratchett draws often upon; some of my plot suspicions were confirmed but others were turned and twisted like only Pratchett can. The ending, especially, has a drawn-out falling action that actually works.

It's difficult to discuss the story without spoilers, so scissors please!

Major book-destroying spoilers )

Lovely; in fact, almost equal to Small Gods, which remains my favorite Discworld novel. I think I'll end up favoring the Ankh-Morpork mini-verse over the witches'.
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End of my booklog-spam; let all rejoice!

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
412 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

This has been on my to-read list, but it probably would have languished there for a while longer if I hadn't happened to spot it on A.'s bookshelf (due also to, I'll be reading A Great and Terrible Beauty soon). Bias calibration: out of Gaiman's works, I've only read Stardust; I adore Pratchett. That said, I'll be seeking out Gaiman's other novels that I've previously avoided because their descriptions didn't interest me.

The plot of Good Omens is extremely scatterbrained, but everything clicks together in the end. Be prepared to do some rifling (or better yet, rereading) for full understanding of the authors' genius. Some books are made to read only once; this one can and ought to be read hundreds of times. There are some absolutely hilarious lines, which I won't spoil by quoting out of context. I love Aziraphale and Crowley equally--fitting, isn't it? Death here, named Azrael, is similar to but different from Pratchett's Discworld Death.

I'm sure one can find fanatical fans; I'm not quite to that level, but I do wish they had made this into a movie instead of Stardust. Like Douglas Adams's A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this is a true cult classic and deserves the visual interpretation. (For the record, I haven't seen the film versions of either and could not finish the complete Hitchhiker's Guide without skimming.)
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Making Money
by Terry Pratchett
394 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

Slowly, ever so slowly, I am making my way through Terry Pratchett. The plot in this newest tale is highly tangential, but Pratchett's characteristic style kept me sufficiently amused throughout. My favorite parts were the Cabinet of Curiosities, the golems, and Vetinari (of course). On page 353, there is one line about Mr. Slant that has me confused: "Death had not diminished his encyclopedic memory, his guile, his talent for corkscrew reasoning, and the vitriol of his stare." How is Mr. Slant dead in any way, shape, or form?

The plot is supposedly about Moist von Lipwig's adventures as the master of the mint; this is true, but it's also the story of a rich madman, the Golem Trust, and the overarching character throughlines of Vetinari and Moist (with hints of Adora Belle Dearheart, whom I adore). In short, the plot falls all over the place, and that's fine for me--whether you're okay with it, determines whether this counts as a rec or not.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy/Humor
323 pages

Pratchett writes mostly adult satiritical fantasy, but he also dabbles in YA. Wintersmith is sequel to A Hat Full of Sky, which in turn was sequel to The Wee Free Men. Each book can stand alone, ut it's better to read them in order if you have a choice. I did, for once, and it creates a wonderful feeling of continuity.

Anyway, in this volume TIffany Aching, a young witch, is thirteen and catches the eye of the Wintersmith when she accidentally joins a Dark Morris dance and takes the Summer Lady's place. All the usual character reappear--Granny Weatherwax, Granny Ogg, Miss Tick, Roland, and (of course) the Wee Free Men.

Prose is unobtrusive and Pratchett hasn't lost his magic touch for humor. Dialect is handed beautifully, even in distinguishing between different "little blue men." There are also a few references to Discworld, such as a mention of the Omnians (Small Gods). It's quite nice to read a YA novel with good, experienced writing. You can just slip into the story and quiet the nagging little critic voice (which is something else I love--Tiffany's First, Second, and Third Thoughts). Crivens!

Ate a lot of egg cake so I'd be awake enough to collab with my partner for the English paper outline. I'm not that sleepy, so might as well type up reviews.
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Wrote these a while back in one of my many half-used junk notebooks... might as well type it up now.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett (323 pages, paperback): A-
Genre: Fantasy/Satire
I love Pratchett to pieces for his unfailing ability to make me LOL--laugh out loud. Many times I've picked up one of his books and hesitated after reading the description, but I've never regretted it. This particular Discworld novel is about Teppic, a teenage boy who trains to become an assassin, only to be forced into a powerless role as pharaoh and god of a tiny country obessed with tradition and pyramids. There's the obligatory love interest, of course, but Ptraci is her own person and the ending is quite original. A hilarious satire of the real world--I loved the intimacy of laughing at the inside jokes. Fantasy is also cleverly woven in, mainly concerning the ingenious pyramids. In fact, the only negative aspect of this book is the cover, a cliche magenta-and-cyan mess. I dunno, maybe that's a Brit thing. XD

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (353 pages, hardcover): A-
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
This book opens with a shocking death and then travels back in time to revisit Ali's brutal childhood and upbringing. I cried at certain parts; it's amazingly poignant. Ali tells her story eloquently, and gives background when needed, from Islamic submission and genital mutilation to politics and feminist movements--she isn't afraid to reveal the painful truth of life in other parts of the world. Highly recommended for anyone who is willing to try non-fiction once in a while. I''ve added her book of essays, The Caged Virgin, to my library to-read list; I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I don't find it repugnant either. Infidel is a great example of why I still read memoirs.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

Parents and sis have gone off to Brandywine Zoo, so I have uninterrupted computer time for a few hours. Whee! Here's a book review I wrote in my notebook two days ago.

That was fun.


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January 2011



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