Tag Archives: reading program

Reading Program Starts

Yesterday the Summer Reading Program started up. I signed myself and my kids up. I thought this might make a good point to resurrect the writing here.

So much I could have written about in the break: some books, some movies (including the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, Captain America: Civil War), even games (bought and have started Final Fantasy X). Depressing political stuff, UK and US. Soul-destroying lack of progress on so many things. And then a bit of progress on a few things. The garden’s doing well.

For now? I’m going to start by talking about books and audiobooks, and other entertainmenty things, it’s easier writing about those. Be sure to holler if you want me to opine on anything, mentioned above or otherwise.

I start the reading program partway through the following books:
Harlan Ellison’s I, Robot screenplay
In Search Of The Trojan War, by Michael Wood

I have loaded up the MP3 player with audiobooks, the first one I am listening to is:
Infected, by Scott Sigler.

Sitting around near the computer, on the radar to be read during the Program:
Infected, by Scott Sigler
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Companion

And of course, plenty more on shelves in my room.

Also today, I read to kids, which included Yertle The Turtle And Other Stories.

Review: Fried Green Zombies

The final of the audiobooks i was listening to for the Reading Program, was Fried Green Zombies by John Allen.

Works about zombies tend to fall into one of two categories: straight horror, or humorous. I don’t think they fit comfortably in the “comedy” genre, as such, because the humour still is contrasted with fairly grisly things going on.

Fried Green Zombies, then, falls into the more humorous category.

Chett and Harry aren’t book-smart, they’re more in the huntin’ and drinkin’ line of things. Clay is book-smart and helps them with that sort of thing, hoping to be able to hang out with them and become “cool”. They don’t treat him very well.

Chett and Harry, at the beginning of the story, come across the mysterious female not-English-speaking burqa-clad Bob, whose story emerges over the course of the book.

Co-incidental with the arrival of Bob, are Chett and Harry’s favourite lake disappearing, and the gradual reanimating of local non-alive people (as well as previously-animal portions of Uncle Crank’s meals).

Some local police also have a long-buried secret that they want to keep buried.

And that’s all before a couple of aliens show up…

That’s quite a few threads that need to hold together, and I thought they held together well. The story was amusing and engaging. I enjoyed it.

On the slightly-less-good side (though I didn’t find it a dealbreaker to enjoyment), I only remember two female characters of note (Bob, and Clay’s mother), and I didn’t think either of them were treated particularly well by the writer. Bob, while fairly central to the story, tends to part ways with her clothes when it is dark (but insists on being very covered when it is light). Clay’s mother is, how shall we put it, traumatised at a non-zombie-related, thing that she saw, that seemed a bit over-the-top, leaping over the border from character into caricature. Comparable to the well-worn trope of women seeing mice and jumping on tables, screaming.

(Tangent – “Remember I have been asleep inside this planet of Magrathea for five million years and know little of these early sixties sit-coms of which you speak.“)

The aliens’ computer has been given a female personality, she is merely treated badly by characters, in comparison. Still, I don’t believe it’s unfair to describe the book as “a bit sexist”.

If that isn’t going to trouble you too much, and the other elements sound appealing, you’ll probably enjoy it. I did, but don’t think I’d give it an A.

Review: Motherload

The last podiobook that I finished while the Reading Program was going, was Motherload by David Collins-Rivera.

Continuing the trend of mostly-science-fiction, in this story we find a guy called Ejoq. He finds himself out of work after the company he worked for went under. Stuck on the planet that had been his destination, and his savings depleting, he manages to get a job on a small vessel that’s supposed to be extra security for freighters, who have been having problems with pirates in the area.

Ejoq and his crewmates soon find their vessel is not quite as well-equipped as it’s supposed to be, and trouble is on the way.

Motherload consists of 3 episodes, about 50 minutes each. The world seemed well thought-through: the economics of employment, the logic of how systems on the ships are laid out. The personalities of the crew: The captain with no leadership skills, the enterprising engineer trying to keep everything together, and so on.

This story is the first in the Stardrifter series. The second story, Street Candles, is also available on Podiobooks. I have to say, after listening to Motherload, I am looking forward to spending more time in this universe.

Street Candles was 40 episodes long, and I knew I couldn’t squeeze much of it at all into the time frame of this year’s Reading Program, and I have a lot of podcasts I’ve put on hold that I’d like to catch up with, so I picked a shorter thing to round out the audiobooks portion of my reading this year. But next year? I have an idea of what’s going onto the mp3 player first.

Reading Program ends

Me: 8 x 4hr blocks read. 8 x 8hr blocks read. All that counted toward the Reading Program. Additional 2 x 8hr blocks read, didn’t manage to get credit for that, with 4 hrs remainder on top of that.

Audiobooks: 79 hours listened to before the end of the reading program: 10 titles completed from Podiobooks, a 4-CD set I reviewed the other day, another title from Podiobooks started and not yet finished.

Countless kids books read.2 graphic novels read> Monuments Men finished (the Famous Five book finished, read to self not kids), got a way through The Ionian Mission but didn’t finish.

Didn’t count a bunch of time spent looking at service books, , or reading articles online

Oldest read 14 x 4 hour chunks, with an hour and a half remainder, and probably some extra stuff that didn’t get timed so didn’t get counted.

Middlest managed to read (well, entirely “be read to”) 8 x 4hr chunks.

Think we did pretty well.

Review: The Wonderful World of Linus Bailey

Part of the experience having kids, is little games you play. Or the little in-jokes. Sometimes, during mealtimes, my wife runs out of water in her cup, and asks if there is a water ninja around. Oldest (usually) will sneak around the table and steal her cup. Sometimes my wife will wonder aloud where her cup went, sometimes she will not notice its absence. Oldest will go and fill it up, and return it, and my wife will express surprise that the cup has been magically filled, or returned. “Thank you, water ninja!” she says, then Oldest will admit it was him and say “you’re welcome!”.

I’ve been known to sing (in an attempt to suggest “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match”), “Water ninja, water ninja, ninj me some water”.

Another thing that parents sometimes have to deal with is a talkative child. My sister, when she was young (no slight intended against her less-youngness), used to talk nineteen to the dozen. I think perhaps we could have been nicer about that. Middlest also does a lot of chatting, and if you ask her a question, often she’ll go into a long, mostly-unrelated monologue, and trying to interject can be a risky proposition.

In The Wonderful World Of Linus Bailey, Linus is the one to do the talking, usually at least nominally about the subject at hand. His problem, rather, is one of Constantly Making Stuff Up. His dad, in his imagination, is a ninja, who didn’t come back home after saving a nice lady at the Empire State Building, from people with guns. He has a myriad of imaginary relatives, one who owns the left half of the Amazon river, another who owns the right half. An uncle who runs a Viking hat shop. A mine in the back garden, an evil headmaster.

Linus’s problems start when his teacher tells him to not make up any fanciful stories as part of his class assignment (he does anyway), but things get dramatically worse when all the stuff he’s made up actually starts coming true.

I really liked the story. I think it’s one of those stories that has things going on at the kid-level, but plenty of stuff at the grown-up level as well. Of course, using words like “ninjing” like I do, I’m going to enjoy. I found the story clever, well-thought-out, and funny.

I think Oldest will enjoy it, and I’m really thinking of getting him to listen to it.

The Wonderful World of Linus Bailey can be found on Podiobooks, Amazon, Peter James Lamb’s website, and elsewhere.

Review: EDYL – The Reading Department

You might be starting to suspect, by now, that I am somewhat partial to the science-fiction genre. A lot of the audiobooks I’ve listened to in the binge during the reading program, have fallen into this genre.

Well, you’d be right. Science-fiction is rather a large umbrella term for stories,  which usually overlap at least one other genre. Crime, Horror, Comedy, and many more. And just by adding some elements, technological or otherwise, that secondary genre can be substantially expanded.

EDYL – The Reading Department, by Mark Capell, overlaps slightly with the “Spy” genre. Set on Earth in 2046, Jake Radley is about to embark on a new career – but he can’t know what it is until after he’s committed to doing it. After that, the training doesn’t really give him any clues, either.

While this is going on, society-at-large is being filled in for us.

Mr Capell creates an interesting world in the short running time of The Reading Department, with uncertainty on both the societal and the personal level.

I enjoyed it, enough that I don’t want to talk too much about it, so I don’t spoil anything.

The Reading Department ends in a way that you rather want to know What Happens Next, like it’s Part 1 of a series. Technically it is Part 1 of a series, with EDYL – Island Of Immortality available on Kindle. Island Of Immortality, however, is set 71 years later, so we might not find out the rest of Jake’s story.

Still, the possibilities that are left dangling to us, may be a better choice than a direct continuation of the story.

Thumbs up from me.

Review: Educide

I was out working in the back garden when I finished Window In The Sky, the last Podiobook I had on my player. Forgetting that I had a series of Louis L’Amour short stories grabbed from CD on there, I came in and had a look at the Podiobooks that I hadn’t listened to, yet. Not sure at that point how long the Reading Program would be going on for (ends Aug 7th), I looked for a story that didn’t have a great deal of parts to it.

Educide by S. Lawrence Parrish was only twelve episodes long, and short episodes, as it turned out.

Avery Carmichael arrives at a school as a student teacher, someone learning on the job about what it is to be a teacher. He has been assigned to work with Sam Petersen, a veteran teacher.

In a school where resources are stretched thin, and many students require extra attention, the environment doesn’t start off easy (well, Avery wanted a challenge), and as the story goes on, progressively gets more difficult.

It’s been a while since I was in school, but there are many parts I do remember. Substitute teachers who tried to make things fun, but weren’t really able to handle classes that really test the limits with new teachers. Teachers who start off the year all pleasant, and “you can come to me if you have any problems with your work”, but as the year went on would flip out really easily, and you wouldn’t want to approach them for anything. And of course, teachers who, through whatever miracle, actually made you want to work.

And then the students, the ones you really wanted to see, the ones who you’d go out of your way to avoid.

Sartre had a point when he said “hell is other people”, though I believe he missed the rest of the equation, “so is heaven”.

Mr Parrish wrote school very well. the environment seemed familiar, both students and teachers. And, having worked for other people, the off-campus administrators seemed believable as well.

I found the ending rather a surprise, though I suppose I shouldn’t have. It seemed a logical outgrowth of the way people were treated.

Looking on Podiobooks, I see that Mr Parrish has a few more stories uploaded there. Based on how well this one was constructed, I’m going to have a good look at the others to choose some more to pick out.

Review: The Long Way Home/No Future For You

Today, I started AND finished three books, as well as finished an audiobook I started yesterday, and listened to more than half of today.

Perhaps it’s not fair to compare the books I read in their entirety today, with other books I’m in the middle of: Five Go Adventuring Again is a kids’ book, and only took me about an hour and a half to read. The other two books were graphic novels, and the audiobook was twelve episodes that ranged from about twenty minutes to  half an hour. Whereas The Ionian Mission and The Monuments Men are somewhat longer and denser. Nineveh And Its Remains is on the backburner, as I really want to be making notes while reading it (should be doing the same with The Monuments Men), and I am making notes while reading Twilight Of The Mind (which otherwise I would be making a lot more progress in).

A month or two ago (complete guess, I’m not good at tracking such things), my sister-in-law was whittling down her possessions, as she does from time to time. (Me, less so.) She asked if I wanted the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8 graphic novels that she didn’t want to hang on to any more.

Yes please!

A week or two ago (likely, but still a guess), the penultimate volume of the graphic novel of The Stand arrived (I only ordered it recently), and I pulled the Buffy off the shelf, intending to read them afterwards.

Didn’t happen. the two volumes have been sitting on my desk, unread, for longer than I would like. So after finishing Oldest’s library book (the Famous Five one, wanted to read it before it went back), I decided to read these.

First of all, these volumes being the first two collections of Season 8, there’s a lot more setup than resolution. (Checks the library system, yes the rest of the season is listed. Phew!)

The humour of the series (one-liners and all) continue intact. The odd wordages and slang of the characters also remains. This does feel like an authentic continuation. So do the outlandish situations, that the characters have to take very seriously. Like Dawn being made the size of Clifford The Big Red Dog.

Some of the characters have strained relationship, as happens, and some characters that you might not expect to recur from the series, do. In addition to that, there’s quite a few callbacks to events in the TV show.

Faith! Liked her in the TV shows, was nice having her back in No Future For You.

While I enjoy graphic novels, I do tend to have difficulties in telling sometimes, whether a character in one panel is the same character as one in another panel. I got this here a few times. Worse was when the visuals had to tell the story rather than the words: guess I’m more a words guy. Once or twice I had to go back over a sequence to figure out what happened.

I’ve put Volume 3 on hold at the library. There was the unfortunate possibility that Wolves At The Gate (collecting the original comics #11-15) was assumed to be the same as the Library Edition Volume 3 (collecting issues 21-30). We’ll see how that goes.

I’d say Season 8 got off to a good start.

Review: Window In The Sky

When I started getting into Podiobooks in a big way, I downloaded Homesick by Paul J. Joseph. This turned out to be the second book in his Through The Fold series. I went back and listened to Marker Stone (book 1), and now I’ve listened all the way through and finished book 6: Window In The Sky.

Through The Fold has been an interesting series. As a series primarily set in space, whether on ships or stations or alien worlds, we often see well-thought-out situations and technologies: muscle wastage in low-grav environments in those who don’t exercise, and people trying to find a way around the exercising. Stations as waypoints on longer journeys. Space travel taking a Long Time (which it ought to).

These things help ground the series when it ventures into the alien-ness of the Masters, then the even-more-alien-ness of the Szzzyyyxx (pronounced “See-ikes”), the weird weapon that so negatively affects Baltan City, and then the time travel and parallel universe stories.

I’ve read and watched a lot of science fiction, and know how badly the Big Shiny Reset Button can suck. Mr Joseph has impressed me by using reset buttons in two books, and have it be satisfying.

One thing I find interesting about the series, is the steps between each story are pretty big. The discovery of the Fold in Marker Stone does make a logical step to exploration of the other side in Homesick, but after that, the stories aren’t really what you expect from a logical, measured building-upon the foundations carefully laid by the book before. The pattern’s a bit more complicated than that, so while the steps seem like left turns, they do build upon each other and add up pretty well.

Layers of complexity are added as the series goes on, and Window In The Sky is the most complicated of all. Splashdown introduced time travel to the series, Window really explores the effects of history being rewritten multiple times. From the perspective of a few different points in the timelines.

There really is quite a tangled web, which Mr Joseph manages to untangle without leaving any threads hanging, which seems like rather a feat.

Initially in the series, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with a same-sex relationship portrayed in the story. I soon overcame this, though. Mr Joseph avoided two pitfalls that lie lurking, waiting to ensnare works like this. One, there can be a temptation to describe one type of relationship more than another. The other, to go into a lot of description about physical acts.

Mr Joseph balances the main romantic partnerships (Sally and Jackie, and Ian and Angela) about the same. The dynamics are different of course: Jackie is more supporting of Sally than Angela is of Ian, but neither relationship is turned into porn for the ears, as some other writers do. I appreciated that.

There’s a twist at the very end of Window that has the comments section at Podiobooks, very divided. To some extent, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, at the same time, it’s one of those things that seems worth discussing. So what I’ll do, I’ll give my wrap-up now, leave a few lines blank, then talk about the ending a bit. If you don’t want to be spoiled, well, you’re a grown-up, you can skip that part.

The wrap-up:

Someone (and I’m too lazy right now to look up who) once said: If a book isn’t worth reading twice, it’s not worth reading once. I enjoyed the Through The Fold series, and while sometimes it was a bit tricky to follow, when one character stopped talking and another started, and there wasn’t a lot of change in the vocal style, any potential confusion always got swiftly cleared up. The stories got complicated, yes, but I still managed to follow them. I think I will listen to the whole series again. They’re pretty long books, so I’m not quite ready for such a massive undertaking at this point, but having finished the series now, I’m kinda looking forward to it.

All six books of the Through The Fold series can be found at Podiobooks.

MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE BREAK

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Are they gone? Good. Reminder: MAJOR SPOILERS (in case you forgot)

After the entire timeline is reset, and a new universe emerges, Ian and Sally are, for different reasons, left partnerless. They also both remember the previous timelines, which nobody else does.

As the only people alive who share that now-vanished history, it’s not surprising that they would find it easier to connect with each other, than to anyone in the rest of the populace who wasn’t there so couldn’t remember. I’ve heard stranger real-life stories of gay people surprised to find themselves choosing to be in a straight marriage.

Ian’s broaching of the subject does seem a bit awkward, but any such conversation would be. The question “Are you still…?” then jarred a little, but seemed mitigated by his bringing up that she’d mentioned she had had a crush on a guy, once. Sally’s reaction to what would obviously seem like a major change, seemed reasonable as well.

Thus to me, that development in the closing moments of the book, didn’t really come across as contrived, to me.

I can see how it would piss a lot of people off, who have different viewpoints on the subject to myself. Seems Mr Joseph is on track to piss everyone off: for one group, by having a gay relationship prominent throughout the series, and to another, by having a gay character turn straight at the end.

I’m an asshole, and am also not entirely in either group, so I just find that observation amusing.

Anyway, the scenario made sense to me even without that change, so.

Review: Space Casey 1 and 2

Casey is a con artist and a swindler. Soon, through every fault of her own, gets into the middle of Much Larger Events, introducing the rest of the galaxy to Earth. Which isn’t too happy at being represented by her…

Space Casey and Space Casey Season 2 are books by Christiana Ellis, and I found both in audiobook/audio drama format on Podiobooks.

Naturally.

Love that site.

I like these books. They play nicely with the concept thatyou can’t necessarily trust what Casey says, it’s funny, well-written, and the voice cast do great. I don’t want to say too much, it’s one of those stories (well, two of those stories) that are good enough that you don’t want to tell anyone what happens, you just want others to experience it for themselves.

Season 2 gave me a bit of nostalgia for Day Of The Tentacle

I like the blurb for the first book, it does a good job of letting you know the kind of thing you’ll be in for, and thus whether you’ll like it or not:

“Some heroines will steal your heart. This one will steal your wallet. In the future, mankind has expanded to fill the solar system, but when a snarky con-woman steals the wrong spaceship, she finds herself stranded in a distant galaxy. She is humanity’s first emissary to a galactic civilization, and all she wants to do is go home. Preferably, without being arrested.”

Space Casey and Space Casey Season 2 on Podiobooks.

I do like her catchphrase, though: “Son of a bitch, there goes Plan A.”