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  #681  
Old 23 December 2015, 09:42 PM
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Right now I'm working on Living In The Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism by David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon. It's about the lives of people who work in clinics that provide abortions in the US and what they've actually had to endure as a result of right-wing terrorism* against them. Unsurprisingly, it's not a terribly uplifting read.

*One of the first things the book does is talk about just how hard it is to get anti-abortion extremist actions labeled as terrorism in the US.
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  #682  
Old 23 December 2015, 11:11 PM
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It shouldn't be that hard--a lot of these shootings and bombings seem to fit the definition, but I guess there's a lot of politics around it.

Quote:
"Domestic terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investi...ism-definition

Did you hear the Fresh Air interview with the author on NPR? I thought it sounds like an interesting book, but I haven't read it yet.
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  #683  
Old 24 December 2015, 01:56 AM
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Yeah, that's where I first heard of the book. And one of the things discussed was that there was a report put out by some government agency (the FBI?) that referred to anti-abortion terrorism but was forced to change it in the final draft. It's very political- as soon as there's a shooting of any kind, if the perpetrator is brown, they're called a terrorist (see San Bernardino), but if they're white there's a rush to label them as "disturbed," "mentally ill," or otherwise not a terrorist no matter how obviously politically motivated the attack was.
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  #684  
Old 07 January 2016, 11:11 PM
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Weird, I've been reading loads since my last post, but I seem to have already mentioned all but two of the books that I've finished...

I was being unfair to Thesiger when I called him an imperial throwback. He doesn't neatly fit into a stereotype, but he certainly wasn't racist in the way that an imperial traveller would have been in those situations. Arabian Sands is an interesting book, especially as it demonstrates just how recently the oil money and its associated US corporate influence has arrived in Arabia / the UAE, and the huge changes it's made. Thesiger visits Abu Dhabi and Dubai around 1950, and although there are oil company reps sniffing around, they're both still small, not very rich fishing villages. The people who gained power in those areas weren't the popular tribal leaders or the best representatives, they were the people with a bit of tribal power who were prepared to make deals with American (and presumably European, but Thesiger mostly mentions the Americans) oil companies... The inter-tribal squabbles he describes are basically still going on, but on a much larger and more dangerous scale because we've sold everybody modern weapons. And even back in the 1940s and 50s you get the impression from the book that the most dangerous, least pleasant people around in that area were the Saudis and Wahhabists. He doesn't go into this stuff in a lot of depth, other than to say that he's saddened by the changes that he can see are about to happen, because it's mostly irrelevant to what he was doing, except as something that's going on at the fringes. Some of it seems rather prescient though. He could certainly see that there were bad things waiting to happen, even if he couldn't predict the scale of them.

Anyway, I also read Revival by Stephen King, which was enjoyable but somewhat underwhelming until the end. Nice beginning and ending, but I couldn't really get behind the bad guy as a bad guy, because despite being rather cynical at times, he often seemed to be right... his "evil schemes" effectively only involved trying to help people with stuff that hadn't been tested long-term, but he was studying it himself and he seemed to be right that it had a pretty good record compared to many drug side-effects and so on. It was a good read even though I thought the narrator was over-egging things rather.

I also started to read The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb, and have finished Ship of Magic and just started The Mad Ship. I found these much better than the Assassin / Farseer trilogy. Ship of Magic was great. Although I still found it annoying, I was being annoyed legitimately by (some of) the annoying characters, rather than by everybody's general cluelessness and lack of direction, as in the first trilogy. The characters in this are flawed but are all behaving quite understandably according to their own perspectives, even the most annoying one. The generally awful decisions that led to the plot are disguised somewhat because as a reader you don't know quite how bad they are until later, which means it's easier to let off the characters that made them, even though some of those characters should probably have known they were awful decisions at the time. Unlike the first trilogy, I found it believable enough to overlook that.

I'm reading The Wreck of the Golden Mary by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and others, which is the 1856 Christmas Special of Household Words. It's based around a shipwreck and goes surprisingly well with the Liveship series. A quote from Dickens's own bit, after they've nicknamed a three-year-old blonde girl called Lucy:

Quote:
So, we had the Golden Lucy and the Golden Mary, and John kept up the idea to that extent as he and the child went playing about the decks, that I believe she used to think the ship was alive somehow - a sister or companion, going to the same place as herself. She liked to be by the wheel, and in fine weather, I have often stood by the man whose trick it was at the wheel, only to hear her, sitting near my feet, talking to the ship.
It's a bit of a grim Christmas book though. Lucy dies of exposure and starvation after the ship hits an iceberg and sinks, and unlike most times when Dickens kills small children, he does it pretty abruptly (he's not got many pages to work with) and without any obvious sentimental purpose or moral except to prove to a nasty old man that God's not protecting him. Most of the stories also involve people arbitrarily murdering each other or dying in the aftermath of the wreck or elsewhere, too. Perhaps it was meant to make people sitting at home by their cosy Christmas fire feel glad that they weren't freezing and starving to death in an open lifeboat in the north Atlantic...

Here's another quote from Dickens's bit (again, this was written in 1856), just so I can find it easily the next time somebody at work complains about email as a modern phenomenon:

Quote:
I have heard it broached that orders should be given in great new ships by electric telegraph. I admire machinery as much as any man, and am as thankful to it as any man can be for what it does for us. But, it will never be a substitute for the face of a man, with his soul in it, encouraging another man to be brave and true. Never try it for that. It will break down like a straw.
I've still not finished the History of the Arab People, either.

Last edited by Richard W; 07 January 2016 at 11:38 PM. Reason: Added Wilkie Collins, because even though he's not named as an author on the cover, he wrote more of it than Dickens
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  #685  
Old 08 January 2016, 09:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
freezing and starving to death in an open lifeboat in the north Atlantic...
Correction: South Atlantic. Not that it makes much difference.
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  #686  
Old 08 January 2016, 12:12 PM
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I just finished reading Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe. It's a couple of years old, wrapping up it's overview around 2011, but it was pretty interesting. As a comics reader who was never an insider, I only knew what I saw in the books themselves, bolstered by the occasional rumor or the very rare mass-media news report. This put a "face" to a lot of things I'd heard over the years - why various names would come and go, why (starting in the late 80's) big crossover events became so popular, why it was nearly impossible, then so easy, then so difficult, to find a comic book store from the 80's to the present. It brought up a lot of names I knew from the past and gave voice to insights and opinions from those people I'd never heard before.

A good book, given it's narrow scope and particular approach. A bit dry, and does have the occasional not-really-glaring-but-still-noticeable omission. Not for fans looking for info on comic book characters; this is about the company and the creators and owners and management and internal politics.
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  #687  
Old 14 January 2016, 02:09 PM
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"Good night, Mamán" by Norma Fox Mazer.

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  #688  
Old 01 February 2016, 09:21 AM
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Again, I don't seem to have read anything that I've not already mentioned since my last post... I finished the Liveship Traders trilogy, which was really good, but haven't read anything else. I guess the trilogy is fairly long.

Still plodding through Arab history and hoping it will become more specific as it gets towards modernity - it's been very generic so far, all "the farmers lived in the countryside, the lawyers and administrators lived in towns, the merchants made money from trading and the tax collectors collected taxes" which could pretty much apply to anywhere and doesn't really tell you much.

I've just started Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which finally appeared in my local bookshop. Seems entertaining so far, as long as you don't think too hard about the details of his world. (Or side points, like how the narrator can routinely climb 22 stories up and down a rope if he's as fat and unfit as he says). It suffers a bit from the Da Vinci Code problem (not that I've read it, but as I understand it) where if your mass-market book includes puzzles, you have to make them simple enough for dim-witted readers to understand, but doing so makes other readers think, "Hang on, nobody thought of that for five years?" Also a bit "OMG Girls!", although since the narrator is a teenage boy that's understandable.
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  #689  
Old 01 February 2016, 11:26 AM
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Ted Koppel's Lights Out: A Cyber Attack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.

Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling
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  #690  
Old 02 February 2016, 08:24 PM
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I'm reading Under the Skin by Michel Farber.

I saw the movie at Toronto Int'l Film Festival a couple of years ago and absolutely hated it. It was the only movie I've seen at TIFF where people got up and left partway through.

My sister was listening to a podcast about the movie and while the hosts liked the movie, they said the book was much better and there were significant plot points not in the movie. I'm enjoying the book and the story actually makes sense.
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  #691  
Old 02 February 2016, 09:49 PM
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Just finished Ready Player One, and it was great - since I'm bang in the middle of the target audience, I really enjoyed it, despite occasional suspension of disbelief issues.

Now looking forward to the apparent film... Spielberg, eh? That has to be a bit of a coup for a first novel and screenplay!
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  #692  
Old 13 February 2016, 11:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
Just finished Ready Player One, and it was great - since I'm bang in the middle of the target audience, I really enjoyed it, despite occasional suspension of disbelief issues.

Now looking forward to the apparent film... Spielberg, eh? That has to be a bit of a coup for a first novel and screenplay!
It seems like Spielberg is filming in Hard Mode since he's decided to not reference any of his films. Although I'd hope he'd change his mind on the films where he was executive producer. I mean Zemeckis and Gale were far more involved in the day-to-day sausage-making on Back to the Future. Surely one DMC-12 DeLorean wouldn't be that meta.
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  #693  
Old 14 February 2016, 12:37 AM
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Yes, I read that. Since references to his films feature quite prominently in some places, I hope he doesn't cut off his nose to spite his face!

I don't think there was anything plot-critical that depended on a Spielberg reference, but it would be a shame to lose some of the atmosphere. I mean, there's a reason that the book featured quite a lot of Spielberg references with respect to 1980s nostalgia.
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  #694  
Old 27 February 2016, 09:08 PM
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Continuing my tradition of playing catch-up, I finally got and read the most recent two John Scalzi books - Lock In and The End of All Things. As an unabashed Scalzi fan, I don't really know how I managed to wait a year before buying them, but it happened. Well worth the wait, but again, unabashed fan, so possibly my opinion is biased. While it was good to finally reach a conclusion to the Old Man's War series, I enjoyed Lock In more; I seem to like his standalones better (The Android's Dream remains my favorite).

I also read a four-novel urban fantasy series on a friends' borrowed Kindle, the Alastair Stone Chronicles, by R. L. King. A similar feel, I think, to the popular Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, although not the same (stylistically, plot-wise, character-wise, world-building-wise) as them, and not quite the same quality. Still, enjoyable enough.
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  #695  
Old 02 March 2016, 09:21 AM
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In February I read:

Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City by Will Mabbitt - the second Mabel Jones book; definitely recommended for children about 7 - 10. This one is about Mabel's baby sister being kidnapped.

American Notes by Charles Dickens. I kept waiting for all the biased anti-American stuff, but there isn't as much as all that really, in fact a lot of it is very complimentary... he does seem to get more fed up as he goes, and he saves some of it up for the final chapters about slavery, and the summary, but on the whole it seems he got a backlash more because Americans then didn't like to be criticised at all, either. He was apparently supposed to think everything was perfect, and didn't.

Armada by Ernest Cline. I guess this was why Ready Player One was prominently re-released. This was fun but it wasn't as good as Ready Player One. The idea's been done several times before, many of which he actually references, and the "twist" would have been more surprising if it hadn't happened.

Njal's Saga. Lots and lots of vengeance killings and obscure Icelandic legal battles. It's very cinematic in parts - people giving one-liners as they die or just after killing people, competing on insults and doing spectacular stunts like sliding fast on ice past a group of enemies, splitting the leader's skull with an axe on the way through... I learned a lot but it is rather repetitive after a while. For at least the first half, I knew more or less who was who, which side of the feuds they were on and why. By the end, the characters who are unambiguous good guys and leaders of one side or the other are all dead, there are so many characters, many of which have the same names, on at least three sides, and the relationships and grudges have become so tangled that it all becomes a blur of people chopping each other up. And being a saga there are a few rapid jumps to events that are only tangentially connected. I was glad it finally ended with a reconciliation, albeit rather late since almost everybody from the rest of the book was dead by then.

I'm now reading Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger, which is one of the first books about life the trenches to be published after the First World War, based on Jünger's diaries. (He survived the war, and WWII, and died in 1998, aged 102). It's unusual in that it's less filtered than most similar books - he's pretty matter-of-fact about what's happening, and isn't particularly trying to make any wider point or fit his part into anything bigger. So the details are still rather fresh and shocking.

I started it partly because I'm going to Bruges next weekend and we may go on a battlefield tour... but I'm not sure he really gives much geographical detail anyway, and so far he's mostly been in France. Apart from Gallipoli, the battlefield I've read most about in the past is the Somme, which is in France so unlikely to be included in a tour of sites in Flanders. So I guess I will have to take any detailed history from the tour itself, if we do go on one.
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  #696  
Old 05 March 2016, 11:06 AM
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Richard W., it's always cool to hear about what you've been reading. I haven't posted in this thread for quite a while, but your frequent updates are one of the reasons I keep looking at it.
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  #697  
Old 07 March 2016, 08:49 PM
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Thanks! I try to update at least once a month... I like reading back over everybody else's posts as well, every now and then. It's been a bit quieter lately than it was a couple of years ago.

I'm going to have to make a copy of the thread at some point. I keep my own list of all the books I've read but I don't generally write down what I thought of them anywhere other than here.
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  #698  
Old 07 March 2016, 10:14 PM
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After watching The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, I've been reading an old anthology of Irish folklore and fairytales edited by W.B. Yeats. Lots of fun.
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  #699  
Old 12 March 2016, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
In February I read:

Njal's Saga. Lots and lots of vengeance killings and obscure Icelandic legal battles. It's very cinematic in parts - people giving one-liners as they die or just after killing people, competing on insults and doing spectacular stunts like sliding fast on ice past a group of enemies, splitting the leader's skull with an axe on the way through... I learned a lot but it is rather repetitive after a while. For at least the first half, I knew more or less who was who, which side of the feuds they were on and why. By the end, the characters who are unambiguous good guys and leaders of one side or the other are all dead, there are so many characters, many of which have the same names, on at least three sides, and the relationships and grudges have become so tangled that it all becomes a blur of people chopping each other up. And being a saga there are a few rapid jumps to events that are only tangentially connected. I was glad it finally ended with a reconciliation, albeit rather late since almost everybody from the rest of the book was dead by then.
This almost sounds like it was written by George R. R. Martin's many-times great granddad. Although I do think Martin's reputation for killing main characters is a little bit exaggerated.
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Old 13 March 2016, 12:37 PM
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I think he was definitely influenced by the Norse sagas. I mentioned one or two incidents from George Mackay Brown's historical novels about Orkney that are similar to an incident in George RR Martin's books.

I doubt Martin would have read Mackay Brown directly, but Mackay Brown has taken a lot of source material from the Orkneyinga Saga (which I haven't read yet - it's on my shelf) including, I think, the historical event in question. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Martin has read the sagas himself.
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