Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Essentialism

Book Notes

I really don't know where I heard of this book, or why I picked it up. I bought it in ebook format and made it through maybe 20 pages before I put it down, walked down to Powells, and bought a hardback copy of the book. This is the way I read books now: ebook from the library if I can, tree book if I can't, purchased ebook if neither of those. If I like the book, if it is a book I want to loan out, have on my bookshelf, or reread, I will buy it in paper format. If I want to keep it forever (for a short definition of "forever"), I will buy a hardback version. I knew in the first 20 pages, I wanted this one in hardback.

It did not disappoint.

This book is about finding what is essential in your life, and committing to only that, rejecting the parts that do not help you on your journey to what you find essential. Saying no is hard. Defining that is essential is hard. Having a good life is hard. This book helps in that journey. This book gives you permission, if you need it, to discard all the parts of your life holding you back, not helping, not worth your limited time.

I can't say I'm following all of the advice in the book, nor can I say all the advice or rah-rah-rah stories in the book are relevant to everyone or anyone. I found the book inspiring and life-changing. Let me buy you a copy.

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. —Lin Yutang
Page 1

One reason is that in our society we are punished for good behavior (saying no) and rewarded for bad behavior (saying yes). The former is often awkward in the moment, and the latter is often celebrated in the moment.
Page 12

It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.
Page 15

This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials, and not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well.
Page 16

As Peter Drucker said, “People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me.’ ”
Page 23

To eliminate nonessentials means saying no to someone. Often. It means pushing against social expectations. To do it well takes courage and compassion. So eliminating the nonessentials isn’t just about mental discipline. It’s about the emotional discipline necessary to say no to social pressure.
Page 23

What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?
Page 26

To harness the courage we need to get on the right path, it pays to reflect on how short life really is and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left. As poet Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
Part I: Essence: What is the core mind-set of an Essentialist?
Page 26

There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.” Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in and drown us in shallow waters.
Page 32

To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.” These simple truths awaken us from our nonessential stupor. They free us to pursue what really matters. They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution.
Page 32

“If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?”
Page 34

We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice—a choice is an action. It is not just something we have but something we do.
Page 35

Have you ever felt stuck because you believed you did not really have a choice? Have you ever felt the stress that comes from simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs: “I can’t do this” and “I have to do this”? Have you ever given up your power to choose bit by bit until you allowed yourself to blindly follow a path prescribed by another person?
Page 35

I’ll be the first to admit that choices are hard. By definition they involve saying no to something or several somethings, and that can feel like a loss.
Page 38

William James once wrote, “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”
Page 40

Most people have heard of the “Pareto Principle,” the idea, introduced as far back as the 1790s by Vilfredo Pareto, that 20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of results.
Page 43

As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
Page 45

It was an example of his Essentialist thinking at work when he said: “You have to look at every opportunity and say, ‘Well, no … I’m sorry. We’re not going to do a thousand different things that really won’t contribute much to the end result we are trying to achieve.’ ”
Page 50

In the simplest terms, straddling means keeping your existing strategy intact while simultaneously also trying to adopt the strategy of a competitor.
Page 50

The reality is, saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others.
Page 52

“We value passion, innovation, execution, and leadership.” One of several problems with the list is, Who doesn’t value these things? Another problem is that this tells employees nothing about what the company values most. It says nothing about what choices employees should be making when these values are at odds.
Page 52

To say they value equally everyone they interact with leaves management with no clear guidance on what to do when faced with trade-offs between the people they serve.
Page 53

Unlike most corporate mission statements, the Credo actually lists the constituents of the company in priority order. Customers are first; shareholders are last.
Page 53

As painful as they can sometimes be, trade-offs represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select
Page 55

the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want.
Page 55

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.
Part II: Explore: How can we discern the trivial many from the vital few?
Page 56

Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.
Page 62

In this space he is able to think about the essential questions: what the company will look like in three to five years; what’s the best way to improve an already popular product or address an unmet customer need; how to widen a competitive advantage or close a competitive gap. He also uses the space he creates to recharge himself emotionally. This allows him to shift between problem-solving mode and the coaching mode expected of him as a leader.
Page 69

“In that instant,” Ephron recalls, “I realized that journalism was not just about regurgitating the facts but about figuring out the point. It wasn’t enough to know the who, what, when, and where; you had to understand what it meant. And why it mattered.”
Page 74

anyone. The best journalists do not simply relay information. Their value is in discovering what really matters to people.
Page 75

Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.
Page 75

The best journalists, as Friedman shared later with me, listen for what others do not hear.
Page 76

I also suggest that once every ninety days or so you take an hour to read your journal entries from that period.
Page 78

Capture the headline. Look for the lead in your day, your week, your life. Small, incremental changes are hard to see in the moment but over time can have a huge cumulative effect.
Page 78

Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end—
Page 85

Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied what are called the play histories. “Play,” he says, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.” As he succinctly puts it, “Nothing fires up the brain like play.”
Page 85

First, play broadens the range of options available to us. It helps us to see possibilities we otherwise wouldn’t have seen and make connections we would otherwise not have made.
Page 86

Play stimulates the parts of the brain involved in both careful, logical reasoning and carefree, unbound exploration.
Page 87

In his book, Brown includes a primer to help readers reconnect with play. He suggests that readers mine their past
7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child >Page 90

Here’s a simple, systematic process you can use to apply selective criteria to opportunities that come your way. First, write down the opportunity. Second, write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. Third, write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.
Page 111

Instead, why not conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”
Page 112

Ask the more essential question that will inform every future decision you will ever make: “If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”
Page 127

Have you ever felt a tension between what you felt was right and what someone was pressuring you to do? Have you ever felt the conflict between your internal conviction and an external action? Have you ever said yes when you meant no simply to avoid conflict or friction? Have you ever felt too scared or timid to turn down an invitation or request from a boss, colleague, friend, neighbor, or family member for fear of disappointing them?

If you have, you’re not alone. Navigating these moments with courage and grace is one of the most important skills to master in becoming an Essentialist—and one of the hardest.
Page 132

So why is it so hard in the moment to dare to choose what is essential over what is nonessential? One simple answer is we are unclear about what is essential. When this happens we become defenseless. On the other hand, when we have strong internal clarity it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from the nonessentials coming at us from all directions. With Rosa it was her deep moral clarity that gave her unusual courage of conviction.
Page 134

You can apply zero-based budgeting to your own endeavors. Instead of trying to budget your time on the basis of existing commitments, assume that all bets are off. All previous commitments are gone. Then begin from scratch, asking which you would add today. You can do this with everything from the financial obligations you have to projects you are committed to, even relationships you are in. Every use of time, energy, or resources has to justify itself anew. If it no longer fits, eliminate it altogether.
Page 152

By quietly eliminating or at least scaling back an activity for a few days or weeks you might be able to assess whether it is really making a difference or whether no one really cares.
Page 154

Becoming an editor in our lives also includes knowing when to show restraint. One way we can do this is by editing our tendency to step in. When we are added onto an e-mail thread, for example, we can resist our usual temptation to be the first to reply all. When sitting in a meeting, we can resist the urge to add our two cents. We can wait. We can observe. We can see how things develop. Doing less is not just a powerful Essentialist strategy, it’s a powerful editorial one as well.
Page 162

The question is this: What is the “slowest hiker” in your job or your life? What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.
Page 187

The Lady and the Monk

Book Notes

Again (and again), when a dear friend offers you a book to read, you read it, especially when said friend says, "This book reminds me of us."

I, unfortunately, left this book in my reading pile too long, and Moazam bought himself another copy. Or maybe fortunately, because I now have my own copy.

The book is the tale of Iyer's adventure in Japan to learn about Zen Buddhism "from the inside" while living in a monastery, along with his meeting Sachiko and their subsequent friendship. It is also about seeing a world the way you wish it to be, innocent and unmarred by pain, instead of grounded in a perhaps ugly reality.

Iyer's writing evokes the mood of his surroundings, of his experience, of the world around him, in a way that pulls the reader in. One can almost smell the cherry blossoms, feel the weight of the air heavy with water before the rain, the sounds of the city sleeping but not quite, the silence of the monastery, the disquiet energy of his companions seeking quiet in a place it can't be found.

I enjoyed the book. It wasn't a book I would have chosen for myself, which makes it a good choice by Moazam.

Many of them, he said, had wearied of the worldly aspects of the monastic life - the politicking, the emphasis on sheer willpower, the need for subservience, the stress on hierarchy: all the quallities, in short, that could make temples seem just like any other affluent, rule-bound Japanese company.
Page 24

"I remember this one Zen teacher told me, soon after I arrived, that the appeal of Zen to many foreigners was like a mountain wrapped in mist. Much of what hte Westerners saw was ust the beautiful mist; but as soon as they began really doing Zen, they found that its essence was the mountain: hard rock."
Page 25

Jizō, he explained, was the patron saint of children and of travelers (very apt, I thought, since very child is a born adventurer and every traveler a born-again child).

So perhaps these magazines, with their secular cult of the virgin, served only to encourage sex in the head, catering to that famously sentimental Japanese Romanticism that perfers the idea of a thing, its memory or promise, to the thing itself.

The monk wrote about his frissons of pleasur when passing an unknown woman on a night of moon viewing, and the protocol of making love; how "lamplight makes a beautiful face seem even more beautiful," and "beautiful hair, of all things in a woman, is most likely to catch a man's eye." Most unexpected of all, at least to me, were the priest's anxious obsessiveness with appearances ("A man should be trained in such a way that no woman will ever laugh at him"), and his strongly worded snipes about lower-class men and other "insufferable" or "disagreeable" types ("It is unattractive when people get in a society which is not their habitual one").
Page 56

There was, I thought, a metaphor in this one: one could not plan epiphanies any more than one could plan surprise visits from one's friends.
Page 57

All festivals, of course, aer acts of collective myth-making, chances for a nation to advertise its idealized image of itself.

Besides, the pairing of Western men and EAstern women was as natural as the partnership of sun and moon. Everyone falls in love with what he cannot begin to understand. And the other man's heart is always greener.

The Japanese were famous, I knew, for their delight in lacrimae rerum and for finding beauty mostly in sadness; indeed it was often noted that their word for "love" and their word for "grief" are homonyms - and almost synonyms too - in a culture that seems to love grief, of the wistful kind, and to grieve for love.

Foreigners meant freedom in a land where freedom itself was largely foreign.

Making our way towards the port, we looked out at the ocean liners, black in the chromium light, and sitting down on a log, the wind blustering all about us, we fell into our usual patter, she telling me how America was the land of the free, I telling her how much of what I saw in America was loneliness.

Encouraging people to realize their potential was an especially dangerous occupation in a country that taught them to fulfill their duty instead.

The moon, I recalled, was the one possession that even monks did not renounce. When he lost his house in a fire, the Zen poet Masahide wrote, he found occasion for new hope: he now enjoyed a better view of the rising moon.

And I remembered how the demon Mara, when he was trying to tempt the Buddha, having failed to bring him down with discontent or desire, unleashed his strongest weapon: love.
Page 183

(When she asked her students to find three adjectives to describe themselves, a longtime foreign teacher told me, she had had to ban the use of "cheerful," or else every girl in class would use it.)

Besides, pretense could have its virtues. I thought back to the line in the Singer story "A Piece of Advice" I had read a few months before: "If you are not happy, act the happy man. Happiness will come later. If you are in despair, act as though you believe. Faith will come afterwards."

...

By the same token, a horse that imitates a champion thoroughbred may be classed as a thoroughbred, and the man who imitates Shun bleongs to Shun's company. A man who stuides wisdom, even insicncerly, should be called wise."
Page 185

Partly, perhaps, she could only apprehend a foreigner - and romance - through the imported images she'd consumed, just as I could see her only through the keyhole of ancient Japanese love poems. But partly, too, I could see, with a pang, how keen she was to remove our lives from the everyday world, to lift them to some timeless, fairy-tale realm, immutable, impersishable, and immune from unhappy realities. Realism was reserved for what she did at home ...; our time was "dream time."
Page near-the-end-of-the-book-past-page-185

Sums up the book nicely.

The End of the World Running Club

Book Notes

I like this book. I have no idea where I found this book, but I would guess someone recommended it to me via BookRiot on some new release book list, because I've given up reading the classics for the moment, and going with whatever post-apocalyptic universe some author wants to provide.

And I got it.

The crazy part of this book was its setting in Edinburgh. I was in Edinburgh last month! I really like Edinburgh, and I keep hoping to find Troggie, three years later.

Anyway, it's lots of fun to be able to imagine the exact place where parts of the book are happening, even the part where "Yes, there were three strip clubs on the corner" and I stayed in a hotel all of 40 meters from that corner.

The story, oh boy, the story is great. The transformation of Ed, the main character, from the soft, modern man to the self-sufficient one at the end is the epitome of the hero's journey.

I enjoyed the book. I recommend it, it is worth reading if you like post-apocalyptic survival tales.

The line between any two points in your life is liable to be strange and unfathomable, a tangle of chance and tedium. But some points seem to have clearer connections, even ones that are far from each other, as if they have a direct line that bypasses the normal run of time.
Page: 1

I believe what I believe to make life less terrifying. That’s all beliefs are: stories we tell ourselves to stop being afraid. Beliefs have very little to do with the truth.
Page: 2

Don’t get me wrong—I loved my wife and I loved my kids, but that doesn’t mean to say I had to be happy about it.
Page: 5

We’re idiots. Creatures of denial who have learned not to be afraid of our closets. We need to see the monster in the room before we scream. The monster
Page: 8

I had made it very clear to Beth, very early in the proceedings, that I was the one who had to get up for work in the morning, that I was the one who needed my sleep, so no, I would most certainly not be helping with night feeds. I don’t think I’m the first man to have ever pulled this one. It’s a common enough shirk, one that conveniently ignores what work actually means for most men—i.e., comfy seats, tea and coffee,
Page: 10

cookies, nice food, adult conversation, the occasional pretty girl to ogle, the Internet, sealed toilet cubicles where you can catch a few winks without anyone noticing. Work. Not like being at home breastfeeding a newborn and entertaining a two-year-old all day.
Page: 10

I made it easy on myself, very easy. And that made it hard on Beth.
Page: 12

I have to keep telling myself not to look back so much. I’ll always regret not being a better father, a better husband, but I have to look forward or else I won’t get to the place I’m going, and I need beyond everything else to get there. The past is a foreign country, someone once said. They do things differently there. My past—everyone’s past—is now a different planet. It’s so different it almost makes no sense to remember it.
Page: 12

You want to know how long it takes for the fabric of society to break down? I’ll tell you. The same time it takes to kick a door down.
Page: 30

Ask anyone who has been in a crowd that becomes too strong, where bodies begin to crush you. Is your first instinct to lift others up, or to trample them down? That beast inside you, the one you think is tethered tightly to the post, the one you’ve tamed with art, love, prayer, meditation: it’s barely muzzled. The knot is weak. The post is brittle. All it takes is two words and a siren to cut it loose.
Page: 30

“Swap,” said Beth. She released Alice from her arms and lay her down against the damp pillow. We both stretched our numb legs as we stood up to change places. I passed Arthur across, and Beth released her right breast for him to suckle.
Page: 47

Doesn’t even know how his own house works… I sat back on the upturned box and switched off the flashlight. I watched the flame of the candle flicker in a breeze that could be either poisoning us or keeping us alive. I stared at a pipe that held either our salvation or our doom.
Page: 55

The world had designed me to be something. I was supposed to be a survival mechanism, a series of devices and instincts built, tested, and improved upon over billions of years. I was a sculpture of hydrogen, evolution’s cutting edge, a vessel of will, a self-adjusting, self-aware machine of infinite resource and potential. That was what the world had designed me to be. A survivor. A human being. A man.
Page: 55

To me, running was just showing off, a way for self-obsessed pricks to show how much more focused, disciplined, and healthy they were than you. How much more average they were than you—the subaverage gibbon who watched from a park bench with its prepacked lunch. Gyms were just as bad, except in gyms you had it coming at you from all angles: weight lifters out-lifting one another, cross-trainers quietly tapping up their speeds to match their neighbor’s, treadmillers pounding their feet to some nauseating soundtrack of their own puffed-up lives. Entire, windowless rooms crammed full of sweaty, unashamed, Lycra-clad peacockery.
Page: 64

Then I filled another, and another, before the flow finally began to stop, and I fell to my knees, sobbing in either relief or grief. I don’t know to this day which. There’s a fair chance I had been hoping for gas.
Page: 70

Behind us were the remains of the city center. Princes Street, Rose Street, George Street, Thistle Street, Queen Street, all now just black stumps and rubble. Cathedrals, churches, tenements, and houses, all gone.
Page: 73

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably in a better time and place than the one I’m in now. You probably didn’t witness the extent of the devastation. You probably don’t know how it feels to see that everything in your world has suddenly stopped, died, or vanished.
Page: 73

My own boundary was the size and shape of a small, stinking cellar for a little over two weeks after the strike.
Page: 74

Bryce laid down his glass. “Oh, I get it. I’m a big man, so I must be unfit?” “No, wait, that’s not what I…” He prodded one of his immense fingers in my direction. “I walk everywhere, sunshine. And I do a lot of shaggin’. What about you?”
Page: 114

“Knew it. Parents, you’re all the same. You’re all ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that’ or ‘I can’t get my arse off the sofa; I’m tired’ or ‘My kids are so fuckin’ demanding, I don’t have time for anything else.’ Fuckin’ pathetic, the lot of youse. You chose to have the wee bastards.” He jabbed another finger at me and sat back in his seat. “You take your medicine!”
Page: 115

This, combined with a road that disappeared into the horizon, always made me think of driving through the midwestern states of America, despite the fact that I had never been.
Page: 156

“What about your wife?” I said.

“Died a few years back,” said Harvey.

“I’m sorry,” I said with that useless spasm we give to another’s grief.
Page: 158

“You don’t know what protection means,” she said. “You don’t know what not having protection means. You don’t know how important that is. That simple thing: to look after someone. To put yourself in front of someone. To say you’ll die for them and mean it. You don’t know what that means because all you do is look after yourself.”
Page: 161

Nothing came close to what Gloria had been through, so why had we found them so hard? Why was the process of bringing life into the world, even in a bubble of middle-class comfort, medicine, and relative safety, so fraught? Why did it take so much emotion? Why did this process keep perpetuating itself, generation after generation going through the same thing, time after time? Why did life bother?
Page: 185

I just felt the same mixture of confusion and inability to cope as always, only this time compressed into microseconds.
Page: 202

But it wasn’t an escape. It wasn’t a return to a simpler life; it was a version of a simpler life. A version that replaced cholera, dysentery, freezing winters, lost harvests, frequent stillbirths, domestic violence, incest with underfloor heating, solar panels, and plump trust funds. It was just another decoration: wallpaper, not a return. Perhaps I’m being unkind or just jealous. But
Page: 207

One day, two other boys and I found a pornographic magazine hidden in the seat. As young boys, there was no other option available to us but to read it.
Page: 217

I remember running, running everywhere without thought. And yet I don’t remember actually running. Not the effort of it. I remember lightness. I remember speed. I remember the earth seeming to bounce beneath me as if it were a giant balloon I could push away with my bare feet. I don’t remember stiff, slow limbs or tight lungs or the feeling of concrete pounding through my bones.
Page: 219

“Striding on,” he said. “You’re trying to pull the road under you, trying to turn the earth with your heels.”
Page: 221

Yeah. This is how I run. Dammit.

“The planet’s much bigger than you, son,” he said. “It’s not going to work.”
Page: 221

“Think of it this way: you’re turning a flat road into an uphill climb. You should be turning it into a descent. Look at my feet. They never go past my waist. They only take little steps. It’s like I’m falling—see, that’s all running is, controlled falling.”
Page: 221

“Losing dogs,” he said. “Hardest fuckin’ thing. My grandad died when I was twelve. I remember Mum telling me when I got in from school, and she might as well have been telling me what was for dinner. I didn’t give a shit, fuckin’ alcoholic old prick. Our dog died a year later, and I cried for a week. It’s hard.” He punched his chest. “Harder than losing a person.”
Page: 227

“We can’t run that far in that time, or I can’t at any rate. I’m just not capable.” He fixed me with his bright blue eyes.

“Ed,” he said. “You have no idea what you’re capable of.”
Page: 232

I felt an odd respite, cocooned from the road ahead, as if there were no more distance to go, that the journey itself was just in this small bubble. There was no longer any great expanse to endure.
Page: 241

I said nothing. Caught my breath. Carried on.
Page: 251

“Nothing. It’s all this nonsense going around your noggin. All the doom and the gloom and the guilt and woe. All the stuff that doesn’t really exist. That’s what brings you down.”
Page: 253

“I know what it’s like to miss someone, mate,” he said. “Burns you up inside. Makes you think bad things, feel bad things—guilt, fear, despair—like you could have done more or shouldn’t have done anything.”
Page: 253

“Keep talking,” he said, winking. “And keep running. Keeps the mind away from the dark places."
Page: 255

I wish.

Sometimes I’d listen to the noise my feet made on the road and the noise my breathing made on top of it, and I’d make a word out of it, sing it all day. Becomes a bit like a mantra, very soothing, hypnotic.
Page: 255

“Clear your mind and things start working out for you,” he said. “You can’t run five hundred miles just by clearing your mind,” I spat. Harvey shrugged. “You can’t do it without it either.”
Page: 256

But don’t get into the habit of letting people tell you what to believe, son. That’ll get you into all sorts of strife. Hey, Ed?”
Page: 257

Harvey told me that the resistance I faced wasn’t something I could ever beat. The best I could hope for was to learn how to fight it daily, to parry and lunge and keep it at bay by learning about how it worked. Some days it would win, others it would lose.
Page: 258

I should learn not just how to fight it, he told me, but, like every enemy, how to love it.
Page: 259

“Entropy,” he said. “Entropy and decay. Everything turns to dust. Everything is constantly trying to return to the dust from which it came.” He frowned and picked up his tumbler. His face twisted into an attempt at a smile. “So why all the struggle?” he said.
Page: 264

I could taste it immediately, as if a door I’d never seen had been flung open onto a long, wide landscape of forest, earth, and ocean, tall stone pillars clawed with brine and weed, cold starry skies, ancient, candlelit rooms, deep eyes, short lives, and whispered promises. I felt as if somebody had filled my head with a thousand years of secret, guarded memories.
Page: 275

We think that language binds us, keeps us close, but sometimes I wonder how far apart we really are. We can make a million assumptions from the movement of an old man’s hand. Most of them are probably incorrect. All we have to go on is our own skewed window on the world. We’re like hermits living in the attics of big houses on lonely hills, watching one another with broken telescopes.
Page: 288

“Medicine, clean water, sanitation, midwifery, roads, transport, everything that pulled this world out of the dark ages and took the nasty, brutish, and short out of life.”
Page: 292

“I’m saying society has evolved, Ed. It’s not what it used to be for one very good reason: it was shit and people weren’t very good at staying alive. We got sick and died daily. Childbirth usually ended in death for the child, the mother, or both. Pain, filth, famine, and war were everywhere, and you were lucky to reach thirty without being stabbed, shot, tortured, decapitated, hung, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, or thrown in a dungeon to rot.
Page: 292

We killed each other because we were starving and terrified most of the time.
Page: 293

Other people’s problems, even those of your friends, are a great and terrible distraction from your own.
Page: 296

The living would run through the dust of the dead, just as they always had done.
Page: 301

Hope became my drug.
Page: 303

“I heard this story once,” she said, zipping up her jacket and burrowing her hands into her pockets. “About how the future would turn out. The future back then, you know, not the future now. All the people who know how things work, the people with degrees who can make computers and toasters and that, they’d all live on the hills behind electric fences. Everyone else would live and die in shit.” She turned to us. “They wouldn’t need us anymore, you see. Wouldn’t need our money.”
Page: 318

“Didn’t think I was capable of it,” he said, lighting another cigarette. “Turns out you don’t have a clue what you’re capable of. Not a clue.”
Page: 345

I felt all that terrible love flood through me, but it was like an undercurrent to something else. Something…something old. Something that had been around too long. It was like…when those big, wet, unseeing eyes found mine and locked on for a second, it felt like something was saying, Is this it? Again? We’re doing this again, are we? Another child? Another life? Another turn of the wheel? Another struggle?”
Page: 364

Apathy arrives very quickly.
Page: 377

I stared into the fire and out at the others burning around the demolished town and thought about gravity, about how it holds everything, even things with no weight, like thoughts, dreams, love. Even flames struggle to escape it. Everything is weighed down. Everything is pushed down toward the sea. Everything is kept at bay.
Page: 378

Thoughts became intangible and disconnected. They were like explosions of ash. Each one that arrived lasted only moments before it fell away and disintegrated, as if nothing supported it, nothing held it together.
Page: 380

I know now it’s certainty itself I have a problem with. Certainty doesn’t feel like something we’re supposed to have.
Page: 389

It’s hard being a human. Most of the time we’re just blind idiots seeking joy in a world full of fear and pain. We have no idea what we’re doing, and on the rare occasions when we get things right, we’re just lucky. Our lives are filled with the humdrum: dust and noise with no meaning. And yet they contain moments that seem to mean something, something we can’t describe but want to. Those moments leave holes we want to fill. We want to name them, paint them, teach
Page: 389

We want God. We want this life to end, for the curtain to go up and a kind, loving face to smile down on us, a warm voice to call us through and explain everything to us. The hole is everything we don’t know and everything we suspect, and we need a truth to fill it.
Page: 389

Pain from the present. Pain from the past. Pain in the future. Suffering and regret with little hope to alleviate either of them.
Page: 390

“Do you know why people tell stories, Ed?” he said. He waited for me to speak, but I didn’t. He sniffed and went on. “Because the truth doesn’t really have any words of its own. They’re not enough, see? Stories work—good stories—because they make you feel something like how the truth would make you feel if you could hear it.” I closed my eyes, shivering a little at the
Page: 395

He stretched out his arm and laid a warm hand, full of goodness, onto my shoulder. I felt tears in my sick eyes at his touch. It disarmed me—not because I thought he was real, but because I knew the opposite. I was creating this. I was creating this thing of hope. It was already inside of me; it didn’t come from anywhere else.
Page: 397

How hard did this have to be? How hard to simply exist, to move, to twitch muscles, to think, hope, accept, move, love, and be loved.
Page: 398

“Anyway, just saying: I’ve seen a few things myself. I know how weird it can get. We’re not really supposed to be on our own, Ed, we’re not built for it. Spend too much time running away from reality and that’s exactly where you get.”
Page: 417

“When I was a boy my father told me that life was like being on a boat,” he said. “You can’t control the wind and you sure as hell can’t control the ocean. One day it’s calm and the next it’s a storm, and there’s nothing you can do about that. All you get is a tiller and a sail and the weather you find yourself in.”
Page: 417

“I think we like stories,” he said. “I think we like hearing that we’re just little boats lost at sea, all alone, fragile things at the mercy of some darkness we can’t fathom, but solid nonetheless—enclosed and separate. It makes sense to think of things being out there.”
Page: 418

“And things being in here. But just because it feels right, doesn’t make it true.”
Page: 418

“We’re all born screaming, Ed. The moment we pop out our throats open, and the same scream bursts out that always has. We see all the lights and faces and the shadows and the strange sounds, and we scream. Life screams, and we scream back at it. After a bit of time we learn to be quiet; we learn to muffle it. But life doesn’t stop. It just keeps screaming. All. The. Time.” He tapped his finger on the table three times and sat back. “I reckon it does you good to remind it that you can still scream back once in a while,” he said. “So that’s what I do. I wake up and tell the sun I’m still here. Still screaming.”
Page: 421

You don’t run thirty miles; you run a single step many times over. That’s all running is; that’s all anything is. If there’s somewhere you need to be, somewhere you need to get to, or if you need to change or move away from where or what you are, then that’s all it takes. A hundred thousand simple decisions, each one made correctly.
Page: 434

That other beast inside you, the one you rarely see? You have it tethered tight. It watches and waits while you mess up your life, fill your body with poison and muddy your mind with worry. For some it takes just one call to free it. For others it takes five hundred miles of agony.
Page: 436

We never stay constant, no matter what we promise; the world has its way of pulling you about the way it wants.
Page: 446

What do you love most about writing? I spend a lot of my time thinking and daydreaming, so writing means I get to do this for a living. It’s also a way of exorcising fears and neuroses. If I didn’t write, my head would be full.
Page: 454

After On

Book Notes

Okay, whatever you do, do not read this book. The writing of this book is so verbose, so desperately in need of an editor, so as to be nearly unreadable. Couple that with the location of the book, Silicon Valley, and the somewhat accurate portrayal of the places in Silicon Valley, of the stunningly stupid ideas that get funded, of the pervasive sense of entitlement, and of the vulgar pursuit of winning the IPO jackpot instead of actually building something meaningful, and you have a book that just screams crap.

Did I mention the verbosity?

Yeah, well the editing is worse. If you want to experience this book, listen to it on audiobook. At three times speed. Keep the pain as short as possible.

I was exporting some of the parts I thought might be worth quoting, and gave up. I just don't like this book. Moazam didn't either. I was on a road trip for 40 hours, I was a captive audience. Moazam wasn't. He couldn't finish it. Not recommended.

Upon it, an image of numerous foggy, craggy acres was rendered. “Do you recognize this terrain?” Dr. Phillips inquired. To the untrained eye, it might have been a region of the Scottish Highlands, or the maritime reaches of Oregon, or a temperate sector of Alaska.
Page 19

There, with plenty of smart, attractive women on hand, Mitchell’s like a kid in a candy store. A penniless, ravenous kid. One who can look all he wants, but that’s it. Or maybe “a meat-loving vegan at a cookout” maps better, because his hunger is principled, and self-imposed (and also, more primal than a grumpy sweet tooth). The thing is, Mitchell has essentially opted out of romance. It’s a long story.
Page 21

“Yes, they’ll say that,” Kuba agrees. “And they won’t be entirely wrong. Cynical. But not wrong. Because the tech itself could be used for practically anything, good or bad. It’s as value neutral as a smartphone. Or a computer.”
Page 27

But the biggest-paying advertiser, brand manager, and spin doctor will ultimately be us, the Phluttr user base. There are gold mines to extract from our desperate urge to be heard!
Page 31

You see, Fortune’s a bitch with a great sense of humor...
Page 37

Of course, all companies make hiring boo-boos. But when the true greats make them really early on, some real knuckleheads can get moronically rich. This effect produces plenty of accidental tech millionaires. Some accidental gazillionaires, too—but only a smattering of Pugwashes, and the man is rather famous. Some take his exquisite luck almost personally. Not merely those who worked far harder for far lesser bonanzai (although to be clear, those folks’re plenty pissed). But also those who are even richer still through their own godsends of timing, genetics, or happenstance, and have since fetishized a vision of the industry as an immaculate meritocracy. Those who fancy that they earned every dime of their tech fortunes through talent, toil, and daring (which is almost everyone who has one) regard any whiff of the lottery (Pugwash, for instance) as a PR liability.
Page 37

Because certain problems are completely resistant to increased rumination. But things are different for a diplomat who has spent years engaged in Russian-American relations. Not because he knows more facts and figures, because that stuff’s available to all of us via Google, now. But because his framework includes lots of intuition. Educated guesses. Vague rules of thumb that have just kind of worked over the years—that sort of thing.
Page 40

“Precisely. And by mastering Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology, it will likewise be functionally omnipotent! As such, it could preclude the creation of any subsequent ‘me-too’ Super AI as easily as a Harvard Trained Biochemist could stop a helpless bacterium from reproducing in a petri dish!”
Page 50

Grown-up that he is, Mitchell can get a bit homesick when the chips are down, the weather’s blandly OK-ish for the bazillionth day in a row, and he’s gone yet another month without meeting a single fellow hockey fan. Even a lot homesick.
Page 51

Just as you rarely see something that’s perfectly blue in nature, unadulterated joy seems to be rare in human minds. More likely, we’ll see nine or ten happy motes, with other things mixed in.
Page 55

Fear comes in lots of flavors, but they’re all a mix of sadness and surprise, often with a dash of anger. Another example is indignation. That’s lots of anger, and a bit of surprise, with some sadness mixed in. And also, some happiness. Which makes sense when you consider that some folks really seem
Page 55

to enjoy being offended!
Page 55

And if you tried to heed every photon, sound wave, and nerve ending that you can access at once, you wouldn’t really be aware of any of it.” “You’re saying I’d be functionally unconscious.” “Exactly! Which is why you’re not currently registering the color of the ninth cookbook from the far left of the fourth shelf over my shoulder. You’re perceiving it. But you’re not heeding it.
Page 58

When he wasn’t incredibly bummed (rare, but it also happened)! Or, unbelievably pissed off (rarer still, but also happened)! His psyche was all binge and no purge—hammering either the gas or the brakes at all times!!!
Page 93

Man, talk about how I react.

“Is that Phluttr’s release about… Norway, is it?” Mitchell guesses. He’s been meaning to look it up himself.

“Iceland,” Kuba says, holding out the computer.

“You realize you’re about to physically hand me a digital article,” Mitchell points out, “and how very odd that is. Are you sure you don’t just want to print it and fax it to me?”

“I want to see your reaction to this in person.
Page 114

This cracked me up.

The Darkest Road

Book Notes

This is book three of the Fionavar Tapestry. You really need to read the first two books in the series for this book to make any sense. That said, the three books are, even two decades after I read them the first time, still amazing.

I lost all my notes I had taken with this reading when my phone died. This loss saddens me a bit, but I'm sure I'll be able to rewrite this review within the next couple years, as I'll read the series again.

That said, this book is about trust. Except, you don't know it's about trust until you sit with the memory of the book, after you're done reading it. Kay's work does that: he doesn't tell you, he shows you. This style is why I love his writing so much.

I strongly recommend this series. I'll buy you a copy if you'd like.

[H]e was acutely aware that she was right—aware of how much his difficulties were caused by his own overdeveloped need for controlling things. Particularly himself.
Location 4910

“Would it have been so terrible,” Kim asked, not wisely, but she couldn’t hold the question back, “if you had just told him you loved him?”

Jennifer didn’t flinch, nor did she flare into anger again. “I did,” she said mildly, a hint of surprise in her voice. “I did let him know. Surely you can see that. I left him free to make his choice. I ... trusted him.”
Location 4979

The Wandering Fire

Book Notes

This is book two of the FIonavar Tapestry.

As with the first book, I bought and read the book for the first time in high school. Each time I read this book, this series, I pull a different lesson and a different focus from the book. I do not love these books any less each reading.

I had a number of notes with this latest reading, but I lost them when my phone locked and I couldn't recover the data. I recall this book has a lot more adventure in it than the previous book, more hand-wringing, and more difficult to read parts. I still love and appreciate how Kay doesn't hit the reader over the head with explanations and elaborations. He leaves parts unsaid, he lets the reader feel the losses, he gives us space to grieve, to be surprised, to puzzle, and to accept. It's this style of writing that draws me to Kay's writing again and again.

When I started reading this series again, I was worried that the magic of the books was worn with time. I was wrong. They are still incredible. I strongly recommend this series.

The Summer Tree

Book Notes

I bought and read this book the first time when I was still in high school. I was working at the bookstore (gosh, that was the perfect job for me), when a woman came in and ordered the three books in this series in hardback form. Who buys books in hardback when they are available in paperback? The woman was, in retrospect, the epitome of a middle-aged science fiction fantasy reader, including the round and smiling parts.

When I placed her order, I ordered a second set of hardbound books for myself. I would argue one of my best book buying decisions ever.

This early Kay work has the perfect writing style, where he shows the reader instead of telling the reader. Some of his later works have lost this magic, though his last book recaptures some of that magic.

The last time I started to reread this book was on the road trip with Chris, so it's been a while. Reading it this time, however, was like slipping into a warm bath of comfort, like the act of coming home. I had not realized how much this book, and the series, shaped aspects of my life, always in subtle ways.

I strongly recommend this book and this series. I've loaned my copies out, always making sure to get them back. This series in one of my top three books of all time.

“No, he’s not all right. But I seem to be the only one who questions it. I think I’m becoming a pain in the ass to him. I hate it.”

“Sometimes,” his father said, filling the glass cups in their Russian - style metal holders, “a friend has to be that.”
Page 27

“Kevin,” he said, “you will have to learn — and for you it will be hard — that sometimes you can’t do anything. Sometimes you simply can’t.”
Page 28

And Paul Schafer, who believed one should be able to endure anything, and who believed this of himself most of all, listened as long as he could, and failed again.
Page 29

It seemed that there were still things one could not do. So one did everything else as well as one possibly could and found new things to try, to will oneself to master, and always one realized, at the kernel and heart of things, that the ends of the earth would not be far enough away.
Page 30

“No, I play carefully. All the beauty was on your side, but sometimes plodding caution will wear down brilliance."
Page 70

“It is power that teaches patience; holding power, I mean. And you learn the price it exacts — which is something I never knew when I was your age and thought a sword and quick wits could deal with anything. I never knew the price you pay for power.”
Page 70

“I don’t think that wanting to live can be a failing.” The words rasped from too long a silence; a difficult emotion was waking within him.
Page 79

After a moment, Kevin Laine, who was neither a petty man nor a stupid one, smiled to himself.
Page 89

Kevin had seen, and caught his breath to see, the look in her dark eyes when Paul would enter a room, and he had watched, too, the hesitant unfolding of trust and need in his proud friend.
Page 91

Watching him, Kevin felt it then, the intoxicating lure of this man who was leading them.
Page 94

We salvage what we can, what truly matters to us, even at the gates of despair.
Page 169

The knowledge of approaching death can come in many shapes, descending as a blessing or rearing up as an apparition of terror. It may sever like the sweep of a blade, or call as a perfect lover calls.
Page 178

There are kinds of action, for good or ill, that lie so far outside the boundaries of normal behavior that they force us, in acknowledging that they have occurred, to restructure our own understanding of reality. We have to make room for them.
Page 203

She thought of Raederth then, and wondered if it was folly to sorrow for a man so long dead. But it wasn’t, she knew, she now knew; for the dead are still in time, they are travelling, they are not lost. Ysanne was lost.
Page 217

To see him with a sword in his hand was almost heartbreaking. It was a dance. It was more. Some men, it seemed, were born to do a thing; it was true.
Page 219

But Dana was with him now, the Goddess, taking him there to truth. And in a crescendo, a heart - searing blaze of final dispensation, he saw that he had missed the gap, and only just, oh, only just, not because of any hesitation shaped by lack of desire, by death or murder wish, but because, in the end, he was human.

Oh, lady, he was. Only, only human, and he missed because of hurt, grief, shock, and rain. Because of these, which could be forgiven.

And were, he understood. Truly, truly were. Deny not your own mortality. The voice was within him like a wind, one of her voices, only one, he knew, and in the sound was love, he was loved. You failed because humans fail. It is a gift as much as anything else.
Page 231

He would have comforted his younger son, but knew it was wiser to leave the boy alone. It was not a bad thing to learn what hurt meant, and mastering it alone helped engender self-respect.
Page 246

What Dave felt then was so rare and unexpected, it took him a moment to recognize it.
Page 253

The Sight comes when the light goes, the Dalrei said. It was not Law, but had the same force, it seemed to Ivor at times.
Page 256

Which led to another thought: did all fathers feel this way when their sons became men? Men of achievement, of names that eclipsed the father’s? Was there always the sting of envy to temper the burst of pride?
Page 268

Through it all, drinking round for round with them, Levon seemed almost unaffected by what he had done. Looking for it, Dave could find no arrogance, no hidden sense of superiority in Ivor’s older son. It had to be there, he thought, suspicious, as he always was. But looking one more time at Levon as he walked between him and Ivor to the feast — he was guest of honor, it seemed — Dave found himself reluctantly changing his mind. Is a horse arrogant or superior? He didn’t think so. Proud, yes; there was great pride in the bay stallion that had stood so still with Levon that morning, but it wasn’t a pride that diminished anything or anyone else. It was simply part of what the stallion was.
Page 269

How could he be angry, though, after this? It was always so hard, Ivor found, to stay angry with Liane. Leith was better at it. Mothers and daughters; there was less indulgence there.
Page 276

Overtired, he soon amended, for once inside the blanket he found that sleep eluded him. Instead he lay awake under the wide sky, his mind circling restlessly back over the day.
Page 290

I so understand this.

“Pendaran is deadly to those who enter it. No one does. But the Wood is angry, not evil, and unless we trespass, the powers within it will not be stirred by our riding here."
Page 294

There was no expression on Levon’s face, his profile seemed chiseled from stone as he gazed at the towering fire above Rangat. But in that very calm, that impassive acceptance, Dave found a steadfastness of his own. Without moving a muscle, Levon seemed to be growing, to be willing himself to grow large enough to match, to overmatch the terror in the sky and on the wind.
Page 300

Your hour knows your name, Dave Martyniuk thought, and then, in that moment of apocalypse, had another thought: I love these people. The realization hit him, for Dave was what he was, almost as hard as the Mountain had.
Page 301

No one spoke. Levon’s face, Dave saw, was like stone again, but not as before. This he recognized: not the steadfastness of resolution, but a rigid control locking the muscles, the heart, against the pain inside. You held it in, Dave thought, had always thought. It didn’t belong to anyone else.
Page 305

"Levon, you said before, this place isn’t evil.”

“It doesn’t have to be, to kill us,” said Torc.
Page 306

“And Davor,” Levon went on, in a different voice, “you wove something very bright back there. I don’t think any man in the tribe could have forced that opening. Whatever happens after, you saved our lives then.”

“I just swung the thing,” Dave muttered.

At which Torc, astonishingly, laughed aloud. For a moment the listening trees were stilled. No mortal had laughed in Pendaran for a millennium. “You are,” said Torc dan Sorcha, “as bad as me, as bad as him. Not one of us can deal with praise. Is your face red right now, my friend?”

Of course it was, for God’s sake. “What do you think?” he mumbled. Then, feeling the ridiculousness of it, hearing Levon’s snort of amusement, Dave felt something let go inside, tension, fear, grief, all of them, and he laughed with his friends in the Wood where no man went.
Page 306

He nodded, seeing once more, discovering it anew, how beautiful she was. “Why did you marry me?” he asked impulsively.

She shrugged. “You asked.”

...

“I lied,” Leith said quietly. “I married you because no other man I know or can imagine could have made my heart leap so when he asked.”

He turned from the moon to her. “The sun rises in your eyes,” he said. The formal proposal. “It always, always has, my love.”
Page 318

There was no peace, no serenity anywhere. She carried none, had none to grant, she wore the Warstone on her hand. She would drag the dead from their rest, and the undead to their doom. What was she that this should be so?
Page 341

“No,” said Diarmuid. And it appeared that there was nothing inevitable after all.
Page 359

What did it matter why? It didn’t, clearly, except that at the end we only have ourselves anyway, wherever it comes down. So Jennifer rose from the mattress on the floor, her hair tangled, filthy, the odor of Avaia on her torn clothes, her face stained, body bruised and cut, and she mastered the tremor in her voice and said to him, “You will have nothing of me that you do not take.”
Page 368

You send your mind away, she remembered reading once; when you’re tortured, when you’re raped, you send your mind after a while into another place, far from where pain is. You send it as far as you can. To love, the memory of it, a spar for clinging to.
Page 369

Parable of the Talents

Book Notes

After Parable of the Sower, I don't know, I think I was expecting some sort of feel-good book as a follow up.

This is not a feel-good follow up.

Instead, this is a dystopian nightmare that, well, let's be frank here, is completely and totally plausible given the state of the U.S. federal government these days. I do not know how we will last four years with the liar and incompetent existing in the executive office.

Anyway, this book just screams "holy crap" given its parallels to today's politiics. The brother parts, and the lack of resolution at the end of the book (nope, didn't give anything away there) just screams "holy crap" given its parallels to my family situation.

As difficult as I found the last book to read, this one was more difficult and more worth reading because of the discomfort.

All things change, but all things need not change in all ways.
Page 46

Earthseed is Olamina’s contribution to what she feels should be a species-wide effort to evade, or at least to lengthen the specialize-grow-die evolutionary cycle that humanity faces, that every species faces.
Page 46

A woman who expresses her opinions, “nags,” disobeys her husband, or otherwise “tramples her womanhood” and “acts like a man,” might have her head shaved, her forehead branded, her tongue cut out, or, worst case, she might be stoned to death or burned.
Page 50

She and Harry may be the most loyal, least religious people in the community, but there are times when people need religion more than they need anything else — even people like Zahra and Harry.
Page 60

Page 63

Edwards said, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire.” You’re worthless. God hates you. All you deserve is pain and death.
Page 63

That's something from Jonathan Edwards' 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” To which I point out, again, the purpose of organized religion isn't to save, it is to create and maintain power over other people. This hell that he speaks of is a creation of man.

We say “God is Change,” but the truth is, we fear change as much as anyone does. We talk about changes at Gathering to ease our fears, to desensitize ourselves and to consider consequences.
Page 68

That might be the kindest gesture they could manage — to turn their backs and not join the mob. Others, whether we thought of them as friends or not, would be all too willing to join the mob and to stomp us and rob us if stomping and robbing became a test of courage or a test of loyalty to country, religion, or race.
Page 69

“People will think whatever they like,” I said. “It’s our job to show by our behavior that we’re not thieves, and we’re not fools. We’ve got a good reputation so far. People know we don’t steal. They know better than to steal from us."
Page 69

Bankole isn’t the only one of us who doesn’t see the possibility of doing anything he hasn’t seen done by others. And… although Bankole would never say this, I suspect that somewhere inside himself, he believes that large, important things are done only by powerful people in high positions far away from here. Therefore, what we do is, by definition, small and unimportant.
Page 71

She can be shaking with fear, but she still does what she thinks she should do.
Page 72

“I wish we could just hide here and stay out of everything else. I know we can’t, but I wish.… It’s been so good here.”
Page 72

“It means that Change is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe. To us, that makes it the most powerful reality, and just another word for God.”
Page 75

Things won’t get back to what he calls normal. We’ll settle into some new norm someday — for a while.
Page 75

The idea seems to be, “If it’s in a book, maybe it’s true,” or even, “If it’s in a book, it must be true.”
Page 76

We say education is the most direct pathway to God. For now, it’s enough to say that verse just means that flattering or begging God isn’t useful. Learn what God does. Learn to shape that to your needs. Learn to use it, or at least, learn to adapt to it so that you won’t get squashed by it. That’s useful.”
Page 76

"Praying does work. Praying is a very effective way of talking to yourself, of talking yourself into things, of focusing your attention on whatever it is you want to do. It can give you a feeling of control and help you to stretch yourself beyond what you thought were your limits.”
Page 76

It doesn't, however, call down The Will of God™, nor does it affect anything outside of you. There is no magic juice your prayers affect. All of the changes you see in human society are done by people.

"Once he’s made everyone who isn’t like him sound evil, then he can blame them for problems he knows they didn’t cause. That’s easier than trying to fix the problems.”
Page 77

Human competitiveness and territoriality were often at the root of particularly horrible fashions in oppression. We human beings seem always to have found it comforting to have someone to took down on — a bottom level of fellow creatures who are very vulnerable, but who can somehow be blamed and punished for all or any troubles. We need this lowest class as much as we need equals to team with and to compete against and superiors to look to for direction and help.
Page 80

Life is getting better, but that won’t stop a war if politicians and business people decide it’s to their advantage to have one.
Page 82

We’re becoming more and more isolated as a people. We’re sliding into undirected negative change, and what’s worse, we’re getting used to it. All too often, we shape ourselves and our futures in such stupid ways.
Page 86

“You can’t change everything in your life all at once. You just can’t.”

“You can,” I said. “We both have. It hurts. It’s terrible. But you can do it.”
Page 115

“I suspect it’s a human characteristic not to know when you’re well off,” I said.

He glanced at me sidewise. “Oh, it is,” he said. “I see it every day.”
Page 140

I moved against him, but managed not to say anything. I hate to hear him always talking about dying.
Page 142

But an unpleasant thing should be done quickly if it must be done at all.
Page 149

When she wasn’t sure, she found ways to avoid fighting or go along with her opponents until they tripped themselves up or put themselves in a position for her to trip them up.
Page 154

In small communities, she believed, people are more accountable to one another. Serious misbehavior is harder to get away with, harder even to begin when everyone who sees you knows who you are, where you live, who your family is, and whether you have any business doing what you’re doing.
Page 171

“This is like nothing we’ve faced before.” Bankole’s shoulders slumped, and he sighed. “I don’t know that this country has ever had a leader as bad as Jarret or as bad as Jarret might turn out to be: Keep that in mind."
Page 178

Replace "Jarret" with Cheetoh, and you pretty much have the fictional world realized here and now.

"We need to become the adult species that the Destiny can help us become! If we’re to be anything other than smooth dinosaurs who evolve, specialize, and die, we need the stars. When we have no difficult, long-term purpose to strive toward, we fight each other. We destroy ourselves. We have these chaotic, apocalyptic periods of murderous craziness.”
Page 179

“That’s where faith comes in, I guess. It always comes sooner or later into every belief system."
Page 180

After a moment, I decided I was where I wanted to be. If I had to cry on someone’s shoulders, well, his were big and broad.
Page 182

Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.
Page 183

The younger girls cried and quarreled and complained. The rest of us sat silent most of the time. We had all been through one kind of hell or another. We had all survived enough to know that crying, complaining, and quarreling did no good. We might forget that in time, but not yet.
Page 201

Much blood was shed, but little was accomplished. The war began in anger, bitterness, and envy at nations who appeared to be on their way up just as our country seemed to be on a downward slide.
Page 244

Parable of the Sower

Book Notes

Yes, I finished this book at 3:06 in the morning.

This book has been on my to-read stack for a while, mostly on Claire's recommendation. Claire's recommendations haven't been off yet, so I picked up this Butler book, and was more than a little stunned at how, well, prophetic Butler was.

The first part of the book, the set up for the disaster and the plot that follows, reminded me of just how unprepared I am for a disaster (human-made or otherwise). The world we live in is more fragile than we think.

It is also more resilient than we realize. Even as things go bad, and the world becomes more and more authoritarian, Butler doesn't see it as falling apart. There is some level of civilization and technology, unlike, say, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Other aspects I found interesting was the assumption of commonplace violence. These days, we are still horrified by casual violence. In this book, few people are, it is so integrated into the world.

I wrote a couple more notes when I was reading the book. The corporate take-over of communities, and the disparate levels of protection (if you pay, the police will actually investigate, otherwise, you're out of luck) really aren't that difficult to see from our current society.

The part that struck home, however, is the understand that water is a scarce resource. That. Yeah.

This book is way worth reading, not only because of discomfort revealed in the dystopia that Butler describes, but for the warning that comes with that world. One almost wishes the religion Butler describes could exist.

PRODIGY IS, AT ITS essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all.

EARTHSEED: THE BOOKS OF THE LIVING
Page 2

Three smart sons and one dumb one, and it’s the dumb one she loves best.
Page 9

I get a lot of grief that doesn’t belong to me, and that isn’t real. But it hurts.
Page 12

Keith says God is just the adults’ way of trying to scare you into doing what they want.
Page 14

In the book of Job, God says he made everything and he knows everything so no one has any right to question what he does with any of it. Okay. That works. That Old Testament God doesn’t violate the way things are now. But that God sounds a lot like Zeus—a super-powerful man, playing with his toys the way my youngest brothers play with toy soldiers. Bang, bang! Seven toys fall dead. If they’re yours, you make the rules. Who cares what the toys think. Wipe out a toy’s family, then give it a brand new family. Toy children, like Job’s children, are interchangeable.
Page 16

To me, dead bodies are disgusting. They stink, and if they’re old enough, there are maggots. But what the hell? They’re dead. They aren’t suffering, and if you didn’t like them when they were alive, why get so upset about their being dead?
Page 23

God can’t be resisted or stopped, but can be shaped and focused. This means God is not to be prayed to. Prayers only help the person doing the praying, and then, only if they strengthen and focus that persons resolve. If they’re used that way, they can help us in our only real relationship with God. They help us to shape God and to accept and work with the shapes that God imposes on us. God is power, and in the end, God prevails.
Page 25

But we can rig the game in our own favor if we understand that God exists to be shaped, and will be shaped, with or without our forethought, with or without our intent.
Page 25

Every one knows that change is inevitable. From the second law of thermodynamics to Darwinian evolution, from Buddhism’s insistence that nothing is permanent and all suffering results from our delusions of permanence to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes (“ To everything there is a season”), change is part of life, of existence, of the common wisdom.
Page 26

Of course, no one called the fire department. No one would take on fire service fees just to save an unoccupied garage.
Page 32

At first there were a few neighbors who didn’t like that—older ones who said it was the job of the police to protect them, younger ones who worried that their little children would find their guns, and religious ones who didn’t think a minister of the gospel should need guns. This was several years ago.
Page 39

But my room is still mine. It’s the one place in the world where I can go and not be followed by anyone I don’t invite in.
Page 51

felt on the verge of talking to her about things I hadn’t talked about before. I’d written about them. Sometimes I write to keep from going crazy. There’s a world of things I don’t feel free to talk to anyone about.
Page 52

But even superficial comfort is better than none, I guess. I tried another tactic.
Page 56

Three books on survival in the wilderness, three on guns and shooting, two each on handling medical emergencies, California native and naturalized plants and their uses, and basic living: logcabin-building, livestock raising, plant cultivation, soap making—that
Page 57

“Maybe it’s time to look down. Time to look for some hand and foot holds before we just get pushed in.”
Page 66

"And, of course, some won’t do anything at all. There are always people who won’t do anything.”
Page 66

I still feel inclined to trust her. But I can’t. I don’t. She has no idea how much she could have hurt me if I had given her just a few more words to use against me. I don’t think I’ll ever trust her again,
Page 68

The thing is, even with my writing problems, every time I understand a little more, I wonder why it’s taken me so long—why there was ever a time when I didn’t understand a thing so obvious and real and true.
Page 78

There’s always a lot to do before you get to go to heaven.
Page 85

Waiting is terrible. Waiting to be older is worse than other kinds of waiting because there’s nothing you can do to make it happen faster.
Page 89

My brother isn’t very smart, but he makes up for it in pure stubbornness. My father is smart and stubborn. Keith didn’t have a chance, but he made Dad work for his victory.
Page 93

I don't know what she's talking about. *whistles*

CIVILIZATION IS TO GROUPS what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.
Page 102

And they knew the cops liked to solve cases by “discovering” evidence against whomever they decided must be guilty. Best to give them nothing. They never helped when people called for help. They came later, and more often than not, made a bad situation worse.
Page 114

But if everyone could feel everyone else’s pain, who would torture? Who would cause anyone unnecessary pain?
Page 115

A biological conscience is better than no conscience at all.
Page 115

"You think it’s going to get sane? It’s never been sane. You just have to go ahead and live, no matter what.”
Page 142

People are setting fires to get rid of whomever they dislike from personal enemies to anyone who looks or sounds foreign or racially different. People are setting fires because they’re frustrated, angry, hopeless. They have no power to improve their lives, but they have the power to make others even more miserable. And the only way to prove to yourself that you have power is to use it.
Page 143

But people who have no homes will build fires. Even people like us who know what fire can do will build them. They give comfort, hot food, and a false sense of security.
Page 180

I showed him four verses in all—gentle, brief verses that might take hold of him without his realizing it and live in his memory without his intending that they should. Bits of the Bible had done that to me, staying with me even after I stopped believing.
Page 199

Worship is no good without action. With action, it’s only useful if it steadies you, focuses your efforts, eases your mind.”
Page 219

“That isn’t what God is for, but there are times when that’s what prayer is for. And there are times when that’s what these verses are for. God is Change, and in the end, God prevails. But there’s hope in understanding the nature of God—not punishing or jealous, but infinitely malleable. There’s comfort in realizing that everyone and everything yields to God. There’s power in knowing that God can be focused, diverted, shaped by anyone at all. But there’s no power in having strength and brains, and yet waiting for God to fix things for you or take revenge for you. You know that. You knew it when you took your family and got the hell out of your boss’s house. God will shape us all every day of our lives. Best to understand that and return the effort: Shape God.”
Page 220

I would love to teach Dominic Earthseed as he grows up. I would teach him and he would teach me. The questions little children ask drive you insane because they never stop. But they also make you think.
Page 221

We aren’t gang types. I don’t want gang types with their need to dominate, rob and terrorize. And yet we might have to dominate. We might have to rob to survive, and even terrorize to scare off or kill enemies. We’ll have to be very careful how we allow our needs to shape us.
Page 223

The nice thing about sitting and working alongside someone you don’t know very well, someone you’d like to know much better, is that you can talk with him or be quiet with him. You can get comfortable with him and with the awareness that you’ll soon be making love to him.
Page 260

"Her religion was important to her, so I went along. I saw how it comforted her, and I wanted to believe, but I never could.”
Page 261

“Stumbling across the truth isn’t the same as making things up.”
Page 261

“It sounds like some combination of Buddhism, existentialism, Sufism, and I don’t know what else,” he said. “Buddhism doesn’t make a god of the concept of change, but the impermanence of everything is a basic Buddhist principle.”
Page 261

“Human beings are good at creating hells for themselves even out of richness.”
Page 261

“I mean it’s too … straightforward. If you get people to accept it, they’ll make it more complicated, more open to interpretation, more mystical, and more comforting.”
Page 262

Strange how normal it’s become for us to lie on the ground and listen while nearby, people try to kill each other.
Page 269

“I’ll tell you, though, if we can convince ex-slaves that they can have freedom with us, no one will fight harder to keep it. We need better guns, though."
Page 292

Strange Dogs

Book Notes

Oh, look!

An Expanse book! (And another book with a title that I confuse for another title, this one I read as "Strange Days" the entire time, until I wrote this review.)

OF COURSE I'm going to read it.

Okay, maybe not. I read this one because it was an Expanse book, knowing it might not have Holden in the plot. It didn't. I didn't find the main character particularly compelling, so this book took me a little longer to read than the Holden books do, even though it's a novella instead of a full novel.

The book is an on-the-ground, back story on one of the planets through the Ring. It left more questions than it exposed with the characters and dialogue, which might be the point of it, as a lead-in into the next book.

At this point, if not a hard-core, I'm-going-to-read-everything-Expanse fan, skip this one.

Her mother said that honey was better than molasses, but there weren’t any bees on Laconia. Cara had only ever seen pictures of them, and based on those, she didn’t like honey at all.
Location: 87

I giggled at this when I read it. Small children often don't like foods just because they are different from what they know. Except that adults do this, too, and spend a large amount of effort justifying why they don't like something, when, in reality, they don't know enough to know they don't like said something.

The focus of the family spotlight had moved past her. Momma bird was over. She couldn’t put her thumb on why that bothered her.
Location: 154

One of the hardest things about death is that life goes on.

She wondered if the windowless room was like being on a spaceship. Months or years without ever once going outside or hearing the rain tapping into puddles or being able to get away from Xan and her parents. Never being alone. Never feeling the sunlight on her face. Nothing changing. Nothing new. It sounded awful.
Location: 301

Oh, wow, yes, that would be awful, never having Alone Time.

She wondered if the dogs would want to be captured and studied. She thought not, and they’d already done more for her than the soldiers ever had.
Location: 468

Who is good and who is bad is often based on which perspective you see first. Not always, as some whos and many acts are simply evil. Excepting the obvious of those, who helped you, who talked with you first, who you interacted with last, these influence which side you end up on quite a bit.

“Because I hate feeling powerless,” he said. “I hate being reminded that the universe is so much bigger than I am. And that I can’t always protect people.”
Location: 542

The strangest thing was how normal they sounded. How much grief sounded like regular life.
Location: 581

Again, one of the hardest things about death is that life goes on.

Night on Earth was bright. That’s what they said. Their moon shone like a kind of second, crappy sun. Cities were big enough to drown out the stars with their extra glow.
Location: 616

Second, crappy sun. *snort*

Cara dropped to her knees and threw her arms around the dog, hugging the strange, too-solid flesh close to her. It was warm against her cheek, and rough. It smelled like cardamom and soil. It went still, like it wasn’t sure what do with her affection and joy, and it stayed still until she released it.
Location: 646

This scene reminded me of Bella, and of Chase. Both of those dogs were/are incredibly tolerant of my snuggling them.

There wasn’t a perfect answer, but she didn’t need a perfect one. Good enough was good enough. Making her way home was harder than leaving had been, which made some sense to her. Going away from a point, there were any number of paths, and all of them were right. Going back to the point, most paths were wrong.
Location: 700

Daemons are Forever

Book Notes

Book 2 of the Secret Histories series.

Having read the first book in this series, and Green's Nightside series (and really liking the Nightside series), I was excited to start this book. The last book seemed to be the start of a long adventure, but still self-contained.

So, this book was a bit of the "I have just finished a grand adventure, I have power, what do I do with all this new power?" Well, you don't handle it well, you ignore those who supported you in your uphill battle, you do a lot of things wrong, and you become a jerk.

Based on how long-winded Green is in this book, and the reviews of subsequent books commenting about how the main character becomes cruel, I'm choosing not to continue reading this series. When I finished the first book, I was somewhat excited about this one. I'm not excited about this plot at all. I recommend the Nightside series over this one, by a long shot.

Maybe this is an okay book to read if you're a Green fan, but I'm not sure. I don't recommend it. Leave your memories of Eddie with the first book.

"When you work as a field agent, you learn pretty fast you can’t trust anyone."

“Not even those close to you?” said Molly, studying me solemnly with her huge dark eyes.

“Especially those. You always know where you are with an enemy; it’s only friends and loved ones who can betray you.”
Page: 6

The truth might set you free, but there’s nothing that says you have to be grateful.
Page: 6

“Never get attached to possessions,” Molly said briskly. “They’re just things, and you can always get more things.”
Page: 6

"Do you believe in karma, Molly?”

“My karma ran over my dogma.”
Page: 12

And you can’t ever be really close to anyone, when the life you share is a lie.
Page: 13

“If you start getting maudlin on me,” Molly said firmly, “I will slap you, and it will hurt. I told you; never look back. All you ever see are mistakes, failures, and missed opportunities. Concentrate on the here and now!"
Page: 14

“My world used to be so simple,” I said. “I knew who I was, and what I was, and what I was supposed to do with my life.”

“No,” said Molly, not raising her head from my shoulder. “You only thought you did. Welcome to the real world, Eddie. Hateful place, isn’t it?”
Page: 14

... a lot of them wanted to denounce other people as being against progress, or in favour of the wrong kind of progress, or just guilty of the sin of not agreeing with the speaker’s ideas.
Page: 27

Start as you mean to go on, or they’ll walk all over you.
Page: 33

“To keep me honest,” I said. “To tell me the things I need to know, whether I want to hear them or not. To rein me in when I go too far, try to make changes too quickly. Or to spur me on if I start dithering. You’ve always been the sensible one, Penny. A terrible thing to hear, I know, but facts are facts. If I can’t convince you something is right or necessary, maybe it isn’t. And . . . you know a hell of a lot more about running things and organising people than I do.”
Page: 40

So I chose people to advise me who I could trust to tell me the truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not; and who together might just be a match for me, if I looked like getting out of control.
Page: 47

No, he was Merlin Satanspawn, the Devil’s only begotten son. Born to be the Antichrist, but he refused the honour. He always had to go his own way.
Page: 56

This cracked me up, as Merlin Satanspawn is in the Nightside series, too.

There’s always someone we’d like to speak to in the past. Friends and relatives and loved ones, gone too soon, before we could say all the things we meant to say to them. The things we put off saying, because we always thought there’d be time . . . until suddenly there wasn’t.
Page: 58

“There are two main threats to humanity,” the Armourer said ponderously, slipping into his lecture mode. “Doesn’t matter whether they’re scientific or magical in origin, mythical or political or biblical; all of humanity’s enemies can be separated into two distinct kinds. Those who do us harm because they hope to gain something from it; these we call demons. And those who are too big to care about us, but who might do us harm just because we’re in the way; those we call gods, for want of a better word. The family is trained and equipped to deal with demons. The gods are best handled delicately, from a safe distance, and through as many intermediaries as possible.”
Page: 59

"You want them destroyed almost as much as I do, and the enemy of my enemy can be my ally, if not my friend.”
Page: 75

“You can’t trust anything he says. Hell always lies, except when a truth can hurt you more.”
Page: 76

“You are allowed to hold me when you’re feeling down, you know,” said Molly. “It’s allowed, when you’re in a relationship.”

“So we are definitely in one of those relationship things, are we?” I said.

“Yeah. It sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking. You can squeeze my boobies, if you like.”

“Good to know.”
Page: 83

Laughing!

Look forward, never back. And never get too attached to anything or anyone, because the enemy will use that against you.
Page: 85

“Not everything that happens here is part of some conspiracy; it just seems that way."
Page: 99

The cemetery was dominated by Victorian styles, with oversized tombs and mausoleums, and fancy graves. That whole period was fascinated with death and all its trappings, and the graveyard was positively littered with statues of weeping angels, mourning cherubs, and enough morbid carvings and engravings to make even an undertaker shout Jesus! Get a life, dammit!
Page: 129

“Never look back, boy,” the Armourer said gruffly. “Concentrate on what you’re going to do next. Doesn’t matter if you lose a battle, as long as you win the war."
Page: 168

“There’s more to being a leader than being right,” said Penny. “You have to inspire, to motivate . . . and to know when to play politics with the right people.”
Page: 194

"The principles of waging war are really quite simple: divide and conquer, identify and strike at weak spots, and most of all, get everyone else so confused they don’t dare do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing.”
Page: 224

Failing that . . . you kill me, while I’m still me. Before I become something we’d both hate.”

“I couldn’t do that,” I said.

“You have to, Eddie. Just in case I’m not strong enough to do it myself.”
Page: 280

This is a fascinating theme to me. Kay had a similar concept in the Fionavar Trilogy: a death by the hand of a loved one is better than a death by the hand of an enemy.

We talked some more, but didn’t really say anything. Just the normal, reassuring things you say when you’re afraid in the dark.
Page: 280

"You can never trust politicians to do the right thing, Edwin, because at heart all they really care about is staying in power. They live in the present; it’s up to us to take the long view.”
Page: 288

“He knows that,” I said. “But hope springs eternal in the deluded heart."
Page: 299

It does.

“Everyone has to grow up eventually. All it took for me was an other-dimensional parasite infecting my body and eating my soul.”
Page: 306

“I’m scared, Eddie. Scared of becoming less and less me, and becoming something that won’t even care what it’s lost. I won’t even care that I don’t love you anymore."
Page: 307

“We all have things in our life that we would wish undone,” William said carefully. He clearly wanted very much to swallow, but didn’t dare. “But sins can never be undone. Only pardoned.”
Page: 320

Ever since he retired from field work, Uncle Jack had not so much lost his people skills as thrown them away.
Page: 323

The Sarjeant-at-Arms made his guns disappear again, and folded his arms tightly with a definite Look at me I’m not sulking even though I have cause expression on his face.
Page: 357

The weapon didn’t actually look like much, but then, the really nasty ones often don’t.
Page: 359

“It’s really very simple,” said Jay.

“No it isn’t,” I said. “No explanation that begins that way ever is.”
Page: 363

“This . . . is how I die. Jacob finally remembered. I don’t mind, really. It’s . . . a good death. Spitting in the face of the enemy, saving the innocent; for the family. A Drood’s death.”
Page: 363

"Some things . . . just are. Because they’re needed.”
Page: 365

“This is the place where quests fail,” Subway Sue said quietly. “Where love is always unrequited, promises are broken, and only bad dreams come true.”
Page: 369

“Always a good idea to have a little surprise in reserve. For when you absolutely have to kill every living thing that annoys you.”
Page: 373

"A trained soldier with a blade is a match for any number of unarmed rabble.”
Page: 373

There were so many things I wished I’d done, or said. So many things I meant to do . . . but I suppose that’s always true, no matter when you die.
Page: 373

“It’s just another place,” he said. “The details change, but that’s all. You can cope. You can adapt. Because you’re human, and that’s what humans do. We roll with the punch, and we come back fighting. If you can’t cope with what you’re seeing, let your mind translate it into something you can cope with. You’re stronger than you think, Eddie, Molly. No matter how weird things get here, remember; it’s just another place.”
Page: 390

It might be a very small thing to be human, in this largest of worlds, but even the smallest insect can pack a deadly sting.
Page: 390

“Manifest Destiny is an idea, a philosophy. It’ll always be around, in some form or another. There’ll always be small, bitter people ready to follow some charismatic leader who promises them peace and happiness through justified violence and the killing of scapegoats.”
Page: 400

What good would it do? Sometimes love is in the things we don’t tell each other.
Page: 403

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Book Notes

A copy of this book was sitting on the nightstand of Melissa's guest bedroom. I knew vaguely about this book, knew it was a classic, and had never read it. So, I picked it up and read it, what with my mission to read the books I should have read decades ago or some such.

Suffice it to say, HAD I read this book in high school or college, my life would have been a lot different. I would have moved to New York, instead of staying in Los Angeles, after college. I am uncertain what jobs I might have had, but aerospace and computers would not have been in my future, I wouldn't think.

But, I didn't read this until this summer, and here we are, a have-read book about New York City somewhat around the turn of the last century (hoo boy, are we really nearly a fifth of the way through this century already?), when one's imaginings about how things were is better than how they actually were, and I'm minimizing how stressful living in New York City might have been.

I can see why this book is a classic. I enjoyed reading it.

The airshaft was a horrible invention. Even with the windows tightly sealed, it served as a sounding box and you could hear everybody's business.
Page 83

Oh, to be a Chinaman, wished Francie, and have such a pretty toy to count on; oh, to eat all the lichee nuts she wanted and to know the mystery of the iron that was ever hot and yet never stood on a stove. Oh, to paint those symbols with a slight brush and a quick turn of the wrist and to make a clear black mark as fragile as a piece of a butterfly wing! That was the mystery of the Orient in Brooklyn.
Page 87

SCHOOL days were eagerly anticipated by Francie. She wanted all of the things that she thought came with school.
Page 91

What's free about it, they reasoned when the law forces you to educate your children and then endangers their lives to get them into school? Weeping mothers brought bawling children to the health center for inoculation. They carried on as though bringing their innocents to the slaughter. The children screamed hysterically at the first sight of the needle and their mothers, waiting in the anteroom, threw their shawls over their heads and keened loudly as if wailing for the dead.
Page 91

"Papa's at Headquarters waiting for a job. He won't be home all day. You're big enough to go alone. Besides, it won't hurt."
Page 91

Sending a six year old kid off to the doctors alone. Different world.

The doctor was a Harvard man, interning at the neighborhood hospital. Once a week, he was obligated to put in a few hours at one of the free clinics. He was going into a smart practice in Boston when his internship was over. Adopting the phraseology of the neighborhood, he referred to his Brooklyn internship as going through Purgatory when he wrote to his socially prominent fiancée in Boston.
Page 92

A person who pulls himself up from a low environment via the boot-strap route has two choices. Having risen above his environment, he can forget it; or, he can rise above it and never forget it and keep compassion and understanding in his heart for those he has left behind him in the cruel up climb. The nurse had chosen the forgetting way. Yet, as she stood there, she knew that years later she would be haunted by the sorrow in the face of that starveling child and that she would wish bitterly that she had said a comforting word then and done something towards the saving of her immortal soul. She had the knowledge that she was small but she lacked the courage to be otherwise.
Page 93

This explanation satisfied Francie because she had never been able to tell her left hand from her right. She ate, and drew pictures with her left hand. Katie was always correcting her and transferring the chalk or the needle from her left hand to her right.
Page 93

He taught them good music without letting them know it was good. He set his own words to the great classics and gave them simple names like "Lullaby" and "Serenade" and "Street Song" and "Song for a Sunshine Day." Their baby voices shrilled out in Handel's "Largo" and they knew it merely by the title of "Hymn." Little boys whistled part of Dvorak's New World Symphony as they played marbles. When asked the name of the song, they'd rely "Oh, 'Going Home.' " They played potsy, humming "The Soldiers' Chorus" from Faust which they called "Glory."
Page 104

OH, magic hour when a child first knows it can read printed words!

For quite a while, Francie had been spelling out letters, sounding them and then putting the sounds together to mean a word. But one day, she looked at a page and the word "mouse" had instantaneous meaning. She looked at the word and the picture of a gray mouse scampered through her mind. She looked further and when she saw "horse," she heard him pawing the ground and saw the sun glint on his glossy coat. The word "running" hit her suddenly and she breathed hard as though running herself. The barrier between the individual sound of each letter and the whole meaning of the word was removed and the printed word meant a thing at one quick glance. She read a few pages rapidly and almost became ill with excitement. She wanted to shout it out. She could read! She could read!
Page 106

Indeed, Francie was the only one in her classroom whose parents were American-born. At the beginning of the term, Teacher called the roll and asked each child her lineage. The answers were typical.

"I'm Polish-American. My father was born in Warsaw."
"Irish-American. Me fayther and mither were born in County Cork."
When Nolan was called, Francie answered proudly: "I'm an American."
"I know you're American," said the easily exasperated teacher. "But what's your nationality?" "American!" insisted Francie even more proudly.
"Will you tell me what your parents are or do I have to send you to the principal?"
"My parents are American. They were born in Brooklyn."

All the children turned around to look at a little girl whose parents had not come from the old country. And when Teacher said, "Brooklyn? Hm. I guess that makes you American, all right," Francie was proud and happy. How wonderful was Brooklyn, she thought, when just being born there automatically made you an American!
Page 108

The parents were too American, too aware of the rights granted them by their Constitution to accept injustices meekly. They could not be bulldozed and exploited as could the immigrants and the second generation Americans.
Page 111

It was a good thing that she got herself into this other school. It showed her that there were other worlds beside the world she had been born into and that these other worlds were not unattainable.
Page 112

When the great day came, she was reluctant to set them off. It was better to have them than to use them
Page 113

Francie, in company with other little girls, roamed the streets carrying a bit of white chalk. She went about drawing a large quick cross on the back of each coated figure that came by. The children performed the ritual without meaning. The symbol was remembered but the reason forgotten. It may have been something that had survived from the middle ages when houses and probably individuals were so marked to indicate where plague had struck.
Page 113

You had tickets but you thought you could be smart and get something you weren't entitled to. When people gamble, they think only of winning. They never think of losing. Remember this: Someone has to lose and it's just as apt to be you as the other fellow. If you learn this lesson by giving up a strip of tickets, you're paying cheap for the education."
Page 116

"I'll tell you why," broke in mama. "They want to keep tabs on who's voting and how. They know when each man's due at the polls and God help him if he doesn't show up to vote for Mattie."

"Women don't know anything about politics," said Johnny lighting up Mattie's cigar.
Page 119

"What's free about it if you have to pay?" asked Francie.
"It's free in this way: If you have the money you're allowed to ride in them no matter who you are. In the old countries, certain people aren't free to ride in them, even if they have the money."

"Wouldn't it be more of a free country," persisted Francie, "if we could ride in them free?"

"No."
"Why?"
"Because that would be Socialism," concluded Johnny triumphantly, "arid we don't want that over here."

"Why?"


"Because we got Democracy and that's the best thing there is," clinched Johnny.
Page 122

As Teacher talked, a great trouble left Francie. Lately, she had been Oven to exaggerating things. She did not report happenings truthfully, but gave them color, excitement and dramatic twists. Katie was annoyed at this tendency and kept warning Francie to tell the plain truth and to stop romancing. But Francie just couldn't tell the plain undecorated truth. She had to put something to it.

Although Katie had this same flair for coloring an incident and Johnny himself lived in a half-dream world, yet they tried to squelch these things in their child. Maybe they had a good reason. Maybe they knew their own gift of imagination colored too rosily the poverty and brutality of their lives and made them able to endure it. Perhaps Katie thought that if they did not have this faculty, they would be clearer-minded; see things as they really were, and seeing them loathe them and somehow find a way to make them better.

Francie always remembered what that kind teacher told her. "You know, Francie, a lot of people would think that these stories that you're making up all the time were terrible lies because they are not the truth as people see the truth. In the future, when something comes up, you tell exactly how it happened but write down for yourself the way you think it should have happened. Tell the truth and write the story. Then you won't get mixed up."

It was the best advice Francie ever got. Truth and fancy were so mixed up in her mind-as they are in the mind of every lonely child-that she didn't know which was which. But Teacher made these two things clear to her. From that time on, she wrote little stories about things she saw and felt and did. In time, she got so that she was able to speak the truth with but a slight and instinctive coloring of the facts.

Francie was ten years old when she first found an outlet in writing. What she wrote was of little consequence. What was important was that the attempt to write stories kept her straight on the dividing line between truth and fiction.
If she had not found this outlet in writing, she might have grown up to be a tremendous liar
Page 126

"Intolerance," she wrote, pressing down hard on the pencil, "is a thing that causes war, pogroms, crucifixions, lynchings, and makes people cruel to little children and to each other. It is responsible for most of the viciousness, violence, terror and heart and soul breaking of the world."

She read the words over aloud. They sounded like words that came in a can; the freshness was cooked out of them. She closed the book and put it away.
Page 145

Each time Joanna passed, her cheeks got pinker, her head went higher and her skirt flipped behind her more defiantly. She seemed to grow prettier and prouder as she walked. She stopped oftener than needed to adjust the baby's coverlet. She maddened the women by touching the baby's cheek and smiling tenderly at it. How dare she! How dare she, they thought, act as though she had a right to all that?
Page 146

Remember Joanna. Remember Joanna. Francie could never forget her. From that time on, remembering the stoning women, she hated women. She feared them for their devious ways, she mistrusted their instincts. She began to hate them for this disloyalty and their cruelty to each other. Of all the stone-throwers, not one had dared to speak a word for the girl for fear that she would be tarred with Joanna's brush. The passing man had been the only one who spoke with kindness in his voice.

Most women had the one thing in common: they had great pain when they gave birth to their children. This should make a bond that held them all together; it should make them love and protect each other against the man-world. But it was not so. It seemed like their great birth pains shrank their hearts and their souls. They stuck together for only one thing: to trample on some other woman ... whether it was by throwing stones or by mean gossip. It was the only kind of loyalty they seemed to have.

Men were different. They might hate each other but they stuck together against the world and against any woman who would ensnare one of them.
Page 150

June 22. Mama turned my mattress today and found my diary and read it. Everywhere I had the word drunk, she made me cross it out and write sick. It's lucky I didn't have anything against mama written down. If ever I have children I will not read their diaries as I believe that even a child is entitled to some privacy. If mama finds this again and reads it, I hope she will take the hint.
Page 155

Power of Habit

Book Notes

My in-progress progress notes included:

This is the third book in a row I've read that has a story about Rosa Parks in it. When she came up in one book, I wondered if I had read this book before. When she came up in this book, honestly, I had to roll my eyes a bit. Not at Parks in particular, but at the different interpretations, meanings, and explanations of her refusal, arrest, courage, and trial.


I liked the first third of this book.

As a fan of BJ Fogg and his research, I am fascinated and interested in habits and how they can improve people's lives. I actively try to fix my bad habits, and have been for years. I actively try to create good habits, and have been for years. Fogg's Tiny Habits workshop was instrumental in my journey.

So, when I was hit with a particular bad depression, my routines helped me cope. When I mentioned the depression, and the depth of it, Matthew handed me his copy of this book. I realized I already had a copy, so I read it instead.

Which is to say, I finished it this time.

The first third of the book is good. It has applicable information on how someone can improve their life (gah, the plural possessive for a singular noun! killing me!) by recognizing and improving their habits. The first third of the book is fantastic.

The middle third was okay. The last third was pretty much filler. I would argue a new reader could ignore the last two thirds and still take away the best parts of this book.

That said, the book is still worth reading. Especially if you have no history or background in the power of habits and habitual thinking.

At boot camp, he had absorbed habits for loading his weapon, falling asleep in a war zone, maintaining focus amid the chaos of battle, and making decisions while exhausted and overwhelmed. He had attended classes that taught him habits for saving money, exercising each day, and communicating with bunkmates. As he moved up the ranks, he learned the importance of organizational habits in ensuring that subordinates could make decisions without constantly asking permission, and how the right routines made it easier to work alongside people he normally couldn’t stand. And now, as an impromptu nation builder, he was seeing how crowds and cultures abided by many of the same rules. In some sense, he said, a community was a giant collection of habits occurring among thousands of people...
Location: 164

So he sought help from a physician whose tolerance for experimentation outweighed his fear of malpractice.
Location: 258

This is a rare individual indeed. One could argue, a physician who does the right thing.

Parks’s husband was opposed to the idea. “The white folks will kill you, Rosa,” he told her.
Location: 3,402

This is the third book in a row that gives a different description of what Rosa Park went through. I find the different portrayals fascinating. I also find her being quoted / discussed so frequently fascinating.

There’s a natural instinct embedded in friendship, a sympathy that makes us willing to fight for someone we like when they are treated unjustly.
Location: 3,419

Studies show that people have no problem ignoring strangers’ injuries, but when a friend is insulted, our sense of outrage is enough to overcome the inertia that usually makes protests hard to organize.
Location: 3,420

Our weak-tie acquaintances are often as influential—if not more—than our close-tie friends.
Location: 3,456

Skin Game

Book Notes

The Dresden Files, book 15

This is the third of my three favorite Dresden Files books, along with Dead Beat, book 7, and Changes, book 12.

All three of these books have the common theme of Harry being reflective of his choices, of contemplation of his part is the larger scheme of things, and self-doubt without the self-immobilization that often accompanies self-doubt.

Also in this book, ADVENTURE!

And ACTION!

And romance! Okay, less this one, but still some of this one.

The twist at the end, the mystery of the why of the plot, is great. As is the double twist of Goodman Grey. I hope he comes back in future books.

One of the difficulties with the arc of Dresden, however, is that he keeps getting stronger. He was already in the top six wizards in terms of raw strength. With his training of Molly, he developed finesse. And with the alliance with Mab, he has the power. Where do you go from here? I don't know, but I'll keep reading. If only Butcher would keep writing them. It's been three years and he's off onto a different series.

Strongly recommended if you're a Dresden fan, this is one of the good books. I, of course, believe the series is worth reading, just get through the first couple books to really enjoy them.

“Scared that some bug-eyed freak is going to come calling and kill innocent people because they happen to be in my havoc radius.”
Page 28

You always fear what you don’t know, what you don’t understand, and the first step to having understanding of something is to know what to call it.
Location: 1,104

The dead don’t need justice. That’s for those of us who are left looking down at the remains.
Location: 2,311

"I can’t figure out where I could have . . . what else I might have done . . .” I swallowed. “I’m lost. I know every step I took to get here, and I’m still lost.”
Page 148

I understand this confusion. You make the best choices you can, with the information you have at the moment, and, after a while look up, not recognizing where you are or who you've become.

“That’s arrogance, Harry,” he said gently. “On a level so deep you don’t even realize it exists. And do you know why it’s there?”

“No?” I asked.

He smiled again. “Because you have set a higher standard for yourself. You think that because you have more power than others, you have to do more with it.”
Page 150

“The damned don’t care, Harry. The only way to go beyond redemption is to choose to take yourself there. The only way to do it is to stop caring.”
Page 150

“One ought not hire an expert and then ignore his opinion,”
Page 170

Indeed.

“Because... fear is a terrible, insidious thing, Waldo. It taints and stains everything it touches. If you let fear start driving some of your decisions, sooner or later, it will drive them all."
Location: 3,153

I would rather have faith in the people I care about than allow my fears to change them — in my own eyes, if nowhere else.
Location: 3,157

“You need to decide which side of the road you’re going to walk on,” she said gently. “Turn aside from your fears—or grab onto them and run with them. But you need to make the call. You keep trying to walk down the middle, you’re going to get yourself torn apart.”
Location: 3,163

“It’s about knowing yourself. About understanding why you make the choices you do. Once you know that, you know where to walk, too.”
Location: 3,166

“Things are not always as bad as they seem. Sometimes, the darkness only makes it easier to see the light.”
Location: 4,137

Focus on the task at hand, Harry. Sort the rest out when you have time. Yeah, sure. But isn’t that the kind of thinking that got me into this mess in the first place?
Location: 4,285

Doesn’t matter how pretty you are. What’s important is how pretty you feel. No one feels pretty when they hear “no” often enough.
Location: 4,751

“Complicated?” she asked. She shook her head. “It isn’t complicated. You just open up and let someone in. And whatever comes after that, you face it together.”
Location: 4,769

“Lava quod est sordium!”
Location: 5,042

“You think your power is what shapes the world you walk in. But that is an illusion. Your choices shape your world. You think your power will protect you from the consequences of those choices. But you are wrong. You create your own rewards. There is a Judge. There is Justice in this world. And one day you will receive what you have earned. Choose carefully.”
Location: 5,070

“The world always thinks that the destruction of a physical vessel is victory,”
Page 406

“Sometimes the bad guys win one.”

“Sometimes they seem to. But only for a time.”
Page 406

“How can you know that?”

“I can’t know,” he said, his face lighting with a sudden smile. “That’s why they call it faith, Harry. You’ll see.”
Page 406

Hope lets you do things you would otherwise never be able to do, gives strength when everything is darkest.
Page 426

“Belief in a story,” Uriel said, “of good confronting evil, of light overcoming darkness, of love transcending hate.” He tilted his head. “Isn’t that where all faith begins?”
Page 441

“Terrifying,” he said, smiling. “And for a little while . . . like being young again. Full of energy and expectation. It was amazing.”
Page 451

Sometimes you realize you’re standing at a crossroads. That there are two paths stretching out ahead of you, and you have to pick one of them.
Page 454

Cold Days

Book Notes

The Dresden Files, book 14

While this isn't in the top three of my favorite Dresden books (those all have Harry thinking about past actions, about life and the choices one makes, and about maturing during those reflections), this is a good, action-packed Harry Dresden book.

I enjoyed it the first time I read it. And the second. And the third. I'm unsure what the count is for this read, but it is at least the fourth read. Yay Butcher.

Aspects I really like about the book revolve around Demonreach and Kris Kringle (I mean, hello, Dresden has freaking Santa Claus on his side, how cool is that?). The major aspect I didn't like about the book is the lack of reset on Harry's powers. I mean, think about it, he died. Before he died he was becoming more and more and more powerful. He was already the sixth strongest wizard alive in the first book, at this point, with his growing into his power and other wizards dying off, he's probably closer to the top spot (but isn't, hello, Merlin). Dying could be a huge reset button, allowing more growth.

But that's not how it is. Instead, he's still mighty powerful, and still attracting even more powerful enemies, and, well, isn't that how Dresden likes it, poking his finger in the eye of the enemy?

Definite read is you're a Dresden fan. Marsters narration is amazing, if you like audio books.

“Life’s about more than breaking even,” I said.
Location: 1,963

“Sometimes I think that’s where most of us are,” I said. “Fighting off the crazy as best we can. Trying to become something better than we were. It’s that second bit that’s important.”
Location: 2,264

I missed my dog. I missed the familiarity of having a place that I knew, that was a shelter.

I missed my life.

I’d been away from home for what felt like a very long time.
Location: 2,420

I understand this very much.

“I know the world seems dark and ugly sometimes. But there are still good things in it. And good people."
Location: 2,460

So at the end of the day, I really didn’t know what was going to happen to me in the future. Heh. Why should I be any different?
Location: 2,532

“That I was your brother, Harry,” he said. “That I loved you. That I knew a few things about denying the dark parts of your nature. And that we would get through it.” He put his elbows on his knees and rested his forehead on his hands. “That we’d figure it out. That you weren’t alone.”
Location: 2,631

I always thought it would get easier to be a person as I aged. But it just gets more and more complicated.
Location: 2,642

“Like life is short,” he said. “Like you don’t know when it’s going to end. Like some things, left unsaid, can’t ever be said.”
Location: 2,672

Fire isn’t always an element of destruction. Classical alchemical doctrine teaches that it also has dominion over another province: change. The fire of my tribulations had not simply been pain to be endured. It had been an agent of transformation.
Location: 3,018

“He might not give you much choice.”

“There’s always a choice,” I said. “That’s the thing, man. There’s always, always a choice. My options might really, truly suck, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a choice.”
Location: 3,705

“Totally unfair.”

“I had this teacher who kept telling me that if I was ever in a fair fight, someone had made a mistake,” she said.
Location: 3,714

I reminded myself that just because someone is courteous, it does not necessarily mean that they aren’t planning to vivisect you. It just means that they’ll ask whether the ropes holding you down are comfortable before they pick up the scalpel.
Location: 3,813

“Maybe you’re right; I don’t know. But until I have a better idea, it’s smarter to keep reminding myself that I don’t know, rather than assuming that I do know, and then translating anything I learn to fit my preconceptions.”
Location: 4,407

“No one just starts giggling and wearing black and signs up to become a villainous monster. How the hell do you think it happens?” She shook her head, her eyes pained. “It happens to people. Just people. They make questionable choices, for what might be very good reasons. They make choice after choice, and none of them is slaughtering roomfuls of saints, or murdering hundreds of baby seals, or rubber-room irrational. But it adds up. And then one day they look around and realize that they’re so far over the line that they can’t remember where it was.”
Location: 5,231

Power corrupts — and the people being corrupted never seem to be aware that it’s happening.
Location: 5,252

"Will you not always be imperfect?”

“Now you’re catching on,” I said.
Location: 5,787

“I think it’s a cruel world. I think it’s hard to find love. I think we should all be happy when someone manages to do it.”
Location: 5,789

Graves aren’t for the dead. They’re for the loved ones the dead leave behind them. Once those loved ones have gone, once all the lives that have touched the occupant of any given grave had ended, then the grave’s purpose was fulfilled and ended.
Location: 5,876

“What value has life when it is so easily kept?”
Location: 5,991

"Nothing I have to say can possibly make this task any easier for you. The only way to do it is to do it.” He lifted his chin. “You don’t need help, Warden. You are the help.”
Location: 6,482

And that’s when it hit me. I mean, when it really, really hit me. It was up to me. There wasn’t a backup plan. There wasn’t a second option. There wasn’t any cavalry coming over the hill.
Location: 6,490

The only good thing about having your back to the wall is that it makes it really easy to choose which way you’re going to go.
Location: 6,502

When women have a conversation, they’re communicating on five levels. They follow the conversation that they’re actually having, the conversation that is specifically being avoided, the tone being applied to the overt conversation, the buried conversation that is being covered only in subtext, and finally the other person’s body language.
Location: 6,556

There were probably a lot of women who didn’t communicate on multiple wavelengths at once. There were probably men who could handle that many just fine.
Location: 6,563

“Later. Bad habit to get into,” Thomas said. “Life’s too short.”
Location: 7,218

Molly rode shotgun with me, holding her backpack on her lap. Molly was a big believer in shaping the future by way of carrying anything you might need in a backpack. Tonight it looked particularly stuffed.
Location: 7,349

I understand this.

But all things wither away eventually.
Location: 7,521

And this.

As if some freak who had never loved enough to know loss could tell me about pain.
Location: 7,847

That grain of sand might be the last remnant of what had once been a mountain, but that which it is, it is.
Location: 7,887

But you can’t go around changing your definition of right and wrong (or smart and stupid) just because doing the wrong thing happens to be really convenient. Sometimes it isn’t easy to be sane, smart, and responsible. Sometimes it sucks. Sucks wang. Camel wang. But that doesn’t turn wrong into right or stupid into smart.
Location: 8,208

You never know what you have until it’s gone. Peace and quiet and people I love. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
Location: 8,269

"If the balloon goes up, go after whoever I light up first. After that, improvise.”
Location: 8,380

Learn to fight naked and you can never be disarmed. Which is fine, I guess, as long as there aren’t mosquitoes.
Location: 8,456

Fire’s tricky and fickle. Without focus, it’s just chaos, the random release of stored chemical energy.
Location: 8,631

“No. You’re on the wrong side,” I said. “Maybe more than one.”

“That’s what every conflict sounds like,” he said. “Not everyone can be equally right, Harry.”

“But believe you me, everyone can be equally wrong,”
Location: 8,769

“Everyone wants to have a friend,” he said quietly. “Is that so bad?”
Location: 8,807

Winter’s nature was beautiful violence, stark clarity, the most feral needs and animal desires and killer instinct pitted against the season of cold and death—the will and desire to fight, to live, even when there was no shelter, no warmth, no respite, no hope, and no help.
Location: 8,883

“Being able to choose to tell lies isn’t a freaking superpower, Maeve,” I said. “Because it means you can always make the wrong choice. It means you can lie to yourself."
Location: 9,272

“But one does not place all one’s hopes with any one place, person, or plan."
Location: 9,343

Sometimes the things that are good for you, in the long run, hurt for a little while when you first get to them.
Location: 9,510

Ghost Story

Book Notes

The Dresden Files, book 13

Okay, if you've been following along in all my Dresden Files reviews, you know that I've read these books numerous times. This particular reading is the rereading having reread all the books in order, unlike my usual rereading of picking up the books in the series I like and just rereading those. As a result of this re-read the whole series plan, I'm reading Dresden books that are part of the series, but not necessarily ones I'm really excited about reading.

Which is to say, Harry is in this odd state, the "Ghost" part of the title of the book, and has "not long" to make things right. Except it is hard for someone who is used to being in control, who is used to having power, who is used to brute-forcing his way through things, to actually have no control, no power, no forcing function.

And it makes things awkward. I don't feel Butcher actually conveys how the loss of power, vitality, life actually feels, however. Dresden is still Dresden, even without his ability to do, well, anything.

I enjoyed the book. If you're reading the series, keep going. It's still good, just not a great Dresden book.

I felt like I had when I was a kid, when I was full of energy and the need to expend it doing something enjoyable.
Location: 238

Tough to blame the kid. I’ve been a young man. Boobs are near the center of the universe, until you turn twenty-five or so. Which is also when young men’s auto insurance rates go down. This is not a coincidence.
Location: 1280

“Excalibur, Durendal, and Kusanagi, yes, yes,” Sir Stuart said, his tone a little impatient. “Of course I know the Swords of the Cross.
Location: 1358

Killing — or, more accurately, making the choice to kill — isn’t something we’re good at lately. Ending the life of another living creature used to be part of the daily routine. Chickens were beheaded by the average farm wife for dinner. Fish were likewise caught, cleaned, and prepared for a meal. Slaughtering pigs or cattle was a regular event, part of the turning of the seasons. Most people on earth — farmers — worked and lived every single day with lives they knew they were going to choose to end, eventually.

Killing’s messy. It’s frequently ugly. And if something goes wrong, it can be wretched, seeing another being in mortal agony, which means there’s a certain amount of pressure involved in the act. It isn’t easy, and that’s just considering farm animals.
Location: 2042

Unremarkable. Complacent.” His mouth twisted and his voice turned bitter. “Mediocre. Mediocrity is a terrible fate, Harry.”
Page 189

What do you do to make up for failing everyone in your life? How do you make it right? How do you apologize for hideous things you never intended to happen?
Location 3688

“We’ve all got choices,” I said calmly. “At the moment, yours are limited. You gonna play ball?”
Location: 3734

Every flat, open space had been covered in spray-painted graffiti, which I guess we’re supposed to call urban art now. Except art is about creating beauty. These paintings were territorial markers, the visual parallel to peeing on a tree. I’ve seen some gorgeous
Location: 3753

... nothing — something that had been a waste of the resources it had consumed. Something that had never had a choice in its own fate, never had a chance to be anything more.
Page 287

"Death should be a learning experience, after all, or what’s the point?”
Location: 4967

“Complicated. Think of your spirit-self as a seed. Your soul is the earth it grows in. You need both when you die. The way I’ve heard it . . . they sort of blend together to become something new. It’s a caterpillar-butterfly thing.”
Location: 5143

One mistake at the end of my life couldn’t erase all the times I had stood unmoved at the edge of the abyss and made snide remarks at its expense.
Page 380

Pain isn’t a lot of fun, at least not for most folks, but it is utterly unique to life. Pain—physical, emotional, and otherwise—is the shadow cast by everything you want out of life, the alternative to the result you were hoping for, and the inevitable creator of strength. From the pain of our failures we learn to be better, stronger, greater than what we were before. Pain is there to tell us when we’ve done something badly—it’s a teacher, a guide, one that is always there to both warn us of our limitations and challenge us to overcome them.
Page 412

badinage
Location: 6814

noun, humorous or witty conversation: cultured badinage about art and life.

Underwood See

Book Notes

This is book three of the Withern Rise series.

Since I enjoyed the first two books, made sense to continue with the third (and last) book, too. In the first, we have two teens swapping realities. In the second, we have them flying into four distinct timelines. I suspect the author thought, "Well, how do I top that well enough not to have to write another book in this series? I know! An infinite number of timelines!" Which is what we managed to find in this one.

Of said infinite timelines, we managed to follow only a half dozen or so. The Alaric in several of them (yes, the several Alarics that exist) hold true to his core personality traits of wanting something and regretting the choices, which is completely human. Naia manages to figures stuff out in the end, but Adolus? Totally steals the show.

I enjoyed the books enough to pass them along to Anya. No idea if she'll read them.

There was something about this man that calmed her. Warmed her. She knew what it was. He liked her. Simple as that. He liked her. No ulterior motive. She wasn't sure how rare that was, but it touched her.
Page 198

When he realized the unspectacular size of the world on which he lived, and the position of its not-very-distinguised stellar system near the rim of a galazy of around a hundred billion stars, it because unlikely in the extreme that we woudl attract the interest - or even the notice - of people from other worlds. Add to the fact that our galaxy is itself just one among billions, and the idea became simply idiotic. The number of planets orbiting stars was so far beyond observable caculation that by any sane law of averages a great many must provide agreeable conditions for the development of intelligent species - not necessarily humanoid - at various stages of maturity. With such a plethora of worlds to take a peek at, and such colosal distances between them, why on Earth or anywhere else - and this was supposing such a feat were possible - would people from other plants even think of trekking all the way out here to see if there's anyone home?
Pages 281-282

They went on, toward the house, but with every step they walked a little faster, until it became a competition. Then they were running like children, fighting to be first through the front door, first along the hall, first up the stairs with a great clatter of feet and much shoving and shouting. Then they were making a racket all the way along the landing.

Small Eternities

Book Notes

This is book two of the Withern Rise series.

I enjoyed the first book in the series about Alaric and Naia enough to continue reading. This one continues their story, with Naia adjusting to her new world, but never really giving up what she had, and Alaric loving the restoration of his world, but wracked with guilt.

However, instead of having pretty much parallel lives, with Alaric trying to dodge responsibility and his need to make things right, we are introduced to not another, or another, but FOUR alternative timelines, all of which could make one's head spin. Talk about a kid who keeps making mistakes.

And miscommunication. How easy it is for people to be unable to talk with each other, to assume the worst, and act upon those assumptions.

I'll read the last book, this one was good enough. If you're a fan of the first book, definitely keep reading.

Crack in the Line

Book Notes

Okay, this is book one of the Withern Rise series.

I had hoped to give this a good review, but I had these books (the entire series) as physical books, which mean that I wasn't able to easily quote parts of the book, and include said quotes here. So, you get a (admittedly drunk) review instead.

I enjoyed this book enough to read all three books of the series. In this book, we have Alaric, whose mother has died. He accidentally falls into another timeline where his mother hasn't died, but he actually wasn't born, Naia was. Alaric, of course, wants his mother back, and, well, quite honestly, who wouldn't want his mother back?

The story becomes about Alaric and Naia and who gets to keep the mom.

It's a good book, and having read all the books in the series, a good series, aimed at the young adult level of reading. I enjoyed them, but have no quotes to post, because, well, I lost all the pictures of the parts that were quote worthy. Ooops.

Changes

Book Notes

The Dresden Files, book 12

I suspect I will have multiple reviews of this book before too long (where "too long" is a couple years, but not "too long" given this site is over 13 years old).

This is my second favorite Dresden book, after Dead Beat. Knowing this when I read it, I, again, tried to figure out what parts I like so much about this book. I'm unsure if I have all the reasons, but I believe Harry's vulnerability, his willingness to ask for help, the good pacing with the action, and the perfect, horrific climax are the major reasons why.

We learn of Harry's daughter in this book, no spoiler, we knew this from the ending of the previous book. Since Dresden was an orphan, being a good parent, being the parent he didn't have, would be incredibly important to Harry. Those emotions and needs we see in the book. Butcher does a good job with hiding just enough from the reader, and revealing other details, that the action pulls the reader along.

I didn't like the ending, but, well, that's to be expected, given the ending. There were following books, so I guess I'm okaaaaaaaaay with the ending now. First reading, not so much.

Of course, I recommend this book.

“Anxiety, anger, and agitation cloud the mind. That’s why the Worry Room is here.”
Page: 53

“You get yourself an apartment and your plumbing goes bad, he’ll still be there,” I said quietly. “Some guy breaks your heart, he’ll come over with ice cream. A lot of people never have a dad willing to do that stuff. Most of the time, it matters a hell of a lot more.”
Page: 101

Be wary of everyone. Even your protector.”
Page: 109

“Molly,” I said firmly. “You can’t plan for everything or you never get started in the first place. Get a move on. And don’t take any lip from the dog. He’s been uppity lately.”
Page: 116

sober. “Life is too short, Harry. And there’s nowhere near enough joy in it. If you find it, grab it. Before it’s gone.”
Page: 117

Hell, they’d even done that with me, and most of the Council thought that I was the next-best thing to Darth Vader. But at the end of the day, I think a lot of them secretly liked the idea of having Vader on the team when the monsters showed up. They didn’t love me, never would, and I didn’t need them to love me to fight beside them.
Page: 137

“I get it,” she said. “I do. Look. You care about her, okay. Maybe even loved her. Maybe she loved you. But it can’t be like that anymore.” She spread her hands and said, “As messed up as that is, it’s still the reality you have to live with. You can’t ignore it. You get close to her, and there’s no way for it to come out good, boss.”
Page: 170

There is no sensation to warn you when your soul turns black.
Page: 174

But there were some things I believed in. Some things I had faith in. And faith isn’t about perfect attendance to services, or how much money you put on the little plate. It isn’t about going skyclad to the Holy Rites, or meditating each day upon the divine. Faith is about what you do. It’s about aspiring to be better and nobler and kinder than you are. It’s about making sacrifices for the good of others—even when there’s not going to be anyone telling you what a hero you are.
Page: 202

Faith is about what you do. It’s about aspiring to be better and nobler and kinder than you are. It’s about making sacrifices for the good of others—even when there’s not going to be anyone telling you what a hero you are.
Page: 202

I could smell the warm scent of singed dust that always emerges from the vents the first time anyone turns on a heater after it’s been unneeded for a while.
Page: 223

“That’s the difficult part of being mortal. Of having choice. Much is hidden from you.”
Page: 229

She had shown me Maggie to make perfectly clear exactly what choice I was about to make. Certainly, it might influence my decision, but when a stark naked truth stares you in the face . . . shouldn’t it? I’m not sure it’s possible to manipulate someone with candor and truth. I think you call that enlightenment.
Page: 241

Death is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how you get there. Just when.
Page: 242

Paranoia is a survival trait when you run in my circles. It gives you something to do in your spare time, coming up with solutions to ridiculous problems that aren’t ever going to happen. Except when one of them does, at which point you feel way too vindicated.
Page: 259

No matter how bad things got, I didn’t think anything would ever truly faze him. He simply accepted the bad things that happened and soldiered on as best he could.
Page: 266

“Everything’s never in the open, son,” he responded. “There’re things we keep hidden from one another. Things we hide from ourselves. Things that are kept hidden from us. And things no one knows. You always learn the damnedest things at
Page: 424

Only so many blackhearted villains in the world, and they only get uppity on occasion. Stupid’s everywhere, every day.”
Page: 425

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