Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley Hardcover
Copyright: 2010
978-0425235676 product description:
 When Anita Blake meets with prospective client Tony Bennington, who is desperate to have her reanimate his recently deceased wife, she is full of sympathy for his loss. Anita knows something about love, and she knows everything there is to know about loss. But what she also knows, though Tony Bennington seems unwilling to be convinced, is that the thing she can do as a necromancer isn't the miracle he thinks he needs. The creature that Anita could coerce to step out of the late Mrs. Bennington's grave would not be the lovely Mrs. Bennington. Not really. And not for long.
 I really wish I could rave about this latest installment in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. I love the books (and have bought every one of them the day they came out in hardcover since Cerulean Sins). However, the novellas have been just irritating to me. They're just far too short for your money. Micah was bad enough, and it was a paperback. Flirt? Well, they want $30.00 for a book that is under two hundred pages, double spaced. As good as the story is (and it is a good one), that's far too much money.

Overall, the story was a good one, with plenty of tension and several surprises. In the process, Anita (and us) learns more about the were-lions as well. I don't want to give anything away and ruin the story, which is making this review a lot harder to write. I will say there's a lot more Anita and a lot less of the others in the group in this story. The other thing is, I've seen a lot of reviews of the other books in the series recently that complain about the sex, but I have to say in this book it doesn't seem excessive.

One thing that I thought was really neat about Flirt is the little article about how Laurell K. Hamilton wrote the book, how the idea came about. It's a neat insight into how she thinks and writes, a lot of which comes out in her blog, but this one had more to it than that.

But, for thirty dollars, I think I'm going to wait for the paperback. Either way, it's not going to be too long before the next Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter book. Bullet is supposed to be coming out later this year.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Cost Of Dreams - Gary Stelzer

The Cost Of Dreams
Gary Stelzer
Decent Hearts Press
Copyright: 2009
978-1936073009 Product Description:
A novel: Flora Enriquez trusts that she has found safe haven for her young family in the remote U.S. Southwest, after fleeing the murderous environs of Central America where her parents were slain in a civil war. Only to find that all of her life's greatest challenges, by far, still lie before her.
 I both liked this book a lot and didn't like it at the same time. Contradictory, I know, but it's true.
The characters, especially Flora, seemed to be very real, and were quite frank about the realities of life, especially life for an illegal immigrant. She's very much a 'do what it takes' kind of person. Flora's story captured me quickly, and I kept turning the pages, wanting to know what happened next.

At the same time, it almost felt like there was too much happening. Characters came on and left again, leaving me wondering "what does this have to do with the story?" Or, at least if it wasn't that there was too much happening, it was happening too quickly, especially as the ending built up. Some of the material seemed to come out of nowhere.

Gary Stelzer has created quite the cast of characters in The Cost Of Dreams, but I don't think it's a book for everybody. If descriptions of violence and injury are not your thing, then stay away. Several of the major plot points hinge on severe injury. On the other hand, there are also some descriptions of incredible beauty. Stelzer has a knack for describing the settings so you almost feel that you are there.

Overall, I'd have to say that this was quite the book. It's certainly one that I can't get out of my head now that I've read it. Like it or not, I think the story and characters of The Cost Of Dreams will make you think. I'm certainly going to keep an eye out for further books from Gary Stelzer, as I'd guess he has a promising career as a writer in front of him.

What Would You Recommend? - British Mystery

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

Here's one where I actually have a good idea of what to recommend, but I'm looking for further suggestions. I should note that I don't read mysteries myself. The recommendations I've been making are based off of what I've been told by others. I'd love some recommendations so I can come up with some new books for my Dad, who loves all of the books and authors I've listed here, as well as the accompanying T.V. shows.

Generally, I've found that people who like the Ian Rankin Rebus novels, also like the books by Peter Robinson, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, and sometimes Elizabeth George. It's usually a safe assumption that they already know about the Morse series. Now, all of those (except the Peter Robinson books) are also either movies or T.V. series, but they're also all set in the U.K.

More recently, given that most people already know about the authors I've listed here, I've started adding recommedations of the books by Henning Mankell and Donna Leon, but when people have already read them too, then I'm out of suggestions. What other authors are there who write in a similar style or setting?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist - Ray C. Anderson

Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose - Doing Business By Respecting The Earth
Ray C. Anderson
St. Martin's Press
Copyright: 2009
978-0312543495 Product Description:

In 1994, Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson set an audacious goal for his commercial carpet company:  to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth.  Now, in the most inspiring business book of our time, Anderson leads the way forward and challenges all of industry to share that goal. 

The Interface story is a compelling one:  In 1994, making carpets was a toxic, petroleum-based process, releasing immense amounts of air and water pollution and creating tons of waste.  Fifteen years after Anderson’s “spear in the chest” revelation, Interface has:

*Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 82%
*Cut fossil fuel consumption by 60%
*Cut waste by 66%
*Cut water use by 75%
*Invented and patented new machines, materials, and manufacturing processes
*Increased sales by 66%, doubled earnings, and raised profit margins

With practical ideas and measurable outcomes that every business can use, Anderson shows that profit and sustainability are not mutually exclusive; businesses can improve their bottom lines and do right by the earth.
 This is a book I was given at a Random House book presentation.

That said, on with the review:
I don't normally read business books (aside from the occasional personal finance book), so I really wasn't expecting to enjoy reading Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist, event though it looked interesting. What a surprise! The first day I was reading it, I ended up reading for most of the day and finished the first nine chapters in more or less one sitting. Since then, I've averaged a chapter a night after work.

Ray C. Anderson has written an interesting book that is easily read by the non- businessperson as well as anyone in business. It's sensible, and inspiring, completely turning a lot of beliefs on their heads. He's also written a book that makes me want to do what little I can to make a difference, just in the way I live.

Granted, I do believe he's right in what he's saying about the way we live today, that we can't keep it up for very much longer. Others may disagree. Still, in doing what he has with his company, and in writing this book about it, he has proven that it's possible to go green and make even more money.

Basically, in this book, the author has charted his change of views to where he stands today, and the various steps he's taken with the company, Interface, to take it to where it is now, most of the way to being environmentally sustainable. Ray C. Anderson also points out what the plans for the future are, and what other companies are starting to do as well.

Some of the things he discovered along the way have me scratching my head in disbelief, such as the fact that a lot of companies can't (or at least won't risk) selling their most environmentally friendly cars outside of their designated areas due to national regulations.

I highly recommend, even if business books aren't your normal reading fare. You may just be surprised.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? January 25

This is a meme that's hosted by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog each Monday. I find it helps me keep things organized, and it's a lot of fun to see what people are reading each week.

Last week I had a mammoth list, and I'm not at all surprised that I didn't get all of the books finished. I did get most of them done though:

Arms Commander by L.E. Modesitt Je.
Women In The Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies
Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I'm just about ready to abandon Mercury Falls, much as I hate doing that. I'm really having trouble with this one.

Currently I'm reading:
Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist by Ray C. Anderson. Still reading this one from last week.

This week I plan to read:
The Cost Of Dreams by Gary Stelzer
A Gate At The Stairs by Lori Moore

Friday, January 22, 2010

Arms Commander - L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Arms Commander
L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Tor Books
Copyright: 2010
978-0765323811 product description:
Arms-Commander takes place ten years after the end of The Chaos Balance and tells the story of the legendary Saryn. The keep of Westwind, in the cold mountainous heights called the Roof of the World, is facing attack by the adjoining land of Gallos. Arthanos, son and heir to the ailing Prefect of Gallos, wishes to destroy Westwind because the idea of a land where women rule is total anathema to him.

Saryn, Arms-Commander of Westwind, is dispatched to a neighboring land, Lornth, to seek support against the Gallosians. In the background, the trading council of Suthya is secretly and informally allied with Gallos against Westwind and begins to bribe lord-holders in Lornth to foment rebellion and civil war. They hope to create such turmoil in Lornth that the weakened land will fall to Suthya. But Zeldyan, regent of Lornth, has problems in her family. To secure Zeldyan’s aid, Saryn must pledge her personal support—and any Westwind guard forces she can raise—to the defense of Zeldyan and her son. The fate of four lands, including Westwind, rests on Saryn’s actions.
The latest of the Recluse saga novels, but set earlier in time. And, I have no real idea of the chronolgy for this series any more. I do know that this book follows The Fall Of Angels, but beyond that, I don't know. It's been a while since I read the Recluse books.

L.E. Modesitt Jr. is an author who likes making the reader think. In the Recluse books he turns conventional stereotypes upsidedown, then destroys them. The main one being the assumption that white is good and black is evil. Here, it seems that black is more good than white, but neither is exactly "good". There's plenty of examples of black (or order) magic being used to evil purposes in the series.

He's also one of those authors who's equally good at science fiction and fantasy. A fair number of his earlier science fiction novels are among my favorites. All of them are thought-provoking (as is, I'm discovering, his blog). Arms Commander is no exception. There's certainly no glorious war, although there is plenty of fighting, rebellion and war. Instead, we see plenty of the destructive side of the activity, along with the efforts of rebuilding.

The characters, particularly Saryn are some of the most profound I've seen in fantasy novels, something I liked, as it added more depth to the story and the characters. They do have their flaws, but, at least some of them are aware of it. Others though, seem to fit the stereotyped stupid male category (something Modesitt has used in quite a few of the novels. The Spell Song Cycle comes to mind).

Overall, I liked Arms Commander, although I did feel somewhat lost. This is definitely a book that builds on knowledge of the previous book: The Fall Of Angels. It's possible to read it and enjoy it without that, but I think it would have helped. It's definitely been a few years since I read any of the other books and I found myself struggling to remember characters and events.

Guess I'm going to have to re-read the other books in the series.

The Tournament Of Reading Challenge

Or, "Just What I Needed - Another Challenge To Join".

I just found out about this challenge thanks to Jules who commented on my Women In The Middle Ages review and I had to join up. Thanks for letting me know about it.

Here's the challenge requirements as copied from The Medieval Bookworm:
This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010.  The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm.  Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction.  Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe.  There are 3 levels:
  • Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.
  • Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.
  • King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.
 I'm going to try for "Lord".

Should I count Frances and Joseph Gies Women in the Middle Ages which I finished this week in the challenge, or should it just be from this point onwards?

Books read for the Tournament Of Reading Challenge:
  1. The Kindness Of Strangers by John Boswell
  2. The Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds by Jocelin of Brakelond

What Would You Recommend? - Maeve Binchy

 This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

This week I'm asking about another author where I don't even have any guesses to recommend: Maeve Binchy. She's got a lot of books out, and a large number of devoted readers. But, when she doesn't have a new book out, I'm always getting asked, "what else would I like?".

So, who's similar in style? I'm not even sure what to classify Binchy's books as. I'm wondering if they're anything like series such as The Thorn Birds however. What are your opinions and suggestions?

Night Play - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Night Play
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St Martin's Paperbacks
Copyright: 2004

The back jacket blurb:
Bride McTierney has had it with men. They're cheap, self-centered, and never love her for who she is. But though she prides herself on being independent, deep down she still yearns for a knight in shining armor.

She just never expected her knight in shining armor to have a shiny coat of fur...

Deadly and tortured, Vane Kattalakis isn't what he seems. Most women lament that their boyfriends are dogs. In Bride's case, hers is a wolf. A Were-Hunter wolf. Wanted dead by his enemies, Vane isn't looking for a mate. But the Fates have marked Bride as his. Now he has three weeks to either convince Bride that the supernatural is real or he will spend the rest of his life neutered--something no self-respecting wolf can accept...

But how does a wolf convince a human to trust him with her life when his enemies are out to end his? In the world of the Were-Hunters, it really is dog-eat-dog. And only one alpha male can win.
 Night Play, the sixth book in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series is perhaps my favorite of the series. It's actually a toss-up between this one and Unleash The Night. I think it's also one of the first books in the series that I read. I do know that I've re-read it several times (and I'm surprised to find that it's not already reviewed here).

Kenyon has a very different take on the world of werewolves (or other were-creatures) and vampires, including a coherent back-story for their creation. There's werewolves, were-bears, and many others as well. Each of them has two branches that are fated to always be at war.

What I really like about this book is the characters. Bride feels 'real'. She's not perfect, has her flaws and doubts, yet she still gets her happy ending. Vane as well. Along the way they've left me laughing so many times. Just wait until you get to the 'boyfriend meets the family' scenes and you'll see what I mean.

Night Play is, I've found a book that can be read many times with just as much enjoyment as the first time. Yes the books are light entertainment, but they're done in such a way that they don't seem overly formulaic.

I consider this to be a five-star book, and if you like paranormal romance, give it a try.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Women In The Middle Ages - Frances And Joseph Gies

Women In The Middle Ages
Frances And Joseph Gies
Harper Perennial

I must note that this book came out over thirty years ago, so the information in Women In The Middle Ages may well have been contradicted since. With that caveat in mind, I have to say that Frances and Joseph Gies write interesting, informative and readable books.

The core aspect of this book is the series of chapters which consist of biographies of women from various times covered in the Middle Ages: Blanche of Castile, Hildegard von Bingen and Alice Beynt, just to name three of the women covered. There's also the Paston family (about which these two have written an entire book) and several others from England, Italy and the rest of Europe

That's one of the things I liked about this book. It's not limited to just one region or time period, (as in Life In A Medieval Village). On the other hand, I'm more interested in the era of the Crusades, the eleventh through early thirteenth centuries, so the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which seem to have made up at least half of the book were a bit later than my true interest.

There's discussions of:
  • family life
  • literacy
  • marriage and dowry considerations, also the marriage ceremony
  • politics and law as they concerned women
  • women and their role in medieval guilds
  • how women's roles changed through the centuries

Women in the Middle Ages also contains the proper endnotes and bibliography, which might well be one of the most useful parts of the book. Certainly it makes for a useful introduction to the study of medieval women.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

L.E. Modesitt's Blog

I've just discovered that the author L.E. Modesitt Jr. has a fascinating blog, which I'm adding to my "In Their Own Words" list as well.

Modesitt is the author of the Recluse books, the latest of which, Arms Commander ( link), I"m reading right now. He's also written the Spellsong Cycle (fantasy) and numerous science fiction books, including The Parafaith War, Adiamante and The Octagonal Raven. I find the books to be nearly unique in terms of the way they make me think about different issues within the context of the story.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Annabel Lyon's blog added

I've added a link to Annabel Lyon's blog The Golden Mean to my "In Their Own Words" link list. She's the author of the Giller finalist novel The Golden Mean, which I read and reviewed last month.

If you haven't taken a look at the book, you should. It's been very popular, and any book shortlisted for the Giller or the Governer's Choice award is well written. If you have, you might find the blog to be interesting too. She's filled it with entries about the period and the culture. I know I'm following it, being fascinated with ancient Greece.

Fantasy characters, age and audience

Yes, I'll admit this was another late-night post idea I wrote up after midnight.

I'm not quite sure what set off the chain of thoughts that created this post, but anyway, I started looking at my collection of fantasy novels (with some science fiction thrown in for good measure) and noticing some commonalities. Mostly on the age of the main characters.

Talia, in Arrows of the Queen by Mecedes Lackey is just thirteen when the story begins. Now, this is a book that is just as suited for a teen audience as it is for an adult one. In fact, the library has the books shelved in the Young Adults section, while the bookstore classes it as fantasy.

Thing is, this seems to be almost typical of fantasy novels. Granted, she's a bit younger than many of the others - I think a reasonable guess for age would be sixteen to eighteen years old for the characters in a lot of the other popular series and books

Nearly all of the main characters in Lackey's Valdemar books are about that age: Vanyel is in Magic's Pawn, Lavan from Brightly Burning seems to be more Talia's age. So is Darian from the Owl trilogy. And it's not just the Valdemar books. Vetch from the Sanctuary series starts out quite young too. As does the main character in the Bardic Voices series (Lark, I think, though I can't remember her actual name right now)

Other authors have done about the same thing. Harry Crewe from Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, is eighteen if I remember correctly. However, that book is currently classed as Teen fiction, and is also a Newberry Honor book, rather than regular fantasy. So, it (and several of her other books) are something of an exception in the category.

Admittedly, as I've noted with The Blue Sword, these books could be marketed to a teen audience (or were intended for such an audience to begin with), but that's not always the case. Given some of the things Paksenarrion sees in Elizabeth Moon's The Deed Of Paksenarrion, there's no way I'd call this book safe for teens (at least not the younger ones). In particular, I'm referring to the scene in Liart's den. But, there are others too. So, this book is more clearly for an adult audience, and the character still starts out at about eighteen years old.

Similarly with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. It's definitely been a long time since I've read any of that series (to be honest, I gave up with Winter's Heart), but I do remember the youth of the characters, at least at the start of The Eye Of The World. And, it's another series I don't consider to be specifically teen-friendly.

I'd suspect this trend has something to do with the pseudo-medieval setting a lot of the fantasy worlds are set in, but there's a fair amount of science fiction that does the same thing. Andre Norton's Solar Queen series starts out with the main character just out of training (about eighteen to twenty years old, I think). Some of the Darkover books by Marion Zimmer Bradley too. I'd give specifics, but the book in question is still packed from my move.

Not to mention Star Wars. If I remember my chronology right, Luke can't be more than ninteen or twenty years old. Now there's a set of movies that appeals to all ages!

Is it just a formula that the writers/publishers have found to work for selling books? I've read some very good science fiction and fantasy that stars older characters, so it's obviously not a requirement. Old Man's War comes to mind quite nicely for example. So, what is it about younger characters that make them so interesting to us? Or, do the publishers and authors think it's mostly younger readers (teens and folks in their twenties) who are interested in reading fantasy/science fiction?

I have to admit, these days I'm finding the older characters with life-experience to make stories that are a bit more interesting, such as The Adept series by Katherine Kurtz, or more recently John Scalzi's books.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog. Thanks to her, I have a better chance of staying on track with my reading goals.

Last week I managed to read the following books:
Our Hart Elegy For A Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse
Historical fiction set in 1850's China. It's the sequel to My Splendid Concubine.

See me shaking my head at the realization that I only got one book read.

Currently I'm reading:
Women In The Middle Ages by Francis and Joseph Gies (still on the list from last week)
The Radical Industrialist by Ray C. Anderson. This is turning out to be better than I thought it would. I can't think of the last business book I read outside of personal finace ones.
Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese. Fiction. Sent to me for review a couple of months ago. I'm not quite sure what to make of this book actually.
Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon. One of my favorites of the Dark Hunter books.
Arms Commander by L.E. Modesitt. The latest book in the Recluse saga.

Think I'm reading too many books there? Don't know how many of them I'll get done with this week, but I'm going to give it a shot.

Books I'm planning to start:
The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer. Sent to me for review and I need to get going on it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Our Hart Elegy for a Concubine - Lloyd Lofthouse

Our Hart Elegy for a Concubine
Lloyd Lofthouse
January 2010?
Three Clover Press

The blurb from the e-mail I was sent when I was offered a copy of Our Hart Elegy For A Concubine for review:
Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine is the sequel to the award-winning historical fiction novel My Splendid Concubine, and this second book shows shows Robert Hart in action as he becomes the "Godfather of China's Modernism." Hart not only became famous as Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs, but he was behind the building of China's railroads, postal service and schools. Hart arrived in China in 1854 from Ireland and by 1908 had made his indelible mark on Chinese society. The Ch'ing Dynasty called him "Our Hart."

This volume also reveals the love story that Hart did not want the world to know about. Behind every great man, there is a woman; and for Hart it was Ayaou, a Chinese concubine.
 First, I should note that I was given an ARC copy of Our Hart, Elegy For A Concubine for review. That said, on with the review and my thoughts:

This is the sequel to the book My Splendid Concubine ( link), but I can certainly tell you that you don't need to have read the first book for this one to be a good read. I haven't read it yet. However, I'd certainly like to now.

Robert Hart, who I'm guessing is an actual historical figure is torn between the life he's building for himself in China, and the life he left behind in Victorian England. He's found love and created a family for himself on the Chinese model, but constantly in the back of his head is the knowledge that his family in England would disapprove. Much of the background for this story, including the situation Hart and Ayaou find themselves in at the beginning of Our Hart, as well as the cast of characters is clearly material that had been left at the end of My Splendid Concubine, but much of it is gradually explained as the story progresses.

I really enjoyed reading this, and I'm discovering an interest in the China of this period and earlier. The characters are three dimensional and 'real', part of which, I suspect is due to their being actual figures of history, even if I don't know much about it.

This is not a long book, but neither is it too short. There's enough detail that I was able to 'see' the settings, characters and way of life, but not enough to bog the story down by slowing it down too much.

I certainly enjoyed the story, but I will also admit that there were quite a few points where I felt lost, not knowing what had happened previously, because I hadn't read the first book.

My final note is that the book is due to be released some time this month (January 2010), but I don't see any sign of it on or Chapters/, as either being out now, or available for pre-order. When it does come out though, I recommend both My Splendid Concubine ( link) and Our Hart Elegy For A Concubine as good reads if you like historical fiction.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

John Rateliff's Tolkien Recommendations

John Rateliff (The author of the History Of The Hobbit books) posted a list of recommended reading on his blog if you're interested in Tolkien's life and his works. All of the books are secondary sources and he's assuming the reader is fairly familiar with The Lord Of The Rings and Tolkien's other books.
The link is here.

To be honest, I have most of the books on the list, even though I've only read about half of them.

Widget Update

I've added the Haiti Disaster Relief widget Blogger has created over at the top left side of my blog. If you can spare anything for the Red Cross to help with this, it would be greatly appreciated.

This disaster, well the photos and video we're getting on the news, there just aren't words to properly describe it. They need our help.


Friday, January 15, 2010

What Would You Recommend? - The Clique

This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

This time it's teen books I'm asking about. I had somebody a couple of weeks ago asking me for recommendations for somebody who liked the series The Clique by Lisi Harrison. I had to admit that I have no clue. It's not that I don't read teen books (I do still), but what I read is more the teen fantasy such as Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley.

When I'm asked about a series like this one I'm lost. Just going by back cover blurbs, I ended up suggesting the Private series, but I have no clue if the two sets of books are at all similar.

What would you have suggested?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades
John Scalzi
Tor Books

The blurb:
The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF's toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it's about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers -- a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin's DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin's electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his "father," he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

The Ghost Brigades is the sequel to John Scalzi's first novel Old Man's War. That was a book I loved right away, and this one is just as good. Just, read them in order. Otherwise, you'll completely ruin one of the big plot twists from the first book.

All of the background that wasn't explained in the first book is given here, although it ends up leaving you with plenty more questions for the next book. Not only that, but the ending is definitely open to sequels, of which I know there are two more (both on my "must read" list too), The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale.

If you like classic science fiction a la Robert Heinlein, you'll love this. There's the same timeless feel and interesting characters. This time the main characters are Jane Sagan and Jared Dirac. Jane Sagan was the special forces character from Old Man's War, and it's definitely neat to see things from her perspective, and to find out more about the CDF special forces way of life.

The Ghost Brigades stands on it's own well, so you don't need to have read Old Man's War first, but the two books go together really well. This book doesn't read like a "middle book" at all, unlike some series I've read. Definitely a five star book. It certainly kept me up past my bed time!

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a weekly meme hosted by J Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Last week I managed to finish reading the following books
Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson
The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock
The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson
The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

Currently I'm reading:
Our Hart by Lloyd Lofthouse
Women in the Middle Ages by Francis and Joseph Gies

I plan to finish both those books this week but beyond that, I have no real plans as of yet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Horse Boy - Rupert Isaacson

The Horse Boy
Rupert Isaacson
Little, Brown and Company
Copyright: 2009
978-0316008235 product description:
When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson was devastated, afraid he might never be able to communicate with his child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor's horse with Rowan, Rowan improved immeasurably. He was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses and shamanic healing intersected?

THE HORSE BOY is the dramatic and heartwarming story of that impossible adventure. In Mongolia, the family found undreamed of landscapes and people, unbearable setbacks, and advances beyond their wildest dreams. This is a deeply moving, truly one-of-a-kind story--of a family willing to go to the ends of the earth to help their son, and of a boy learning to connect with the world for the first time.
This is a book I've seen on the shelves since it first came out. I thought it looked interesting then, but I finally had a chance to read it over the last couple of days. I'm really glad I did. The author's experiences in this book sucked me in and kept me captivated to the point of staying up past midnight three nights in a row so I could read more of the story.

It was more the part about the Mongolian nomads that caught my attention in the book blurb, but Rupert's experiences with his son caught me almost right away and I had to know how it turned out for them. I was captivated by their experiences, both the highs and the lows they went through, and overjoyed by the successes of the story.

The family's experiences are just that, the experiences of one family dealing with autism. There is no suggestion that what worked for them will be as effective for others. Regardless, it is a great read. Apparently it's going to be coming out as a movie as well, if it hasn't already. Not that that's exactly a surprise, given the mentions of the camera crew in the book.

While The Horse Boy is categorized as a biograpy, it's equally aplicable as travel writing. Everything is vividly described to the point where I could almost see and feel the landscapes they were travelling through. I wouldn't have minded seeing more about the lives of the Mongolian nomads, but that's not the focus of the book, which was the boy, Rowan.

I recommend this as a great read, whether or not you're interested in the experiences of a family dealing with autism.

100+ Books Challenge 2010

J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog is running the 100+ Books Challenge again this year. I managed a hundred last year, so let's see if I can repeat the madness this year. So far, just over a week in, I think I've made a pretty good start too.

My books read for the year:
  1. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
  2. Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson
  3. The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock
  4. The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson
  5. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  6. Our Hart Elegy For A Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse
  7. Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  8. Arms Commander by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
  9. Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist by Ray C. Anderson
  10. The Cost Of Dreams by Gary Stelzer
  11. Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton
  1. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  2. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  3. Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs  
  4. The Lazy Investor by Derek Foster 
  5. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
  6. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs  
  7. The Elephant Keeper by Chris Nicholson 
  8. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs 
  9. The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon 
  10. Firebird by Mercedes Lackey 
  11. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi 
  12. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  13. Master of Desire by Kinley MacGregor 
  14. Devil Of The Highlands by Lynsay Sands 
  15. Claiming The Highlander by Kinley MacGregor
  16. The Hastur Lord by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross 
  17. Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley 
  18. Shalador's Lady by Anne Bishop 
  19. The Shadow Queen by Anne Bishop 
  20. Covet by J.R. Ward 
  21. Dark Lover by J.R. Ward 
  22. Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward
  23. Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward
  1. Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
  2. The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey 
  3. Rescue Ink by Rescue Ink and Denise Flaim 
  4. Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein 
  5. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein 
  6. The Black Ships by Jo Graham 
  7. Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon 
  8. The Collegium Chronicles: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey 
  9. Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning by Judith MacKenzie McCuin 
  10. Exile's Song by Marion Zimmer Bradley 
  11. The Shadow Matrix by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  12. Traitor's Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley  
  13. Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry 
  14. Wild Horse Annie by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths 
  15. Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce 
  16. Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce 
  17. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs 
  18. Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  1. The Aeneid by Virgil. Trans: Robert Fitzgerald
  2. The Breath Of Allah by Tempest O'Rourke 
  3. Friday by Robert Heinlein 
  4. More Money Than Brains by Laura Penny 
  5. Lover Mine - J.R. Ward 
  1. The Kindness Of Strangers by John Boswell
  2. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay 
  3. Changer of Worlds by David Weber 
  4. The Lark And The Wren by Mercedes Lackey
  5. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling 
  6. On Basilisk Station by David Weber 
  7. The Honor Of The Queen by David Weber 
  8. The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald 
  9. The Tolkien Family Album by John and Priscilla Tolkien 
  10. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
  11. The Short Victorious War by David Weber 
  12. Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne 
  13. Field of Dishonor by David Weber 
  14. Flag In Exile by David Weber 
  15. Honor Among Enemies by David Weber 
  16. Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read by Scott McNulty 
  17. Be #1 on Google: 52 Fast and Easy Search Engine Optimization Tools to Drive Customers to Your Web Site by Jon Smith
  18. The Sword by Brian M. Litfin 
  19. The Wild Vine by Todd Kliman 
  1. Stealing Fire by Jo Graham
  2. In Enemy Hands by David Weber 
  3. Echoes of Honor by David Weber 
  4. Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton 
  5. Ashes of Victory by David Weber 
  6. The Sunrise Lands by S.M. Stirling 
  7. Shogun by James Clavell
  8. Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan by Giles Milton
  9. A Brief History Of The Samurai by Jonathan Clements 
  10. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See 
  11. The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey 
  12. Pride And Predjudice And Zombies: The Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
  1. The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
  2. The First Test by Tamora Pierce 
  3. Page by Tamora Pierce
  4. Squire by Tamora Pierce
  5. Geisha: The Secret History Of A Vanishing World by Lesley Downer  
  6. Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce 
  7. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey 
  8. The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey 
  9. The First Amendment by Ashley McConnell 
  10. Think of a Number by John Verdon 
  11. Hand of Isis by Jo Graham 
  12. The Key Of The Keplian by Andre Norton and Lynn McConchie
  13. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 
  14. The Shadow Grail #1: Legacies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill 
  15. Bold Visions: A Digital Painting Bible by Gary Tonge 
  16. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 
  17. The Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds by Jocelin of Brakelond 
  18. Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden
  19. Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden
  20. Stargate SG 1 by Ashley McConnell
  1. Across The Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori Vol. One by Lian Hearn
  2. Grass for his Pillow: Tales of the Otori Vol. Two by Lian Hearn
  3. The Brilliance of the Moon: Tales of the Otori Vol. Three by Lian Hearn
  4. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  5. Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon
  6. Victory by Susan Cooper
  7. Nimisha's Ship by Anne McCaffrey
  8. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 
  1. Black Ships by Jo Graham
  2. A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill 
  3. Scourge Of God by S. M. Stirling
  4. BrainShips by Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey & Margaret Ball 
  1. The Exile by Diana Gabaldon
  2. Intrigues: The Collegium Chronicles Volume Two by Mercedes Lackey
  3. I Want To Go Home by Gordon Korman
  4. Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey 
  1. Magic`s Promise by Mercedes Lackey
  2. Food Matters by Mark Bittman (Link to Kitchen Misadventures)
  3. Get Spun by Symeon North 
  4. Adventures of Rusty and Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

                Friday, January 8, 2010

                The Golden Mean - Nick Bantock

                The Golden Mean
                Nick Bantock
                Chronicle Books
                Copyright: 1993

                The Golden Mean is the sequel to Sabine's Notebook and Griffin and Sabine, the two previous books comprising this set of stories by Nick Bantock. As with the previous two, the story is told through the use of unique art postcards and decorated, removable letters. That's the incredible thing about the Griffin and Sabine series, the artwork.

                The story itself is short, short enough to read easily in one sitting, but eerie. The books seem like you're part of the personal correspondence. There's no page numbers or anything else normally book-like aside from the fact it's bound and in pages.

                The first two books were somewhat odd. This one gets downright creepy. Not to mention confusing. I've been trying to figure out the ending for the last two days, ever since I finished reading it. Does anyone else have any thoughts? I don't want to include any spoilers for anyone who wants to read the book, but I'd love to hear some opinions.

                I liked the first two books in the set better, they seemed to leave less unresolved. Believe me! There's plenty of unanswered questions here. Maybe they'll be resolved in the next three books. Regardless of my thoughts on the story, I have to say that the art is spectacular, and worth going back for a second (and third) look.

                The Hobbit Meme

                I don't have time right now to follow along on the read-along at The Striped Armchair, but J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my all-time favorite authors, and has been for over half of my life now. As a result, I've modified the questions to suit.

                When did you first hear of The Hobbit?
                 A friend gave me her copy of The Hobbit, the Rankin-Bass illustrated edition. I still have it, with some repairs to the binding. I wish it was still easily available to be found, as it's a perfect introductory version for kids, although the size of the book is definitely awkward. The illustrations are stills from the animated movie ( link) they did.
                Have you read it before? If so tell us about that experience.
                I've definitely read the book before, although it's been years since. Given that, I really should do the read-along. Perhaps I'll read and review it this month independently. In which case, I'll have to say thanks for getting me inspired.
                J.R.R. Tolkien pretty much founded the modern fantasy genre. So let’s take a moment to think about the genre as a whole; have you always loved fantasy? Or perhaps you still feel rather skeptical towards the whole idea of wizards and dwarfs and magic? What was your introduction to the genre?
                J.R.R/ Tolkien, with The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings was my introduction to fantasy as I tend to think of it. Nowadays, I really love both fantasy and science fiction, but I definitely remember for the longest time refusing to read the genre because I thought it was more or less a rip-off of Tolkien and The Lord of the
                Rings. Essentially, I was a Tolkien snob :). More or less, I've gotten over that, but there are times when I run into books where I still feel that's the case. No, I'm not going to name names here.
                Do you have a certain plan for reading it? A few pages a day, spacing it out over the month? Or are you just going to race through it? Let whimsy decide?
                 That depends on if I do get to reading it, and if so, which edition I choose. If it's the paperback ( link), it'll probably be over the course of a few days. If one of the hardcovers I have (probably the Annotated Edition ( link)), the read will probably take longer.

                What Would You Recommend? - Michael Connelly

                This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

                Michael Connelly. An author I've never read, and one that I get asked about all the time. Unlike last week's "What Would You Recommend?", I don't have any recommendations that I suggest. Mystery isn't a genre that I normally read, so I'm really lost here. I know he's a prolific writer, and a popular one.

                What would you suggest for people who liked Connelly's books? Author's and/or specific titles will be gratefully remembered for next time I get asked the same question.

                Wednesday, January 6, 2010

                Life After 187 - Wade J. Halverson

                Life After 187
                Wade J. Halverson
                Copyright: 2009

                Blurb from the website:
                Sentenced to life in prison when he executes the men who murdered his wife, Kane Silver is singled out by the warden for his fighting ability. Along with inmates Valentino Lopez and Si’Ling Lee, Kane is drafted into service and forced to fight for money in high-stakes tournaments. But when the three friends escape during a New Year’s Eve match in Lake Tahoe—saving the warden’s life in the process—their situation becomes more complicated.

                Their status undetermined, they vanish underground and sign on to help a young woman whose parents are being held by an Argentinean drug kingpin. Follow Kane and his friends as they compete and grow closer while rediscovering what it means to be free. From Lake Tahoe and the western United States to Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Thailand, Life After 187 takes readers on an exhilarating ride filled with big money, intense action, justice, and the pursuit of honor.
                 I was asked back in November to read and review this book, and I gave it a good start then, really enjoying it. The only reason that it's taken me this long is that I lost the book temporarily during my big move last month.

                Even reading the first half a second time didn't affect my enjoyment at all. I will note that this isn't my usual type of reading at all, and I'm not a hundred percent sure how to categorize the book. It's violent (my memory totals up about eighteen fight scenes), but compelling.

                The main character is in prison for murder, and yet, I found that I had to like him - mostly because I could understand his reasons. But so much of the rest of the world he inhabits is corrupt. The situations Kane Silver is in almost from the time he enters prison almost seem to be too much to believe. Open fighting at parties, bribes. I can understand the underground nature once he escapes, but at the beginning? The one other thing that pushed a bit beyond my belief was the way every woman Kane met fell into his bed immediately.

                Still, whether or not the book pushes your bounds of belief, it's an exciting, quick read. The descriptions are concice and vivid, as is the action. There are a lot of fights, but they do provide insight into the characters.

                Overall, I liked reading this book and I'm more than glad that I was offered the chance.

                Tuesday, January 5, 2010

                Tamora Pierce's Best Of YA List

                Tamora Pierce has her best of Young Adult books list up here now. This is definitely a resource to be checked out. I know I use it for the rest of the year working in a bookstore.

                The Coming Week

                I'm a day late for the Mailbox Monday post and the It's Monday What Are You Reading.

                Anyway, in the last week I recieved:
                Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse. It's an ARC and I'm looking forward to reading it.

                From my Dad:
                Michaelangelo's Notebook by Paul Christopher. Dad thought I'd like to read it now he's done with it.
                Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson. I like Heinlein, but I don't remember ever reading this one, so it'll be a nice treat.

                Bought for myself:
                Old Man's War by John Scalzi. All I can say about this book is WOW! I'm going to have to hunt down his other books now, including the two sequels. Here's hoping my local library has them.

                Last week I managed to finish the following books:
                Old Man's War by John Scalzi
                A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

                This week I'm planning to read:
                Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson. I know I started reading it before, but the book got accidentally packed away for the move. Now, I've found it again, but I have to start from the first page.

                The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock. The third book in the Griffin and Sabine series.

                Our Hart by Lloyd Lofthouse.

                A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare

                A Midsummer Night's Dream
                William Shakespeare
                Editor: Peter Holland
                This edition: 2008

                A Midsummer Night's Dream is perhaps Shakespeare's most popular play, particularly as a first introduction to Shakespeare for children--filled as it is with a marvelous mixture of aristocrats, workers, and fairies. For this edition, Peter Holland's introduction looks at dreams and dreamers, tracing the materials out of which Shakespeare constructs his world of night and shadows.
                 This has been on my TBR list for a while now. I finally got around to reading it thanks to the Hidden Treasures post I read. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the book that got picked for me.

                Quite the read! The Oxford Shakespeare series is packed with information. Half the length of the book is made up of an illustrated essay (the introduction) on various productions of the play, the manuscript history, fairies, Robin Goodfellow and the like in Elizabethan times. Informative, but also very dense.

                Then, there's the play itself: It's well explained, sometimes half the page is taken up with footnotes of various sorts. They explain archaic uses of language, note variants in stage directions and the meter of the dialogue and much more. No wonder my teachers at university recommended this particular series!

                The notes are at least as interesting as the play. On the other hand, having so much extra material was somewhat distracting from reading the play itself. I often found myself losing the flow, because I'd been reading the extra notes. Still, this has to be the best edition of any Shakespeare I've read, simply because I'm no longer going "what the heck does that mean?" as I'm reading it.

                Monday, January 4, 2010

                Old Man's War - John Scalzi

                Old Man's War
                John Scalzi
                Tor Books
                Copyright: 2005

                Back cover blurb:
                John Perry did two things on his seventy-fifth birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

                The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad new is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

                Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are inthe hands of the Colonial Defense Forces. What's known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of dacades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own on one of our hard-won colony planets.

                John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea of what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine - and what he will become is far stranger.

                Old Man's War is a book that more than lives up to the review quotes on the cover. I really couldn't put it down once I started reading it the other day. It was a Hugo Award finalist too. Quite the accomplishment for a first novel! What got me to pick it up though, was the comparison to Robert Heinlein's writing in the Publisher's Weekly quote. I like his stuff, so thought I'd give this one a try. Well, well worth it, and I'm going to have to try and hunt down the next book, The Ghost Brigades ( link) soon.

                This book is timeless. It feels like Heinlein's writing, which means it seems as if it could have been written any time in the last fifty years or so, although it came out in 2005. I'd bet Scalzi's writing is something that will last the way the early masters of science fiction have.

                The book makes you think a bit as well. Although things are very different in that world, they're also the same in attitudes too. There are some things that I would have liked to have a bit more explanation on, given that the book starts by dropping us into the story and it's assumed that we know the same things John Perry, the main character does. It's mostly some of the background for the story though.

                What is it that makes us human? Old Man's War raises that very question a few times, and the characters answer it too.

                Overall, the story worked, characters, plot and science. And it's all done in a way that doesn't immediately scream "that's impossible!". Not every writer has managed that, but John Scalzi sure has. I'm sure I'm going to be re-reading this book some time in the future again.

                He's also thrown in some interesting plot twists, some of which are hinted at early in the book (although you'd never expect it when they turn up). I really don't want to give away any of the surprises though, so I don't think I can say anything else.

                Friday, January 1, 2010

                What Would You Recommend? - The Lost Symbol

                This is a question I get asked all the time working in the bookstore: "What would you recommend for somebody who loved "_________"? (fill in the blank)" Usually I can come up with something, but that something can be a bit of a wild guess if it's not a book or genre I normally read. This is where you helpful people come in. If you have a suggestion, I'd love to hear it.

                This is a regular new feature that I hope to post every Thursday or Friday.

                For the initial week, I'm going to go with Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. A lot of people have read it (although I am one of the minority that hasn't), and I think it's a safe assumption that if you've read this book, you've also read The Da Vinci Code ( link).

                So, if you were being asked "What would you recommend for somebody who loved this book?" what would you suggest?

                I've been suggesting the Steve Berry books such as The Venetian Betrayal, because they seem to run on a similar premise of some aspect of history becoming a mystery to be solved today. To be honest though, I'm just running on the jacket blurbs for this because I haven't read any of them yet (bad of me, I know, to suggest books I don't know anything about), although I do have this one on my TBR list. This just isn't my normal reading fare, so if anyone does have some other suggestions I'd love to read them. It's your turn now.

                Looking Back on 2009 and Looking Ahead

                A new year is here now, marking a year of my running this blog seriously.

                Looking back on 2009:
                I managed to complete (surpass in fact) the LibraryThing 100 Books in 2009 challenge. My post listing the books is here (and it's why I'm not listing the books I read for the year here).
                I participated in and completed the Love Bites challenge, from the Royal Reviews blog.
                Then there was the What's In A Name challenge, which I didn't manage to complete. I didn't manage to read a book with a building in the title, or one with a relative.
                Another successful challenge was the TBR Challenge Lite. This is one that I hope is running again this year. With my Unread Books 2010 list, I need it.

                There were a lot of really good books that I ended up reading over the past year. Many of which I have to thank the folks over at LibraryThing as well as the many blogs I follow for telling me about. You lot are the bane of both my book list and my budget.
                Anyway, the best non-fiction book I read  in the past year was also the first ARC I was given for review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett.
                I'm having a harder time deciding on the best novel though. It's a toss-up between the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs and Hand of Isis by Jo Graham.

                2009 was also the year I started my own challenge: the Pre Printing Press Challenge, which will run until April 30th of this year.

                Looking ahead for 2010:

                Challenges on the go:
                The Pre-Printing Press Challenge which has four more months to go. I've got some work to do on this one to make my goals. I'm also thinking about running it again for 2010-2011.
                The Arthurian Challenge, which runs until the end of March. I signed up for three to six books, and I've managed to finish three, so technically, I've completed the minimum requirement for the challenge, but I'm goint to try and get at least one more done.
                The Really Old Classics Challenge. This one runs until the end of February, and I'm reading the book for it now: Shakespeare's The Midsummer Night's Dream.

                I have no idea if I'm going to sign up for more challenges this year.

                I'm going to start a new feature on my blog, a more or less weekly post called "What Would You Recommend?" where I suggest a book and ask what you would recommend for someone who liked that book to read. It's going to be more or less weekly because I don't have regular access to the internet anymore.

                I'm also committing to at least one book review per week (hopefully more, but the length of time it takes to read a book can vary. If there isn't a review post in that time frame, feel free to ask me why (and see what creative excuses I can come up with too :) ). Sometimes that little push is what it takes.

                Here's wishing everybody a happy and healthy New Year.

                Unread Books 2010

                Edited to add the results of my latest book-buying spree. June 24th, 2010

                Here's hoping everyone had a fun New Year's party and is planning a happy and healthy year to come.

                The first post for 2010: my list of unread books. I made one of these up last year (Unread Books 2009), and thought it was a good idea to do it again.

                Any books in "strikethrough" have been moved into storage due to lack of space.

                1. Breath of Snow And Ashes - Diana Gabaldon - Fiction
                2. Lord John And The Brotherhood of the Blade - Diana Gabaldon - Fiction
                3. Lord John And The Hand Of Devils - Diana Gabaldon - Fiction
                4. Star Wars: X-Wing Omnibus 3 - Michael Stackpole - Fiction (Graphic Novel)
                5. Strange Candy - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Anthology)
                6. The Children of Hurin - J.R.R. Tolkien - Fiction (Fantasy)
                7. On Faerie Stories - Ed. Verilyn Flieger - Non Fiction
                8. The Tolkien Legendarium - Ed. Carl Hostetter - Non Fiction
                9. Splintered Light: Logos And Language In Middle-Earth - Verilyn Flieger - Non Fiction
                10. Life In A Medieval City - Francis and Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
                11. Life In A Medieval Castle - Francis and Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
                12. **Women In The Middle Ages - Francis And Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
                13. The Histories - Herodotus - Non Fiction (History)
                14. **The Aeneid - Virgil - Fiction (History, Poetry, Primary Source)
                15. The Peloponnesian War - Thucydides - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
                16. The Name Of The Rose - Umberto Ecco - Fiction
                17. The Eagle - Jack Whyte - Fiction
                18. The Battle For Middle-Earth - Bonnie Rutledge - Non Fiction
                19. The Ring Of Words - Jeremy H. Marshall - Non Fiction
                20. Greek Lives - Plutarch - Non Fiction (History, Biography, Primary Source)
                21. Roman Lives - Plutarch - Non Fiction (History, Biography, Primary Source)
                22. The Forever Hero - L.E. Modesitt - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                23. A Flame In Hali - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross - Fiction (Fantasy)
                24. The Fall of Neskaya - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross - Fiction (Fantasy)
                25. Zandru's Forge - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                26. Ravens of Avalon - Diana L. Paxon - Fiction (Fantasy)
                27. Ancestors of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley - Fiction (Fantasy)
                28. God's War - Christopher Tyerman - Non Fiction (History)
                29. Barbarians To Angels - Peter Wells - Non Fiction (History)
                30. The Eagle and the Raven - Pauline Gedge - Fiction
                31. On The Oceans Of Eternity - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                32. **The Sunrise Lands - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                33. Tolkien: A Celebration - Joseph Pearce - Non Fiction
                34. Beowulf - Trans. Seamus Heany - Poetry (Primary Source)
                35. Job: A Comedy Of Justice - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                36. Darwin's Paradox - Nina Munteanu - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                37. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Reader's Guide - Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull - Non Fiction
                38. The History Of The Hobbit: Mr. Baggins - John Rateliff - Non Fiction
                39. The History Of The Hobbit: Return To Bag-End - John Rateliff - Non Fiction
                40. The Last Light Of The Sun - Guy Gavriel Kay - Fiction (Fantasy)
                41. Masters Of Fantasy - Anthology (Fantasy)
                42. Lives of the Twelve Caeasars - Suetonius - Non Fiction (History, Biography, Primary Source)
                43. The Annals - Tacitus - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
                44. An Imperial Possession - David Mattingly - Non Fiction (History)
                45. The Peloponnesian War - Donald Kagan - Non Fiction (History)
                46. Augustus: The Life Of Rome's First Emperor - Anthony Everitt - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                47. Cicero - Anthony Everitt - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                48. The Dark Champion - Kinley MacGregor - Fiction (Romance)
                49. Caesar - Adrian Goldworthy - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                50. The Fall Of The Roman Empire - Peter Heather - Non Fiction (History)
                51. Xenophon's Retreat - Robin Waterfield - Non Fiction (History)
                52. Isabella - Alison Weir - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                53. Anthony And Cleopatra - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                54. Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                55. Richard III - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                56. **A Midsummer Night's Dream - Shakespeare - Fiction
                57. The Comedy Of Errors - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                58. All's Well That Ends Well - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                59. Troilus And Cressida - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                60. Henry IV Part One - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
                61. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer - Poetry (Primary Source)
                62. The Saga of Grettir The Strong - Fiction (Primary Source)
                63. The Conquest Of Gaul - Julius Caesar - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
                64. The Annotated Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien - Fiction (Fantasy)
                65. Rome And Jerusalem - Martin Goodman - Non Fiction (History)
                66. The History of Britain - Simon Schama - Non Fiction (History)
                67. A Distant Mirror - Barbara Tuchman - Non Fiction (History)
                68. Thomas More's Magician - Toby Green - Fiction
                69. Metamorphosis - Ovid - Poetry (Primary Source)
                70. Mary Queen Of Scots and Lord Darnley - Alison Weir - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                71. Mary Queen Of Scots - Antonia Fraiser - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                72. Thomas Cromwell - Antonia Fraiser - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
                73. The Medieval World - Eds. Peter Linehan & Janet L. Nelson - Non Fiction (History)
                74. The Archer's Tale - Bernard Cornwell - Fiction
                75. Albion - Peter Ackroyd - Non Fiction (History)
                76. Europe And The Middle Ages - Edward Peters - Non Fiction (History)
                77. The Age of the Cathedrals - Georges Duby - Non Fiction (History)
                78. A History Of Private Life I - Non Fiction (History)
                79. A History Of Private Life II - Non Fiction (History)
                80. The Peasantries Of Europe - Ed. Tom Scott - Non Fiction (History)
                81. Law And Life of Rome - J. A. Crook - Non Fiction (History)
                82. The Temple And the Lodge - Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh - Non Fiction
                83. The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception - Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh - Non Fiction
                84. The Battle Of Salamis - Barry Strauss - Non Fiction (History)
                85. The Knights Templar - Piers Paul Read - Non Fiction
                86. The Lost Tomb Of Alexander The Great - Andrew Michael Chugg - Non Fiction (History)
                87. Empire Of Ivory - Naomi Novik - Fiction (Fantasy)
                88. Guilty Pleasures 1 - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Graphic Novel)
                89. Guilty Pleasures 2 - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Graphic Novel)
                90. Greek Lyric Poetry - Trans. Sherod Santos - Poetry (Primary Source)
                91. **Trickster's Choice - Tamora Pierce - Fiction (Fantasy)
                92. **Trickster's Queen - Tamora Pierce - Fiction (Fantasy)
                93. Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada - James Delgado - Non Fiction (History)
                94. The Sharing Knife - Lois McMaster Bujold - Fiction (Fantasy)
                95. On Sparta - Plutarch - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
                96. A History Of My Times - Xenophon - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
                97. On The Prowl - Anthology (Romance)
                98. Knight Of Darkness - Kinley MacGregor - Fiction (Romance)
                99. Sword of Darkness - Kinley MacGregor - Fiction (Romance)
                100. Sword and Sorceress VIII - Fiction (Anthology)
                101. Sword and Sorceress XV - Fiction (Anthology)
                102. Sword and Sorceress XIV - Fiction (Anthology)
                103. Sword and Sorceress X - Fiction (Anthology)
                104. Sword and Sorceress VI - Fiction (Anthology)
                105. Sword and Sorceress IX - Fiction (Anthology)
                106. Rocket Ship Galileo - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                107. The Real Middle Earth - Brian Bates - Non Fiction (History)
                108. To Sail Beyond The Sunset - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                109. Roman Poets Of The Early Empire - Poetry - (Primary Source)
                110. Readings In Medieval History - Patrick Geary - Non Fiction (History)
                111. Troilus And Criseyde - Geoffrey Chaucer - Poetry (Primary Source)
                112. Falls The Shadow - Sharon Kay Penman - Fiction (History)
                113. The Reckoning - Sharon Kay Penman - Fiction (History)
                114. Eleanor Of Aquitaine - Alison Weir - Non Fiction (Biography)
                115. Growing Up In Medieval London - Barbara Hanawalt - Non Fiction (History)
                116. The Lost Capital Of Byzantium - Steven Runciman - Non Fiction - History
                117. Charmed Destinies - Anthology (Fantasy)
                118. The Ties That Bound - Barbara Hanawalt - Non Fiction (History)
                119. Making A Living In The Middle Ages - Christopher Dyer - Non Fiction (History)
                120. The Art Of Medieval Hunting - John Cummins - Non Fiction (History)
                121. Medieval English Prose For Women - Eds. Bella Millett & Jocelyn Wogan-Browne - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
                122. Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen - Fiction
                123. The Parafaith War - L. E. Modesitt Jr. - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                124. For Us The Living - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                125. Sword and Sorceress I - Fiction (Anthology)
                126. Sword and Sorceress V - Fiction (Anthology)
                127. Sword and Sorceress VII - Fiction (Anthology)
                128. Against The Odds - Elizabeth Moon - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                129. **Jewels: A Secret History - Victoria Finlay - Non Fiction (History)
                130. Dictionary Of Mythology - Non Fiction
                131. Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World - Viki Myron - Non Fiction (Animal Stories)
                132. Hadrian - Anthony Everitt - Non Fiction - Biography
                133. The Inheritance Of Rome - Chris Wickham - Non Fiction (History)
                134. **The Chronicle Of The Abbey Of Bury St. Emund's - Jocelin of Brakelond - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
                135. **Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist - Ray C. Anderson - Non Fiction
                136. Josephus - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
                137. Women in Early Medieval Europe 400-1100 - Lisa M. Bitel - Non Fiction (History)
                138. An Illustrated History of its First 12000 Years: Toronto edited by Ronald F. Williamson - Non Fiction (History)
                139. Becoming Modern In Toronto: The Industrial Exhibition - Keith Walden - Non Fiction (History)
                140. The Complete World Of The Dead Sea Scrolls - Phillip R. Davies, George J. Brooke and Phillip R. Callaway - Non Fiction (History)
                141. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
                142. **The Black Ships - Jo Graham - Fiction (Fantasy)
                143. Born of Night - Sherrilyn Kenyon - Fiction (Romance)
                144. **The Golden Mean - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                145. Alexandria - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                146. Morningstar - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                147. Gryphon - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                148. Londinium - John Morris - Non Fiction - History
                149. The Archaeology Of Roman Britain - R. G. Collingwood - Non Fiction - History
                150. Lord of the Two Lands - Judith Tarr - Fiction (Fantasy)
                151. Daily Living In The Twelfth Century - Non Fiction (History)
                152. Cathedral, Forge And Waterwheel - Francis And Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
                153. Medicine And Society In Later Medieval England - Caroline Rawcliffe - Non Fiction (History)
                154. Peony In Love - Lisa See - Fiction
                155. **Old Man's War - John Scalzi - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                156.  Variable Star - Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                157. **Life After 187 - Wade J. Halverson - Fiction 
                158. Zoe's Tale - John Scalzi - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                159. **The Last Colony - John Scalzi - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                160. **Covet - J.R. Ward - Fiction (Romance)
                161. **The Hastur Lord - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah Ross - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                162. Mariana - Susan Kearsley - Fiction
                163. Red Land Black Land - Barbara Mertz  - Non Fiction (History)
                164. **Devil Of The Highlands - Lynsay Sands - Fiction (Romance)
                165. **Shalador's Lady - Anne Bishop - Fiction (Fantasy) 
                166. **Starman Jones - Robert A. Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction) 
                167. **Oath Of Fealty - Elizabeth Moon - Fiction (Fantasy) 
                168. **The Breath of Allah - Tempest O'Rourke - Fiction
                169. The Forgetting Room - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                170. Sex, Dissidence And Damnation: Minority Groups In The Middle Ages - Jeffrey Richards - Non Fiction (History)
                171. The Life Of Christina Of Markayte - Trans. C. H. Talbot - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
                172. Elantris - Brandon Sanderson - Fiction (Fantasy)
                173. Medieval Costume And Fashion - Herbert Norris - Non Fiction (History)
                174. The Venetian's Wife - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                175. Medieval Households - David Herlihy - Non Fiction (History)
                176. Special Sisters: Women In The European Middle Ages - Arthur Fredrick Ide - Non Fiction (History)
                177. Everyman And Medieval Miracle Plays - Ed. A. C. Crawley - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
                178. The Last Apocalypse - James Reston Jr. - Non Fiction (History)
                179. The Museum At Purgatory - Nick Bantock - Fiction
                180. **The Sword - Brian Litfin - Fiction (Fantasy)
                181. **The Kindness Of Strangers - John Boswell - Non Fiction (History) 
                182. **Around The World In Eighty Days - Jules Verne - Fiction (E-book) 
                183. **Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read - Scott McNulty - Non Fiction (Computers)
                184. People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks - Fiction
                185. **Bullet - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Horror)
                186. **Stealing Fire - Jo Graham - Fiction (Fantasy)
                187. **Scourge of God - S.M. Stirling - Fiction (Fantasy) 
                188. **Shogun - James Clavell - (Fiction)
                189. Journey To The Center Of The Earth  - Jules Verne - Fiction (Science Fiction, E-book)
                190. **Samurai Williams: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan - Giles Milton - Non Fiction (History)
                191. **A Brief History Of The Samurai - Jonathan Clements - Non Fiction (History)
                192. **Snow Flower And The Secret Fan - Lisa See - Fiction
                193. **Geisha - Lesley Downer - Non Fiction (History)
                194. Lysistrata/The Clouds  - Aristophanes - Fiction (History, Primary Source, Play)
                195. Shadow Of The Swords - Kamran Pasha - Fiction
                196. **Dawn Of The Dreadfuls - Steve Hockensmith - Fiction (Horror)
                197. Sword of the Lady - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
                198. Intrigues: Book Two Of The Collegium Chronicles - Mercedes Lackey - Fiction (Fantasy)
                199. The Forest Laird - Jack Whyte - Fiction (Historical Fiction)
                200. Tiger- John Vailant - Non Fiction
                201. The Grand Design - Steven Hawking - Non Fiction
                202. American Vampire - Scott Snyder, Steven King - Fiction (Graphic Novel)


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