Friday, April 24, 2009

Ow. ow - ow - ow

Interesting little known fact about the elliptical exercise machine - the resistance can be set from low to high.

Now I know. (But I didn't know the day before yesterday, when I just hopped on a vacant machine in the gym downstairs. Although I wondered why I couldn't make my machine go as fast as the one my neighbor was using.)

So. It turns out my machine was set for 'up a steep hill'. My first time using it. Owww-www.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Bard

Today is reported to be the 445th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, and so it is proclaimed "talk like the Bard" day.

Brevity is the soul of wit.
(Hamlet, Act II, Scene II)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Stars Blue Yonder - Early Review

The Stars Blue Yonder by Sandra McDonald is third in a series that begins with The Outback Stars and is continued in The Stars Down Under. Tor Books schedules its release for July 21, 2009, and this review is based on an Advance Reader's copy.

Time travel is a well established theme in science fiction. H. G. Wells, sometimes called 'The father of Science Fiction', wrote his famous classic, The Time Machine, over a hundred years ago. He would probably appreciate the sophisticated twists in McDonald's premise on time travel, which dominates this book in the trilogy.

My preferences in science fiction are action and adventure, discovery and military, and alien culture. Personally, I do not enjoy encountering time travel in any literature, so I am not the best person to provide an unbiased review of a novel full of time travel. With that caveat, I will stipulate that McDonald's time travel premise is well done, and if I didn't have this personal quirk I'm certain I would have liked it more. Time travel was a minor consequence in the first two books, so I didn't see this coming.

In book three, McDonald develops relationships from the first two books, and I found the ending to be very satisfying from that perspective. I frequently had a sense of the kind of magical realism found in writing by Charles de Lint, for instance. But isn't that the case, when life suddenly goes sideways or upside-down (whether it is magical or science) that everything and everybody seems perfectly ordinary - until the unexpected bursts into the scene. In fact, I find real life to be just like that.

I greatly enjoy the fact that McDonald doesn't permit her characters to be stereo-typical heroes. They have aches and twinges and bruises and pratfalls. They make mistakes and have misapprehensions and fail themselves and each other. In other words, they muddle through, very much like real people tend to do. They seem just like people I might meet anywhere, and then they make the hard decisions and I understand they really are heroic, in a boy-next-door sort of way.

I don't usually write reviews that include story or plot summaries, which are available from the publisher's comments and at Amazon and elsewhere. I think there is a story-within-the-story here, and both story lines are resolved in book three to my satisfaction. Other story threads, of aboriginal myths and of the struggle of indigenous peoples also tie the three books together.

I am fascinated with Australia and its people, past and present, and these are the first science fiction books I've read that give the country and the people the main roles. For that reason alone I would recommend this series, and there is much more to appreciate as well. I can't think of another novel I've read, sf or otherwise, where the female protagonist is pregnant for most of the story. Considering how much time women spend being pregnant, that suddenly strikes me as a biased oversight, which I was greatly amused to see corrected in The Stars Blue Yonder.

An unusual and entertaining trilogy. Recommend.

A Beginning

I did ten minutes on the elliptical machine this afternoon, and my first real workout in too many years. Tomorrow - weight lifting with inspiration and instruction from Fit at 50 and Beyond. Friday, back to ellipticals, and so on.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Curious?

Finally! A book for people like me. People who grew up being told at least once a day "Curiosity killed the cat." People who who were born asking "Why?" and all the related questions - who, what where and when and how.

I've never met author Tom Kashdan, Ph.D., but I love him already. His book, Curious?, released today by Harper Collins, extols the virtues of curiosity. He includes a cautionary chapter on the kinds of curiosity that can become dangerous to peace of mind or body, but most of his new, 352 page book shows us how to use our normal human talent to increase our happiness.

If you are Curious?, you don't have to wait for your bookstore to order it: Amazon has the Kindle edition and Harper Collins offers an ebook in any format you might want. I don't need an act of Congress to declare my own holiday, and I'm marking April 21st as a day to celebrate being curious - Curiosity Day - a holiday for people like me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Stars Blue Yonder - ARC arrived today

Book three from Sandra McDonald has a publication date of July 2009 - and she kindly sent me the ARC already. Her first two novels in this series made an indelible impression on my mind. I read over a hundred books a year, and many of them are science fiction, but the scenes and characters do not stick so clearly in my memory as Sandra's books have done. I'll post my review of this latest book as soon as I have read it. (dives back into the book)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Very Happy News

A message from the Early Reviewers group at LibraryThing.com tells me I've been tagged to review The Rough Guide to Happiness by Dr. Nick Baylis. Perhaps they are psychic and just knew I've been feeling stressed and depressed lately. Perhaps the algorithm that matches book requests with available books noticed I have fourteen books in my library tagged "happiness". Perhaps it is good karma.

Whatever the reason, I'm very happy to have the opportunity to The Rough Guide to Happiness. I hope some of it will rub off on me.