27 April 2010

Hastur Lord; Marion Zimmer Bradley

Hastur Lord (Darkover Series) Hastur Lord by Marion Zimmer Bradley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been reading the Darkover books for, oh, maybe 20 years now and it saddens me to think that I won't be reading any more new ones. Having said that, I'm a little annoyed that there series is ending without a real look at what happened in the thousand years between Darkover Landfall and Stormqueen! - how did the religion evolve? Who settled the Dry Towns? Why does Zandru have seven cold hells? If the answers to those questions are any where in the canon, please let me know!

As with all the recent books, this one covers that part of Darkover's history post-Terran rediscovery. There are Renunciates, the Comyn and all the "usual" suspects; what sets this apart is the much larger role the cristoforos have in the plot. Terry Pratchett's Discworld series has been using that world to explore/expound/rant about modern events and idiocies and this book allows MZB to lace into Christianity and homophobia in a way she hasn't done before. I'm not sure I liked that part of the story because it tended to overshadow the other ideas (should they join the Federation? what about the Telepath Council vs. Comyn Council? etc.)

Still, it's a Darkover book and that's never a bad thing.

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26 April 2010

Sisters Red; Jackson Pearce

Sisters Red (Sisters Red, #1) Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Are werewolves going to be the next vampire? Somehow I doubt it, simply because vampires are somewhat inherently sexier than werewolves... but that's not stopping the publishers from trying!

Sisters Red is the tale of two sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, who hunt. There's also Silas, the boy-next-door, who happens to be the son of a woodsman and who helps them in their hunts. They throw knives and axes, train like mini-Buffy's, and hunt Fenris (aka werewolves). Yes, there's also a grandmother (who dies early on).

There's an increase in Fenris activity in their small town because apparently there's a Potential out there - a man (or boy) who is just on the verge of being a wolf, he just needs to be bitten. The three decide to move to Atlanta to take on the Alphas and as many Fenris as possible. The problem is, Silas and Rosie would also like to have a life, while for Scarlett, this is her life (of course, it may help that Scarlett bears the scars of the attack that killed their grandmother).

I'm not sure why this is going to be a series, but I've stopped trying to figure out why publishers (or authors) are insisting that every new idea be carried out to three or four books. This is a good story and doesn't need any follow-up.

ARC provided by publisher.

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24 April 2010

Episodes; Blaze Ginsberg

Episodes: My Life as I See It Episodes: My Life as I See It by Blaze Ginsberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really didn't respond to this book - the style (live as a series of TV episodes) got tiresome and the plot (teenager in hs) wasn't all that compelling. Knowing that Blaze is a high-functioning autistic didn't really change my response to his book, although others may find his description of what life is/was like for him more interesting.

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20 April 2010

Nightlight; the Harvard Lampoon

Nightlight: A Parody of Twilight Nightlight: A Parody of Twilight by Harvard Lampoon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There's very little that needs to be said about this book: it's a Harvard Lampoon version of Twilight. So: you know that the references are going be a little(?!) heavy-handed, you know that they'll find the idiocy in the original and play that up, and you know that it'll make you at least chuckle in response.

I am not, nor was I ever, a Twihard, and this book - in some ways - underscores why I could never be one.

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18 April 2010

The Way of the Sword; Chris Bradford

Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword by Chris Bradford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At the risk of cliche, this is very much a Japanese version of Harry Potter (with a strong overlay of Shogun). I didn't read the first book, but that didn't seem to matter that much. In the second installment, Jack (an English teen stranded in Japan after the boat he and his father were on is run aground; his father is murdered by the ninja Dragon Eye) is in samurai training school, still feeling his way and trying to find out 1. how he can get home to England and his younger sister Jess and 2. how he can safely keep his father's rutter from Dragon Eye.

There's a tournament, the Circle of Three, which is like the Triwizard Tournament (and thus unsuspensful) but with Trials of Mind, Body and Spirit. There are duels and snowball fights, ninjas and a potential love interest, friends and traitors: nothing terribly new or different. Still, Middle School-age boys will enjoy this series because it's not about magic (unless one considers the samurai code of bushido and the training methods "magic").

ARC provided by publisher.

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Blood Feud; Alyxandra Harvey

Blood Feud (The Drake Chronicles, #2) Blood Feud by Alyxandra Harvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't love this one as much as I loved the first book in the series, Hearts at Stake only because the flashbacks to Isabeau's life in Revolutionary-era France bored me. Her relationship with Logan, the Hounds and Kala, and Logan's reaction to her and the Hounds and his family's new-found royal status were fun to explore (the humor from Book One is definitely carried over into Book Two, except during the aforementioned flashbacks). I also liked Isabeau's confusion when meeting Keiran and Lucy, and look forward to more "Lucy moments".

The question I have is that one big problem was resolved, so who (or what) will fill the next books as the Outside Force Driving Things Forward? The author's decision to focus on a new Drake (Logan, rather than Solange) was good, but if this turns into Six Brides for Six Vampire Brothers I'll be very disappointed.

ARC provided by publisher.

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14 April 2010

This Book Is Overdue!; Marilyn Johnson

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is definitely a very cute book, filled with warm stories about how libraries have changed and the work that librarians currently do. The problem is that I'm not sure who the audience for this is: librarians needing a rah-rah moment after months of bad news about library closings and staff reductions? the public to convince them that libraries/librarians are still very needed?

I loved the anecdotes and the descriptions of the libraries, but as a librarian, I knew most of this already. Others, particularly those for whom a library is that place they were shushed when in high school, may find it interesting to learn what's going on in those book-filled buildings.


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04 April 2010

Digital Revolutionaries; Steve Lohr

Digital Revolutionaries: The Men and Women Who Brought Computing to Life (New York Times) Digital Revolutionaries: The Men and Women Who Brought Computing to Life by Steve Lohr
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Perhaps I would have liked this had I been the target audience (which I'm guessing is 10-12-years-old, if that). As it was, I got irritated when programs like DARPA were briefly touched on (but not named), when Netscape, FTP, Yahoo, Archie and Gopher were completely left out, and when the discussion meandered. The timeline and the ancillary materials are vastly superior and will definitely help any young student doing research into the birth of the computer age; the text, not so much.

Copy provided by publisher.

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The Color of Water; Kim Dong Hwa

The Color of Water (Color Trilogy, #2) The Color of Water by Kim Dong Hwa
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While I don't usually like graphic novels, this one was so well-drawn that it made it worthwhile to read. The plot, on the other hand, was a little trite and the dialog stilted, which detracted from the beauty of the drawings.

It didn't seem to matter that this was the middle book, as there was no reference to the first book. Ehwa's coming-of-age read true, but her mother's responses at times felt a bit forced, as though they were trying too hard to be understanding or "girl-friendy" while at other times they were overly maternal. It's largely because I couldn't trust the mother that the book fell apart for me.

Copy provided by publisher.

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03 April 2010

Dragons of Darkness; Antonia Michaelis

Dragons of Darkness Dragons of Darkness by Antonia Michaelis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting fantasy about a boy, Christopher, who lives in the shadow of his older, popular, athletic, intelligent, wonderful brother Arne. When Arne is taken hostage by Maoists, er, make that insurgents in Nepal, Christopher decides to learn everything he can about the country and wishes he could save his brother.

Suddenly, he's there, in Kathmandu, making the acquaintance of Jumal, the invisible heir to the throne. Together, they go hunting for the Mao, uh, insurgents and Arne, and on their way give rise to many rumors and strange occurences (like the invisible bridge). They also meet Niya, one of the insurgents, and during their time in the training camps each changes in ways that will effect the rest of their lives. Oh, and did I forget to mention the color-eating dragons?

I can't say more because of spoilers, but will say I did like the book up through the last part. Sometimes the coincidences just seemed too piled on, as though the author were trying to make it clear that Here Lies Allegory and Here Lies Fairy Tale. The last scenes in Nepal just felt implausible (if one can say that about a fantasy!), knocking this from a four to a three-star review.

ARC provided by publisher.

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02 April 2010

Beautiful Maria of My Soul; Oscar Hijuelos

Beautiful Maria of My Soul Beautiful Maria of My Soul by Oscar Hijuelos
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is historical fiction and a sequel to The Mambo Kings, telling the story of the Maria behind the Castillo's bolero "Beautiful Maria of My Soul". The problem for me was, I didn't care. Perhaps by design, Maria is a cold character - beautiful, at first naive, and just, well, not a character I related to at all. Her choices, her life, her problems, nothing made me really care about her.

Perhaps if I'd read The Mambo Kings I'd feel differently but since I didn't read it...

ARC provided by publisher.

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