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« January, 2013 »

A friend lent me this book to see if it would be appropriate for her library which serves high schoolers and middle schoolers. I liked the book a lot but it’s not really a kids' book. It’s the story of one hacker--a made up guy though people familiar with the hacker scene will recognize aspects of several known hackers--from when he was a small smart bullied kid living with his grandmother to the point where he is on the run trying to stay ahead of the law who wants to prosecute him for various hacking exploits. A lot of the story is told form the vantage point of his childhood best friend and so it has sentimentality without the sort of omniscient third person perspective which works for this book. The protagonist is seen as persecuted but also sort of a sociopathic jerk in some ways which makes the story more readable than if it were just some hero hacker story. There are a lot of other side characters like the tv pundit who has sort of made his name “knowing” things about the hacker and the authorities who know something is being done wrong but aren’t sure what. A great read, one of my favorite graphic novels of the past year.

WWW: Wonder

Turns out this book which I grabbed off of the new shelf in my local library was book three of a trilogy which explains some things. Loosely put, it’s about an AI that gets loose and starts to use its immense superpowers to help the world while other people try to stop it. It’s good, and very nerdy and techy which I always enjoy. In fact, I have a tendency to be like “Bah this author clearly doesn’t understand technology like I do...” but in this case even though I might still have said that once or twice, I was wrong. Sawyer is a supergenius as far as tech stuff goes and even though this book is written towards a YA audience, its super well-researched and generally, while still fantastical, based on real-world and real life things that could be or are happening. Now I’m trying to figure out if I’ll start over at the beginning or not, since I know how it all ends.

The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends

We used to read Brunvand’s books like The Choking Doberman and similar ones when I was growing up. One of my mother’s claims to temporary fame was getting a report published in one of Brunvand’s many volumes. These books of urban legends (though to be fair, they are rural legends as well) are chock full of stories you may have heard or heard of along with some folk etymology, as much as Brunvald can determine, of where they might have come from. Very few of them are based on fact, but there are usually great stories behind the lot of them. This book is not just stories but Brunvand’s explications of the myths and legends and themes that surround them. A great read.

The Game

A friend suggested this series and for whatever reason the book I wound up with was one that was way in the middle. Historical fiction type of mystery with the premise that Sherlock Holmes has a very capable wife who he solves mysteries with. This book, though it started off with a sort of titillating “Oh my god the main character is going to die” sort of teaser which I could have done without, was a really interesting sort of mystery sort of history book that takes place in India under British rule. Lots of neat little factoids and settings and I liked Holmes' wife Mary Russell a great deal. Don’t know if I’m going to have trouble reading them out of order, but I’ll probably pick up another one.

A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women

Loved this. A lot of thoughtful and interesting looks at different sci fi scenarios, just like you read about elsewhere except these stories all happened to be about women. I really enjoyed every story in this collection, though the LeGuin story started out pretty rapey which was essential to the story but pretty difficult to get through if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing. On the bright side, the Octavia Butler story was NOT rapey which was terrific. Don’t know how I managed to not see this when it came out; glad I found it now.

All Of Us Or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area

I received this book to review for the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. My review is in an issue of their newsletter and you can read it here.

Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion

My stupid software doesn’t allow me to add multiple authors, but this book is as much by Stern’s lifelong partner Leona Rostenberg. In a way it’s a dual autobiography of these two women who grew up in New York City in the early part of the last century and became scholars and writers and rare book dealers and all of them together at the same time. I enjoyed this story of friendship and seeing the formative things that happened in the lives of these women when they were young that helped chart their path decades later. Anyone with an interest in rare book dealing or early New York history or just women doing non-traditional things will enjoy this well-told tale of, for example, how Stern discovered Louisa May Alcott’s pen names and how Rosternberg got started running a rare book dealership out of a spare room in her parents' place in the Bronx. Two interesting women doing interesting things.