If you like the idea of a mahogany and brass computer more powerful than a supercomputer, or maybe buzzing off to work in a zeppelin rather than a car, then you might want to check out steampunk.  It has a long history, with roots going back more than a century.  It really took off in 1990 with the publication of “The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

Steampunk is based around a couple of alternate history ideas: one in which steam power retained its influence and spread to all manner of technological devices, and another in which computing technology moved at an accelerated rate so that the Victorians had computers more powerful than our own.  Some other popular steampunk novels include “Homunculus” by James Blaylock, the comic book series “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, “Warlord of the Air” by Michael Moorcock, “Mainspring” by Jay Lake, and “Leviathan” by Scott Westerfield.


Would you listen again?

When it comes to audiobooks, we all know that some readers are better than others. I’ve bought books that I’ve returned because I hated the way they were read. I’ve also sat in the driveway with others read so well I didn’t want to turn them off, like Ruby Dee’s narration of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, or Grover Gardner’s readings of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.

In this season of long road trips, what books would you consider listening to more than once?

James Patterson, where are you?!

I discovered James Patterson in 1993 when I read Along Came a Spider and fell in love with Alex Cross and his family. I couldn’t wait for the next Patterson book to come out. His books were quick reads, had short chapters, and held my interest until the end…perfect for my busy life.

For some reason in early 2000, Patterson started collaborating with other authors and the quality of his books went downhill. I stopped reading the collaborations, but continued with his Alex Cross series because they were still excellent. With I, Alex Cross, Patterson went way beyond dark to so explicitly disgusting that I stopped reading it and have no desire to read Cross Fire when it comes out in November. I am not sure what has happened to the James Patterson of 1993, but I miss him greatly!

What makes a classic: Inglourious Basterds’ opening scene

Every generation thinks a classic is something different, depending on their values. But apart from that, what makes an audience think a film is something really special? It has to grab them early, and make them forget everything but the movie. They have to both love the hero and grow to hate the villain.

The opening scene of Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds accomplishes the latter quickly and with great intensity. Christoph Waltz plays a Nazi officer searching for a “missing” Jewish family. His character is intelligent, sophisticated, cold, and frightening, setting the mood perfectly for what follows. And that’s revenge, of course, handed out by a fictitious group of Jewish soldiers who dispatch Nazis in violent and gruesome ways. Classic.

Beach reading

When you’re on vacation, what do you like to read? I like a really engrossing read on vacation, usually a thriller or science fiction. Maybe it’s because I have more time to focus on it. Do you prefer something lighter? Are you drawn to a particular kind of book when you have a break?

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on DVD

I checked out the first season of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency from the library even though I haven’t read the book, and really enjoyed it. Then I looked online to see when they would be filming the second season, and found out there may not be one. HBO is up in the air about it. Bummer. I hope there will be; we’ll see.


Want to steam up those nights with a great book? Start with Brenda Jackson’s Westmorland series. I picked up one, but didn’t know there was a series until I got well into it. There are actually 18 books in all, starting with Delaney’s Desert Sheikh. Hampton Public didn’t own them all but was kind enough to get the others for me through Inter-Library Loan.