Monday, August 31, 2015

Alex + Ada Volume 2

Alex + Ada Volume 2 by Jonathan Luna, 128 pages

Cover image for The science fiction graphic novel series that looked at the realm of artificial intelligence and the dilemmas that result from it certainly took a romantic turn with this second volume.

Now that Ada can feel and love she wants to experience life and everything it has to offer. But when Alex questions if things are moving too fast everything starts to fall apart in their lives.

I was really hoping this graphic novel series would continue to look at the developing issue of AI and the social concerns it would raise. But instead nearly the entire issue is the building love story.

The story was still very good and extremely well illustrated. But it was like I went to a restaurant expecting steak and ended up with a cheeseburger. Here I was expecting AI science fiction and a rights discussion and got a romance. It was still good, but I would have preferred my steak.

Shadows Trilogy

Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card, 451, 348 and 371 pages, (1170 pages)

Cover image for This Shadows trilogy should is likely actually a quartet that includes Ender's Shadow, but since Ender's Shadow and this trilogy have nothing in common except the main character, I am posting this separately.

Like Ender's Shadow this set follows the life of Bean. That same orphan kid we saw growing up is now a battle school grad and back on earth. But like everyone else that was part of Enders group he is destined never to have an ordinary life.

This trilogy follows Bean though the struggles he faces in fitting in back on Earth, the return of an old nemesis, and trying to stop the world from destroying itself.

I found this series to be very well written, to some extent even more so than Enders Game. But where Enders Game leaves you reeling with a shock, this series is very depressing.

Mistborn Trilogy

Mistborn: Final Empire, Well of Ascension, and Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (647, 796 and 760 pages, 2203 total)

Cover image for I first came across this series while looking for additional "epics" to work my way through as I continue to wait for more Song of Fire and Ice. The Mistborn trilogy came highly recommended on several book recommendation sites, though some cautioned or complained about the length. Being a veteran reader seeing page totals in the 700's did not even faze me.

In the realm built by Sanderson certain people are born with hidden abilities to use or "burn" certain metals to give them powers. This ability, even if they are born with it, has to be activated by extreme stresses at some point in their life. For the noble born, this is a ritual their children are forced though during puberty. While the majority of people can only burn one metal, there are those that can burn all of them, they are known as the Mistborn.

Cover image for This trilogy follows Vin, a Mistborn who is living on the streets of Luthadel and surviving as a common thief. Her entire life changes when Kelsier, a legendary Mistborn, reappears in Luthadel and recruits her thieving crew for a dangerous job of overthrowing the Lord Ruler. A supposed god who is not only immortal, but who is also protected by men nearly impossible to kill.

On a whole this series was quite good. I would consider it to be a borderline or introductory epic. It did not quite have the massive world building or character scope that some others are known for. But for that same reason it was an easier read.

Sanderson eventually continues this world with another trilogy set a couple hundred years later.

Spirit and Dust

Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore, 387 pages

Daisy can talk to the dead.  She’s a consultant to the FBI, although some people don’t really believe in her powers.  She’s also not even quite eighteen yet, which makes her situation even odder.  She’s been called to help on a case and in the middle of it is kidnapped by the father of the missing girl that the FBI is now trying to find.  Daisy finds herself bound to him magically to find his daughter and is off with one of his operatives, trying to follow the clues to the missing girl.  This was a funny story, with fantasy, mystery, romance, and adventure.  I liked it and I think that a lot of teens would too.

Homegoing

Homegoing by Michelle Markey Butler, 417 pages

Maudlin is a rarity, a woman who knows how to read.  Living in a land where mostly only trained clerks can read, Maudlin not only knows how, but is the only woman in the land who has been trained as a clerk herself.  Now, a letter has come from a land that no one has heard of, demanding that the people in Maudlin’s lands fix an unspecified problem within the year.  Maudlin is perhaps the only person qualified to ferret out who these people are and what their demands really are.  If she can’t, it is probable that her own people will be attacked and conquered.  This is the first book of The Tall Ships of Saradena series.  I don’t know how many books there will be but I can’t wait for the sequel and I would highly recommend this to people who like fantasy type book that don’t actually have magic.

Archie Giant Comics Party

Archie Giant Comics Party by Archie Superstars, 480 pages

This was a huge collection of Archie comics that I checked out to see how the Comics Plus progam worked.  I like Archie so it was cute and fun to read some of the comics again.  I would definitely recommend the program to kids and teens who like graphic novels.

The Secret To Lying

The Secret To Lying by Todd Mitchell, 328 pages

No one ever noticed James until the day he changed schools and went to the American School for Mathematics and Science, a residential school for gifted teens.  James decides to make up stories about his life at home and cultivate an image of a tough guy, always looking for a fight, but reformed now.  Most people believe him since no one knew him from before.  However, James starts getting messages from someone online who clearly knows that James’s stories aren’t true.  James feels comfortable telling this person a lot about who he really is but he doesn’t even know who the person is he’s talking to.  And as close as he feels, he still isn’t ready to open up about who he really is and what is really wrong.  I really liked this story.  It felt completely real to me and since it was set in my high school, it also really took me back to that time.  I wonder if I like it so much because it’s really that good or because it was so easy for me to relate, but I think it’s both, which means that I plan to start pushing this book on a lot of the teens that come to the Library.

The Lost

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, 350 pages

Lauren, not ready to face her mother and what is probably very bad news about her health, starts driving one morning and ends up in a town called Lost.  Unable to find her way out of town, Lauren is stuck there, worrying about her mother, and learning how to survive in a town where everyone has lost something and can’t leave until it’s been found.  Lauren has even more troubles, when the one person who everyone says can help her, refuses to even speak to her.  With the help of only a couple of allies, Lauren must figure out what she needs to do to leave Lost and return home, even as she finds herself falling in love.  I really liked this book.  It’s creepy and intriguing and just a really good story.

The Cinderella Murders

The Cinderella Murders by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke, 303 pages

Laurie Moran is a television producer.  After her initial success with a pilot special called, Under Suspicion, she’s ready to do another episode.  She wants to tell the story of a cold case about a college girl, Susan, who was murdered twenty years ago.  The murder, of course, was never solved and Laurie hopes that the program will, as the last one did, help uncover who committed this crime.  It could be the boyfriend, one of the roommates, or the film producer she was auditioning with, or it could be someone else entirely.  However, Laurie doesn’t dream that the program could make her or anyone she cares about a target.  I really enjoyed this mystery.  The solution wasn’t obvious and there are enough red herrings to keep everything rolling.

Seveneves

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, 867 pages

I’m betting that a lot of people will read this book and most will probably like it.  I found that some parts of it were a little slow but overall, it wasn’t bad.  The basic story is an end of the world scenario that comes from the moon breaking apart.  There are several parts to this story that focus on different people at different times but it’s basically about how the world can ensure that the human race will survive.  Some are sent into space, some go underground, and some go underwater.  The story is focused on the group in space but by the end, the other two groups also factor in.  It’s an interesting idea and a good story but I would have expected more action than I got.

Middle Passage

Middle Passage by Charles Richard Johnson, 209 pages

Rutherford Calhoun is a free African American from Illinois living in New Orleans.  He’s a thief and con who gets in trouble with bill collectors and a schoolteacher who wants to marry him.  Desperate to escape, he stows away on a ship that ends up being a slaver.  He gets a lot more than he bargains for, but despite the horror of the trip, he learns a little bit more about himself.  Although this was a hard book to read, I liked it.  People who are not afraid of a little horror and like historical fiction might want to read this.

City Love

City Love by Susane Colasanti, 325 pages

Three girls who are roommates for the summer before their freshman year of college in New York City all have secrets and are all looking for love.  Sadie is a New York girl, born and bred.  She's still living in the same neighborhood as her parents but was so eager to move out that she didn't even do her laundry before she left.  She has an internship and has met the most amazing man there.  He seems just as into her and she's sure he's her soul mate.  Darcy is a rich California girl who took a year off before starting school.  She's taking classes during the summer to try to make up for some of the previous year.  She was also just dumped by the boy that she was convinced was her soul mate.  Now she's determined to just have fun and not start any serious relationships, until she meets a cute street performer who seems to be perfect for her.  Rosanna is from Chicago.  She's working at a day camp for the summer and wants to become a social worker and change the world, a little at a time.  When she meets a wealthy man at a party for the counselors, she can't believe that he's interested in her or that she's interested in him.  His values are completely different from hers, but she's falling for him anyway.  This book was a completely light, fun story, even with the small, but real, problems presented.  And I loved it, probably way more than I should.

Preface to Religion

Preface to Religion by Ven Fulton Sheen, 228 pages

Preface to Religion is a relatively short, but solid, apologetical work by Sheen, distilled from his popular radio program The Catholic Hour, the predecessor of his even more popular, Emmy award-winning television show Life Is Worth Living.  Sheen was, above all, an extremely talented popularizer of Catholic theology, able to take seemingly abstract ideas and Latin terminology and explain how they relate to everyday life.  Likewise, his own considerable intelligence and learning made him able to explicate broader currents in thought and culture in Christian terms.  All these gifts are put to good use here.

For the reader from the twenty-first century, it is refreshing that Sheen considers religion, not as therapy, but as participation in Truth.  The only path to self-help he offers is "he that shall lose his life for Me, will find it" - it is not an accident that the first chapter is titled "Are You Happy?" and the last "Charity".  For Sheen, the search for happiness is only fulfilled in the self-surrender of love.

Indexing

Cover image for Indexing by Seanan McGuire, 404 pages

I had this book for nearly a month before I actually got around to reading it and I don't know why I was so hesitant to start it. But finally at the start of a boring bus ride to work I did, and promptly kicked myself for waiting so long.

The premise behind this book, and possible series, is that fairy tales are real and at times they try to get themselves relived in the modern world. On the surface this seems fine, but when you consider some of the horrible things that happen in fairy tales, especially Grimm's it can get ugly pretty fast. An entire city falling asleep, overgrown thorny vines, and murder of various step mothers and family.

There to prevent these fairy tales from taking hold is the ATI Management Bureau. While some of the agents are normal humans, most are comprised of reformed story characters who, with ATI's involvement never went full story. Even though their story has been stopped, or at least paused, they keep the characteristics the story needed. So the main Snow White agent still had the blood red lips, skin the color of snow and raven black hair. She also has animals attracted to her and flowers that grow on the floors in her house. Combined with a somewhat reformed wicked stepsister, a show making elf, and a normal human, her team is one of many trying to preserve New York.

This book starts off well. It presents the chapters as various cases, with the story advancing in the case files. About midway through it does stall out a bit, plus I was getting tired of reading about cases that do not continue the main storyline in any meaningful way. But the ending made up for it, in a very Grimm story kind of way.

I think if you have read the Fables series, and enjoy some of the darker aspects of it, you should give this book a try. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

White Trash Zombie tetralogy

My Life as a White Trash Zombie, Even White Trash Zombies get the Blues, White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, and How the White Trash Zombie got her Groove back by Diana Rowland, 320, 312, 311 and 328 pages (1271 pages)

Cover image for I had to Google what a four part series is called and websites insisted that tetralogy was the proper term. I guess if it is not people will certainly let me know in the comments.

Cover image for I am not quite sure how I came across this series. I think that it was a recommendation based on what I had read and again I think that Alice in Zombieland is what triggered the recommendation. I could link my review of that here, but you can find it I am sure.

Basically Angel Crawford is a zombie. Not the kind that is shuffling around aimlessly trying to hunt down someone and eat their brains but the kind the looks just like you and me. Well as long as she has had some brains in the past week or so, otherwise she will start to rot. Luckily she lands a job working at the coroners office and has access to all the brains she needs.

Cover image for But things start going horribly wrong when other suspected zombies start showing up beheaded. Then there is the zombie mafia, boyfriends, and trying to hold down a job while trying not to rot away.

Cover image for I like the direction this series takes with the classic zombie idea. In White Trash Zombie world it is a parasite that makes you a zombie. Since this parasite lives in its human host it give that host speed, strength and regeneration abilities simply to protect itself. The downside is it needs brains to survive. This scenario seems a lot more plausible than other zombie fiction and helps make it more believable.

On the whole this series is pretty good. I was not a fan of the titles and I think I got some weird looks reading these books on the bus, but it was worth the read.

Despite the fact that I have caught up with the author, I don't think this series is quite done yet, and certainly has many more possibilities to explore if it wants to.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dark Hunter Manga series

Dark Hunter Volumes 1-4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon 832 total pages

Cover image for I mainly read this series to see how well the somewhat overly romantic books by Kenyon were adapted into manga. Going into this series I was expecting long romantic sections cleverly illustrated to imply sexual relations, but obviously not show anything. I was somewhat shocked to see that they tried to just skim over and hint at romance instead of beating us over the head with it. Granted I thought the romance in the original books was overdone to begin with, but it should not be ignored.

Cover image for The other thing that bothered me about this manga was the detail lacking explanations on who everyone was and what the shadow hunters were trying to accomplish. Sure there was the customary couple sentences that give you the briefest of overviews but nothing well defined. If I had not already read the books, I would have been lost within the first few chapters.

On the plus side I thought that these were very nicely illustrated. Luckily the illustrated characters matched closely to what I had imaged or it might have been harder to read. Nothing takes you out of a movie or adaptation faster than the characters not matching what you thought you would see.

If you have read Kenyon's first couple Dark Hunter novels and would like to see what the characters could look like, I would give this a try. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wars of the Roses

Cover image for Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones, 340 pages

For thirty years in the late fifteenth century, a series a civil wars were waged in England, wars that ultimately led to the extinction of the Plantagenet house which had occupied the throne since the time of Henry II, and the establishment of a new dynasty, the Tudors.  One of the major factions in these wars, the Yorkists, used a white rose as an emblem, but it was only upon the triumph of the Tudors that the white rose merging with a red rose symbolizing the Lancastrian faction to form a blended Tudor rose gave the conflicts their popular name of the Wars of the Roses, and the Tudors their reputation as the great unifiers.

In partial contrast to this popular view of a primarily dynastic conflict beginning with the usurpation of the throne by Henry IV, Jones situates the power struggle as primarily a consequence arising from the Plantagenet defeat in the Hundred Years War and the inability of Henry VI to govern effectively.  The fissioning of the victorious party at every stage produced a continuous supply of disaffected nobles, while encouraging incorrigible schemers in their gambles.  Woodvilles, Percys, Staffords, and Nevilles were every bit as involved in the perpetuation of the wars as the rival branches of the Plantagenets.

Jones' previous work, The Plantagenets, was an excellent account of the rise of the house.  Wars of the Roses is an equally excellent account of its demise.