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Rie
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Post by Rie » Sun Aug 17, 2014 2:57 am

I used to believe that women wrote the best 'whodunnits' but I sickened at the twee girliness of "Little Night" by Luane Rice... it does seem that I need books that are drawing on my intellect.
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:00 am

But now am reading another classic called 'The Pact' by Jodi Picoult
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:03 am

... having rejected after one chapter a book by... sheesh I even forget his name... and I am confirmed in my lack of respect of the ability to get inside a character and make a plot work... men just don't get it in the whodunnit field.
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:46 am

...still reading 'The Pact'... interesting plot about a boy and girl who supposedly made a suicide pact and yet only one of them died. It gets deep into their relationship and i've yet to guess (altho I have an inkling) who actually did do the deed...
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Sun Sep 28, 2014 5:19 am

I'm now reading 'The Time Keeper' by Mitch Albom... and it's mind blowing. I had never thought before (and words are my passion) of the many phrases we use re time...e.g Ahead of his time..pass time.. waste time... kill time... lose time... ingood time...about time..take your time...save time...A long time...right on time.. out of time...mind the time...be on time... etc.
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Post by Cath B » Tue Nov 04, 2014 5:43 pm

I don't often read fiction these days but have recently finished Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runawaywhich certainly got me thinking enough about the moral and practical dilemmas of folk helping, or failing to help, those fleeing from a life of slavery to a new life in Canada.

I was absorbed in the story, but found myself wanting to hear the stance of folk other than the protagonist. And as books with backdrops of quilting go it wasn't a patch on Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace.

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Post by Cath B » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:58 am

I'm taking a slow and meandering approach to clearing out some of my books and in the process making a few re discoveries and am thus rereading Highland Animals by David Stephen who is apparently little remembered on Google (I'm learning how to use a tablet and don't yet know how to post a link) but was a prominent Scottish naturalist and writer up till his death in 1989.

This 1970s book gives absorbing profiles, including much first - hand observation, of Highland mammals and the few reptiles and amphibians and is a vivid reminder of the value of good descriptive writing in the era before superbly filmed wildlife studies were easily available on demand.

I'm also recalling, to an extent, my life at the time when I first read the book. It was a present, I think from my husband to me, though perhaps the other way round, or even from his parents - we all shared an interest in such things.

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Pendaric
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Post by Pendaric » Sat Dec 20, 2014 11:33 pm

Arslan, by M J Engh

It's one of the Gollancz SF Masterworks series, which I've recently started reading as they have several of them in my local library.

Written in 1974, it's about an Asian warlord who takes over the world, specifically about the American town of Kraftsville and the experiences of a couple of it's citizens.

Reading it brought to mind the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia. Many of it's themes reflect some of their policies, specifically the return to an agrarian, self sufficient society and the killing off of large numbers of the population.

It is interesting that this was written before the Khmer Rouge actually came to power.

Anyway, I found it to be an enjoyable read, with some wonderful use of language.

At about 300 pages it's long enough to develop it's ideas without being so big that it's intimidating.
fear is the mind killer

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Pendaric
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Post by Pendaric » Sat Dec 20, 2014 11:37 pm

The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, by D G Compton.

Another one of the same SF series, written in 1973, it foreshadows reality TV.

In a world in which very few people die of disease, Katherine Mortenhoe is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Because of the rarity of this, there is massive media interest and she is harrassed by the paparazzi towards her death becoming a tv event.

Again, an intriguing read and well worth the time.
fear is the mind killer

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Mon Feb 23, 2015 4:46 am

Just as I was looking around me and saw how cluttered my house is and began berating myself, I came across a book well worth the reading...the author is Annabel Crabb and it taps deep into the vein of gender...."there are two ways you can approach the fact that women still do about twice as much housework...and there are two ways you can approach this disparity, as a gender.
You can whine and moan (to perhaps succeed and men do more. Or you can take the radical option and just do less yourself"... true even if you incur wrath from the macho type of male or on the other hand ignore the feminists who honestly just don't see that they are following a wannabe prototype.

Annabel's book sums it all up "My house, where my partner, and I and our three children live is a glorious tribute to all the things that are more important than housework."
GO Annabel I say! her book is titled "The Wife Drought"
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Post by reddhedd » Mon Feb 23, 2015 5:36 pm

The Big Fat Surprise Nina Teicholz Plays devil's advocate to the popular claims of low fat, vegetable fat=less obesity and heart disease.

The Cloud People old sci fi...left it at work so I don't know the author

The Monkey's Raincoat...Robert Crais. Detective named Elvis in Hollywood/L.A.

I never read only one book at a time. ;)

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:47 am

I'm engrossed in "My Favourite Wife" by Tony Parsons. It's set in the 70s in Pudong, Hong Kong where an American couple relocate to live a better, more comfortable life.
I haven't finished the book yet but so far Parsons is intrigued by the beautiful girls who hope for a rich American.

Alas, his American wife can't adjust and decides to take their little girl back to America.... and I'm guessing at drama here. It's well written.
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:36 am

I was wrong. It has drama but believably sad drama as it's set in Hong Kong and the strangely practical 'extra wife' set up.
Hero goes back to America and mends marriage but keeps the memory of his extra wife safely stored as a good experience.

For me, the descriptions of modern China are brilliant.
the book is called "My Favourite Wife", written by Tony Parsons.
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Post by MattShizzle » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:49 pm

Latest by Harry Turtledove "Joe Steele" (full length novel - expanded from a late 1990s short sotry.) It's about if Stalin's Parents had emigrated to the US and he became president in 1932 (Roosevelt died in a fire and Trotsky took Stalin's role in the USSR.) He changed his name to Joe Steele from his Ukranian name just as he changed it to Josef Stalin in real life.

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Post by Val » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:22 pm

Busy rereading the Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist.

Still a "good fantasy yarn" but it's fascinating how discriminating one becomes as you get older. In particular, I now find I am constantly analysing the casual classist attitude pervasive in these books (as you'll find in most epic fiction with knights and kings and whatnot), the author dispenses with it as if it were the most natural thing in the world for people to know their station in life, and there is an underlying childishness to it which I hope I can set aside for the sake of enjoying the tale.

lostone
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Post by lostone » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:59 pm

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan. A scifi, Scarlet Letter type story, set in a future theocratic America. The woman has had her skin dyed red because she had an abortion.

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MattShizzle
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Post by MattShizzle » Fri Jul 03, 2015 9:07 pm

[quote=""lostone""]When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan. A scifi, Scarlet Letter type story, set in a future theocratic America. The woman has had her skin dyed red because she had an abortion.[/quote]

Sounds a bit similar to The Handmaid's Tale.

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Samnell
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Post by Samnell » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:03 am

Just finished Gary Gallagher's The Confederate War, which had an interesting mix of historiographical pushback and general "aren't you assholes reading?!" aimed at historians who try to study the Confederacy in isolation from the war that defined its existence. There's a lot to be said for the desperately provincial way that some military historians conduct themselves, producing irrelevant books about how toy soldiers move around on the map with no more analysis than is necessary to flatter the preconceptions of their readers, but he's absolutely right that they're not all like that and there is a very strong tendency in social and cultural histories to either ignore politics and war or treat them as acts of nature rather than acts of people. This is the same kind of denial of agency that would otherwise bring out the knives from the same crowd. Toss in the sometimes comorbid insistence on not writing narrative and you get a lot of books that seem like archaic travelogues without any interesting period details.

So I hopped over from that to Kenneth Stampp's The Causes of the Civil War, which is less a book than a survey of historiography of the question through heavily edited excerpts from the relevant scholars and primary sources. I mean it when I say heavily. Almost every paragraph seems to end with an ellipsis. It's almost to the point where I wonder just how representative the quotes are. Annoyed the hell out of me that the South Caorlina Declaration of the Causes of Secession had almost all the sections calling out slavery excised. Apparently he needed it to serve as an example of states rights rhetoric relatively untouched by slavery and those are virtually impossible to produce since. Pieces defending secession that even pretended it wasn't all about slavery don't become common until after the war and none of them (Stampp included two, which was nice.) are remotely convincing.

I suppose one can't get around that, but I think it would have done better to treat the documents more critically and in a broader context. I suppose that's why it's an anthology and not a monograph.
I have a blog about nineteenth century America. It's theoretically educational!

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Pendaric
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Post by Pendaric » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:07 pm

Bill Clinton 'My Life'.

It's a hell of a doorstop, so it's a longterm project reading it.
fear is the mind killer

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Samnell
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Post by Samnell » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:45 am

Ended up reading Ready Player One last week. All in one sitting. Suppose that means I like it. I read reviews that complained about the obsession with 80s pop culture that drove the plot, but I really just enjoyed the story and characters. I'm a hair too young (probably by about five years) and wasn't immersed in the 80s tech lifestyle sufficiently to really have a lot of nostalgia flashbacks to all the games referenced so I don't think it was just the pandering. I remember a lot more mid-80s and after merchandise-driven cartoons than anything else about the decade, and if one of those came up then I don't recall it.

Basic story is that in the near-future, post-carbon crash 2040s, people escape from the terrible cyberpunk world through an MMO that has essentially swallowed the internet whole. Everything you do on the internet, and most things you do at all, can be done through it. Outside global civilization inches forward, but essentially everyone lives in huge cities. There's virtually no air travel, so going between them usually involves a long, dangerous journey via solar-powered bus. Signing yourself over to a corporation as an indentured servant is considered a smart career move because while you'll never get out, you will get fed. The opening few chapters make it clear that the real world is a nasty place, with reference to cities being nuked that makes it clear that a few go up every year.

But the story's almost entirely in the net/game/thing. Its creator died about five years before the book begins. His will left almost all of his billions and control of the company that runs the net to whoever could find the Easter eggs hidden within the net through to the end. Since the guy came of age in the 80s, they all involve 80s pop culture. Mostly early 80s and mostly American, but there's some bleed over late 70s and Japanese stuff too. Cue the massive quest to get the billions, and deny them to an especially evil corporation that wants to monetize the entire net and thus own most all world commerce and communications.

Nobody got anywhere, so eventually the hunt becomes a weird subculture thing. Then Our Hero, shortly followed by a few others, figure out the first clue and the race is on between him, his sort-of friends, and the evil corporation. I don't know how it would hold up on reread, but it was a fun ride. Debating if I want to get the author's next book.
I have a blog about nineteenth century America. It's theoretically educational!

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Rie
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Post by Rie » Sat Sep 05, 2015 12:17 am

Somebody had chucked it in a bin
and before I knew it I was engrossed in "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail"... very very interesting as it delves deep research wise and shows how in fact Jesus was a very wealthy Jew and shows how the Magdalene truly was his spouse... stuff that deep down I always knew.

The piece de resistance is that (and all of this and the above is based on very good research) and since I was declared a heretic by a priest for speaking the truth is is good to see that before the Romans were conquered there was a lot of hidden stuff going on....there was 'The Apochrypha' and gospels that never saw the light of day in school such as "The Gospel of Philip" who is explicit
"And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. But christ loved her more than ...all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. the rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us? The Saviour answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her?"

This was so savvy and so true to the atmosphere of Palestine at the time that I laughed.
"You understand?" said Ponder
"No. I was just hoping that if I didn't say anything you'd stop trying to explain things to me." - Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

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Samnell
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Post by Samnell » Sat Sep 05, 2015 1:22 am

Read the second book by the author of Ready Player One, Armada. I didn't like it as much, but it was still decent. Appreciation may depend somewhat on what one thought of The Last Starfighter, since it comes close to being a novelization at points. I'll revise my opinion quite a bit downward if he doesn't plan to write a sequel after clearly setting one up.

From there I ended up with the Newsflesh trilogy. The zombie apocalypse came in 2014, as I'm sure we all remember, but the author did her homework. She studied virology texts and bombarded the CDC with questions. The latter got nowhere until she got a person on the phone who was a fan of some of her fan songs. Then conversations ran to "that wouldn't work" until someone told her "don't do that!" So she did that. A combination of an engineered Marburg variant that ate cancer and a different virus engineered to cure the common cold got released into the atmosphere and the "dead" rose. Everyone is infected, but due to the anti-cancer components (which still work, no cancer in the future) the zombie virus is dormant most of the time. Once in a while you'll get someone who has a strain that activates spontaneously. Much more common, but still pretty rare, the strain goes live in only an isolated part of your body. One of the protagonists has it in her retinas. Any mammal over forty pounds who gets the virus will turn zombie when badly hurt, or exposed to a more active strain. Zombies have normal physical abilities and are generally somewhat dumb predators.

They brought about a massive global disruption which effectively depopulated most small towns, but global civilization survived. The CDC tried to keep the outbreaks secret, but blogging outed the epidemic and thus bloggers became the preferred news source and de facto legitimate media. Our Heroes from the far future of 2040ish blog, embedded in a presidential campaign when things start to go to hell. The books are billed as a political thriller (with zombies), a medical thriller (with zombies), and a conspiracy thriller (with zombies) but I take them all as ultimately conspiracy books. The political parts of the first book come off very badly on first read, with our supposedly cynical journalist narrator clearly starstruck and the politics as a whole making little to no sense, but when we do find out the bad guys plan it turns out she was actually quite naive and they took good advantage of her. All in all, really fun stuff with an entertaining security state subtext.

From there I went off to Ancillary Justice, a space opera starring the last surviving meat drone of a spaceship AI and her quest for revenge. Very entertaining stuff with a lot of thought gone into how the signature magical tech would be used. The dominant culture makes no gender distinctions in its language, which the narrative represents by using female pronouns exclusively. The meat drone literally can't tell and members of the culture tend not to care at all, so we only find out sexes now and then. I ended up picturing everyone as somewhat androgynous female. Once in a while, someone from outside the culture clearly tells you someone is of one sex or the other but it's usually in passing and the narrator doesn't consider it relevant information. It's the first of a trilogy and I plan to get to the next sometime this month.

From there I went off and started William W. Freehling's astonishingly still in print Prelude to the Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina 1816-1836. It's pretty good, but Freehling is not always the clearest writer. He hasn't developed quite the bad habits he has in his later work (This is adapted from his dissertation.) but his general way to treat convoluted issues is to write them in a convoluted style that makes it very hard to keep the players and moving parts straight. I've had some success going back and jotting down notes after I do the initial read through of a chapter. Posted some elsewhere and got a positive response, which is probably excuse enough for me to keep doing it. Downside is that working over the material twice means I feel like I've done much more with the book than I would just having read through. I end up with the sense that I've read more than I have and should be much closer to done.

A nice element of this is that, to judge from his bibliography and my own searching, almost nobody studies Nullification. There are exactly two modern histories of the subject, the last written in the late 80s, plus a few accounts in biographies of major figures (like professional asshole John C. Calhoun) and one or two early 20th and late 19th century works, but they sound like fairly superficial treatments. Some of that's from the fact that historians back then tended to be much less probing and analytical, but I suspect there's also a strong political element. The Nullifiers were Confederate precursors and white US opinion in the era was pretty intensely pro-Confederate. Right down to a lot of denials and minimization of slavery's role in the movement. Plus they're literally writing in the dark ages of slavery historiography, which pushed up into the Fifties.
I have a blog about nineteenth century America. It's theoretically educational!

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Samnell
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Post by Samnell » Sat Sep 05, 2015 1:29 am

[quote=""Rie""]
The piece de resistance is that (and all of this and the above is based on very good research)[/quote]

Not so much. I'm neither a medievalist nor a classicist of any species, but everything I've seen about the book is pretty damning. I guess it's a passable novel, though.
I have a blog about nineteenth century America. It's theoretically educational!

La gaya Scienza
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Post by La gaya Scienza » Sat Sep 05, 2015 4:37 am

Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers and Strategies (2014)

Very interesting and a little unsettling.

I agree that we would be well advised to think carefully about what we are creating but I don't think we ought to be overly alarmed just yet. While I cannot see why, in principle, computers could not become superintelligent and even "conscious" I think we have a very long way to go before that becomes a real possibility. But who knows?

A very enlightening read for those interested in AI.

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Samnell
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Post by Samnell » Sat Oct 03, 2015 12:21 am

Since last time, I read Ancillary Sword. I generally liked it, but was taken a bit by surprise by how thoroughly it dropped the plot set up in the first book in favor of something different. Not at all bad, just unexpected. The sequel hook could have been integrated better, but overall still quite fun. The ambassador from some particularly strange aliens was deeply entertaining.

From there I went and read a trilogy of role-playing game tie-in novels from the turn of the millennium. This species of fiction is generally not the best, though usually a bit better when written by someone who didn't start off writing them. Diane Duane did not and it showed, but there were some extremely awkward points where it seems like editorial clearly just ordered her to do a POV shift she didn't want. It happens the same place in each book and we essentially never learn anything useful from them, except to help spoil what otherwise might have been a nice mystery subplot. The one in the first book comes right after Our Hero is framed and practically tells us in as many words just who framed him. Still, they work as somewhat silly space opera and got quite a bit better as they went on. I regret a bit that the line was cancelled shortly thereafter, since it was clearly set up so she could come back and do another trilogy with the same cast and I'd come to like most of them.

I was all set to do an ambitious dual reading of Sean Wilentz' Rise of American Democracy and Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought, which is to a significant degree a response to it. Both are surveys of antebellum America with a focus no the Second Party System (Jackson and the Anti-Jacksonians). However, Wilentz put me off a little bit by shitting the bed in public a week or two ago and the academic reviews I've seen of Rise are not good. Thought for a while that I would read them against one another, since I've read that Howe is possibly a little too far in the other direction, but the more I looked into Wilentz's shortcomings the less confident I was that using Howe alone as a corrective would suffice. Plus I already know the broad strokes of the Jackson as proto-New Dealer thesis that he's largely repeating from the Schlesingers. Howe's book is also shorter, but only by two hundred pages.

This leaves me in the somewhat ironic position of being more interested in the work of a guy with a fairly high opinion of religion's capacity to do good rather than that of one whom I understand takes a much more jaundiced view of it. Howe is somewhat more into the democratic nature of Protestant religion vs. Wilentz's interest in the democratic nature of very early labor unions. I suspect there's enough to the distinction that someone could write a dissertation on it and possibly ought to in a few decades.

But my copy of Howe shan't be here for a week or so as I prefer to read non-fiction in tree carcass. Therefore, I opted to pick up neither The Sparrow nor Angelmaker, both of which I intended and still intend to get to on the grounds of their twelve dollar asking price. Last night that annoyed me, so I got The Player of Games instead. Therein I immediately found that the protagonist has a first world problem exactly like my ebook price dilemma. Can't decide if that makes him insufferable or just deeply messed up in the head yet, but I'm only 40 pages in.
I have a blog about nineteenth century America. It's theoretically educational!

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