Friday, December 31, 2010

urs bookmark

According to their website, "URS Corporation is a leading provider of engineering, construction and technical services for public agencies and private sector companies around the world." What does this mean? Well, they list a number of things they do, including: nuclear, hydroelectric, and other power systems, air, rail and mass transit systems, mining, chemicals and pharma, ports and pipelines, NASA and space operations (whatever that means), international aid, homeland security and disaster response, environmental management and military training.

From their FAQ section under the Careers heading, they note: "
We maintain offices in countries around the world and we employ approximately 46,500 people. Our headquarters is in San Francisco, CA." I looked around a little, and they have offices all over the place, from Angola to New Zealand to Vietnam.

Its looks like they're everywhere and do everything!

This bookmarker is one of those concentric ring magnifiers, called a Fresnel lens, that you can lay flat on text or an image and pump up the size a little. I've stuck a couple of stamps from my collection behind there so you can see some of the funky effects this type of lens has. This bookmarker was a gift, so thanks to Alyson!

I wonder if URS made this bookmark, or if the had it manufactured for them?


Thursday, December 23, 2010

golden city

Well... I was hoping for a crushing, blow-out, take no prisoners, kind of ending to this trilogy, but I didn't get it. What I got was pretty good; not like the ending of the The Firm, for instance [cough-stinks-cough] but a little tepid for my taste. I mean, this is the powers of virtue and light against the powers of evil and darkness--and Vast Machinery-ness--right?

I guess it kind-of ended, but not really. So I guess we're looking at a fourth book in the trilogy. Twelve Hawks kept up the action and the plot twists throughout, I have to say, and I enjoyed the story. Its clear that Twelve Hawks's ideas about the Vast Machine aren't the only things he's been thinking about. Organized religion gets a taste too, a little more directly in this one, than in the first two. I don't think he's opposed, per se, but obviously sees a different route.

So will we see a battle of the Realms Royale, or will Twelve Hawks just let this storyline die with a whimper? I know where my money is; with the money.

A note on the binding: I read the first edition hardcover, and the front cover is embossed with the Harlequin's lute symbol. Which I am all for, by the way. I read with the book jacket off, and having something on the cover lets me know which side is the front. But it looks to me that the lute was embossed upside-down. oops.

wait... maybe its a signal...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

dark river

I just finished the second installment in John Twelve Hawks's Fourth Realm trilogy: The Dark River. Twelve Hawks's Description: "Its Dark". And it is, but not too much. It is, however, not a stand alone novel. I think anyone would be lost without reading the first book, regardless of the summary included at the beginning of the story.

The tension ratchets up in the war between good and evil. Friendships are tested, and love both grows and struggles. Twelve Hawks keeps the story on track and introduces some new characters, to broaden his already rich cast of characters. I burned through this book in no time, and as I write this, I'm already deep into the third book: The Golden City.

Nice job so far. If Twelve Hawks can stick the landing he's got a good score coming. Thanks to rbobbydray for the book. I told my son he's missing it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

the traveler

The Traveler, is the first in this recent trilogy called: The Fourth Realm, by John Twelve Hawks. The Traveler introduces us to the players in the underground struggle going on in our world, between good and evil, unbeknownst to the rest of us 'citizens'. Its a mixture of old and new; mysticism and science fiction. The story is populated with ancient Japanese swords and sawed off shotguns, righteous honor and pacifism, calculated murder and the shape of one's soul.

Sounds like a lot, but Twelve Hawks has woven a story with both depth, and breadth, which is both complex and easy to read. The 'evil' in The Traveler is something called the Vast Machine: an Orwellian vision of the constant surveillance people are under, ever increasingly, right now in our world. Reading this book, just as the brouhaha over full body scans, and erogenous zone pat downs at the airport have come on line, has been a hoot, and a little frightening.

According to one interview I read with John Twelve Hawks, just after The Traveler was published, he has been concerned about this ever increasing intrusion into our personal privacy for a long time, and his personal concerns help to fuel the tension in the story. Random House has set up a website to support the books, and it is a series of news stories, blogs and links from around the world, dedicated to security, increasingly ubiquitous monitoring and privacy intrusion.

My sincere thanks to rbobbydray for the books. Its too bad the boy didn't want to listen. I think he may be growing out of the whole listening thing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

bookmarker postcard

I received this postcard from a friend who rode across America on her bicycle, helping folks along the way, with the Bike and Build folks. This was mailed out from Maybell Co., Colorado (pop.372 ) in July; about 2000 miles into her 3800 mile ride with her team. They raised over $130,000.

So in case it isn't obvious [click on the image to blow it up] the bit at the top of the card rips off via a perforation, and you've got yerself a fine Rocky Mountain National Park bookmark. For the collectors of ephemera, postcards like this push all the buttons baby! Now I only have to decide whether it goes in my postcard collection, or in my bookmark collection. I know what you're thinking: rip off the bookmark and you'll one piece for each collection, right?

No.

I haven't seen a lot of these postcard bookmarks. I have one more, but I can't put my hands on it now. Its from London and shows a double-decker bus, or something.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

hornet's nest

So I finished! I just finished up reading the The Millennium Trilogy, by the late Stieg Larsson. As everyone probably knows by now, the last in the series is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and I'll add my two bits to the endless number of folks who have already written about this series. Lazy, four-day holiday weekends are sweet.

Larsson brings the female hero--heroine, if you prefer, or anti-hero as I've said in my reviews of the first two books--to the fore of the narrative by opening parts of this book with stories and myths about the Amazons. Larsson's Salander represents this legendary female warrior, who struck fear into the hearts of men, and accentuates the prevalent contrast between power and femininity by making Salander a tiny, sprite of a woman. He revels in the satisfaction of watching men laugh her off when they see her, to their unfailing dismay, when they realize, much too late, that they have not only met their match in the 90 pound woman, but their better.

This book, while it does address issues raised in the first novel, seems more like the second part of The Girl Who Played With Fire. The first is a stand alone, and if you didn't read anymore, you'd probably be satisfied. The second leaves you hanging, and wanting to come back and read the third. Intentional? Maybe, but it probably means that neither of these last two would be a very satisfying read on their own.

The scope of this novel also broadens, and begins to tangle with a series of real political scandals in Sweden in the recent past, and there is a note in the backmatter explaining these scandals--as they are sometimes referred to in an explanatory way in the text--so us foreign readers can follow along.

Satisfied? Yes. Have that creeping feeling that there is more to the story, and wishing that it could go on and on? No.

That being said, there are reports that Larsson had a fourth novel under way, and ideas for a total of perhaps ten novels in this series. How much time before someone decides its a good idea to finish the fourth, or perhaps even take a shot at some of the others? I guess we can't stop the marketing machine, but we can ignore it when it tries to foist crap on us. I would be more interested in an unfinished novel, but maybe its too much to ask for. They'll probably figure more saps will buy the slapped together version, than would be interested in the writing process of a modern writer of fiction.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

lustrum

Lustrum is a novelized version of Tiro's biography of his master, Cicero, which, along with much of Tiro's writing, is now lost. Robert Harris built his novel around what is know of Cicero's time in the Roman senate around 60 BCE, just before Caesar came to power.

As far as historic novels go, Lustrum was a pleasure to read, and I ended up feeling like I knew more about the great orator, his slave, scribe and friend Tiro, and the politics and maneuverings that led to Gaius Julius Caesar's rise to rule the Roman empire.

Lots of other characters play parts in this tale, which spans a lustrum--a five year period--from 63 to 58 BCE. Harris deals with this large cast of characters, and their legalese, by providing a descriptive cast of characters and a glossary at the back of the book. A map of ancient Rome is also provided to help orient the reader, although it would be more useful had it contained more information.

I especially enjoyed reading about these characters after our trip to Rome last year, which included a visit to the new museum Museo dell'Ara Pacis, which houses the reconstructed l'Ara Pacis (Alter of Peace) from 9 BCE, 50 years or so after this story takes place. The alter is the center piece of the museum, but exhibits also include busts of Caesar, Clodia and other characters from the story, a family tree of the leaders of Rome, and diorama map of Rome from that era (which corresponds very closely to the map in the book). These memories of Rome took on another aspect in light of what I read in Lustrum. I actually bought this book in Italy, but didn't get to it while I was there. I wish I had.





Ara Pacis Bookmarker, note busts at far left, temple beyond


This is one of those books that I found myself spending extra time with to find out what happens next. Harris did a great job weaving the senatorial intrigue into an exciting novel. This is the second in a series of three apparently. As I mentioned, I bought this paperback in Italy, but I don't know if its available in the US yet. I think the first one is tho.

[EDIT: Lustrum is available is the US under a different title: Conspirata.]

What the hell, lets just all go to Italy!

incunabula

Check it. According to the collections page of the Wagenhein Room, at the San Diego Public Library: "Books printed from 1456 up to and including 1500 are called incunabula, the Latin word meaning cradle because they were printed during the infancy of printing."

That's cool right. I hadn't heard that before, and I love word origins baby. I'm a etymology geek from way back. So I checked my favorite etymology site, the Online Etymology Dictionary, and I find this:

incunabula - “swaddling clothes,” also, figuratively, “childhood;” 1824, from L. incunabula (neut. pl.), ultimately from cunae “cradle.”

incunabulum - 1861, singular of incunabula; taken up (originally in German) as a word for any book printed late 15c., in the “infancy” of the printer’s art.

Nice. According to Dictionary.com, the origin is as follows: "1815–25; < L: straps holding a baby in a cradle, earliest home, birthplace, prob. equiv. to *incūnā ( re ) to place in a cradle ( in- + *-cūnāre, v. deriv. of cūnae cradle) + -bula, pl. of -bulum suffix of instrument; def. 1 as trans. of G Wiegendrucke I don't know who G Wiegendrucke is, but I assume its a person, of the German persuasion, who did the translation.

I stole the pic by the way. [What? It goes with the quote.] This particular incunabulum is an Augsburg edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle (or Liber Chronicarum) from 1497, and goes on to note that the printers used 645 different wood blocks to produce the 1,809 illustrations.

But... according to University of Maryland Library's Rare Books Collection, the Augsburg edition was a later, less expensive and unauthorized copy of the original due to its popularity. (Click on this link, yo. Some nice pics and info on this book.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

runemarks

Runemarks by Joanne Harris was fun! This book was written for her daughter or at least dedicated to her but it's seems as tho she and her daughter have been discussing this story for a while now. It's a great story to dedicate to your daughter. I wish my daughter still wanted me to read to her, but she reads too fast now to be entertained by reading aloud.

Runemarks is inspired by Norse mythology, but only loosely. Harris takes the well worn Norse gods and invents an alternative storyline that reminds me of the comic book technique that became popular a few years ago: alternate universes. The same characters and storylines are reinvented in a new world, similar to this one, but one in which details and even histories or futures aren't necessarily the same. Harris, like DC Comics and the Star Trek franchise, has learned that this can lead to some very fertile ground.

Maddy Smith, the fourteen year old heroine, is quickly learning that the reasons for her childhood troubles are much more complicated than she could have imagined. And when the local parson is way less than helpful, and her father seems a little clueless, who could blame her for turning to a kindly, one eyed old wanderer for understanding.

It was hard to set Runemarks aside. I found myself thinking about Maddy's mysteries and what would happen next. I gave this one to my daughter as soon as I finished it. And there's one more in line to read it already.

Get it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

brave new world

Boooorrr-ing.

The ideas expressed in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World are indeed both brave and new--some of them still are, no question--but this story is just dry. Huxley wrote lots of essays and other scholarly works. [Yeah, no kidding!] In fact, my copy of Brave New World also includes Brave New World Revisited as well as 16 pages of other stuff including: a letter to George Orwell, an interview with Huxley, and some other crap I didn't read. Not yet anyway. I needed a break.

Important? Yes, I think it is. Fun to read, or even well written as fiction, not so much.

ZZZZzzzzzz...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

playing with fire

In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson introduced us to his quirky, introverted, antiheroine: Lisbeth Salander. I know the title was translated* but when I read it, I couldn't help wondering where the 'girl' was in that story. It seemed to be a story, mainly, about Mikael Blomkvist, the investigative reporter who employs Salander's talents for clandestine research, and later, develops an extra-curricular interest in her.

In contrast, The Girl Who Played with Fire is much more focused on Salander, and helps to fill in some of the mysterious gaps about this troubled woman. This installment has us rooting for her to overcome her underdog status (in most cases) but still shows us how cheering for a deeply troubled, victimized woman can also leave us cringing, as she steps over boundaries that most of us do not--or would not, in the same situation--cross. We are however, secretly gleeful when she does, and proceeds to kicks some ass.

If I had one problem with this one, its because I'm a little forgetful of the names. The Swedish names, being as they are, outside my bubble of common knowledge, are even tougher to remember, and this story has lots of characters. Add to this, Larsson's artistic play with language--and here I am assuming that this isn't a translation issue. The text includes snappy dialog like: What's the latest from Sonderlåad?** Forget about: is that this lady, or that guy? I haven't got past thinking: is Sonderlåad a person, or a place?

That being said, this story has quite a bit of depth, and ties nicely to the first novel, answering many questions, while leaving others unanswered, and adding some new ones. Where Larsson, and Salander, will go in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is something I'm looking forward to finding out.

* Original Swedish title: Flickan som lekte med elden, or Men Who Hate Women. Translation by Reg Keeland
** I made up both the quote, and the name.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

the grand design

Stephen Hawking co-authored another book with Leonard Mlodinow, A Briefer History in Time, which I haven't read. Somehow, it seems like going back and reading books like this, years after they were written, will be a waste of my time. The current book, The Grand Design, is the latest thinking by this deep-thinking duo, and as such, disputes or clarifies some of things that the great minds (maybe including themselves) were thinking just a few years ago. So read it while is fresh, y'all.

I have read Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, when they first came out and this recent books tries to go a little farther. This book made the news when it was released, as you may have heard, because it says right upfront that it will be discussing the origins of the universe from a scientific standpoint, and the actual origins of the universe(s?) can be understood in purely scientific terms. I think statements have been made like this before, but Hawking and Mlodinow come right out and say, "...creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.", in the first chapter. You can imagine that stirring the pot like this is going to get some folks excited.

The Diagorain Duo then go on to mention God or gods, in various ways throughout the rest of the book. Mainly, I gather, to make the point that while it isn't necessary for a god to have begun the universe, and establish all the laws in it, does not mean that a deity or deities of some kind, don't exist. In fact, they mention all kinds of creation stories, from all different traditions, reinforcing the point that man has invented many different ways to explain the unknowable which surrounds him, none of which agrees with the science. Yeah, hot topic.

Back to the science. Hawking and Mlodinow are now selling M-Theory as the bestest model to describe the universe. Its got a little o' this, an' a little o' that; multiverse, string theory, quantum theory, Newtonian physics, general and special relativity, all stirred in there for some home-grown universal origins goodness. Funny thing: it hangs together pretty well. H&M help resolve some tricky questions us mere mortals have been struggling with, about the squirrely way quantum particles act, what a multiverse really means, and what happened before the beginning of the universe. Good stuff.

This is a quick read, and I don't think you need to be versed in all of these ideas before picking this book up, but I'm sure it helps. The writing was relaxed, and tries to be funny (jokes are a little professor-tells-joke-in-class, result: polite laughter) and the illustrations are lovely, and very helpful. Thanks to my lovely wife for giving me this book, I enjoyed it a lot.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

inception

I've never written a movie review before, and I don't know if there is a book that this movie was based on.--Wait, lets check... no, I guess not. Sounds like there isn't a book out there which may be better than the movie.--The storyline itself is interesting, but perhaps not completely original: the invasion of others dreams. What's different about this story is that, rather than using shared dreams for horror, the makers of this movies wanted to look at how an entrepreneurial dream sharer may use shared dream space, as it is called in the movie, for monetary gain. I'm sure you could come up with a variety of fun-and-games type uses, but where the real money is, is in secrets.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is just such an entrepreneur, and thief, who uses the shared dream space to steal trade secrets; extraction. The idea is to slip into the dream, interact with the dreamer, and get them to give up their secrets by manipulating the shared dream. A much more difficult, and sensitive objective, is what Cobb and his team have been hired to do; Inception.

The idea is to introduce an idea into the dreamer's unconscious, whilst sharing their dreams, at a point so deep, as to prevent them from knowing the idea didn't originate within themselves. Very subtle stuff here, and treated very delicately in the film. A number of sub-plots help to move the actions of the players through the narrative, again, in very subtle, and well thought out ways.

Fun for me: shared dreams need an architect to help build the landscape through which the shared dreamers move. From buildings to entire cities, the architect helps to layout the dreamscape so that the thieves can find their way around, and sometimes are used to manipulate the dreamer into giving up their secrets.

Tense, exciting, emotional, visually lush, and well acted. I'm a science fiction fan anyways, but this was one of the better ones. When the credits rolled, the three of us were like Keanu Reeves embodied: whoa.

Monday, October 4, 2010

casalini libri

Casalini Libri S.p.A bills themselves as providers of "Publications and Services to Libraries around the world." Two of their online products are Editoria Italiana Online and Casalini Digital Library, which provide digital content for libraries. According to their literature:
"Casalini Libri S.p.A., since its foundation in the late 1950’s, has been dedicated to the supply of bibliographical services, books and journals to National, academic and public libraries and institutions worldwide. The company, headquartered in Fiesole (Florence, Italy), adheres to the ISO 9000 Quality Management System."
Sounds cool, right? Yeah... not quite sure what it means. So, I dig a little deeper into their site, and I find this:
While Casalini Libri earned its reputation through decades of service providing Italian publications to academic libraries throughout the world, we have gained several years’ experience and developed an efficient workflow for the supply of European publications. Casalini Libri supplies monographs, monographic series, serials and periodicals published in Europe...
That seems to do it, right? I said hello to these folks at ALA Midwinter in Boston, and I'm pretty sure that's when I grabbed this bookmark.

History of bookmarkers here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

get shorty

Did y'all see the movie? Everyone did, I think. Chili Palmer is an ex-New York, ex-Miami shylock, who's following the money trail to the coast, and finds more than he hoped for. The loan shark business is wearing thin for Chili, as is the endless stupidity of his fellow gangsters. In LA, Chili sees how a man with his experience, street smarts and savoir-faire may be an asset in Hollywood.

This is the first book I've read by Elmore Leonard, so I'm not sure if all of his books are written this way or not, but he writes the way people speak to one another in the street. His writing sounds like speech; it sounds like someone you know is telling you a story.

Chili and Tommy were both from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, old buddies now in business together. Tommy Carlo was connected to a Brooklyn crew through his uncle, a guy named Momo, Tommy keeping his books and picking up betting slips til Momo sent him to Miami, with a hundred thousand to put on the street as loan money.
The language just rolls, and keeps on rolling, right through this story. It pops, hustles, and jives the way Chili does. Leonard's language doesn't give a damn, and its not waiting for anyone; you have to keep up, or get out of the way. That, coupled with less than 300 pages, makes for a fast, fun read. I'll keep my eyes open for more Elmore Leonard.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

pillars of the earth

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett was, as you might expect, completely different from Follett's other stuff. Just after I started reading it, a few people asked me what it was about, and I replied that I had just started, but it seemed like it was about building cathedrals. [That's when I got the funny faces, wrinkled noses, you know, like someone stepped in something.] But that's not what its about, thankfully.

Follett uses the building of a cathedral as a framework on which to hang his story; maybe saga is a better word. The story is really about people. Its an historical novel about people in the 1100's and what life was like for a group in England, who happen to have a cathedral in common. The energy and effort that goes into the building of a cathedral in this era is huge, and that's what drives the story.

Follett has a fresh take on the people of this time period, and seems to take some of his clues from other early evidence, such as The Canterbury Tales, to give his characters life in a way that modern day readers can relate to. Characters fall into two main groups: the church folk, and the not church folk. Each group is further broken down into good guys, and bad guys. That is: there those factions within both the men of the cloth, and the laymen, who want to get the cathedral built, and there are those within each group who don't. Got it? Maybe that's why it takes just shy of a thousand pages to get this story wrapped up.

I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. I was concerned when I first started it, that it would be a retelling of The Heaven Tree trilogy by Edith Pargeter--which was also very good, by the way--but I'm happy to say that it wasn't.

Apparently, there was a TV mini-series based on the book. I found this whilst doing a little research. Did anyone see it?

Read this book, first.

book size

Found a good one! Carl Pyrdum's blog, titled Got Medieval, is a treat for us geeks who enjoy the old timey stuff; specifically, medieval stuff. Pyrdum is a grad student in Medieval Studies at Yale. His posts typically have to do with things medieval and/or modern things which either describe themselves as, or could be seen as medieval. Where else are you going to read about what a sixty-fourmo is in the blogorama?

So how did I find him: it was this entry on 'Why are books so big? (Google Penance)' which describes why books are the size that they are. Its based on the size of a sheep of course. I won't spoil the fun for you, you should just clicky-click on the link and read it fer yerself. Of course the whole thing makes complete sense once you read it, and I found myself scanning through lots of his blog posts in search of more gems and witicisms.

Carl also points out that he is Bacon number 4. You can find out how at his blog.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

the sanctuary

I'm not even sure what The Sanctuary is. I don't mean that I couldn't tell what kind of book I was reading. I'm talking about the title; I'm not completely sure what it refers to. It could refer to a place, or maybe even a state of mind. It probably refers to a couple of things. Or maybe it's just not all that important.

In any case, Raymond Khoury writes a pretty good story. I have his 2005 book, The Last Templar, but I haven't read it yet. I read a Steve Berry novel called The Templar Legacy, which shows up in read-alike lists, so I'll probably read Khoury's Templar book too. You know you luuve those crazy Templar knights as much as I do. Its okay, we can't help ourselves. Just give in. ((Dan Brown whispers in our dreams.))

If this book had one draw back, it was the fancy vocabulary. I've complained about this before. This is an action story, right? A fast-paced, page turner. Throw in any throw away review cliche you like, just don't slow down the action, am I right? You know what slows down the action: versciciously. You know what that one means? Nothing, I made it up. I think its great to build your vocab skills. Word-o'-the-Day calendars are swell gifts for someone you don't know that well. But all the words from May 3rd 'til June 21st, really don't need to go into your manuscript.

It just seems so verscicious.

Monday, September 6, 2010

the twelfth card

Geneva is a well-to-do inner city girl, who, despite her hard work, attention to her schoolwork, and the misfortune of being without her parents, has also had to deal with an attempted rape and assault. Will this poor girl ever get a break? Nope, sorry.

Lincoln Rhyme and his able assistant and girlfriend, Amelia Sachs, step in to help Geneva but it seems that the wannabe rapist/killer is still looking for her. When the Rhyme-Sachs team dig a little deeper, they find that Geneva may be in a whole lot more trouble than they originally envisioned. And not only do they need to figure out who's after her, but why. The historical twist to this one added some fun too.

Jeffery Deaver does a good job of laying out an interesting and twisty crime mystery for Rhyme and company to solve. And solve it they do, but it doesn't all just drop in their laps; there are some bumps along the way. Deaver's sense of character development seems to be in overdrive in this volume. One can only guess that he's been feeling that he hasn't given it enough attention in the other Lincoln Rhyme stories, but I don't read enough of them to be sure. Maybe his character's are always cranking away with their personal demons, friendships and love lives.

I've read a couple of Lincoln Rhyme novels and this one holds up well. I'd read another based on this experience, certainly.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

nine dragons

What is the missing puzzle piece that links together Harry Bosch's latest murder case of an older Chinese store owner, the Chinese Triads, the abduction of Bosch's daughter in Hong Kong, vague telephone threats, a scared partner, gangland style executions, and, of all people, Bosch's ex-wife's new boyfriend? This is the mystery Harry Bosch must unravel in Michael Connelly's Nine Dragons.

So what DOES tie all of these elements together? Nothing. Sorry to break it to you, but don't bother. Nothing ties this lukewarm detective story together.

This 2009 adventure takes Bosch to Hong Kong to save his daughter and figure out how her abduction relates to all the other sub-plots and mysteries in this story. But it seems like Connelly just gave up. Oops, Bosch seems to say, I guess this whole thing was just weird series of coincidences and misunderstandings that were completely unrelated. What he doesn't seem to say, or even worry about, is why all those people had to die, as he shot his way through Hong Kong, other than a pat on his daughter's head and something like: well honey, don't worry, those were bad people, and they got what they deserved.

I've read a few Harry Bosch novels, and I've even recommended the series to fans of detective novels, but not this one boy. This one goes on the 'stinks' list in the right hand column. Yeah, check it out, its on there alright.

Oh, and Mike, you got a laurel stuck to your ass. Yeah, there it is, you got it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

the three musketeers

The Three Musketeers was a blast.--That's not a crummy joke. There was very little musket fire, as I'm sure most folks will know, even without reading this book.--The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my all time favorites, so it may seem a little odd that I haven't read this next-most-popular Alexandre Dumas novel (the third being The Man in the Iron Mask) but I've always felt that the characters were just too over exposed. I mean, a candy bar? Come on. But I got over it. And seeing a one dollar copy in good shape recently, sealed the deal. What really put me over the top tho was that I brought it along as a back-up on a recent trip to Italy. So when I finished my first book (Hyperion) I jumped right into the Musketeers. What a ball. I couldn't put it down. I read at breakfast. I read in bed. I read while my family took a siesta at midday when it was 100 outside.

Dumas wrote for serial publication, as many of his contemporaries did, each chapter moves the story forward and leaves the reader hungering for the next installment. Dumas really had that down and he knew he did. Dumas also speaks directly to his readers, not just in the authors note, where he describes how his fiction is based on the true memoirs of a real musketeer named d'Artagnan, but along the way as well. One can almost imagine him telling the story to us after dinner, perhaps around a fire, with a cigar or a small glass of muscatel. Don't worry, he tells us, I haven't forgotten so-and-so, we'll get back to them soon enough.

Dumas seems fascinated by heroes who make their own way in world, and create their own fortunes. He also has no trouble showing the darker side of men, even his heroes, and the lengths they will go to to insure that justice is done and righteousness is upheld. This may be because of his own upbringing, and his father's struggles to make his fortune, and even his own money problems, which seem to plague his career.

Whatever the impetus, Dumas breathes real life and a love of living into his heroes that makes him a joy to read. The Three Musketeers was no exception.

Read this book... in Italy. [France is probably fine too, I guess.]

hyperion

Hyperion was recommended to me by an Italian friend just recently, and before he and his fiance went back to Italy, they were kind enough to give me a copy. The story seems to jump right in, setting the tone of a mystery the reader has to untangle. The story is told through the eyes of series of pilgrims who start out on the last pilgrimage to a very strange part of Hyperion; a planet on the very edges of human expansion in the galaxy. Hyperion's past is sketchy and only partly understood by the pilgrims; who have spent most of their lives closer to the central, more inhabited parts of the galaxy. Moreover, none of the pilgrims is quite sure why they were chosen to participate in this last pilgrimage, and they know even less about their fellow travelers.

The larger story unfolds during the pilgrimage, when the travelers decide to tell their personal stories, and how Hyperion came into their lives. The tales help to pass the time on the road, and help them get to know one another. Echos of The Canterbury Tales came to mind almost immediately, but the author also had The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in mind.

Hyperion is tight, and carefully written. The whole story doesn't manifest itself in any one of the seven tales the pilgrims tell, or even in all the stories combined. Rather, its in what isn't said, and when I think about it, it also comes from our own stories as readers. What we bring to the story helps to fill in the blanks, making us, as readers, the eight pilgrim. I guess that means the story is a little different for everyone.

There are other volumes about Hyperion and I'll pick them up to see whether the story continues from here, or if the enigma of Hyperion is just fertile ground for stories.

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, (c) 1989. I read a 1995 Bantam reissue paperback.

I read three books on my trip to Italy, so I've got two more coming up soon. Yeah, vacation!

Friday, July 23, 2010

neuromancer

Yeah! Neuromancer was great! William Gibson's iconic SciFi novel from the 80's is loaded with imagery, and ideas that seem to have been ripped off, wholesale, by all kinds of cyberpunk and science fiction movies, books and TV shows. Gibson is know for his cyberpunk stories, and comes early into this tradition in the 80's--along with others--and helped to create a new sub-genre. The Disney movie Tron was one of the earlier in cyberpunk stories, in 1980. But who knows, Gibson and some of the others could have been well into their stories by then. I'm sure someone knows more about this than me.

Cyperpunk was first coined by Bruce Bethke, in his 1980 short story of the same name, originally published in AMAZING Science Fiction Stories. AMAZING had a good run, but after dying a number of times, it died again in 2004. No word yet on whether it will be revived. Yet again. [Sounds like the makings of a story.]

This book has been published/re-printed over and over again, with new covers to meet the style needs of the day. This was one of the books featured in an article about the history of SciFi in book covers, which I wrote about here. There may be making a movie in the works according to the online hum. Rumors include Hayden Christensen for a role, but who knows. And Disney has announced a remake of Tron called Tron: Legacy for Christmas this year.

So as you can imagine, if you've read any cyberpunk or seen Tron, a chunk of this story takes place in cyberspace, but not too much. The main characters are very real, live in a real place, and deal with real problems. What our main protagonist would call 'meat'; shorthand for issues of the flesh rather than the clean, neural interface with the net. What so great is: he can't escape the meat, and its what gives him the most trouble really. Internet use is like a drug, an addiction that he needs to survive, and he'll do almost anything for the next fix. The addictiveness of the behavior seems to be a sub-theme of the story, and given when it was written, seems to me remarkably foresighted.

This story asks lots of interesting questions about what the future of technology, computing and artificial intelligence will mean for mankind. Some of those we're dealing with right now, and others aren't too far off. I can see why this story has had such holding power for nearly 30 years; It seems very current.

Read this book.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

hopkinton bookmark

That's Hop-kin-ton, without the 'king'. I know, right? I spelled it wrong the first 5 or 6 times I wrote it. The Hopkinton Pubic Library is a beautiful old stone building from 1895, on Main Street. The design is simple and elegant, and is surprisingly small. The building looks bigger on the outside I think because its set up on a raised grade, and the windows are small. So small, that the building looks big by comparison. We have some old postcards of this one in our postcard collection.

Along about 1965, the library was out of space and bought the little church next door, built a link and expanded into the sanctuary. The church is of a similar vintage, 1897, made of stone, altho field stone, as opposed to the coursed and dressed rubble of the library. Both roofs are clay tile however, and contrary to the red tint on one of the colorized postcard images, the tiles are shale colored. According to Hopkinton Pubic Library: A Brief History, available on the library's site, the library was:

"established by the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1867. Seven members served as the Trustees, incorporated the Library and adopted by-laws for the government of the Library in 1890."

This bookmark is printed on glossy card stock and is two color, with a full bleed and printed front and back. The reverse has the hours, contact numbers, and other helpful info, like the library's website.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

gone, baby, gone

Gone, Baby, Gone was my first Dennis Lehane novel. Lehane came recommended to me this way, and I'm paraphrasing, Lehane writes about South Boston and Dorchester; its where his stories take place, and his character's come from. The stories are great, well written and fast. That's a pretty good description of the book I just finished. They made some movies from some of his books too, he told me, like, well... like, I don't remember.

I picked this book up used at a book sale/fund raiser in a library for 50 cents, or something. The author's name caught my eye. If I had been more thoughtful about it, I might have figured out what order the books were written in, as I got the distinct feeling that these were reoccurring characters very quickly, and that was confirmed when some of the details of older escapades crept into the narrative later on, and I found myself thinking: well, I know how that one ends, now don't I?

The paperback copy I have is published by Avon Books, and they list 4 other titles in the front matter by Lehane. Now I don't know anything about Lehane other than what my friend told me, but it seems to me that there should be more than 4 books, and none of the titles listed sounded like a movie I'd heard about, so I looked him up on my LibraryThing account. So yes, now I know who this guy is. Mystic River, right, that sounds like a movie. And Gone, Baby, Gone, as you probably already know, is also a movie (maybe I don't get out enough.) Shutter Island, yes, movie. I haven't seen any of these, but I have vague recollections of hearing they were good. So now I have a loose plan which includes reading some of the other things Lehane has written, and maybe checking out some movies too.

Gone, Baby, Gone
was a fast read, tightly written, with bits of humor, and horror, sprinkled liberally throughout. A chapter or two were hard to read. Lehane seems like a guy who can read about the worst things that can happen in life, hear the most depraved stories of cruel and inhuman behavior that people are capable of, and write about it with clarity and simplicity such that the rawness of it reaches down below your conscience mind and pokes at that primal part of your brain where the animal still lives. I warned my wife about the emotions this book creates.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

via francesco crispi

This old postcard of via Francesco Crispi was given to us by a long time resident of this town, Introdacqua, in Abruzzo, Italy. The street (via, in Italian) runs up the hill away from the main road where the men in the foreground are gathered. The street is cobbled, and stepped to allow for the steep grade. Since this image was taken, the road has been re-cobbled without the steps to allow for limited traffic, and there is a narrow stair built in along the side of the road, and in some places they've added a handrail.

The fountain, which sits in the lower center of the photo, is still there, but the small piazza it sits in (Piazza Cavour) has been rebuilt, again, without steps, and the fountain itself was moved out to the center of the space, and is now more prominent. The large building above and to the left of the fountain is also still there, and if I understand correctly, its a ducal palace of some kind. There is a plaque mounted on the lower floor, and partially hidden by a tree that I think talks about the building's history. More on that later, if I can figure it out.

Via Francesco Crispi, or simply via Crispi, as it is known locally, is named for Italian statesman, born in Ribera, Sicily on October 4, 1819. Cripsi grew up in Sicily, where he studied law, and later went to Naples where he became a republican activist, for which he was eventually exiled from Naples and Sardinia-Piedmont. He helped to plan the 1848 uprising in Sicily, and was involved in the new government there until the Bourbon King Ferdinand II retook the island in 1849. He took flight again, and traveled abroad, still working for Italy, and among other things, met with Giuseppe Mazziniu.

Undaunted, Crispi continued to work for a united Italy and improvements in his native Sicily. In 1860 he and Giuseppe Garibaldi led the "Expedition of the Thousand" to Sicily. Only days later, on May 13, Crispi drew up the Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, giving the dictatorship of Sicily to Garabaldi in order to help unify Italy. He then became the Secretary of the Interior and of Finance under Garibaldi, but resigned after his attempts to sway Garibaldi from proceeding with the immediate annexation of Sicily.

Cripsi spent the next few decades in and out of positions and politics struggling to move the unified Italy forward, even declaring himself a monarchist. In 1877 he became Minister of the Interior of Italy and when Victor Emmanuel died in 1878, and King Humbert ascended the throne, Crispi helped to insure that he was declared Humbert I of Italy, not Humbert IV of Savoy. After another stint as Secretary of the Interior, Agostino Depretis died on July 29, 1887, and Crispi rose to succeed him as Prime Minister of Italy, a posisition he was to hold until 1891 and then again from 1893 to 1896. Crispi worked hard as Prime Minister to maintain the newly unified Italy, even working with his right wing foes--much to the disdain of his old radical friends--to improve Italy's standing in the world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

mists of avalon

I just finished The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I think it took me a month; this book is a monster. 876 pages in this Del Rey paperback fantasy from the 80s. This story definitely has some legs--it was made into a television movie with Anjelica Houston and Julianna Margulies in 2001--as it re-imagines the Arthur story from the point of view of the women in the story.

Bradley pulls the Lady of the Lake out of the water, and sets her on the ground, albeit, near the lake, and tells her story, as well as the stories of Gwenwyfar (Guinevere), Morgaine (Morgan le Fay), their sisters, mothers, daughters, and ladies in waiting. Arthur, Lancelot, Sir Gawaine, and the other knights of the round table are more like arm candy in this story, driven by not only their will to do what they feel is best for their newly emerging kingdom in England, but what they are driven to do by their love for, or obligations to, these strong willed and proud women.

Bradley takes many of her clues from historical facts, such as Druidism, and other early religions in the British isles, and popular theories of matriarchal societies in early Celtic traditions, to anchor the story more to reality, resulting in a book that reads more like historical fiction than the archetype mythical story of male-dominated chivalry. Throughout the narrative runs the thread of the struggle between the Roman Catholic Church (in the form of Bishop Patricus) and the Druidism and paganism of the time, which was being driven out, and with it: man's ability to access the Isle of Avalon. An island which exists and is as real as any other, but only to those who believe that it can. Avalon, like the religion it is home to, and the very goddess they worship, slowly fades into the mist as believers lose their faith in its reality. And isn't that what happens to all religions that lose its followers?

This one was fun, well thought out and done with a fresh viewpoint that I think anyone who is tired of the male-centric stories of this era would enjoy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

physik

My son and I just finished Septimus Heap Book 3: Physik, by Angie Sage. My daughter had told me she got a few books into the series and gave it up for lost, but after reading this one, I still feel that the story arc has some legs, so we'll probably read another.

Physik is a different branch of the mystical (or should I say Mystikal) sciences practiced by the wizards, and other learned people in this series, but one that in Septimus's time, is now looked down upon as so much potions and herb lore. Historically however, Physik was the powerful science of alchemists and other physicians. All of the main characters return in this installment, and many of the supporting charters, but some just in bit parts. This story also has some interesting twists that will pave the way for some fun stories in the future, but they aren't so outlandish that they seem forced.

We still had a laugh with the bold text and extra Es and Ys in all of the magical phrases. My son asked if I would pronounce them differently so he could enjoy them as much as I do when I'm reading. So will we keep reading? I think so. In the meantime, the fourth volume in the Nicolas Flamel series came out last month and we're reading that now. I don't know if I ever wrote about the third book in that series, The Sorceress, but it was good and we were waiting for this recent one to come out.

Monday, May 31, 2010

kennebunk book port

The Kennebunk Book Port bookstore in Kennebunkport, Maine is a great, privately owned, old world bookstore. Its tucked in on the second floor, over a fancy gift emporium, in what used to be a rum warehouse. You walk between the weather beaten, clapboard dock buildings, and up a set of stairs to a large porch which looks out over a small inlet of the Kennebunk River, which splits Kennebunkport from Kennebunk lower village.

Like many of the stores in Dock Square, the building is old, and the old wooden floors, walls and framing are left exposed. The shelving is made in the same rough wood to match. There is a desk in the middle of the floor, close to a steel spiral staircase to the upper level (the attic), and there is a couch for reading by the big window which looks out over the square.

[Screeach!] That, my dear friends, was the sound of me dragging the needle off the record of the serenade I was just singing to you about this bookstore. I (Just Now!) went looking for their web site so I could provide you with the link, and found that they have moved since I was there last. So, forget all that. It was great when I was there, you can check out the new location for yourself and let me know.

I had a chat with the proprietor when I was there last, and he was asking what kind of books I read, and recommended a book for me: The Beast God Forgot to Invent, by Jim Harrison. This is a collection of 3 short stories that are very well written about some edges-of-humanity kind of folks. I liked it a lot.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

children of dune

Well, I finished it. Children of Dune, is the third installment of the Dune Chronicles series by Frank Herbert. I think he intended it to be the last of the series but there are three more, which I mentioned in my review of the last book, Dune Messiah. I felt like Dune Messiah was a bridge to this book, and now that I've read it, I think it was. It was a good story on its own, but this one was even better. A lot of the careful planning that went into this saga is revealed in this third volume, in a very satisfying way. The plots were more well thought out than I had anticipated, both the plots in the books and the plotting of the characters.

The Children of Dune are the twin son and daughter of Paul Atreides, Muad'Dib, of the first story. The twins were introduced in the second book, and this story is about them, and how they move the story of the House Atreides forward into the future. And man, do they!

When Paul Atreides stepped outside the norm, to become Muad'Dib, I thought that was some funky stuff going on. But what the twins do, and especially the male twin: Wow. That's some wacky stuff, but fun and really thoughtful. I can imagine how you can get three more stories out of that. Okay, maybe I'll just peek at them at the library.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

mark skinner library

The Mark Skinner Library in Manchester, Vermont is a beautiful library in a truly beautiful town. Manchester sits in the valley east of Mount Equinox (altitude 3848 ft.), and the mountain views surround the town. The town is home to The Equinox, a lovely old world inn, the Northshire Bookstore, and lots of shopping outlets, spas, golf, and foliage in the autumn.

This lovely little book was printed for the July 7, 1897 opening of the new Mark Skinner Library, and given out to the guests and attendees. I was presented with this copy by the director of the library as a gift for traveling to see her, and her library, as we prepared our proposal for the design services for their much needed additions and renovations project. The official title of little volume appears to be "The Opening of the Mark Skinner Library". Google has actually scanned this volume, see it here.

This book is essentially a program, and a record of the day's events for the grand opening celebration. The book was printed by R. R. Donnelley and Sons at the Lakeside Press, Chicago, under the supervision of Herbert S. Stone and Company. The book is cloth bound in green linen, measures 7-inches by 4 1/2-inches, with 71 pages. The head bolts are unopened and the leaves have a fore-edge deckle. A number of black and white photo plates are pasted into the body. The plates include: a portrait of Mark Skinner, with an image of his signature and the words 'Yours Truly' beneath, various photographs of the building's interior and exterior, and a plan of the main floor.

The building was actually built by Frances Skinner Willing, in memory of her father, Mark Skinner, and has actually spend most of its history as a private, subscription library. Only since 2003 have the Manchester voters have supported the library, in part, making it more of a public library, as we traditionally think of them. In addition to Frances Skinner Willing's generous gift, the library has also received two other substantial donations in its past, from two separate, unmarried women. Sounds like a wonderful tradition.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

dune messiah

Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert is the second book in Herbert's original trilogy. Dune Messiah felt, in a lot of ways, like the middle book in a trilogy; by the time I finished it I felt like the bridge between the first book, and what comes next, was built here.

In the introduction, Herbert's son Brian Herbert, says as much, and complains about faithful readers of the first book, being short sighted in their views of his father's efforts in the second installment of the Dune series. It's also clear that the younger Herbert both loves and looks up to his father, saying of him, "If he had been a politician, he would have been an honorable one, perhaps even one of our greatest presidents." Brian Herbert also wrote a biography of his late father, entitled Dreamer of Dune.

I'm pretty sure I read Dune when I was a teenager as well, but the politics were beyond me and I didn't read any of the other books. I've read it again, but it's been over a year and probably longer since, but the story came back as I read through this second adventure on the desert planet. 12 years has past since the end of that story if I remember correctly, but I also remember that some of the ages of the characters didn't seem to add up to what thought they should be, so I've got something wrong. I'll tell you what I don't understand, and that's why a better movie couldn't be made from these books. It's seems ripe; but that silly thing with Sting, come on. And wasn't there another one with that dude from Twin Peaks that was on TV a few years ago? Maybe I'm getting them mixed up.

Anyway, the story is short, fast, fun and surprisingly deep. There are all kinds of things going on in this story, and Herbert expects his readers to keep up. That faith he has in us, to follow the complex web of interconnected politics, religion, war, drugs, ecology, love, jealously, economics, family ties, and all the conflicting pressures they place on the leaders in this story, is what I think makes Herbert so popular with his readers.

Herbert went on to write some more books in the Dune series: God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. Brian Herbert has also taken up the mantle and has written some Dune books as well, like twelve or thirteen of them! All I have is the original trilogy. I've just started on the last: Children of Dune, and I think I'll see how that goes before getting into anything further.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

south hadley

The South Hadley Public Library was built in 1906 with a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie. Located in the southern part of town knows at the Falls, the original building was designed by a local resident who worked for Putnam & Cox. The building is a typical Carnegie library T-shaped design, which is normally: a central entry hall and two wings (which make up the cross portion of the T), and a stack wing poking out the back (the vertical bit or tail of the T). But due to the very narrow, tapering shape of the site, the T-shape was turned around, and symmetrical entries were located at the inside corners, at the joints in the T-shape. This means the tail of the T faces forward, and instead of housing the stacks, this is the front, with a large bay window, opening onto the reading room.

In the 70s, a large addition was put on, but due to local budget constraints, was not sized to meet the 20 year need--as is the norm with pubic library design--but cut in half to meet the 10 year need. The library is extremely busy and well used by the residents. South Hadley is right across the Connecticut River from Holyoke, and as a suburb, has a large population. South Hadley is also home to Mount Holyoke College, which may help to explain the large computer use in the library.

My office was just selected to assist the library with a feasibility study and an application to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Construction Grant program.

There is another public library in town, the Gaylord Memorial Library, located in the north part of town, across the street from Mount Holyoke. The Gaylord Library actually predates the Carnegie Library, and is (I think) privately held by a corporation, and open to the public.

Monday, April 19, 2010

the story of libraries i

I've been pounding through Fred Lerner's The Story of Libraries: From the Invention of Writing to the Computer Age for a few week now; interesting but not riveting is how I'd put it. Some books just can't be put down, while others can, and are. I'm not finding fault mind you. The material is interesting, but this is, after all, a history book, about a subject that I am interested in, but nevertheless, its a little dusty at the beginning.

The story starts, as the subtitle suggests, with speculation about the earliest forms of writing, which no longer exist, and then moves on to cuneiform tablets, of which many examples still exist. Amazingly, these tablets were stood on end, packed tight together, and the ends held simple index data so information could be retrieved. Many of these tablets contain state information such as records of sales, rules and regulations, etc. These early 'libraries' sound more like files to me, although there are some examples of story-like information being recorded on multiple tablets, that could therefore be considered 'books'. So, like I said, interesting.

I'm a little past the halfway point, and we're just beginning to get into the advent of what we would consider the modern public library. I was interested to learn that earlier libraries were opened to the 'public' but only some of the public. Another fun fact: what really happened to the library at Alexandria? No, I'm not going to tell you, you'll just have to read it.

More later!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

beijing 2008

A simple tilt to the left or right, alternates the picture between the text and logo, and photos of athletes doing their stuff, and getting there rewards. I'm so easily amused. There are more amazing ways to use those little plastic corduroys that coat these shifty little images, by the two image switch is the old stand-by. Reminds me of Cracker Jack.

Lenticular lens images can do all kinds of stuff, from slowly morphing one image into another, to layering, giving a three dimensional effect, to moving images as the substrate is tilted. I've got one other lenticular image bookmark, which I got at the ALA Midwinter, 2010 conference in Boston. I made collage of the bookmarks I got there, and the lenticular is at the bottom left; its from Watson Label Products.

I didn't see much of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. We haven't had a television for a number of years, and that's one of the things I miss. The official website for Beijing 08 is still up! Usain Bolt from Jamaica was the big story, running the 100 meters a few tenths faster than his own record, winning the gold medal is 9.69 seconds. I do remember seeing that race.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

how to train your dragon

How to Train Your Dragon, by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, translated from the Old Norse by Cressida Cowell, is of course, the book on which the recent movie of the same name is based. I've had this book in the house for a couple of years. I bought it thinking my son might like to read it, or have me read it to him, but I think he felt that it was too young for him. Now that he's seen the movie, maybe he'll change his mind.

Seeing the movie is what made me pull this book out again. I had read the first chapter or so when I bought it, and didn't remember the story starting the way the movie did. (No spoilers from me, except for the hard core folks who are thinking; Hey man, telling me they're different is a spoiler. If you're that, guy, this review isn't for you.) Anyway, I read through the whole thing, and you can see the parts that inspired the movie, but its pretty loose. I don't think you could even have an effective was-the-book-better-than-the-movie conversation, they are so disparate. That's not a bad thing. Your grandma, and my grandma may both make chicken soup, and the only ingredients they share may be the chicken, but both soups can still be good, right?

That's the case, here. I enjoyed both the book and the movie. Stories of a boy growing up, and trying to live up to the expectations of those around him, even if those expectations seem higher and grander than he could ever achieve. You know, even with dragons.

This book is obviously aimed at the younger end of the young adult market, but makes for a fun read. I think it would be perfect to read to a 8 or 9 year old, but maybe not in too a close proximity to the movie, as they are so different.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

flyte

Septimus Heap, Book Two: Flyte, by Angie Sage, was a pretty good follow up to Magyk. My son and I finished it last night. I had to go back and look because it seems like its been a long time since we read the first book. Check it out, it was the end of January. I think the reason is because he didn't enjoy it as much as the first one, and certainly not as much as the Nicholas Flamel series we were reading before. He just didn't ask me to read to him as often.

So Septimus, of course, figures large in this story, but what made the first story sweet, was lacking in this episode. It was more young kids, having adventures, doing magic (sorry, Magyk) growing up, learning new things, and narrowly avoiding various and sundry horrible deaths. Good, clean fun, certainly, but we've done this in the first book. There were some new things, I'm not complaining, some things were fun, and interesting, but neither of us felt compelled to pick up the book and keep reading.

Many of the characters from the first book return in Flyte, but not all, and some have much smaller parts than they did, but I have a feeling they may be back in later stories. Septimus has some new friends too, which adds some depth. A year has gone by since the last episode, and so life has changed for Septimus and his friends; they're a year older, more mature, and their responsibilities, in many cases, have increased to keep pace with their age. I assume this yearly progression will continue into the other stories, and we'll watch Septimus and his friends grow up, and have more adult adventures as they get older, similar to Harry Potter's story arc.

The next episode is Book Three: Physik, I imagine that we'll pick it up at the library at some point, but I don't think we're in a big hurry. Maybe we'll read something else in the meantime.