Book Log #4: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North [Kindle]

Loved this book.

Claire North takes a cool premise and explores it wonderfully, with an engaging plot.

The premise: Some people live their life over and over. After they die, they restart at the beginning, remembering their previous loops at age 3 or 4. It gives a time-traveler-esque feel to the story line, and the conceit is well executed.

The butterfly effect is handled ok, but there remains the Grandfather’s Sperm Paradox* which, if considered closely, unravels some of the plot.

But, there is so much awesomeness in this one, I don’t mind a little hand waving.

*The Grandfather’s Paradox states you wink out of existence if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, but really all you need to do is bump him a little.

The only portrayal I’ve seen of this is in the very enjoyable movie “About Time”, where a man learns he can travel back along his own timeline and change his history. He discovers if he travels back further than the conception of his child, he ends up with a different child in the present.

Book Log #3: Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5)

Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5) by Scott Meyer (Kindle)

Decent mind candy as usual. He takes a fun premise (a secret computer file that contains reality, and can be edited, so some people find it and make themselves magicians) and plays with it in amusing ways.

I’m hoping at some point that he starts cracking into the mystery of the file. But maybe he’s going to milk this for as many books as he can before a Big Reveal. Or maybe he hasn’t thought of the Big Reveal.

At any rate, if you like the first 4, you’ll like this one just fine.

Book Log #2: The Weight of Ink

THe Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (Kindle)

I stole this recommendation from a friend on Facebook who received it from someone I didn’t even know. I eavesdropped this rec.

And I’m glad I did.

This story jumps back and forth in time between some researchers who find a trove of writings under a stair and the people who wrote them right before the plague hit London. It’s a page turner, and a sharp historical fiction. Philosphy, history, wit… this book’s got it all.

Book Log #4 : Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar [Kindle, Amazon]

I finished reading Holes to my daughter, and the ads on the last page of the Kindle version mentioned Fuzzy Mud, which piqued her interest. So, using the insidious evil of instant gratification through ebook purchase, we dove into that.

It’s a fine story, though not quote Holes. The ending has a nice pragmatic, grey-area ending to it that’s refreshing.

It’s difficult to discuss the story without spoilers, so… it’s recommended for young readers.

Book Log #3: Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar [Amazon, Kindle, in library]

This was in our Kindle library from when my kids read it.

This book is great kid lit. The story of a wrongly accused kid sent to a “rehabilitation” camp where inmates dig 5 foot by 5 foot holes every day in a desert, purportedly to build character. But there is something more to Camp Green Lake…

Engaging, extremely well written, amusing, and entertaining. I’d heard good things about it, from my kids and others, and it lived up to the hype.

Book Log #1: A More Perfect Constitution

A More Perfect Constitution by Larry J. Sabato [Amazon, Kindle]

It may seem a reaction to the recent election, but my first couple of books for 2017 are government related. Both of these came as recommendations from the older sister of one of my daughter’s robotics teammates. She is a 12-13 year old Supreme Court groupie who had recently visited Washington D.C., and had picked up these two books there.

This first one was a fascinating set of proposals for a new Constitutional Convention. The argument being that the framers had always envisioned that the Constitution would be adjusted occasionally as the country gained experience, and it was well overdue after 220 years.

The author lays out twenty-something adjustments to the constitution, none of which are hot-button issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc) as he firmly believes those divining rods should be off the table for a successful Constitutional Convention.

I thought all of the suggestions were reasonable, though I thought his arguments in favor on a few were not particularly strong and would need to be fleshed out a bit.

As part of his research for the book, he did polling to see how his suggestions would currently be received by the populace, and I was surprised at the low support for a few of the better ideas (IMHO).

Particularly, he suggested a 2 year National Service requirement for all citizens. In short, each citizen would be required to work in a service capacity, either military or civilian, preferably between the ages of 18-26. In return for minimum wage, the measure would garner a sense of civic duty and volunteerism, provide a good way to develop experience, and apply manpower to the nations challenges.

It’s something I wish I had done, and with a well organized system of doing so, I think I would have enjoyed it. There’s a nice social engineering aspect, in that all citizens, regardless of wealth or class, would have a shared common experience.

At any rate, the thought of organizing a second Constitutional Convetion seems so overwhelming as to be impossible, but the author recommends slow and deliberate progress is the way to go.

I’m for it.

Book Log #44 – The Pale Horseman (Saxon Tales Book 2)

The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell (Amazon, Kindle, $9.99)

Continuation of the Saxon series. Continues to be Game of Thrones Lite, but with actual history of England as the basis.

The author has notes at the end about where the story deviates from history, which is interesting.

There are echoes of plotlines from Game of Thrones… a healer/witch who heals the son of the king, which causes the death of another boy. Death for life, which is reminiscent of the “healing” of the Khalesi’s husband (Drago?) in GoT. There were other parallels I’ve forgotten.

All in all, a good read. I’ll probably continue in the series.

Books Read: 44
Weeks : 45
Ratio: 0.977

For the first time since starting this, my ratio drops below 1.0. Scary times! Desperate measures are called for! I need 8 more books in the next 7 weeks!

Book Log #43 – The Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales Book 1)

The Last Kingdom (Saxon Tales Book 1) by Bernard Cornwell [Amazon, Kindle, $6,99]

This was recommended by my buddy Curt (who is starting to rival Nick Hornby in level of responsibility for my reading list as of late) as a Since You Liked Game of Thrones sort of thing.

And he was right! It’s not as complex as GoT, but it does have the benefit of being the real world. Set in the late 800s in primordial England, we follow the story of the pagan Danes attacking the English Isles. I know scant little of this period, so everything came as a surprise to me.

The writing is solid and engaging, and it was one of those books that drags you in and doesn’t let you go until you finish. Had I the uninterrupted time, I likely would have absorbed it in a single sitting.

It looks like there are 10 books in this series, so I’ve got a good backlog to dive into at will.

Books read: 43
Week number: 43
Ratio: 1:1

Book Log #42 – Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi and Isaac Asimov

This is one of the staples of the skeptic community, and I’d had it on my wishlist for quite a while. Originally published in 1980, much of the perpetrators of the flim-flam have faded into obscurity, having long been debunked.

This book describes a lot of the trials people went through trying to win Randi’s (then) $10,000 prize for proof of the paranormal. Mental metal benders, psychics, water diviners… all failed spectacularly.

You don’t hear so much anymore about lots of these things having fallen out of fad, but I did note Randi’s one error in prediction: he estimated that the Scientologists movement would fizzle out after not too long. Boy… he was off.

Randi’s prize is now at $1,000,000, and no one has yet met the challenge of the double-blind experiment.

Books Read: 42
Week Number: 42
Books/Weeks: 1:1