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Forum nameReading Challenges, 2010
Topic subjectCathy's Log
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=505&topic_id=88
88, Cathy's Log
Posted by cachance, Wed Jan-06-10 03:09 PM
I'm going for at least 50. I estimate that's what I normally do anyway, but this will be a good way to keep track.

Note: entries marked with * indicate I couldn't finish the book.
142, RE: Cathy's Log
Posted by cachance, Thu Jan-14-10 05:47 AM
1/13: Completed The Bourne Supremacy by Ludlum.

This is a classic thriller, but I had the hardest time getting around to reading the ending. Maybe because I knew Bourne would survive and I didn't care enough about the other characters to find out if they did. I also found the politics convoluted and confusing.
146, RE: Cathy's Log
Posted by alissaameth, Thu Jan-14-10 06:37 PM
I felt that this book lacked a lot compared to the first one... but I haven't been able to put my finger on it. (I think I read it last summer, so the details aren't fresh in my mind.)
147, RE: Cathy's Log
Posted by cachance, Thu Jan-14-10 07:06 PM
I quite agree. For me, there were a number of drawbacks: the convoluted politics underlying the "mission", unsympathetic characters, and Marie's whiney behavior.
148, RE: Cathy's Log
Posted by alissaameth, Thu Jan-14-10 07:39 PM
Ooh, I definitely remember the whiney behavior.

Also, I'm not sure this is something that I could legitimately hold against the book, but I didn't like that the setting was so different from before. I guess I felt like it didn't fit in with my mental picture of what a Bourne book should be like, based on the first one. You know, traipsing around Europe.

Which reminds me that I didn't like how Carlos just disappeared and a new villain stepped in. (Or am I forgetting something?)

I still liked the novel well enough, though. Not as fantastic as the first one, but better than the third one, in my opinion. (That one I had a hard time finishing.)
168, Space Viking
Posted by cachance, Tue Jan-19-10 12:36 PM
Finished Space Viking by H. Beam Piper today, 1/19/10.

Light, easy reading. Limited characterization, limited description and setting with some notable exceptions. This novel dates from the early 1960's. I wonder if my father ever read it?
194, Young Miles
Posted by cachance, Sat Jan-23-10 01:47 PM
Just finished re-reading Lois McMaster Bujold's Young Miles , which is actually 2 novels and a novella.

Wonderful stories and an outstanding character.
269, The Pride of Chanur
Posted by cachance, Wed Feb-03-10 06:11 AM
At least I got through it. I found the writing very difficult and never cared much about any character. This was part of an omnibus volume, but I doubt I'll read the other two novels included. Completed 2/2
315, Entering Tenebrea
Posted by cachance, Mon Feb-08-10 05:56 PM
Not sure when I finished this. Friday? I can't say I like the main character. She's much to angry, but at the end it seemed like she might be changing so I'll consider the next volume.
365, The Messenger by Daniel Silva
Posted by cachance, Tue Feb-16-10 03:34 PM
Finished this today 2/16/10. Again, a basically well-done thriller, but I still feel very detached from the main character, Gabriel Allon.
380, The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva
Posted by cachance, Sun Feb-21-10 02:13 PM
Another one. Dang how I wish Silva would give Gabriel some feelings.
437, 8. Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva
Posted by cachance, Wed Mar-03-10 05:54 AM
Another! Only one more to go in the series (until the next one comes out later this year). Over the course of however many books in the series, I have started to care about the recurring characters. Also, the plots are very good.
448, 9. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family
Posted by cachance, Fri Mar-05-10 12:26 PM
A classic by Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz.
478, 10. Queen Isabella by Alison Weir
Posted by cachance, Sun Mar-14-10 07:38 AM
A biography of the wife of Edward II. Well documented, but I'd have liked a little more interpretation of just what this woman was like.

Also: schizophrenia is NOT a personality disorder.
487, 11. Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying
Posted by cachance, Tue Mar-16-10 10:59 AM
By James M. Olson.

Good book by a retired CIA operative, presenting 50 dilemmas and various comments and decisions. Also has an appendix on Spying 101.
495, 12. The Defector by Daniel Silva
Posted by cachance, Fri Mar-19-10 05:41 AM
Last in the series until the new one comes out in July. I couldn't put this one down. A lot more emotion, though Silva doesn't handle it well, but by now, I do care about these characters.
519, 13. On Killing by Dave Grossman
Posted by cachance, Fri Mar-26-10 05:59 AM
This has taken me a long time to get through. Interesting concepts but not presented in a scholarly manner. I realize it's difficult to write a scholarly work for a general audience, but the lack of counterarguments and proper citations made this look like the work of a fringe kook.
526, 14. Luna Marine by Ian Douglas
Posted by cachance, Sat Mar-27-10 05:58 AM
Couldn't put it down. Good pace, believable characters. The science comes across as solid. The plot could be tighter, but it works. Have already started the third in this trilogy.
560, 15. Europa Strike by Ian Douglas
Posted by cachance, Fri Apr-02-10 03:09 PM
Nicely done space opera. The science comes across as solid. Good tension. Characters are generally believable and not entirely stereotypic.
561, RE: Cathy's Log
Posted by cachance, Fri Apr-02-10 03:13 PM
Hmmm...this is week 17 of the year and I'm only at 15 books, need to pick up the pace a bit if I can.
622, 16. Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait
Posted by cachance, Mon Apr-12-10 05:47 AM
Finished this on Saturday. I was a bit underwhelmed but I'm not sure why.
624, 17: Star Corps by Ian Douglas
Posted by cachance, Tue Apr-13-10 05:53 AM
Beginning the second trilogy. I'm very impressed with his ability to do the military sf. He gives details of weapons, armor and machines but not too much (I don't skim much). These details increase the suspension of disbelief. His descriptions of the battles are also well done. I need to pay attention to his writing to see how he does it.

On to the next in the series.
637, 18. Battlespace by Ian Douglas
Posted by cachance, Fri Apr-16-10 04:15 PM
Second in the Legacy Trilogy and well done! If you enjoy military sf, you'll enjoy this. As I've noted before, Douglas uses great details to make you feel like this really could happen. His aliens are increasingly alien, in line with the overall plot lines.
668, 19.Star Marines by Ian Douglas
Posted by cachance, Mon Apr-26-10 05:51 AM
I didn't like this one as well as the previous ones, I think because the characters weren't as well developed. The science, however, continues to be well-done. I particularly liked the idea that after "Armageddonfall", humanity doesn't become primitive but turns to its tech, gets it back up and running, and uses the tech to survive. Now thatmakes sense.

On to the next trilogy.
693, 20. Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir
Posted by cachance, Wed May-05-10 10:27 AM
This is a biography of Katherine Swynford who went from being the mistress of John of Gaunt to his wife and thus Duchess of Lancaster back in the 14th century. It's well done, but a bit on the wordy side. I found myself skimming various portions.
720, 21. Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Posted by cachance, Mon May-17-10 05:16 PM
A re-read I had to do after watching the movies on blu-ray. Amazing how much Tolkien relied on passive sentence structures. The dialog is stilted, with the exception of that by Sam, sometimes. It's hard, though, reading this critically, since I've read it so many times before and enjoyed the movies (despite the stupid changes made).
834, RE: 21. Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri Jun-25-10 11:47 AM
I first read this book in high school and I thought it was the best story ever. I reread it in college and couldn't get past the scene where they find the short-cut to mushrooms. Tolkein was undoubtably a master of language, but I have a hard time reading his work-- especially The Silmarillion.
724, 22. When Men Batter Women
Posted by cachance, Tue May-18-10 04:21 PM
by Jacobson & Gottman. Very interesting book, describing "Cobras" and "Pit Bulls" as two distinct subsets of battering men.
743, 23. How to write a damn good thriller by Frey
Posted by cachance, Sat May-29-10 06:57 AM
It was all right. I found myself ignoring his detailed outline of one of his books (something I wouldn't have wanted to read). I also found it irritating that he chose to label things like the outline with his own conceits. I also found his advice to head toward being formulaic. Perhaps this was why I hated his ideas for thrillers.

I did like the idea of working on the "plot behind the plot"...just what the bad guy is up to. Also the idea of having the characters write a journal or something of the sort. I haven't tried that, but I can see where it might help you get a real handle on them.
746, 24. The Two Towers by Tolkein
Posted by cachance, Mon May-31-10 06:41 AM
A re-read, of course.
763, 25. The Return of the King by Tolkein
Posted by cachance, Sun Jun-06-10 07:06 AM
No, I'm not including all the appendices.

I still don't see the point of all the stuff after Frodo destroys the Ring. I understand, somewhat, what Card is talking about when he say's this is a "milieu" story, though I'm not sure I agree. Yes, throughout the books, Tolkein goes into elaborate detail about the world of Middle Earth but when I think about what this story is about, I think in terms of the quest to destroy the One Ring and the defeat of the evil forces of Sauron. I don't think of this as a story about the world of Middle Earth.
806, 26. The Great Game: Myths and Reality of Espionage
Posted by cachance, Sun Jun-13-10 06:43 AM
by Hitz. I would rate this only about 3/5 stars. Interesting as far as it went, but it seemed to be superficial and focused on only a few examples, used repeatedly, be it an actual case or a fictional one. It was published in 2005, but the focus was on WWII and the Cold War. The books cited and discussed also focused on these eras.
826, 27. The Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin
Posted by cachance, Tue Jun-22-10 12:59 PM
I'd read this before a long while back, but given all the acolades the series has received, I felt I needed to read it again. Yes, it is well-written. And yet...I don't like it. There, I said it. I get the feeling that a lot of the sex and violence is gratuitous. As is GRRM's habit of killing off any of the more likeable characters. Not that there are that many likeable characters to start with. As for the kids...well, they really don't act like kids. Sure, in the middle ages children did grow up faster and took on more responsibilities younger than currently, but that still didn't give them wisdom or poise or ability.
833, RE: 27. The Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri Jun-25-10 11:43 AM
If we all liked the same books, we'd be rather boring people. I can definitely understand why this series doesn't appeal to everyone. I do agree about the kids. Particularly Anya, who I think was only nine, because she caught on to her sword lessons rather quickly given that she was a free-spirited sort. And the heir to Winterfell (his name escapes me) seemed a lot more grown up than his age indicated.
828, 28. The Ghost War by A. Berenson
Posted by cachance, Wed Jun-23-10 05:49 AM
I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this, even though the tension was a bit lacking toward the end. I liked the protagonist, Wells, and his love interest, Exley. The villains were well motivated and believable. The plot had enough elements, without being so twisty as to lose me completely.
832, 29. * Space Prison by T. Godwin
Posted by cachance, Fri Jun-25-10 09:53 AM
This book was first released in the late 1950's. It's a saga that spans multiple generations of a group of people stranded on a hostile world. Unfortunately, the author chose a very distanced point of view that prevented me from caring about any character. I never felt the story really "began". So, since it never began, I decided not to finish. It just wasn't compelling enough.
838, 30.* Arbella: England's Lost Queen by S. Gristwood
Posted by cachance, Sun Jun-27-10 07:22 AM
I'm sorry, I just can't finish it. Over the years, I've read many historical biographies, but this has to be one of the worst. I can appreciate that a scholar needs to be interested in their subject, but Gristwood goes overboard in her chatty admiration for a less-than-admirable relation to Queen Elizabeth I who married another relation without the consent of the then-king James VI &I. This winds her up the the Tower of London, where she dies. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to read on to find out how she dies, though Gristwood hints early on about a possible suicide. Wikipedia notes that she starved herself to death.
846, 31. A Just Determination by John Hemry
Posted by cachance, Wed Jun-30-10 05:50 AM
Someone called this "JAG in space" and I guess that's close. I did enjoy the book, though took issue with the court scenes in which all the witnesses sat in the courtroom, listening to what everyone says. Having just recently testified at a court martial, I can tell you, that just isn't done! Nevertheless, I found the main character interesting enough to be looking forward to receiving the next books in the series.
863, 32. The Silent Man by Berenson
Posted by cachance, Wed Jul-07-10 05:59 AM
Once again, the tension is lacking and the ending wraps up just too easily.
865, 33. Burden of Proof by Hemry
Posted by cachance, Thu Jul-08-10 08:46 AM
Fairly light reading. Hemry managed to correct some errors from the first book in this series, such as having a witness present throughout a court martial.

There's not much here from a science fiction perspective. The Space Navy is almost a duplicate of the current US Navy, except for issues of acceleration and gravity.

It is a pleasant change from the brutality so evident in a lot of science fiction lately.
877, 34. Rule of Evidence by Hemry
Posted by cachance, Sun Jul-11-10 07:46 AM
Another quick read. I still like the main characters, but I had a hard time with suspension of disbelief on this one. I had a very hard time believing that the court martial case in this story would ever have really reached a court. Plus, while under court rules, the prosecution is required to divulge information to the defense, an outside contractor isn't so required without a court order.

This book could have been a lot more gripping and believable if the main action had focused on the solving of the mystery rather than the courtroom.

This book, like the others in this series, also suffers from a lack of tension in that from the get-go we "know" that the hero will prevail and all will work out in the end.

Now to check the mail and see if the last book in the series is here yet.
886, 35.* Reality Dysfunction by P. Hamilton
Posted by cachance, Tue Jul-20-10 06:01 AM
I finally gave up on this tome yesterday. Unfortunately, I'd also bought the 2 follow-up tomes. And when I say "tomes", I do mean exactly that. This book weighs in at over 1000 pages. The others are the same.

This book/series has been compared to Dune and Foundation. I can't see why. It's billed as epic space opera, but my understanding of space opera is that it involves a hero. This book involves no character I could like or if I did, after 600 pages, I was waiting for the character to turn nasty and disgusting. The violence and gratuitous sex were nauseating, and I'm not typically squeamish about either.

The book is over-written with endless descriptions of everything, repeatedly. A good editor could have trimmed this behemoth down to at least half the size.

Plot? Well, it's in there somewhere, but so slowly unraveled that one loses interest.

Point of view often shifts from paragraph to paragraph. And then we get the major shifts across the galaxy from section to section and more point of view shifts.

World building was fair. The bioengineered habitats and space ships were good, but the colonization of a rainy planet stretched credibility.

Bottom line: there just wasn't enough to keep me reading against all the negatives. I warn you: if you pick up this tome, be prepared for graphic brutality.
893, 36. The Faithful Spy by Berenson
Posted by cachance, Sat Jul-24-10 07:03 AM
This was his debut novel, I think, and it's the best of the three I've read so far. Very gripping and delved into the main character's psychology. Berenson seems to have a strength in creating characters I can care about. I even found myself getting up in the middle of the night to read more!
910, 37. The Midnight House by Berenson
Posted by cachance, Thu Jul-29-10 05:45 AM
The latest in the series. Not quite as gripping as the first, probably because "Faithful Spy" delved deeper into the psychology of the protagonist.
923, 38. Inside Out by Eisler
Posted by cachance, Tue Aug-03-10 02:52 PM
I'm a huge fan of Barry Eisler, particularly his John Rain series. This is the second in a new series. It's funny, this book deals with some of the same material that Berenson does in "The Midnight House". Guess those missing CIA tapes triggered more than one author's imagination.

Eisler goes heavy on the political stuff in this one. His protagonist, Ben, is a jerk but what redeams him is that he acknowledges it. Not sure I like the ending, though.
935, 39. The Rembrandt Affair by Silva
Posted by cachance, Sun Aug-08-10 07:18 AM
The latest story about Gabriel Allon. It was well-done, but nothing particularly earth-shattering. It seems Silva just can't let go of Holocaust-related stories. Maybe this is an insight into Israeli thinking.
944, 40. The Practice Effect by D. Brin
Posted by cachance, Mon Aug-16-10 05:38 AM
This is an early work by Brin, written before the Uplift books. It's light reading and feels a bit more like fantasy than science fiction. In fact, at the end, where the protagonist tries to explain things in terms of science, I found the logic a bit strained. Maybe it would have worked if Brin had introduced the science earlier. I don't know.

While Brin suggests in the story that there will be sequels, a quick check on Amazon last night didn't reveal any. Too bad.
945, 41.* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by leCarre
Posted by cachance, Tue Aug-17-10 05:25 AM
I couldn't finish it. Too confusing.
946, 42.* Starship: Mutiny by M. Resnick
Posted by cachance, Tue Aug-17-10 05:28 AM
Couldn't finish this either. Resnick has absolutely no understanding of the military. The repeated stupidities finally broke down my suspension of disbelief.
962, 43. Kiln People by David Brin
Posted by cachance, Sat Aug-28-10 07:07 AM
I did manage to finish this, but the last 1/3 really dragged for me. The story starts off as a neat sf mystery/detective story. Then it verged off into something weird. I can't say I honestly understand what was going on. And all the pontificating really slowed the story down.
987, 44. Tenebrea's Hope by Dawson
Posted by cachance, Fri Sep-03-10 07:41 AM
This is the second in the series and I did feel it was better than the first. There was a cliff-hanger that I would have been happier having tied up in this book, but I won't quibble too much about that. It is a problem with a series: tying up enough to leave the reader satisfied, yet leaving open other aspects for the subsequent volume.
995, 45. Tenebrea Rising by Dawson
Posted by cachance, Thu Sep-09-10 05:35 AM
This is the final book in the series and the author does manage to tie up the plot lines. The main character also finally managed to resolve her own personal issues in a generally believable way.
997, 46. Killing Floor by Lee Child
Posted by cachance, Thu Sep-16-10 05:50 AM
This is the first of the Jack Reacher novels. I enjoyed it. Child's style of writing is a bit jarring with his use of sentence fragments, but after a while I got used to it. I don't think it's necessary to keep the pace up. My only concern was that the last villain seemed to be a stretch of credibility. It was just a bit too much of a coincidence. In fact, the original premise of the story relied heavily on an unlikely coincidence. Still, I've moved on to the second in the series.
1004, 47. Die Trying by Lee Child
Posted by cachance, Wed Sep-22-10 06:00 AM
Second in the Jack Reacher series. Good thriller with a really despicable villain.
1011, 48. The Enemy by Lee Child
Posted by cachance, Fri Sep-24-10 12:37 PM
This is the eighth in the series, but is actually a prequel, taking place when Reacher is still in the Army. Or at least, what Child calls the US Army. The problem is, what Child presents has almost nothing to do with the Army. The errors of fact are so numerous as to be almost laughable. I say "almost" because, in the end, it's insulting. Child didn't bother to research the Army in the least. And because he has no understanding of the Army, the plot ends up being stupid. Child should have billed this, not as a mystery or thriller, but as fantasy.

To compound the problems with this book, he has his protagonist, Reacher, cold-bloodedly murdering someone at the end. This from an MP who is supposed to stand for doing the right thing.

I will read one or two more of the Reacher novels, since I did enjoy the first two. Reviews of Number 3 aren't encouraging, however.
1020, 49. Tripwire by Lee Child
Posted by cachance, Fri Oct-01-10 05:55 AM
This is book 3 in the series and will probably be the last one I read. My suspension of disbelief is sorely tried by these books...to the point I think they should be billed as fantasy. A psycho with an office in the World Trade Center (the book was written before 9/11) who's murdering people right and left and no one notices anything? And this has supposedly gone on for years and years?

I probably would continue if I liked the protagonist, Jack Reacher. But there's not much to like here. In addition to not being believable.
1028, 50. Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner
Posted by cachance, Wed Oct-06-10 05:36 AM
Interesting ideas in this book that challenges "conventional wisdom".
1030, 51. The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
Posted by cachance, Sat Oct-09-10 07:09 AM
Wow! This is a great book! I dare say even brilliant. Snarky humor that actually feels like it fits rather than as if Scalzi was straining for a joke. The characters feel as if they could walk, well maybe not into my living room, probably more likely my office for a therapy session. The world building is seamless. The plot takes twists and turns and trots along at an pace that falls nicely between a plodding walk and a breathless gallop. In other words, just right. I strongly recommend this book.
1042, 52. Beyond Fundamentalizm by R. Aslan
Posted by cachance, Wed Oct-27-10 05:49 AM
Fascinating book about fundamentalists, particularly Jihadists, though the author contradicts himself somewhat. He initially posits that Jihadists are not focused on any particular goals here on earth, but instead are waging a war against "evil". Thus, there can be no negotiation. Later, he poses the idea that Jihadists are disaffected and disenfranchized, be they in Europe or the Middle East. He goes on to say that to defeat Jihadists, we need to include them in the political process.
1055, 53. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
Posted by cachance, Tue Nov-09-10 05:58 PM
I was sadly disappointed in this latest installment of the exploits of Miles Vorkosigan. The manic wittiness of Miles was missing, as were most of the other characters we've come to know and love. The characters used in this story were wooden and generally uninteresting.

The plot also left me wanting. It just didn't seem like there were any real stakes involved. I found myself putting the book down even when I had only 20 more pages to read. Not good.

The ending, however, smacked me in the face. I couldn't help but wonder if had Bujold started with the ending and used it to propel Miles, this would have been a much better book.
1056, 54. Brotherhood of Warriors by Century and Cohen
Posted by cachance, Tue Nov-09-10 06:00 PM
An interesting memoir of Cohen's experiences as a volunteer in the Israeli Special Forces.