Discussion in 'Discussions' started by Createx, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Last night I finished reading Book #7 in Kim Harrison's "Hollows" series, White Witch Black Curse (yet another title taken from a Clint Eastwood movie ("White Hunter Black Heart"). It's a decent book, about average for the series. Some of the repetition in it bothers me, as well as some of the melodrama, but that's typical for the writer. I thought the previous book was better. But I needed something light after John Le Carre, and this served its purpose.

    The book starts with a phone call that Rachel receives from Captain Edden of the FIB (kind of like the FBI, one of two national agencies encharged with enforcing law and order. The FIB deals with Human affairs, and the I.S. deals with Inderlander (ie. non-human) affairs. Edden's son Glenn, also an FIB agent, was found nearly dead in an abandoned house, and Edden once again has asked Rachel for her help in capturing the bad guys. Apparently, a life-draining Banshee is responsible, but the I.S. is ignoring the problem. As usual, the story isn't as simple as that -- also in the story is a ghost named Pierce, Al the demon, Ford, an FIB agent/psychologist with empathic abilities, and Rachel struggling to regain her lost memories concerning the death of a former boyfriend.

    I can't say that I love the series -- it's more of a love-hate relationship. But I can't stop reading them. It's kind of like when you start watching a television series, and you know it's not very good and kind of silly, but you have to know what happens next. That's kind of my feeling about the "Hollows" books.

    I'm now reading book #8, Black Magic Sanction.
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  2. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished reading Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison this morning -- I think it's the best book in the series so far. As of the previous book, Rachel has been officially shunned by the Coven of Moral and Ethical Standards, an extremely influential organization of witches, making her life extremely difficult. In this book, the coven's fear of Rachel (for reasons that would be too much of a spoiler to specify here) has escalated to the point where it's been decided that she should be imprisoned in Alcatraz, and sterilized and either lobotomized or chemically rendered unable to practice magic. When it becomes apparent to them that it's nearly impossible to keep her imprisoned, assassinating her becomes a possible alternative. When it becomes clear that she's running out of alternatives, she must turn for assistance to former enemies for help.

    The book was exciting, and it brought back some great old characters, relationships become redefined, and characters became a bit more fleshed out. Also, it doesn't have the same issues with repetition and melodrama. Rachel (or maybe the author) seems to be gaining a bit more maturity. I have no mixed feelings about this volume -- I just loved it.

    Anyway, I went straight on to book #9, Pale Demon, which continues the story from just a few months after the end of Book #8.
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  3. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    I have deviated again from the world of fiction into the world of non-fiction, in this case, the How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook. I have Celiac Disease, so my aversion to gluten is not some fad diet. Things have been getting better in the gluten-free foods department lately, but I wanted something more. I consider myself a pretty darn good chef, but baking has always been beyond me, especially gluten-free.

    But what I really like about this cookbook, done by America's Test Kitchen who also do Cook's Illustrated, is that it takes a very scientific approach to cooking. So not only do you get great recipes, but each and every recipe includes a section on Why This Recipe Works. This allows one to experiment and try different tactics, once you know why a certain thing works the way it does. And this cookbook really goes into the science of why gluten does so well in baked goods, and what you can do to get the same effect with different types of non-wheat flour. Really an excellent guide, going to try one of the recipes this week and see how it turns out!
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  4. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I'm lucky enough to have just been an innocent bystander in the Gluten-free department -- doctor wants me to limit my salt intake, and stay away as much as possible from fast foods, but that's about it. I don't envy anyone with Celiac disease or food allergies (my year-round environmental allergies -- pollen and dust mites -- are bad enough). My nephew, brother, and friend all have several food allergies, so I know things can be rough because it's not always obvious what's causing the problems. I'm glad you mentioned the fad diet aspect. The scientific consensus now is that Gluten allergies and Gluten sensitivity (except in the cases of Celiac disease and one or two related diseases) are actually non-existent.

    I'm not a great cook, but I do have a couple of the America's Test Kitchen recipe books, always intending to experiment, but ended up using it mostly as a general reference for cook times and temperatures. I'm a guy who has trouble following recipes. I tend to try to make stuff from whatever is on hand, and my experiments are really more of the mad scientist type. And that does work well enough for me (for example, I discovered years ago that frozen orange juice makes a good flavoring for steak or chicken, and chicken cutlets+plain yoghurt+onion+random oriental veggies+curry in a wok is absolutely delicious, and my chile a la haldurson is 'authentic enough to give you Moctezuma's revenge' (stole that phrase from my dad, who would regularly make that claim -- my chile was actually much better than that). I also used to make a really great Sangria, but these days I stay away from alcohol. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how well your taste would agree with mine), none of those items will taste the same twice in a row, because it's all put together at the spur of the moment and it's always slightly (or greatly) different.

    But yeah, they are good books. But I think I'd need a gun to my head to actually follow a recipe.
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  5. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    Considering what I know about you and your logic, I find this surprising, in a good way! I always say that "Cooking is a science when you follow a recipe. It's an art when you experiment on your own." I would have imagined you to be more the 'stick-to-the-recipe' kind of guy! The fact that you aren't and your food still turns out good is, to me, the sign of a great chef: somebody who knows what flavor they are after, or knows what just might taste good together, and isn't afraid to throw them together and find out for sure. :D
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  6. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I'm a product of both my parents -- my mom was very artistic, being a singer, musician, dancer and actress. My dad was very smart and logical, ended up becoming an attorney (though he did start out in the sciences, having attended Bronx High School of Science). I have a bit of the best of both worlds.
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  7. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    BTW, I got an e-mail today regarding the Humble Bookperk Bundle. American Gods by Neil Gaiman is my all-time favorite fantasy novel. Also, the first book in the Hollows series (which I've been reading on and off, and discussing a whole lot lately) is part of the bundle if you pay $10.00 or more. I also know that Lois McMaster Bujold is quite a good writer, and a past winner of the Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel, although I'm not familiar with the book in the bundle, and I am not exactly a big fan of hers. The books are available for download to most mobile devices or to your PC (just get any of a number of free e-readers).
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  8. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I just finished Kim Harrison's Pale Demon, and it was actually pretty good. It's kind of a road-trip novel. Rachel has to travel out to the west coast for her trial by her fellow witches in San Francisco where she hopes to finally clear her name. But if she's unsuccessful, she may be either sentenced to prison, or have to seek refuge in the Ever-After, a bleak wasteland and demon realm. She finds out that, due to her shunning, the airline will not honor her plane tickets, so she has to drive. Enter her former enemy, but certainly not trusted 'friend', Trent Kalamack who wants to hire her as his bodyguard. Trent also wishes to travel to the west-coast, but for reasons he will not reveal, he also cannot fly. In return for her services, Trent offers to speak on her behalf at her trial. And it seems that not only do the witches not want Rachel to reach San Francisco, but Trent has elven assassins seeking his blood. And if the assassins don't get him, by the time they reach the west coast, Rachel may have reason enough to want Trent dead, herself. Again.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the book. Kim Harrison seems to be maturing as a writer, and I look forward to further books in the series. I'm about to start A Perfect Blood.
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  9. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished A Perfect Blood this morning, and it was good. The title refers to the fact that a group of domestic terrorists known as HAPA are after a source of demon blood -- demon blood is necessary to trigger demon magic. In order to do so, they've been kidnapping witches and trying to turn them into demons
    As was revealed in earlier books, Witches are an offshoot race of demons who fled the ever after hundreds of years earlier.

    The novel starts out slowly, but it picks up the pace about halfway through

    Anyway, the next novel in the series is Ever After, and I BELIEVE it is the only title in the series that is not a variation of a Clint Eastwood title, as far as I can tell (though in September, a new novel is being released called The Witch With No Name, which while is not a play on a title, does refer to the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western character dubbed "The Man with No Name", which is odd because his character actually does have a name in a couple of the movies:
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  10. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    Once upon a time, one of my favorite authors was a Polish science fiction writer/satirist named Stanislaw Lem. If you want to try him out, I especially recommend Solaris, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, The Cyberiad, and Return from the Stars. Anyway, the reason why I'm bringing this up is because I stumbled upon a really good recent article about him and his writing, in case anyone is interested:
    Apparently, what prompted the article is that one of his novellas has been (loosely) adapted to the screen (The Futurological Congress as the "The Congress".

    I will say that Solaris is among my favorite science fiction novels of all time (certainly in the top 10), and that Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is highly underrated.

    BTW, I've been reading the last three books in Kim Harrison's Hollows series. I'm nearly halfway done with the final book right now, and I'll have a combined review when I'm finished. When I say final, I mean, truly final (although I did find a collection of short stories which I haven't read yet, and I'm not sure if I'll delve into any of the graphic novels or not). I have no idea if Rachel or any of the other major characters will live or die by the end, but considering this is, as Kim Harrison claims, the last book in the series, anything is possible. I will say that the last book involves lots and lots of vampires, living and undead. (Undead vampires, as opposed to living ones, are vampires who have died their 'first' death. They are also called "Master Vampires" in the series lore because they are quite powerful).
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  11. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished the final book in Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" series. All of them are worth reading if you like Urban fantasy. Here's a bit about the last 3 books:

    Ever After : Rachel, in a previous book, managed to create a new ley line, quite accidentally, and it's been noticed that it's causing the Ever After to shrink, albeit slowly. Also, someone has been kidnapping Rosewood babies -- witch babies with the same genetic mutation that our hero, Rachel, was born with. And it becomes clear that Ku'Sox, a demon that industrialist Trent Kalamack unwittingly released in a previous book, is involved. And the kidnappings are tied to a plot that may destroy the Ever After, the demon realm, and Rachel is being set up to take the blame. Fun story, not the best, not the worst.

    The Undead Pool : Rachel and her partner, Ivy, have been living under the protection of ex-president of the US, and head Master vampire of Cincinatti, Rynn Cormel. Mysteriously, all of the Master Vampires are falling into an unbreakable asleep, and their living underlings, no longer held in check by the masters, are running amok. And at the same time, magic has been going awry, with waves of catastrophic misfires of spells across the Cincinatti area. Is this natural, or an attack, and if so, is it a rehearsal for something even bigger? I found this book to be quite exciting, and fun.

    The Witch With No Name : Undead/Master Vampires lose their souls when they die their first death. It's conventional wisdom that once lost, they may not be found and reattached to their bodies. Or can they? Rynn Cormel has been convinced that Rachel can return his soul, and is willing to do anything, including kill her roommate to force her to do just that. And then the Elven Dewar/religious head promises that the elves not only can do what Rachel refuses to do, but he can do it for all Undead vampires at the same time. And in payment for his services, he wants Rachel and Trent Kalamack dead.

    This is a good, if somewhat sentimental ending to a fun series. I'm not going to give any spoilers, other than to say that (nearly) every plot thread is resolved, and a few in quite unexpected ways. The only one which is unresolved is:
    What happens with Rachel's ex-boyfriend/demon familiar, Nick Sparagmos -- he became Newt's Familiar in an earlier book, but for multiple reasons, that can no longer be the case -- is he dead? Somehow (against all odds) still tied to Newt? Freed and seeking vengeance? Stuck in the Ever After? Tied to a different Demon? It may just be that I missed/overlooked it, it's still a mystery. Since Nick probably still wants Rachel dead, it would be something you'd think would be answered.

    If you know the answer to my question as to the plot thread I mentioned, please PM me, because it's a nagging detail.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2014
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  12. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I recently finished a book that I've been aware of for a very long time, but for some reason, I never got around to it. Jack Chalker's Midnight at the Well of Souls is considered a science fiction classic. It's actually the first book in the Well World series, and it was pretty good.

    The book starts with a murder -- a scientist and some students are on an archaelogical dig on what is known as a "Markovian" world. The Markovians were an ancient and extremely powerful, almost godlike alien race that once had a galactic empire. But they seem to have died out many years prior, leaving ruins on planets scattered throughout the galaxy. They've left giant artificial brains the size of planets, and the scientist believes that whoever can solve the problem of these brains, can control the universe and shape it to however he desires. When he realizes that one of his students has also solved the riddle, he kills everyone else on the expedition, and sets out in pursuit of his student. And then they both disappear.

    Meanwhile, Freighter Captain Nathan Brazil, while transporting 3 passengers, receives a distress call from that planet, and discovers the murder. With the help of his passengers, they set out to track down the murderer, but find themselves transported to the Well World -- a planet of one of those Markovian brains.

    Anyway, it's more of a science fantasy adventure story -- As Arthur C. Clarke once said, any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from Magic. And that's basically what you have to remember when you read this book. Some of the themes of the book may be controversial, especially for 1977, when it was published (less so now). But I do highly recommend it.

    A better description of the book is here:
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
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  13. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I thought that some people might be interested... I just discovered that Anne Rice is releasing a book later this month called Prince Lestat. I was a fan of her vampire chronicles series, at least the ones with Lestat in them. I thought that the last Lestat book, Memnoch the Devil was not as good as any of the previous ones, and the next book, The Vampire Armand was just not good at all, to the point that I could not finish it. Armand, and the other characters in the series were just not that compelling. So I quit reading them at that point. It sounds like this book may bring me back, but honestly, I'm going to skip the other books in the series.

    In any case, I do recommend the first few books in the series:

    Interview with a Vampire -- This is a decent start to the series, and if you are going to read the books, you should definitely not skip this one. Unlike the later books, it's told from the viewpoint of Louis, who can be a bit of a downer as a character (lots of angst). He's 'turned' by Lestat, who introduces him to being a vampire. To Louis, Lestat is a monster (which he is, essentially, but he's a complex monster). If you've seen the movie, don't let that prejudice you -- the book is MUCH better.

    The Vampire Lestat -- This is where the series really takes off, as this is Lestat's story, told from his point of view, from when he first became a Vampire. It's a classic of Vampire fiction. Lestat is NOT 'pure evil' -- as I said, he's much more complex. And since you now can see his story from his own point of view, it puts the first book in a brand new light, and you realize that maybe Louis isn't the best person to listen to when trying to understand Lestat or living as a vampire. Granted, Lestat has a bit of an ego, but you realize that there's more to him than what Louis perceives.

    Queen of the Damned -- Don't be influenced by the HORRIBLE film of the same name. The book is not as good as the previous one, but it's still a fun adventure story, that reveals even more of the origin of Vampires.

    The Tale of the Body Thief -- This is a really good book, where Lestat has to deal with someone who can swap bodies with others. Unfortunately, the series starts going downhill afterwards. I'm not going to bother reviewing the later books, other than to say that Memnoch The Devil is not a bad book, but it's just not up to par with any of the previous ones.
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  14. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    Anne Rice is a hit and miss author of sorts. I actually rather dislike her books as a whole, but some are rather good. The "other" books she wrote were so horrible I will not even bother to mention the genre, but if you do not already know it, you are probably better off that way.
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  15. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I agree, and I know precisely what you speak of. You are right that you are better off not knowing. But the books I recommended are nothing like that.
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  16. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    BTW, I finished Brian Aldiss's Galaxies Like Grains of Sand several days ago, and it was very good. The book is a collection of interconnected short stories forming a future history spanning thousands of years, connected by historic discussions between each story. It's about the rise and fall and rise and fall again of the earth and the human race, and its spread thoughout the universe, and about what eventually replaces us. Aldiss is considered one of the 'grandmasters' of science fiction.

    Anyway, after finishing the book, I finally got to start the only novel by Kurt Vonnegut that I've missed, Bluebeard Vonnegut is my favorite author, but for reasons I won't go into, there were two novels that I never read -- one was Galapagos which I read and reviewed several months ago. And the other was this novel, which I recently started. I've been unable to do much reading recently due to an allergic reaction to a couple of wasp bites. My foot swelled up, and due to the pain and itching, I had severe trouble sleeping, as well as focusing enough to read anything of substance. But I'm back to reading now.
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  17. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    I finished Bluebeard, and I thought the book was excellent. I would place it around upper middle of his range of quality for novels -- not my favorite, but still a book that I strongly recommend. Vonnegut is certainly one of my all-time favorite authors. I discovered him in College, and read just about all of the novels he had written by the time I graduated (he still had more to write though). Even his weakest of novels are worth reading, so that says something.

    The story is about an aging retired Armenian-American artist and veteran of WWII named Rabo Karabekian. In part, it's about his present day life in his home in the Hamptons, and about the writing of his autobiography. Karabekian becomes part of the Abstract Impressionist artistic movement in New York, but he's far from being considered a great artist himself. In fact, his name is kind of a joke, because nearly all of his works started to disintegrate years after they were completed, because the paint he used was faulty (in fact, he cannot safely dispose of the cans of paint in his basement by normal disposal methods, because they became known to decay to produce poison gases). He sees himself a failure at about everything, except when he was in the Army corps of engineers. He earned many medals, and his team was so good at camouflage that (in his words), half the things that they camouflaged have even today, never been seen.

    The book is a mixture of humor and irony and tragedy. In it, Vonnegut talks about the nature of art, war, life, death, the American Dream, and both the darker and lighter sides of humankind. I'm a huge fan of Vonnegut's writing style. I know it can seem odd to those not used to it, because he breaks his chapters into subchapters that are filled with anecdotes, some funny, some shocking. He tends to use very simple sentence structure which makes reading his books very easy (it reminds me a little bit of Hemingway's journalistic style in its simplicity).

    Anyway, if you haven't read Vonnegut, you are missing one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. I strongly recommend Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse 5 (or the Children's Crusade, and Mother Night in particular. But if you stop there, you'll miss some other gems, such as Breakfast of Champions, The Sirens of Titan, and so on. He was not as prolific a writer as many others, but what he lacks in volume, he more than makes up for in quality.

    Anyway, I've just started reading Jack L. Chalker's Exiles at the Well of Souls, the second book in the Well World series.
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  18. Jacq

    Jacq Member

    Someone convince me to keep reading The Dresden Files. There's absolutely nothing likeable in the titular character, and the supporting female cast is tropey and gross. I can't see what has everyone so excited about it. (I'm about 2/3rds through the third one atm).
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  19. Xyvik

    Xyvik Member

    Don't look at me. I am not a fan of that series for the same reasons. Never understood its popularity, but to each their own I guess. (I think it's because paranormal anything is 'in' these days)
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  20. Haldurson

    Haldurson Member

    If you don't like the main character, you simply will not like the series. I actually love the series, but the books do get better as you keep reading. And the series, along with its characters, do evolve, and the current series is pretty much unrecognizable to anyone who hasn't been following along. And Jim Butcher also has matured a lot as a writer.

    That said, it's certainly not meant to be deep or thought-provoking. It's like eating popcorn. (One of my favorite ways of describing books and movies, and so on, is in terms of food -- a book which is deep, and thought provoking, is like filet mignon or lobster. A book (or movie) which is all about fun and action is a popc0orn book (or movie). If the book or movie is pure fluff, just enough to make you smile, then it's a cotton candy book (or movie). Sometimes you want that Lobster or Filet Mignon, or a 3 course gourmet meal. Other times, all you are in the mood for is cotton candy or popcorn.

    BTW, I discovered Dresden first, through the TV series -- it certainly was flawed, (and episode 1 is pretty bad, really). But it is still fun to watch (it's different from the novels):
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