Bookstuff: How I Spent My Christmas Vacation


A certain squeaky wheel took me to task for not providing a more detailed report of my vacation activities in the Upper Peninsula. Hopefully this bibliocentric update should provide a little grease.

I brought five books with me to the U.P.:

  1. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
  2. Inheritance by Devin Grayson
  3. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  4. Spicy Air Tales! Volume 1, featuring “Fortune’s Hunt” by Michael A. Stackpole
  5. Spicy Air Tales! Volume 2, featuring “The Great Helium War” by Robert E. Vardeman and “Manhattan Mayhem” by Loren L. Coleman

The Spicy Air Tales! series are short stories that take place in FASA’s Crimson Skies universe, a pen-and-paper roleplaying game that has been adapted to a miniatures game, an excellent PC game, and one of the best Xbox games I’ve ever played (Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge). The setting — an alternate history of the United States in which most major commerce and transportation is airborne — is brilliant, just the sort of thing that I hope to be able to create during International World Creation Month (more on that later this week).

Of the reading material that I brought with me, the only thing I finished was the Stackpole short story, “Fortune’s Hunt” (which I completed in the hotel room on the way back home Saturday night). Inheritance sat on the table next to my father’s recliner for nearly two weeks, while The Once and Future King sat about fifteen feet away on the table next to my mother’s recliner.

I did read two novels, though. The first I picked up on a whim from ShopKo, the second I happened across in my brother’s room while we were playing Burnout 3: Takedown on the Xbox.

  1. Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas PrestonThere is a testimonial on the cover of this book by Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder:

    If John Grisham had written Jurassic Park, he couldn’t do better than Tyrannosaur Canyon.

    To me, that’s a tricky bit of praise; it almost seems like a back-handed compliment to mix references to Grisham and Michael Crichton. Nonetheless, it was a fun book and a quick read. The story involves a lost moon rock specimen, a murdered prospector, a greedy scientist, a hired gun, and a millionaire veterinarian; an interesting mix of characters, some clever science and a few twists. It’s a bit predictable at times, but still managed to pull the rug out from under my feet once or twice.

  2. Storm Front (Book One of The Dresden Files) by Jim ButcherTwo of my co-hosts on The Round Table have read this book and SciFi is premiering a new show based on the series later this month. That was enough to pique my interest, so it was a happy coincidence that my brother had a copy of the first book in the series.

    For those who don’t know, The Dresden Files is about a private detective who also happens to be a wizard. It’s Harry Potter meets Sam Spade, and Storm Front turned out to be a pretty good story.

I also bought three more books while on vacation, all from a used bookstore called Back Room Books. I worked at “the Back Room” for a few months before moving to Ohio in 1994. The owner has since moved and greatly expanded the store.

  1. Blood Rites (Book Six of The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
    This one will likely sit on my bookshelf until I read books two through five in the series, but I couldn’t pass up the bargain.
  2. Dance of Death by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
    I’ve read a couple of Preston and Child’s collaborations in the past (most notably Relic), so this seemed like a fairly safe bet. Turns out it’s the second book in a trilogy, which probably means I’ll have to pick up the first, Brimstone, in the near future.
  3. The Codex by Douglas Preston
    This one appears to be the predecessor to Tyrannosaur Canyon. Unless I miss my guess, the story will fill in the back story of Tom Broadbent, the millionaire veterinarian.

So, I’ve got a lot of reading ahead of me. I’m not about to undertake one of those “50 Book” challenges I’ve read about, but I would like to do a lot more reading in 2007 than I did in 2006. Maybe I’ll even finish a few of the books I brought with me on vacation (I’m about a quarter of the way through The Once and Future King and halfway through Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom).

When I do finish a book (especially those I bought at used bookstores), there’s a good chance I’ll pass it on to a friend or even release it into the wild and use Book Crossing to track it. Book Crossing allows readers to register books, label them, and then track them as they travel across the country or even the world. If you see a book lying on a bench in your local mall or seemingly forgotten in a coffee shop, check inside the front cover to see if there’s a Book Crossing label; it might just have been left there on purpose.

Finally, I wanted to mention Book Darts, a unique, clever, unobtrusive bookmark that allows you to mark your spot in a book without sticking out or damaging pages. When I picked up a copy of 1984 from Half Price Books last year, there was a Book Dart already in it and I didn’t even notice until after I’d started reading. I had no idea what the thin, arrow-shaped piece of folded metal (brass or bronze, from the look of it) was until I stumbled across the Book Darts website today. You can pick up a tin containing 75 darts for about ten bucks, and I’m thinking they’d make a nice addition to books I release into the wild or give to friends.

6 responses to “Bookstuff: How I Spent My Christmas Vacation”

  1. P.G. Holyfield Avatar

    I started Tyrannosaur Canyon around Christmas. It’s been enjoyable so far.

    I have read most of the other Preston/Child books. I liked the Codex and The Ice Limit as well.

    You can definitely hear Scott Sigler when reading those books (he cites them as influences I believe).

  2. Greg Avatar

    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is great. I blogged about it a couple years back, mostly citing Doctorow’s distribution model, but it really is a great, innovative story.

  3. KJToo Avatar

    [Comment ID #6934 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I cracked the cover on The Codex last night before heading to bed. It’s got an interesting hook and it seems like it will be a quick read. I was mildly put off by making Phillip Broadbent such a vehicle for exposition right off the bat. When Phillip talks about Maxwell Broadbent, it sounds too much like a Wikipedia entry. I understand it’s supposed to be part of the character, but it came across as clunky to me.

  4. KJToo Avatar

    [Comment ID #6935 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I like DaOitMK so far, but I tend to have a short attention span when it comes to books, so it sometimes takes me two or three tries before I make it all the way through without being distracted by something else.

  5. miniTotoro Avatar

    Thanks for the Book Crossing link. That’s a really nice idea. I’ll have to try that in the very near future. 🙂

  6. KJToo Avatar

    [Comment ID #7297 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I’m always glad to steer people toward interesting stuff (like BookCrossing and Squirl). I actually had a post written up about my first book release, but Internet Explorer ate it. The short version is that I left a copy of 1984 in a Quiznos last week.

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