Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 31

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. It's always neat seeing what people are reading each week.

Last week I read:

The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape And The Untold Story Of American Wine by Todd Kliman. Nonfiction.

The Sword by Brian Litfin. Fantasy novel set after a catastrophe wiped out modern civilization.

Be #1 on Google: 52 Fast and Easy Search Engine Optimization Tools to Drive Customers to Your Web Site by Jon Smith. Nonfiction, business and computer book, but there's some good information there for anyone with a website.

Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read by Scott McNulty. Nonfiction book on Wordpress.

Honor Among Enemies by David Weber. Science Fiction, part of the Honor Harrington series.

What I'm reading right now:
In Enemy Hands by David Weber. The next book in the Honor Harrington series. I'm having a bit of trouble with this one as I know what's going to happen. It's a bit like a train wreck in that way.

X-Wing Rogue Squadron Vol. 1. This one's thanks to the Weekly Geeks post on Graphic Novels. Reminded me I should give them another try.

How To Cook Everything Tenth Anniversary Edition by Mark Bittman. I decided to read the book cover to cover. Finding a lot of neat recipes to try.

Stealing Fire by Jo Graham. Historical Fantasy set just after Alexander The Great.

Books I intend to read this week:

The next book in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber

Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The Wild Vine - Todd Kliman

The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape And The Untold Story Of American Wine
Todd Kliman
Clarkson Potter Publishing
Copyright: 2010

The product description:
A rich romp through untold American history featuring fabulous characters, The Wild Vine is the tale of a little-known American grape that rocked the fine-wine world of the nineteenth century and is poised to do so again today.

Author Todd Kliman sets out on an epic quest to unravel the mystery behind Norton, a grape used to make a Missouri wine that claimed a prestigious gold medal at an international exhibition in Vienna in 1873. At a time when the vineyards of France were being ravaged by phylloxera, this grape seemed to promise a bright future for a truly American brand of wine-making, earthy and wild. And then Norton all but vanished. What happened?
     The narrative begins more than a hundred years before California wines were thought to have put America on the map as a wine-making nation and weaves together the lives of a fascinating cast of renegades. We encounter the suicidal Dr. Daniel Norton, tinkering in his experimental garden in 1820s Richmond, Virginia. Half on purpose and half by chance, he creates a hybrid grape that can withstand the harsh New World climate and produce good, drinkable wine, thus succeeding where so many others had failed so fantastically before, from the Jamestown colonists to Thomas Jefferson himself. Thanks to an influential Long Island, New York, seed catalog, the grape moves west, where it is picked up in Missouri by German immigrants who craft the historic 1873 bottling. Prohibition sees these vineyards burned to the ground by government order, but bootleggers keep the grape alive in hidden backwoods plots. Generations later, retired Air Force pilot Dennis Horton, who grew up playing in the abandoned wine caves of the very winery that produced the 1873 Norton, brings cuttings of the grape back home to Virginia. Here, dot-com-millionaire-turned-vintner Jenni McCloud, on an improbable journey of her own, becomes Norton’s ultimate champion, deciding, against all odds, to stake her entire reputation on the outsider grape.
     Brilliant and provocative, The Wild Vine shares with readers a great American secret, resuscitating the Norton grape and its elusive, inky drink and forever changing the way we look at wine, America, and long-cherished notions of identity and reinvention.
I borrowed The Wild Vine on a whim. It looked interesting, despite the fact that I don't drink wine or any sort of alcoholic drink at all. For all that this is a book about wine, it's also a book about American history, and one that I found very interesting to read.

Todd Kliman's writing is clear, interesting and informative. He has a knack for writing interesting people as well as an interesting story, even for people who have very little initial knowledge of his chosen subject, such as I found.

There's a personal feeling to the history as it's retold in The Wild Vine, which makes sense, as the author is following specific people and a narrow subject, rather than the entire history of a country. All of this made the book something I enjoyed reading quite a bit.

I'd recommend this book for people who are fans of wine, even if you've never heard of the Norton. I certainly hadn't before reading the book. If you have, I'd be curious to know what you think of the wine as well as the book.

Chiveis Book One: The Sword - Brian M. Litfin

The Sword: Chiveis Trilogy Book One
Brian M. Litfin
Crossway Books
Copyright: April 2010

The product description:
This novel of page-turning action and adventure poses the question, "If a society had no knowledge of Christianity, and then a Bible were discovered, what would happen?"
Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the "ancient" world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten—until a young army scout comes across a strange book.
With that discovery, this work of speculative fiction takes readers on a journey that encompasses adventure, romance, and the revelation of the one true God. Through compelling narrative and powerful character development, The Sword speaks to God's goodness, his refusal to tolerate sin, man's need to bow before him, and the eternality and power of his Word. Fantasy and adventure readers will be hooked by this first book in a forthcoming trilogy.
This book was sent to me through the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing. First one of these that I've won.

That said, on to the review.

First of all, the book has an absolutely gorgeous cover. I know I don't often say anything about a book's cover, but now and again I do have to comment. That's part of what attracted me to The Sword. The art captures the feel of the story very well.

Unfortunately, despite the gorgeous cover, the book didn't quite live up to my expectations for the story. My first impression, once I'd made it past the actual catastrophe (which I did feel was well written and believable, especially given the tensions in the world today) was "needs a map". All the way through the first third of the book, I didn't have a clue if the story was in Europe or North America. Now, I suspect it's set in the environs around Paris, but I'm not certain.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I felt that the religious issue was done in a bit of a heavy-handed manner, as though Christianity was the only obvious good choice. Given the reviews I saw on Amazon, I suspect therefore, that I'm more on the edges of the target market, being a fantasy lover, that Litfin wrote this book for the Christian fiction market.

Dodging that issue, although I think it would have been interesting to get more of the evolution of society and beliefs to the point where they're found in the book, there were some absolutely gorgeous scenes, such as the cathedral and the rest of the wilderness. I have to admit, I did like the Lost City the best, and the wreckage of the 21st century society found there. That was a very evocative set of scenes.

Overall, I liked The Sword, but I don't think it's going to be in my "favorite books" list.

Be #1 on Google: 52 Fast and Easy Search Engine Optimization Tools to Drive Customers to Your Web Site

Be #1 on Google: 52 Fast and Easy Search Engine Optimization Tools to Drive Customers to Your Web Site
Jon Smith
McGraw Hill Publishing
Copyright: 2009

The product description:
Google Your Way to the Top of Your Industry!
It’s great to have a punchy Web site, but if you aren’t optimizing your search-engine presence, you’re just another company lost in cyberspace.
With Be #1 on Google, you can instantly put your company in the top spot of relevant online searches—and dramatically increase sales. An international expert in search-engine optimization, Jon Smith explains how to draw serious customers—not curious or bored Web surfers—to your site by
  • Registering with Google
  • Coming up with the best keywords
  • Thinking like your customers
  • Making your site totally accessible
  • Using metadata to your advantage
  • Advertising on the Web
  • Measuring what works, and what doesn’t
Containing 52 techniques in all, each of which can used immediately, Be #1 on Google is the essential guide to winning the battle for first ranking on the world’s most utilized search engine.
 I just realized that when I last read Be #1 On Google: 52 Fast And Easy Search Engine Optimization Tools To Drive Customers To Your Website back in November, that I never did review it. I intended to, but somehow it slipped my mind. Anyway, I re-read the book over the weekend. And I also changed my opinion of the book somewhat between readings.

Last time I read the book, I thought it had a lot of promise for websites. This time, I could still see that, but I also realized that Be #1 on Google is geared entirely towards business/corporate websites. There are quite a few helpful tips for anyone with a website or blog though, and also a lot of useful, free resource websites to check out. Something I still need to do for that matter. You'll just have to pick and choose which of the author's suggestions are appropriate for your website(s).

Some of the suggestions are easy enough to implement, such as making sure the image titles aren't just numeric combos, but actual words. Others, are definitely more business oriented, such as buying other, similar domain names and setting up competing websites to your own.

Mailbox Monday - May 31

Mailbox Monday is hosted each Monday over at The Printed Page. It's fun to see what everyone's bought in the last week (and to see if there's any overlap between your books and theirs). This meme does come with a warning though, so you should be aware that:
Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

My books bought in the past week:

Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read
Scott McNulty
Peachpit Press
Copyright: 2008

The product description:
Having your own blog isn't just for the nerdy anymore. Today, it seems everyonefrom multinational corporations to a neighbor up the streethas a blog. They all have one, in part, because the folks at WordPress make it easy to get one. but to actually build a good blogto create a blog people want to readtakes thought, planning, and some effort. From picking a theme and using tags to choosing widgets and building a community, creating your blog really starts after you set it up. In this book by blogger extraordinaire Scott McNulty, you learn how to:

  • Install and get your WordPress blog running.
  • Set up your site to ensure it can easily grow with you and your readers.
  • Be the master of user accounts.
  • Manage your site with the WordPress Dashboard and extend its capabilities with plug-ins.
  • Make the most of images.
  • Work with pages, templates, and links andof coursepublish your posts.
  • Deal with commentsif you even want readers commenting at all.
  • Find a themeor build one yourself.
  • Maintain your site and fix common problems.
This book has already been read and reviewed here.

Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley Hardcover
Copyright: June 1, 2010

The product description:
The all-new novel in the #1 bestselling Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.

The triumvirate created by master vampire Jean-Claude, necromancer Anita Blake, and werewolf Richard Zeeman has made Jean-Claude one of the most powerful vampires in the U.S. He's consolidating power in himself and those loyal to him, doing in America what Belle Morte did in Europe when she was at her height of power. She almost owned Europe, and there was those who are determined that Jean-Claude won't do the same in America. Jean-Claude's motives may be kinder, but as any lawyer will tell you: motives matter, but you're just as dead.

Assassins are coming to St. Louis to kill them all. Anita knows they're coming, but even being forewarned doesn't mean you can win.

Stealing Fire
Jo Graham
Orbit Books
Copyright: May 25, 2010
978-0316076395 product description:
Alexander the Great's soldier, Lydias of Miletus, has survived the final campaigns of the king's life. He now has to deal with the chaos surrounding his death. Lydias throws his lot in with Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals who has grabbed Egypt as his personal territory. Aided by the eunuch Bagoas, the Persian archer Artashir, and the Athenian courtesan Thais, Ptolemy and Lydias must take on all the contenders in a desperate adventure whose prize is the fate of a white city by the sea, and Alexander's legacy.

People Of The Book
Geraldine Brooks
Viking Adult
Copyright: 2008

The product description:
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read - Scott McNulty

Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read
Scott McNulty
Peachpit Press
Copyright: 2008

The product description:
Having your own blog isn't just for the nerdy anymore. Today, it seems everyonefrom multinational corporations to a neighbor up the streethas a blog. They all have one, in part, because the folks at WordPress make it easy to get one. but to actually build a good blogto create a blog people want to readtakes thought, planning, and some effort. From picking a theme and using tags to choosing widgets and building a community, creating your blog really starts after you set it up. In this book by blogger extraordinaire Scott McNulty, you learn how to:

  • Install and get your WordPress blog running.
  • Set up your site to ensure it can easily grow with you and your readers.
  • Be the master of user accounts.
  • Manage your site with the WordPress Dashboard and extend its capabilities with plug-ins.
  • Make the most of images.
  • Work with pages, templates, and links andof coursepublish your posts.
  • Deal with commentsif you even want readers commenting at all.
  • Find a themeor build one yourself.
  • Maintain your site and fix common problems.
I bought the book because I'm seriously thinking of starting a second blog. I could go with Blogger again, but I'm thinking that there are some features of WordPress I'd like to try out. That said, on to the review.

Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read is incredibly small for a computer book. Despite that, it's going to prove itself to be very useful, I think. The focus of the book is on the self-hosted WordPress from, and not the hosted blogging platform. It goes into detail about what you'll need in order to set up the blog, and then looks at each different aspect in more depth, including some of the problems to be aware of. There were a lot of things I hadn't thought about, but that will be my responsibility when I set up the second blog.

The process of customizing and editing the blog layout is explained well, with examples - all of which will be needed by anyone who's setting up a WordPress blog for the first time. I think this book was written more for people like me: people who've never really worked with WordPress at all and who may not have any experience with programming either. We'll see how well it turns out.

On the other hand, I don't think the title of the book, Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read, is really true to what the book actually covers. "Building A WordPress Blog" yes. In depth, even. But, I didn't really see anything that concerned the second half of the title: "That People Want To Read". I was hoping for some tips on how to write better posts, or what kinds of layouts people find work the best to attract and keep readers, or ways of promoting blogs that might be more WordPress specific. It seemed to me that the emphasis was on "making the blog", and not "making the blog a success", which was kind of what I was led to believe the book would be about.

So, overall, I'd have to say that Building A WordPress Blog People Want To Read is both a really useful book, but at the same time, also a bit of a disappointment.

On My Wishlist

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. It's where I list all the books I desperately want but haven't actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. It's also an event that you can join in with too - Mr Linky is always at the ready for you to link your own 'On My Wishlist' post. If you want to know more click here.

This is a perfect meme for me. I've always got books I'm drooling over, but can't really afford to buy right now. No sooner do I get one than something else comes up to replace it.

Anyway tops on my current wishlist is:

Snow Flower And The Secret Fan
Lisa See
Random House Publishing

The product description:
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a captivating journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. Now in a deluxe paperback edition complete with an expanded Random House Reader’s Circle guide and an exclusive conversation between Lisa See and her mother, fellow writer Carolyn See, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel is, as the Seattle Times says, “a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power.”

Honor Among Enemies - David Weber

Honor Among Enemies
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 1996

The jacket blurb:
For Captain Honor Harrington, it's sometimes hard to know who the enemy really is. Despite political foes, professional jealousies, and the scandal which drove her into exile, she's been offered a chance to reclaim her career as an officer of the Royal Manticoran Navy. But there's a catch. She must assume command of a "squadron" of jury-rigged armed merchantmen with crew drawn from the dregs of her service and somehow stop the pirates who have taken advantage of the Havenite War to plunder the Star Kingdom's commerce.
That would be hard enough, but some of the "pirates" aren't exactly what they seem . . . and neither are some of her "friends," For Honor has been carefully chosen for her mission—by two implacable and powerful enemies.
The way they see it, either she stops the raiders or the raiders kill her . . . and either way, they win.
 The sixth book of the Honor Harrington series by David Weber seems a bit like going back in time. The story feels a bit like that of the first book in the series: On Basilisk Station. There's the excitement of personal command, and all of the problems it brings. There's also the fact that situations in the two books are rather reversed. This time it's Honor who's running the Q-ships rather than the Peeps.

There's been hints of it in previous books in the series, but the actions of the Peep characters in this book are a definite reminder that at least some of them have strong, ethical codes of honor. That's what I think the title of the book means, anyway. Well, that and the fact that Honor is surrounded by enemies on all sides. After all, she's commanding in Silesia. Piracy and corruption rule the day there.

Honor Among Enemies also has strong roles for some of my favorite secondary characters: Scotty Tremaine and Horace Harkness, and Shannon Foraker is starting to make her way up that list. Then there's Nimitz. We do see a lot of treecats in this book, which I like. They're one of those things that just makes this universe, if you know what I mean.

This is a series though, so I really would recommend starting at the first book and going from there. By this point there's just so much going on in the background that I don't know how effective a starting poing the book is for someone who's unfamiliar with the series to date.

Weekly Geeks - Graphic Novels

This week's Weekly Geeks questions are about Graphic Novels:
Do you read graphic novels or memoirs? Who are your favorite authors? Which books do you recommend?

If you haven't read any, why not?

Some people have the impression that graphic novels are glorified comic books, are unsophisticated or don't qualify as "serious" literature. What do you think? If you track your book numbers, do you count a graphic novel as a book read?
For myself, no I don't generally read graphic novels, although I do have a few: the Star Wars Rogue Squadron omnibus set, and the first two of the Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. The first ones I have because I've enjoyed the Rogue Sqadron/Wraith Squadron novels. The others because I like the original novels, and I was curious as to how the graphic novels would be in comparison.

However, I don't overall find graphic novels to my taste, and I especially don't understand the current craze for putting existing novels into graphic novel format, though I think the "first time" stories such as Homecoming by Patricia Briggs and the story in the ABVH graphic novels are neat ideas. It just feels like cheating to read a novel in graphic format when it exists as a normal novel. I wonder if the people who read graphic novels of novels will also read the full novel, of if at least some of them will figure they already know the story. On the other hand, there are also those universes that are designed for graphic novels. I do admit that the artwork can be spectacular, which is the main reason I still have the Anita Blake graphic novels.

My problem, at least with the Rogue Squadron/Star Wars graphic novels is that even after finishing the first couple of stories in the first book is that I still couldn't manage to tell the characters apart.

Should I actually ever finish reading a graphic novel though, I would definitely count it as a novel read. I'm overall not certain they're really for me in general.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Would You Recommend? - Wheel Of Time & Robert Jordan

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.

The Wheel of Time is a massive series, something like twelve books and still going strong. As a result, I'll admit that I'm a bit intimidated by the thought of re-reading the books. But, I know a lot of people love Jordan's books, and now most of them have finished The Gathering Storm, they're waiting for the next book as written by Brandon Sanderson.

What I've been recommending (based on what people have been asking for at the bookstore) for fans of these are the George R. R. Martin A Song Of Ice And Fire series, which begins with A Game Of Thrones, and also the Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth series (which, I think was made into a T.V. show last year). Some people really like the latter series, and others can't stand it.

How do Steven Erikson's books stand up? Would they be a suitable recommendation for Wheel of Time fans? I know that his books are quite popular right now, but, again, I haven't read any of them. If not Erikson's books, then what other books are out there?

So, What would you recommend?

Upcoming Books - All of Which Look Good

One of my hobbies is to check on if my favorite authors have new books coming out. Oh boy, are there a lot of them this time! Some of these I've mentioned before, but others are all new.

Intrigues: The Collegium Chronicles Book Two
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Release Date: October 5, 2010

Publisher's Blurb:
Magpie is a thirteen-year-old orphan chosen by one of the magical Companion horses of Valdemar and taken to the capital city, Haven, to be trained as a Herald. Like all Heralds, Magpie learns that he has a hidden Gift-the Gift of telepathy.
But life at the court is not without obstacles. When Mags is "recognized" by foreign secret operatives whose purpose is unknown, Mags himself comes under suspicion. Who are Magpie's parents-who is he, really? Can Mags solve the riddle of his parentage and his connection with the mysterious spies-and prove his loyalty-before the king and court banish him as a traitor?

The Sleeping Beauty
Mercedes Lackey
Luna Books
Release Date: July 1, 2010

The Product Description isn't available on yet, but the one review there makes it clear that this is another of the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Looks like it could be interesting, although the review is somewhat lukewarm. Somehow I think the reviewer might not be a fan of these books. I know I'm going for it when the book comes out.

The Shadow Grail #1: Legacies
Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Tor Books
Release Date: July 6, 2010

The product description:
Who—or what—is stalking the students at Oakhurst Academy?
In the wake of the accident that killed her family, Spirit White is spirited away to Oakhurst Academy, a combination school and orphanage in the middle of Montana. There she learns she is a legacy—not only to the school, which her parents also attended, but to magic.
All the students at Oakhurst have magical powers, and although Spirit’s hasn’t manifested itself yet, the administrators insist she has one. Spirit isn’t sure she cares. Devastated by the loss of her family, she finds comfort with a group of friends: Burke Hallows, Lachlann Spears, Muirin Shae, and Adelaide Lake.
But something strange is going on at Oakhurst. Students start disappearing under mysterious circumstances, and the school seems to be trying to cover it up. Spirit and her friends must find out what’s happening—before one of them becomes the next victim…

Mission Of Honor
David Weber
Baen Books
Release Date: June 22, 2010

The product description:
The Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven have been enemies for Honor Harrington's entire life, and she has paid a price for the victories she's achieved in that conflict. And now the unstoppable juggernaut of the mighty Solarian League is on a collision course with Manticore. The millions who have already died may have been only a foretaste of the billions of casualties just over the horizon, and Honor sees it coming. She's prepared to do anything, risk anything, to stop it, and she has a plan that may finally bring an end to the Havenite Wars and give even the Solarian League pause. But there are things not even Honor knows about. There are forces in play, hidden enemies in motion, all converging on the Star Kingdom of Manticore to crush the very life out of it, and Honor's worst nightmares fall short of the oncoming reality. But Manticore's enemies may not have thought of everything after all. Because if everything Honor Harrington loves is going down to destruction, it won't be going alone.

Dragongirl (The Dragonriders of Pern)
Todd J. McCaffrey
Del Rey
Release Date: July 27, 2010

The product description:
Young Fiona, rider of the gold queen Talenth, has returned from the past, where she and a group of dragons and riders fled so that the wounded could heal from their previous battles with Thread and the younger dragons could safely grow to fighting age. Gone only three days, yet aged more than three years, Fiona is no longer a child but a woman prepared to fight against the Thread that threatens to destroy her world.

Fiona’s life takes a pivotal turn when a shocking tragedy thrusts her into a position of authority. Now she finds herself leading weyrfolk who have a hard time trusting a senior Weyrwoman who is both young and an outsider.

But even greater challenges lie ahead: Thread is falling and there are too few dragons to stem the tide. Many have died from the recent plague, and even with the influx of newly mature dragons from the past, the depleted fighting force is no match for the intensifying Threadfall. Fiona knows that something must be done, and what she proposes is daring and next to impossible. But if her plan succeeds, it just might save them all.

With a cast of familiar characters from previous Pern novels—including Lorana, who sacrificed her own queen dragon so that all the dragons of Pern would have a chance to survive, and Kindan, the harper Fiona has loved her whole life—Dragongirl is another triumph for Todd McCaffrey, and a riveting new chapter for the Dragonriders of Pern.

No Mercy
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 3, 2010

The product description:
Live fast, fight hard and if you have to die then take as many of your enemies with you as you can. That is the Amazon credo and it was one Samia lived and died by. Now in contemporary New Orleans, the immortal Amazon warrior is about to learn that there’s a worse evil coming to slaughter mankind than she’s ever faced before.

Shapeshifter Dev Peltier has stood guard at the front of Sanctuary for almost two hundred years and in that time, he’s seen it all. Or so he thought. Now their enemies have discovered a new source of power- one that makes a mockery of anything faced to date.

The war is on and Dev and Sam are guarding ground zero. But in order to win, they will have to break the most cardinal of all rules and pray it doesn’t unravel the universe as we know it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Rambling: Series

Anyone who's been reading my blog in the last couple of weeks will have been inundated in science fiction reviews, most of which are from just one series, David Weber's Honor Harrington books. And, I'm not done yet with the series, so if SF isn't your typical read, I'm sorry. However, these books did spark a couple of thoughts/questions about series.

First of all, is it possible for a series to get to be too big? I like the Honor Harrington series, but I am rather starting to wonder if/when the series is going to end. And not only are there the main books in the series, with a new one coming out next month, Mission of Honor, but there are also the two sets of spin-offs, termed the "Honorverse": the Saganami series, and the Crown of Slaves/Torch of Freedom side of the story as well, co-authored by Eric Flint - all of which are connected to the main story quite closely. And we can't forget about the anthologies of stories either. Although some of those are really good.

The other series that comes to mind as having gotten too big is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. We're at The Gathering Storm with no end in sight to the series as far as I can tell. On the other hand, I gave up on the series several books ago. Winter's Heart, I think was the last book I read. I've thought about re-reading the series, but then comes the thought "do I want to start a twelve book series with no end in sight?" followed by "a thousand pages followed only two of the main characters?". In my mind, those two thoughts are signs that a series has definitely gotten too big (at least to easily attract new readers), and may well be rather intimidating. I know I've definitely heard accusations of repetitiveness being leveled at The Wheel of Time. It's been too long since I read any of the books for me to easily say if I agree with that though.

A third thought with longer series when I've thought about reading them is "finding these in any sort of order at the library is going to be fun". Yes, that is heavy sarcasm there, but that little fact has made me think twice about picking up some otherwise promising looking series/books. Especially when trying to read out of order can leave you scratching your head.

And yet, there are some other truly massive series that I don't feel that way about at all, such as Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books or the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Possibly it's because they're made up of smaller series stretched over the course of the whole world's history, each one focussing on different characters, rather than book after book about the same characters.

What series do you think have gotten to be too big? Or am I completely off-base with my thoughts here?

The other major thing that came to mind as I started reading and reviewing my way through the Honor Harrington books is geared more towards reviewers.

Do you find yourself reviewing the series rather than the book?

To be honest, that's something I'm having to try not to do, and I'm sometimes wondering if I'm succeeding or not. Knowing that something foreshadows something in a later book, or looking at character development not in terms of this book, but in terms of the series to date. I find myself making comments about the series as a whole rather than looking at the specific book I'm trying to review.

If this is a problem for you, I'd love to know how you solve it or work around the issue. Or, do you just give in and more or less review the series as a whole?

Waiting on Wednesday - The Collegium Chronicles: Intrigues

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted each week over at Breaking The Spine. It's a great way to find out about upcoming books.

This week I'm waiting for a book that I know I'm going to like. Intrigues is the sequel to Foundation, Book one of the Collegium Chronicles, and part of the world of Valdemar.

Intrigues: The Collegium Chronicles Book Two
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Release Date: October 5, 2010

Publisher's Blurb:
Magpie is a thirteen-year-old orphan chosen by one of the magical Companion horses of Valdemar and taken to the capital city, Haven, to be trained as a Herald. Like all Heralds, Magpie learns that he has a hidden Gift-the Gift of telepathy.
But life at the court is not without obstacles. When Mags is "recognized" by foreign secret operatives whose purpose is unknown, Mags himself comes under suspicion. Who are Magpie's parents-who is he, really? Can Mags solve the riddle of his parentage and his connection with the mysterious spies-and prove his loyalty-before the king and court banish him as a traitor?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recent Releases That Look Interesting

There have been a number of books out recently that look really neat, or that I've really enjoyed reading.

Under Heaven
Guy Gavriel Kayjavascript:void(0)
ROC Hardcover
Copyright: April 2010
ISBN: 978-0451463302

The product description:
In his latest innovative novel, the award-winning author evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power.

Inspired by the glory and power of Tang dynasty China, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a masterpiece.

It begins simply. Shen Tai, son of an illustrious general serving the Emperor of Kitai, has spent two years honoring the memory of his late father by burying the bones of the dead from both armies at the site of one of his father's last great battles. In recognition of his labors and his filial piety, an unlikely source has sent him a dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses.

You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.

Wisely, the gift comes with the stipulation that Tai must claim the horses in person. Otherwise he would probably be dead already...

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
J.R.R. Tolkien
Ed. Christopher Tolkien
January 2010 (Paperback release)

The product description:
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is a previously unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien, written while Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford during the 1920s and ‘30s, before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It makes available for the first time Tolkien’s extensive retelling in English narrative verse of the epic Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and The Fall of the Niflungs. It includes an introduction by J.R.R. Tolkien, drawn from one of his own lectures on Norse literature, with commentary and notes on the poems by Christopher Tolkien.
I read and reviewed this when the book first came out in hardcover.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larssson
May 25, 2010

The product description:
The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy
Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge—against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.
If you like Stieg Larsson's books you probably don't need my reminder that the third book is out officially today.

Stealing Fire
Jo Graham
Orbit Books
 May 25, 2010
978-0316076395 product description:
Alexander the Great's soldier, Lydias of Miletus, has survived the final campaigns of the king's life. He now has to deal with the chaos surrounding his death. Lydias throws his lot in with Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals who has grabbed Egypt as his personal territory. Aided by the eunuch Bagoas, the Persian archer Artashir, and the Athenian courtesan Thais, Ptolemy and Lydias must take on all the contenders in a desperate adventure whose prize is the fate of a white city by the sea, and Alexander's legacy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mailbox Monday - May 24th

Mailbox Monday is hosted each week over at The Printed Page. Lots of fun, even though they encourage us to buy more books (like we need that encouragement at all).

Only bought one book this week though:
Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane W. Roller.

The description:
Few personalities from classical antiquity are more familiar yet more poorly grasped than Cleopatra (69-30 BC), queen of Egypt. The subject of a vast repertory of post-antique popular culture and also a significant figure in literature, art, and music, Cleopatra herself is surprisingly little known and generally misunderstood. Even in the years immediately after her death her memory was condemned by those who defeated her. The image of Cleopatra as an unfit ruler and wanton seductress who destroyed the careers of two of Rome's greatest generals-an image first created by Octavian's propaganda campaign-informs the later portrayals of her on stage and screen. Cleopatra was an accomplished diplomat, administrator, linguist (she was probably the first Ptolemy ruler to learn Egyptian), and author, who, until her very last years, skillfully managed her kingdom in the face of a deteriorating political situation and increasing strength and hostility from Rome. The fact that the wealthy and pivotally placed kingdom of Egypt held out so long against Roman conquest is due primarily to the formidable skills of its last Ptolemaic Queen. Although she is the subject of a vast bibliography, she can be unfairly represented as a person whose physical needs determined her political decisions. Some of the most unbiased data from her own era, the repertory of art and coinage produced while she was alive, are too frequently ignored. In Cleopatra, Duane Roller has written the definitive biography of the queen, not as a figure in popular culture or even in the arts and literature of the last five hundred years, but as the last Greek queen of Egypt. In addition to providing an engaging narrative of the queen's life, the author carefully contextualizes Cleopatra in the revolutionary events of the first century BCE. He highlights the important heritage of the Ptolemies, rulers in Egypt since the death of Alexander the Great three hundred years earlier, and the growing involvement of Rome in North Africa and the Middle East, culminating in Octavian's annexation of Egypt in 30 BCE. Roller also considers Cleopatra's various predecessor queens, who are often ignored but were fascinating personalities in their own right, and her descendents: although Cleopatra was seen as "the last of the Ptolemies" her daughter and grandson ruled in Africa for another 70 years and created a Ptolemaic government-in-exile at Mauretanian Caesarea. The result is the most complete and authoritative portrait of the life and times of this perennially fascinating figure.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 24

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books, and the meme is a great way to stay on track with your reading. Not that I've been doing particularly well at that. All I have to say is reading quantity is way up, but not always on the books I need to read.

Last week I read:
Flag In Exile by David Weber. Science fiction, part of the Honor Harrington series. E-book on my Kobo.

Field Of Dishonor by David Weber. More science fiction (I work in reverse order here, so Field of Dishonor comes before Flag In Exile etc.) and more of the Honor Harrington series. Also an e-book on my Kobo.

Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne. One of the hundred classic works that came with my Kobo.

The Short Victorious War by David Weber. Honor Harrington, and setting up for the next several books in the series. E-book read on my Kobo.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Science Fiction and a re-read which I enjoyed as much this time around as I did last time.

What I'm reading.

I'm still working on reading Brian Liftin's The Sword, the first book of the Chiveis series.

Honor Among Enemies by David Weber.

What I plan to read this coming week:

The Wild Vine by Todd Kliman.

The next book in the Honor Harrington series.

Flag In Exile - David Weber

Flag In Exile
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 1995

The cover blurb:
Hounded into retirement and disgrace by political enemies, cut to the heart by the murder of the man she loved, and bereft of confidence in herself and her abilities, Captain Honor Harrington has retreated to the planet Grayson to take up her role as Steadholder while she tries to heal her bitter wounds.

But the People's Republic of Haven is rising from defeat to threaten Grayson anew, and the newborn Grayson Navy needs her experience desperately. It's a call Honor cannot refuse, yet even as she once more accepts the duty whose challenges she fears she can no longer meet, powerful men who hate and fear the changes she's brought to their world are determined to reverse them. They have a plan ... and for it to succeed Honor Harrington must die.

Two irresistible forces are rushing together to crush Grayson between them, and only one woman uncertain of her capabilities, weary unto death, and marked for murder-stands between her adopted planet and its devastation.
Where the last book, Field of Dishonor, was all about Manticore, this book does the same thing for Grayson and Honor's role there. At the same time, she finally returns to space (and it's a good thing for the Grayson's that she does). Flag in Exile is heading back to Honor's normal speed of things: Full Speed Ahead!.

Although most of the Grayson people regard Honor as a hero, it's clear in Flag In Exile that not everybody does - and some of the ones who see her as a threat to their way of life are pretty powerful people too. But this book really makes the Grayson culture more understandable. It's the little things that flesh it out: they play baseball, and their church music is country and western music for example.

She does what it takes to get things done. Even if that means going for days on end without sleeping. Somehow, Honor Harrington manages it too.

I have to admit though, as much as I like these books, if you haven't read them yet, you should at least start with On Basilisk Station just to understand the world. After that, it is possible to read the books out of order (I did it, borrowing them from the library as I got my hands on them), but I wouldn't suggest it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Field Of Dishonor - David Weber

Field Of Dishonor
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 1999

The product description:
After boldly defeating the People's Republic of Haven, the Royal Manticoran Navy stands victorious, but a new political crisis and an old enemy once vanquished bring a new challenge for Honor Harrington.
The fourth book in the Honor Harrington series is a bit of a change from the previous three. Where the previous books had a focus on the big, critical space battles, the storyline of Field of Dishonor brings to life a very different aspect of the world of Honor Harrington: her personal life combined with the government of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Just because the scale of the story is smaller though, doesn't mean that it's any less important. What happens here sets things up for the next books very well.

This book is the most emotional to date, as characters from the earlier books return - as they keep doing - and change. Honor's view of herself finally changes too. Finally, she loses the view of herself as the "ugly duckling". On the other hand, enemies return too. And that's what gives us, the readers, the view of Manticoran laws, government and politics.

Honor Harrington is a character that's "real". She's determined, does what she believes is the right thing, no matter the personal cost (and that can be quite high at times), but she's not perfect either. She has her flaws, but those just make her more "real". I find her (and all her cohorts) to be great reading, although I have to admit that there are times when I'm wondering what's happened to some of the secondary characters we met in the earlier books of the series.

For fans of military science fiction, this series is one that's definitely worth giving a try.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Around The World In 80 Days - Jules Verne

Around The World In Eighty Days
Jules Verne
Signet Classics

The product description:
Take a journey of imagination.

In this all-time favorite, Phileas Fogg and his manservant set out to win a wager by travelling around the world in 80 days. They embark on a fantastic, action-packed journey into a world filled with danger and beauty, from India to the American frontier.
 Another classic novel, Around The World In Eighty Days is one that came with my Kobo Reader, just as my recently reviewed read of The Jungle Book did. Thing is, it's a version from The Gutenberg Project. All well and good, but those editions on the Kobo don't seem to have the copyright date, and gives the most recent printing date only.

Regardless of all that, the book Around the World in Eighty Days was an intriguing read. One that honestly left me feeling a bit lost at times, especially at the beginning of the story. Not because of the speed of the travel, but because I still don't understand the culture that Phineas Fogg lived in. Clubs? Uncut newspapers? But especially the clubs and organizations. They seem so important to the characters, but I just don't have the background knowledge to understand what and why.

Probably an edition such as this one with its introduction would be helpful in answering that. Either way, it's a very good read. One I wish I'd read much earlier in my life too. After the first few pages, the trip starts, and from there the action never stops. About the only form of "modern" travel not used in the story that I know of is hot air balloon. And the multiple points of view combined with the misunderstandings threading through the story make for some wildly amusing moments too.

If you haven't read this classic work yet, you should - both older children and adults will probably love it. I know that based on my enjoyment of Around The World In Eighty Days, I'm going to be giving Jules Verne's other books a try as well. Now I just have to see if I can get Journey To The Center of The Earth for my Kobo. I've already got his Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

What Would You Recommend? Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo etc

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.

Stieg Larsson's books have been all the rage for the past while, but they're really popular now the third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest has come out. The popularity of the three books has only been helped by the release of the movie version of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. Nearly every customer in the store (or so it seems sometimes) is there looking for one of the three books. Add to that, the numbers on Amazon seem to be backing that thought up. There's well over a thousand reviews and ratings for the first of the three books alone. What's somewhat unusual in my experience is that it's both men and women who are buying them. Most of the time I've found that books are more popular with one or the other.

For anyone who's been hiding under a rock (or perhaps a mountain, given just how popular the books are), the three books are, in order: The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and now, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. I think there were originally supposed to have been more books in the series, but apparently these three make a complete story in and of themselves.

This will put me in the minority, but I haven't read any of these books yet. As a result, they're perfect for my "What Would You Recommend?" post. I'd intended to use these books last week, but things ended up getting in the way of me posting last weekend.

Thankfully, I haven't had to make recommendations for readers of these books yet - everyone's been too busy getting their hands on first the paperback version of The Girl Who Played With Fire, and now the new one, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest to want suggestions for more books to read. That's probably going to be changing soo though, once they finish this book.

I'm guessing that at least some of you have read at least one of these books and can make some suggestions for what other books these people might enjoy reading next. So, "What Would You Recommend?"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blog Housecleaning

I've gone through and added a new widget: the top commenter's widget. I thought it would be interesting to see who comments the most. Unfortunately I don't know where to find the one I would have liked: the one J. Kaye used to have on her blog. Doesn't seem to be there anymore. Still this one's interesting to see.

At the same time, I've stripped out links to last year's challenges, and also updated the participants list for the Pre-Printing Press Challenge for this year.

Also added was a link to Sharon Kay Penman's blog under In Their Own Words, which is my list of author blogs.

Thoughts on the Kobo and E-readers in General

It's been a couple of weeks since I first got my Kobo E-reader. For the most part, I really love it, although I have yet to find that the battery life lives up to the hype. I get a couple of days out of it each charge (although I have to admit that I'm a fairly heavy user).

Other than that, the layout is wonderfuly simple to use. There are the main menu buttons down the left edge of the device, and the power button is on the top edge. As is the memory card slot. The only button on the front of the Kobo is the navigation button, which allows paging forward and back, as well as adjusting the font size up or down. I find the button a bit stiff for long use, I will admit, and I'm hoping it eases up over time. For now, anything more than a couple of hours reading leaves me with a bit of a sore thumb.

On to the screen. Large and easy to read, this is at the least equal to a paperback book for ease of reading. Even in bright sunlight, it was still easy to read, although I'll admit that I did jump the font size up when I was reading in sunlight. There is no glare, it's like reading on paper.

In terms of whether or not this is going to change my reading and buying habits, I think it will, if only slightly. For now, I've been finding a lot of legal and free books on the net, to download and read. Not to mention reading the hundred books that came with the device. But when it comes time to buy books for the Kobo, I suspect that I'll only be buying books I know I'll like. When I buy a book in hardcopy, I know that if for some reason it turns out I don't like it, I can still get some use out of the book through selling it at a used bookstore. With an e-book I don't have that option. Once I've bought it, I can delete the book, but I won't get anything for it as I can't pass it on. So, for new authors I suspect I'll still be buying in paper format, but re-buying some of my favorites for the Kobo.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Short Victorious War - David Weber

The Short Victorious War
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 1994

The blurb from the Baen War of Honor CD (source for my e-books on my Kobo):

The families who rule the People’s Republic of Haven are in trouble. The treasury’s empty, the Proles are restless, and civil war is imminent.

But the ruling class knows what they need to keep in power: a "short victorious war" to unite the people and fill the treasury once more. It’s a card they’ve played often in the last half-century, always successfully, and all that stands in their way is the Star Kingdom of Manticore and its threadbare allies: enemies in the past who have always backed down.

Only this time the Peeps face something different. This time they’re up against Captain Honor Harrington and a Royal Manticoran Navy that’s prepared to give them a war that’s far from short—or victorious. 

The Short Victorious War. Hah! What a title. Perhaps if Dame Honor Harrington were on the attackers side.... As it is, this book sets of the next phase of the plans of the Peoples Republic of Haven, as well as introducing some new changes to their politics.

Going back to the basics though, The Short Victorious War is the third book in the Honor Harrington series of books written by David Weber. The first two books are: On Basilisk Station and The Honor of the Queen. This is just as exciting a read as the first two books were, even though I've read them a few times.

I've said it a few times about this series, but it's worth saying again. The science seems to be well thought out in such a way that it could work, and it's well explained too. There's an appendex at the end of the book which discusses the ships, their mechanics and weaponry quite thoroughly. Not every book has such, but they're useful when they are there. And they don't always repeat material. One of the previous books had material on timespans throughout the Kingdom of Manticore and the history of the Kingdom.

The different cultures of the series are just as carefully plotted to be plausible too. Even if they're something we disagree with here and now (such as the common use of poligamy in the Grayson culture), in terms of the book, the choices made make sense within the context of the story and its backgound. That's something I think just helps with the story.

Overall, I really like the Honor Harrington series, but it's getting a bit to the point where I'm finding it harder to discuss a particular book rather than the series as a whole in these reviews.

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.
I read Old Man's War for the first time back in January (my original review is here) and absolutely loved it then. My feelings haven't really changed since. The book is the first in a series, and it introduces the world very well.

The idea of making an army out of senior citizens is a new one to me. I don't know of any other authors who've done that, but it works, especially with the methods Scalzi has chosen to use in this book. He's also thrown in twist after twist to the story - some of which come from what appear to be jokes and throwaway lines in the story. Only later do they take on their true importance. Not to mention all of the main characters. All of them are very "real" in their interests and actions and you really do get to feel for them as the story progresses.

Old Man's War has some interesting philosophical discussions mixed in with the story as well, which is nice. They're there, they make you think, but they're not done in such a way as to overpower the story. In the last few books I've read, I find that I rather enjoy that.

I've said it before, but I still find that this book reminds me of some of the Robert Heinlein novels such as Starship Troopers. So, a good read if you like classic style science fiction, but with believable science. Or at least fictional science backed up by discussions of physics etc.

Now I just have to find my copy of The Ghost Brigades.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 17

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. I find it both fun and helpful as I get to see what people are reading each week, and at the same time, the meme helps me keep myself on track by laying out a plan (or so I like to believe. This week proved me wrong again).

This past week I read:
The Tolkien Family Album by John and Priscilla Tolkien. A short biography of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald. An interesting look at the current state of affairs in Canadian politics and the growing influence of conservative Christians.

The Honor Of The Queen by David Weber. The second book in the Honor Harrington series of military science fiction. E-book.

On Basilisk Station by David Weber. The first book of the Honor Harrington series. E-book.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. A classic work of children's fiction. E-book.

The Lark and the Wren by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, the first book of the Bardic Voices series. E-book.

Changer Of Worlds ed. by David Weber. One of the anthologies set in the world of the  Honor Harrington series. E-book.

What I'm reading now:

Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Yet another e-book. I've read the book before though and really enjoyed it then.

The Short Victorious War by David Weber. The third book in the Honor Harrington series.

The Sword by Brian Liftin. Yes, this one's still on the list.

The Real Middle Earth by Brian Bates. A book about the Middle Ages and Middle Earth.

What I'm planning to read:
I don't think I need to add any more books to the list, but probably books four and five of the Honor Harrington series.

I don't really know though, as I have about a hundred and fifty or more books on my new Kobo e-reader, which I'm really loving.

The Tolkien Family Album - John & Priscilla Tolkien

The Tolkien Family Album
John and Priscilla Tolkien
Copyright: 1992

The Tolkien Family Album is a short (96 page) biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, written by two of his children (or so the family tree in the front cover of the book strongly suggests). As the title suggests, the book is set up in such a manner as to mimic a photo album, and it's the photos and other pictures that really make the book shine for people of all ages. Photographs, handwritten notes, drawings and more are all there, displayed on the pages.

Textwise, you're not likely to find much new material on Tolkien himself if you've read the Humphrey Carpenter biography of J.R.R. Tolkien (which many regard as the gold standard), but the two authors have included quite a bit about Edith Tolkien, and a number of their own rememberances of their father. The text in this book also seems to be rather geared towards children, perhaps nine to twelve years old, but it's still a charming, if quick read for any fan of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The other item of significance is that the Tolkien Family Album was put out for the centeniary of J.R.R. Tolkien's birth in 1892. I have to say the book is lovely. Well laid out, with what feels to be quality paper on the pages, and the binding is stitched (at least all this is true of the copy I have).

The Armageddon Factor - Marci McDonald

The Armageddon Factor
Marci McDonald
Random House Canada
Copyright: May 11, 2010

The product description:
In her new book, Marci McDonald documents the startling extent of the influence that the religious right already wields in Canada and shows how, quietly, often stealthily, it has provoked far-reaching changes in Canadian policies and institutions, including our public service, our schools and our courts.

In four short years, galvanized by their failure to stop same-sex marriage, not only have conservative Christians developed a permanent infrastructure in Ottawa, designed to outlast whatever party is in power, but they have done so by borrowing the rowdy style of the American religious right to which most of their leaders boast close ties. Their rise has been tied to the election of Stephen Harper and it is no secret that evangelicals have already re-shaped Harper's foreign policy in the Middle East, guided by what McDonald terms the Armageddon Factor. But few Canadians are aware that a militant band of conservative Christians with a direct pipeline to Harper's cabinet is also attempting to reshape the country's social, cultural and even scientific policies, driven by a belief that Canada has a biblically ordained role to play in the final days before Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ.
I found out about this book by listening to The Current on CBC on May 11th, when they were talking about the book and thought it would be interesting reading. On the other side of the link is the description of the radio segment, as well as an audio clip of it.

Definitely interesting reading, if only for the number of Canadian organizations I'd heard of that are actually influenced/funded/partners of some of the better known Christian organizations on the other side of the border. Of course, there's far more to the book than that, but those were fairly startling in themselves.

The Armageddon Factor looks at other things as well, such as the methods the Christian (and others, but mostly Christians) leaders in the book have used in order to get things changed the way they want them to be. They're not there yet, but as The Armageddon Factor shows, they're not going to be going away any time soon either.

One thing the book does very well is lay out just what many of the groups that seem to be the closest linked to the religious right (as they're termed in the book) believe and want to see. The terminology is otherwise quite confusing, especially if you haven't read much on the subject before. Still, a clearly written and thought provoking book, although there were a number of times when I wished the author would go into more detail about something.

Which, given the author's credentials is something I'd expect. lists Marci McDonald as having won quite a number of awards, worked for Maclean's magazine and several others, as well as having written one previous book.

The Honor Of The Queen - David Weber

The Honor Of The Queen
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 1993

The product description:
On the planet Grayson to participate in diplomatic talks between the Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven, Honor Harrington discovers that she is stuck on a fiercely patriarchal, misogynist planet.
I've said this before about some of the descriptions Amazon uses: they're not the best, but here's another example of that. Were this all I knew about the book I might not have read it. I'd have been missing out! The Honor of the Queen is the second book in the Honor Harrington series, and as such it's another page turner with politics and action intermixed.

Honor is sent as a part of an official delegation by the Manticoran government to Grayson in hopes of gaining their alliance. Grayson however, is extremely patriarchal, and to them women have no place in the military or anywhere else outside the home. To make things even more interesting, they're under threat from their even more extreme neighbors on Masada, who are being  courted by the People's Republic of Haven.

This is a book that's absolutely full of twists and turns, making it yet another page turner full of developments which will play roles in even later books in the series. The Honor of the Queen is also the first book where Susan Hibson appears. A minor character, yes, but she also stars in her own story: The Hard Way Home in the anthology Changer of Worlds.

If you're looking for an exciting science fiction read, the world of Honor Harrington is definitely it. The scope of the stories just grows from book to book as things build on past events and new characters are added. What's more, the "science" of the books seems very well thought out and believable - always a plus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On Basilisk Station - David Weber

On Basilisk Station
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 1993

From the cover of the book:

Having made him look a fool, she's been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her.

Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station.

The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens.

Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling; the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is Up To Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system.

But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They've made her mad.
On Basilisk Station is the first book in David Weber's popular Honor Harrington series which now comprises over eleven books, four anthologies of short stories which I reviewed on this blog earlier this week, and two different sets of spin-off novels (the Torch series cowritten with Eric Flint) and the Saganami books.

This is a series that's not just about the military side of things with Honor and her crew, but also the politics overall. On Basilisk Station starts with the Peoples Republic of Haven attempting to figure out how to keep their economy going (through expansion mostly) and then goes from there.

The worlds are detailed and realistic, the "science" seems to work within the limits of the story and our own real life, making it somewhat easier to suspend disbelief but it's the characters that really make the story. There's Honor Harrington herself, put into an impossible situation, Alistair McKeon, her Exec and also a good number of the crew of the Fearless. All of them are three dimensional, 'real' people, for all that they exist only on paper. And, we can't forget Nimitz, the treecat. I think he really makes the story.

All of the threads of the story come together in such a way that I had to know what happened next and keep turning the pages, even though I've read the whole series several times. I know I've reviewed this book here before. That review can be found here.

Read as an e-book on my Kobo e-reader.


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