Thursday, August 21, 2014

Claws that Catch

Cover image for Claws that catch / John Ringo, Travis S. Taylor.Claws that Catch by John Ringo, 343 pages

Sadly this marks the current end of Ringo's Looking Glass series. I had come to enjoy the hard science that supported these books and I think I might even have learned a thing or two about particle physics. I really hope that Ringo is able to return to this series eventually so I can see how the Dreen war that has been building the past four books will end.

The Harry Potter Series

Harry Potter books 1-7 by J.K Rowling, 4098 pages

Cover image for HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE / by J.K. Rowling ; illustrations by Mary GrandPré.It was nice to finally get around to rereading this series in its entirety. Over the years I did read some as the movies came out, either to refresh my memory on what was coming next or to see what they had left out. But I hadn't made the time to give the series a thorough read through. When I first started I was worried that I would become bored in reading these books that I had seen depicted so many times. But not only was I not bored but I felt some of the same excitement that I remembered from before.

I don't have to tell you that this series is worth reading. I know that most of you have read it at some point. I still find it very well done for a young adult novel and would love to see the world of Harry Potter expanded upon at some point (Hint Hint).

Cover image for HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS / by J.K. Rowling ; illustrations by Mary GrandPré.But as I was reading the series I couldn't help but wonder if the world of Harry Potter was going to be something that will live forever. I know there is quite a following with the current generations but without anything else coming out to keep it established in the minds of future kids and teens will the books eventually fade away. I know the movies will likely survive with re-mastered or anniversary releases but give it enough time and they will become a teen movie classic and the books will be ignored. Look at movies like Black Beauty, Old Yeller or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn all based off books that are for the most part ignored despite nearly everyone having seen the films. I guess only time will tell.

PS for count purposes the books had the following page counts; 307, 341, 435, 734, 870, 652, 759.

Saga: Volume 3

Saga, Volume 3

by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, 144 pgs.

The third volume in the Saga series begins with our outlaw couple still trying to evade their galactic pursuers and an interstellar war, while attempting to raise their new baby and be a family.  The characters are weird and exciting, and Staples illustrations continue to knock my socks off.  I’m running out of socks, guys.

Encyclopedia of Early Earth

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

by Isabel Greenberg, 176 pgs.

This graphic novel chronicles the mythology of Early Earth -- a time when the gods toyed with civilization and magical things frequently occurred.   I thought the stories contained in EoEE were really engaging and unique, and I was a fan of the illustrations.  Sometimes I found myself just staring at a page for minutes, taking in all the subtle details of the art.  The writing was clever and frequently pretty hilarious.  Overall, I really liked it.

This One Summer

This One Summer

by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki, 320 pgs.

Every summer, Rose goes to Aswego Beach with her family.  While there, she gets to spend time with her best friend, Windy, and the two share a sister-like bond.  One particular summer, Rose begins to notice her parents arguing -- something that has never happened before.  At the same time, she and Windy get wrapped up in some drama between a group of local teens.  Rose struggles with some internalized sexism, which tests her friendship with progressively-minded Windy.

This One Summer is an engaging story, and the illustrations are sweeping and beautifully done. 

Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's Kings of Beer

Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's Kings of Beer
by William Knoedelseder, 416 pgs.

Knoedelseder tells the history of the Anheuser-Busch family, and the scandal that follows five generations of the “kings of beer”.  Formerly an investigative reporter, Knoedelseder is very good at weaving a story that is both fascinating and informative -- an impressive feat for such a dense collection of historical accounts.   When you boil their story down, the A-B family is not so different from the rest of us.  They just have more money, guns, and exotic animals.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

P.S. Be Eleven

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia                    
274 pages
This book is the sequel to One Crazy Summer but could be read without reading the first book.  Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are back home in New York after spending the summer with their mother in Oakland.  All summer they were involved with the Black Panthers and listening to their mother’s ideas about independence.  However, not much has changed in their father’s household.  Their grandmother, Big Ma, still expects Delphine to keep order and be extra polite to white people.  One big thing has changed though.  Their father has a girlfriend.  Delphine is worried about sixth grade, especially the sixth grade dance.  She wants to be grown up but her mother keeps writing her letters telling her to “be eleven”.  Delphine doesn’t understand what her mother means but keep on doing her best.  This is a good story about three African American girls growing up in the late 1960s.  Kids who like true-to-life historical fiction will probably like this story.


Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
310 pages
Georgie McCool is a sitcom writer, a mother, and a wife, probably in that order.  Her husband, Neal, stays home to take care of their two daughters.  They are set to go to Omaha, Nebraska from Los Angeles to spend Christmas with Neal’s mother when Georgie learns that someone wants to air her sitcom, the one that she and her best friend have been writing since college, the one that matters.  The catch is that he wants to meet with them on December 27 and today is December 17 and she and her friend, Seth, need to have three more episodes ready to share at the meeting.  There is no way Georgie is going to Omaha.  Neal takes the kids and goes to Omaha without her.  Georgie is afraid that she has finally ruined her marriage but finds out that calling Neal’s mother’s landline from her old rotary phone at her mother’s house allows her to connect with Neal in an unusual way. Maybe she can figure out how to save her marriage after all.  I really liked this story.  It’s mostly a realistic romantic comedy type story, but with a twist of supernatural thrown in.  People who have liked Rowell’s other books will probably love this one as well.

Lord And Lady Bunny – Almost Royalty

Lord And Lady Bunny – Almost Royalty
by Polly Horvath                               
293 pages
Mr. & Mrs. Bunny are back and this time they have co-authored the book.  They have decided to travel to England because Mrs. Bunny has decided that she needs to be Queen and figures that the best way to make that happen is to be in England.  Meanwhile, Madeline’s parents want to buy more land so that they can grow organic vegetables to sell and they want to take a vacation.  They have no money but luckily some relatives just died and left them a sweet shop in England.  They find a way to travel for free and head off to England with Madeline’s friend, Katherine, to run the sweet shop for the month of August, where they expect to earn enough money to buy the land they want.  Madeline is all for this plan because she hopes they will make enough money that she can fill up her college fund.  Mr. & Mrs. Bunny end up traveling on the same ship as Madeline and staying near them in England and of course, nothing goes quite as planned.  Mr. & Mrs. Bunny must help Madeline’s family and maybe Madeline can help Mrs. Bunny with her dream as well.  A fun sequel to Mr. & Mrs. Bunny- Detectives Extraordinaire, although the first book wouldn’t have to be read first, kids who like humorous talking animal books will probably love Mr. & Mrs. Bunny.

Poetical Works of Lionel Johnson Works of Lionel Johnson by Lionel Pigot Johnson, 307 pages
Lionel Johnson was a poet in the last decades of the nineteenth century.  He was a member of the circle of English Decadent poets that also included Ernest Dowson and Oscar Wilde.  His long battle with alchoholism ended when he died from head injuries suffered in a fall off a barstool.
Although primarily a religious poet, he is also capable of evoking a profound "sense of place" especially pronounced in his poems celebrating his love of Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall.  A sly sense of humor and a genuine sense of delight lend life to his encounters with nature and nature's God.

Almost Perfect

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning     321 pages

     I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I do. If the cover looks like something I would like, or the title intrigues me, then I try it. Usually I’ve made up my mind long before I read the back cover. There is no way I could resist the cute poodle puppy on the cover of what appeared to be an enchanting read. 
     At the center of this novel are two flawed individuals: Seventy-year-old Bess and teenage Benny. I’m not sure that the author ever revealed his age, but if he’s over fourteen, he’s an extremely immature fourteen. 
     Bess is a bitter woman. For decades she enjoyed a distinguished career as one of the nation’s top Standard Poodle breeders. She dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life, and even had the dog, McCreery, to do, too. Yet, she always held herself, and McCreery, back. A psychologist would say that she was afraid of success.  Maybe, maybe there were other reasons. Now she’s in the process of tearing down the famous Umpawang kennels. She’s gotten rid of all the dogs except McCreery and his puppy-son Breaker, who is the spitting image of his daddy. 
     Enter Benny. He’s new to the neighborhood. After a messy divorce, Benny is forced to go live with his father and new stepmother. He attends a nearby therapeutic school for his autism. The one thing Benny wants more in the world---besides his mother to love and pay attention to him---is a dog. Dad says no, but Benny wants what Benny wants. 
     As he walks home from school one night, he hears a dog crying. Sure the dog is the perfect one for him, he tries to locate the source. There he winds up in Bess’s kennel. 
     The story that follows is an often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking story of two people and two dogs who teach other that life has more to offer than what’s happening at the moment.
     I highly recommend this book; I give it 5 stars.






Landline by Rainbow Rowell, 310 pages

Fourteen years into a rapidly deteriorating marriage, screenwriter Georgie McCool is faced with a choice between a potentially career-changing meeting and flying to Omaha with her family for Christmas. When she chooses her career over her family, she's stuck in L.A. worrying about her relationship and unable to get a hold of her husband, Neal. But then comes the old landline phone she finds at her mom's house, which magically, mysteriously allows her to talk to a 15-years-younger Neal. Self-doubt and all-night conversations ensue.

I'll be up front about this: you can tell, almost from the beginning, how this book is going to end. It's like a chick flick in book form, and I'll be shocked (and kind of disappointed) if it never makes it to the movie theater. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean this is a bad book. Completely ignoring the somewhat-awkward time-warp phone aspect, Rowell does what she does best: illustrating a complex and very real relationship, from the point of view of a complex and insecure protagonist. When Georgie is wondering what went wrong in her marriage and trying to see herself from Neal's point of view, she becomes marvelously real.

This isn't Rowell's best book (try the YA novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl first), it is definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The City

The City by Dean Koontz, 398 pages

Jonah Kirk is a piano man, even if he’s not a man yet. His grandfather and mother have both been musical people and Jonah is just following in their footsteps. However, Jonah has also met a beautiful lady, who claims to be the soul of the city. She has been kind to Jonah, giving him the opportunity to learn piano when his father was in his way, but since Jonah met her he has had nightmares about murder. He has seen two people’s faces and knows that they are connected to death. He is afraid that if he meets them in real life they could bring about destruction, not just for him, but also for the people he loves. This was a really good story although not as horrific as some books Koontz has written. It definitely had some eerie parts and some sad parts, but I wouldn’t say the book was scary. I think that most Koontz fans and people that like mostly realistic adventure-mystery type stories would like it.

A Paris Apartment

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable            378 pages

Paris, 1940. A young woman fleeing the Nazis shutters her grandmother's apartment and escapes to the French countryside.

 New York, 2010. A Sotheby's furniture appraiser, April Vogt, is sent to Paris to aid in the appraisal of an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has not been disturbed in 70 years. April is more than happy to escape the recent conflicts in her marriage. Immediately upon arrival at the apartment, April is overwhelmed by the exquisite furnishings, especially a previously unknown portrait of a lady in pink by Giovanni Boldani. Luckily for April, she also finds a journal that provides provenance for the pieces and yet tells a fascinating story.

The story is the rags-to-riches climb of one of Paris’ most famous courtesans, Marthe de Florian, which occurred in the last 1800s and early 1900s. A postcard that the author had tucked into my copy says she received the inspiration for Marthe’s story based on a news clipping that a friend had sent her. Turns out Marthe is a real person, and the story of the abandoned apartment unopened for more than half a century is true, which to me, made it all the more fascinating.

Gable's debut is novel is a wonderful mix of past and present, weaving between Marthe’s journal and April's adventures, as April mixes business with a possible romance, yet still wondering what she has left in New York. I loved this story and could barely pull myself away from it. I'm already looking forward to Gable's next novel.

I give A Paris Apartment five out of five stars.

Click here to see pics from Marthe's Paris apartment:


Panic by K.R. Griffiths, 282 pages

Panic is about the start of a zombie apocalypse. For a at that time free downloadable book it was surprisingly well written. Like most outbreak books the story is set in a small quiet town where everyone knows everyone and there is no crime to speak of. But it's not like the classic zombie books you read where they lumber around and somehow a slow zombie outbreak turns into a world epidemic. These are zombies that, while blind, can hunt you by smell and can learn to hunt in groups. They are also the dreaded fast zombies. Still capable of running and pouncing on people, definitely more animal like than most zombie fiction I have read. I think its worth the read but there are some disturbing scenes, adult content and some disturbing adult content so readers beware.


Buzzed by Cynthia Kuhn, 385 pages
Cover image for Buzzed : the straight facts about the most used and abused drugs from alcohol to ecstasy / Cynthia Kuhn, PhD, Scott Swartzwelder, PhD, Wilkie Wilson, PhD, Duke University and Duke University School of Medicine ; with Leigh Heather Wilson and Jeremy Foster.
Buzzed is a nonfiction book that details the effects and history of various types of drugs. These range from caffeine to nicotine to heroine to inhalants. Buzzed not only tells you what they are and what effects they cause but goes into the science behind why people abuse them and how they effect the brain. All the information is presented in a mostly unbiased way that is sorted into useful chapters. However, they also use a lot of chemical names that as they put it "look like alphabet soup". These near unpronounceable names popping up and being referred to frequently can make it difficult to read at times.

Overall it was a very informative and for a nonfiction, scientific book was not too painful to get through.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

East of the Sun and West of the Moon by John Ringo, 307 pages

East of the Sun and West of the Moon is the most current book in the Council Wars series. Sadly it will be the last one for awhile as Ringo had said that all work on this series is on hold for the next half a dozen years. Its a shame to see a series that is as well done as this be discontinued. It was interesting to see a society that had had it all fall so low and attempt to achieve something better. Through these books came the fall of an advanced civilization back to the middle ages. We got to see them build a society and ships and expand until finally they made it into space. Through this all there were great characters and a storyline that makes putting down the books near impossible.

It is a great series and I do hope that Ringo does return to it eventually.

PS The title describes the location of a thing in the book and might be the most unhelpful directions ever given, besides saying over there somewhere.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickens, 272 pages
Cover image for Hard times, for these times / Charles Dickens ; edited by Grahame Smith ; series editor, Michael Slater ; with illustrations by Arthur Boyd Houghton and Frederick Walker.Dickens' shortest novel takes place in the fictional industrial city of Coketown, a city which is run on Facts.  Mr Gradgrind, the local MP, is particularly fond of Facts, to the extent that in the raising of his children, Louisa and Thomas, he has allowed no Fancy to enter their heads.  Bereft of mind-clouding Sentiment, Louisa is free to enter into a loveless marriage with her father's friend, Mr Bounderby, the local banker, while Thomas is able to embark on a career for which he has neither the talent nor the interest.
A wonderful novel, full of Dickens' characteristic comic verve, even if the characters are somewhat less memorable than some of his other creations.  Satirically biting and still relevant, it is also genuinely moving, as Gradgrind tragically learns the difference between men and statistics.


Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin, 392 pages

This is a companion book to Impossible and Extraordinary and the books do not have to be read in order; they stand alone. Fenella was the first girl to be trapped by the Scarborough curse. Padraigh kidnapped her and gave her three tasks to complete. If she succeeded she would go free. Fenella, however, failed and cursed not only herself but all of her female descendants. Lucy, one of her many-times-great-granddaughters, broke the curse, which also broke Fenella’s curse. Most of her descendants died but Lucy managed to save herself, her mother, Miranda, and Fenella. Fenella, however, has also been cursed with near immortality. She has been alive for 400 years and will live for several hundred more. She makes a deal with the faeires. She will regain mortality and be able to die but to do so she must complete three acts of destruction, and the acts must be against her own family, who have already suffered much. The other catch is that if she fails, Padraigh will once again own her. Despite the possible consequences, Fenella is determined to succeed. Teens who like fantasy stories will like this book.

Blood Red

Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey, 312 pages

This is the story of Little Red Riding Hood, retold as an Elemental Magic novel. These books are part of a series but don’t need to be read in any particular order. The beginning of this book tells the basic original story, but in this case the wolf is actually a werewolf and meets the little girl first as a man in the woods and then attacks her in her grandmother’s cottage as a wolf. Rosa, the girl, is rescued by a Hunt Master, who takes her in to complete her magical training. She is an Earth Magician and while many of her kind specialize in healing, she specializes in cleansing and becomes the first female Hunt Master, helping to rid the land of evil, such as shapeshifters and vampires. Rosa is good at what she does but is dismayed when she meets a hereditary shapeshifter that is apparently different from other types who use spells or have been bitten. Marcus seems to be a good man and needs her help but can she really trust him with her life? This was a good addition to the series. Fantasy fans should like this series and this book.


Timeless by Gail Carriger, 402 pages

Lady Alexia Maccon and her husband, Lord Maccon, have mostly adjusted to living with a vampire and Lord Akeldama and his hive have mostly adjusted to living with werewolves but everyone is constantly adjusting to live with the Maccons daughter, Prudence. Prudence has the ability to steal immortals immortality. For example, if she touches a vampire, she becomes a vampire. Luckily, the effects reverse if Alexia touches her so no lasting harm has come to anyone. In this novel, Lady Maccon has been summoned to Egypt to meet the vampire Queen, Matakara. Matakara wants also to meet Prudence and Lord Maccon will not allow them to travel alone. After all, this will also give them a chance to examine to possible origin of the God-Breaker Plague, especially as it appears the Plague may be expanding. They need to figure out what is happening so they can either stop it or control the spread, assuming that Matakara plans to let them survive their meeting. This is the action packed, funny, fifth book in the Parasol Protectorate series. People who like this style of supernatural historical novels will love this series.