The Fifth Elephant–Terry Pratchett

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Two Discworld books in 3 weeks. I know. I’m sorry. I was in a Discworld groove.

I’ve said repeatedly that my favorite subset of the Discworld books is the witches, but my second favorite is the city watch books. This is a city watch book and it’s really good.

It builds on relationships and character information we’ve learned over the course of the several books, which is fairly imperative to fully understanding the book.

Main characters: Commander Vimes, head of the city watch of Ankh-Morpork and recently created Duke of the city due to his marriage to Lady Sybil

Carrot: raised as a dwarf, but actually the heredity king of Ankh-Morpork. He’s a fundamentally good person who just wants to be a good policeman.

Angua: Carrot’s girlfriend and fellow watch member. She’s a werewolf.

Cheery: a dwarf in the city watch, expressing the new (and scandalous) idea that dwarfs can be male and female instead of functionally unisex.

Detritus: a troll in the city watch.

The land of Uberwald–which we met in the last book–is the land of vampires, werewolves, dwarfs and other magical creatures. The dwarfs are electing a new king, and the leader of Ankh-Morpork is sending Vimes, his wife, and the three watchmen that hail from that region (Angua, Cheery, and Detritus) to the coronation.

But Angua’s gone missing. Carrot is tracking her. So Vimes takes Cheery and Detritus.

There are issues afoot. The stone the dwarfs are crowned on (the scone of stone, which is HYSTERICAL if you know anything about how the Scottish royals did things) has been stolen. The replica in a museum in Ankh-Morpork has been stolen, and a man who makes rubber casts of things has been murdered. This isn’t hard to figure out–someone is making a replica of the scone of stone. The question is 1) how did they steal the real one and 2) who’s doing this?

The vampires are far more benevolent in this book than in the last book. The werewolves are a major issue, though. They’re working to destabilize the dwarf political system and trigger a civil war so they can grab power. Bad dogs.

As always, these books are full of clever little gems. I really loved this one. It’s probably one of my favorites thus far.

 

 

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking–Susan Cain

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This is a non-fiction book about the differences between introverts and extroverts.

She begins by pointing out that for many years this country has emphasized extroversion as the ideal. If you (like me) are an introvert, this is incredibly annoying.

The overall theme of this book is that no, it’s not wrong to be an introvert, and NO, teaching your introverted children to behave like extroverts is not as beneficial as you might think and actually, you know, there are advantages to introversion, too.

I appreciated very much that she emphasized that introversion is not the same as shyness, nor is it the same as being anti-social. Those things sometimes go with introversion but not always.

I’m an introvert, as is my husband and our new baby (she describes a test for introversion given to 4 months old, which is the age my child is and he is definitely an introvert) but I don’t think you would describe either my husband or myself as shy. Nor are we anti-social, although we do limit our social activities because we find them draining.

Of course, even at four months old, the baby is being expected to perform as an extrovert. When we’re out and about and strangers talk to him, he often refuses to smile back and prefers to look at high-contrast items instead of strange people, and the strangers frequently ask what is wrong with him that he doesn’t want to smile at them.

When we see his extended family, he gets tired easily and needs to take breaks in another room, and they try to be nice about it but are definitely offended.

She says in her book to look for outside forms of socialization for introverted children, as school is not designed to benefit these kids socially, and they need to find activities that allow them to engage at the level at which they feel comfortable. Not only is that a solid idea for children, introverted adults should think about doing the same.

This book defends the idea of introverts as just as good as extroverts, not damaged in any way. It also gives explanations of the differences between introversion, shyness and anti-social behavior. It also argues that introverts have value that extroverts lack–they can see details and focus on their environments in a more detailed way than many extroverts do.

If you are an introvert, you should read this book. If you live with an introvert, or work closely with people, you should also read this book. It will give you a more complete understanding of what it means to be an introvert.

 

Carpe Jugulum–Terry Pratchett

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I love Terry Pratchett. The world is a sadder place without him.

Quick refresher for those who don’t know how it works: He has a series called the Discworld series, it’s about a world that is flat and rides through space on the back of four elephants riding a giant flying turtle. The books have several distinct sub-varieties, some following specific characters and some that are stand-alone.

This is yet another of the Discworld books that focus on the witches. I love the witches. They are by far my favorite variety of Discworld book.

In this book, Magrat (a witch that is not currently practicing due to her current position as queen) is celebrating the birth of her daughter and her enlightened husband has invited ALL the people, including vampires.

This, not entirely surprisingly, turns out to be a ridiculously bad idea.

The vampires exert mind-control over everyone and take over the castle. They set up shop as rulers of a new place.

They are unable to control the minds of Granny Weatherax and Agnes Nitt, the newest witch in the area. With those two working separately, and the other two witches doing the best they can do, they take the fight to the vampires home castle.

These books are so much fun, and so very clever. As with all series, I advise reading in order, but if you’re interested in specific parts of this series, you can read just those books in the order they were published, see here for a listing of how to do that.

(I tried to link to the direct author of the site and not i09 but the link on i09 took me to a different site and I spent a few minutes trying to find it and then figured, meh.)

 

 

Hollywood Station–Joseph Wambaugh

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We need to have a serious talk about this book.

It’s the first book I read by Wambaugh, and it’s worth noting that he is a well-known and celebrated author of police procedurals, as well as a former LAPD cop himself.

As you know if you read along, I try to say as many nice things about books as possible because I appreciate the hard work that the authors have put in.

All of that having been said, I need to tell you this: THIS BOOK IS TERRIBLE.

Pros: it’s well done, the characters are well drawn and the writing is fine.

Cons: EVERYTHING ELSE.

I will grant that this book was published in 2007, before the current emphasis on racism in policing, but this book made me very very uncomfortable. The cops in this book are hugely racist, misogynistic and occasionally anti-Semitic. If you were looking for a book that would demonstrate that the police in this country are racially biased, this is the one to pick.

I cannot think that was the author’s intention.

Irony alert: the cops are constantly chafing at the fact that the LAPD is under federal oversight following the Rodney King situation and how it makes the job of good cops harder because they are unfairly being targeted as racists.

And then in the next breath they spout some racist filth.

Also, the book starts with the cops driving through the ghetto, where there are loose dogs, playing “polo” by which they mean hitting the dogs in the head with their nightsticks. I almost stopped reading right there. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, WAMBAUGH?!

No. Just…no. Do not buy this book, do not read this book. No.