Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Gathering Storm

Today's post is 'The Gathering Storm' by Robin Bridges. It is 386 pages long and is published by Delacorte Press which is an imprint of Random House. This is the first book in "The Katerine Trilogy'. There is a good note about Russian names at the beginning that is very useful and interesting. The intended reader is YA. The cover has a very pretty girl with blonde hair standing in a snowstorm behind her; she is looking the reader with a haunted expression on her face. There be Spoilers Ahead.

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg is noble born in Russia in 1888 and she is cursed. At least that is what she thinks. When she was a child she wished that a frog she saw dead was not and it came back to life. She believes that her power is evil so she must never do that again. With one slip when she bought back her mother's cat she has never done it again. Katiya, as her family calls her, wants to be a doctor. She wants to help people and her father is fully behind her with this dream but her mother just wants to marry her off to the man with the highest title. She goes to a finishing school with other high born girls including two princess from the kingdom of Montenegro but they are two of the main villains in the story with their brother as the other. There are balls, dresses, some fight scenes and two kisses with two different young men. Katiya must choose for herself and be brave enough to go where no one else can or will.

This was not a bad story. I liked many parts of it very much. I think that Katiya has dreams for herself  and that she will not change herself just because of some boy. She is naive which is not surprising for a sixteen year old girl to be. She is smart, like able and believable. The writing is strong with vivid descriptions, dialogue flows and in general not bad. I would have liked it better if the horror in the story was more important. I think that was sacrifice so that more girls would read it and I think that it would have been a better book for having the horror but I am not the author that is just my opinion.

My rating is three Russian stars and 1/2 a zombie. I do not get anything for my review in fact I borrowed this book from my library.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Warlock In Spite of Himself

Today's post is 'The Warlock In Spite of Himself' by Christopher Stasheff. It was originally published in 1969, then released in 1998 both are published by Ace. It is 374 pages. This was the first book that Stasheff wrote and it launched his writing career. The intended reader is everyone over the age of about 16 who likes an interesting take on sci-fi. It has some implied sexuality with dialogue and hinting but no descriptions. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

Rod Gallowglass lives in a future universe that is trying to bring all worlds into a peaceful democracy. How this is done is one agent like Gallowglass as send to unknown worlds to contact the people who live there. If they are peaceful intelligent people then he would help them by introducing new and different politics. It works to help the world join the universal democracy when the time comes. So Gallowglass lands on the world that calls itself Gramercy. It was peopled by travelers who wanted to have medieval glory again. There is a queen, with seven noble lords and many peasants. This world is a medieval one with something off. At first Gallowglass thinks that is because some how things like magic work on this world. Gallowglass gets himself named as a warlock because of his 'magic' which is really just brains and science but he cannot shake the name. He gets himself a side-kick, other than his robot horse and then hired as a soldier for the queen. His goal to help this planet become a constitutional monarchy so that it will have an easier time when the democracy comes. He meets all the people with power in the world and he saves not only the world but the future of the universe. His love interest is Gwen a powerful witch who holds the future in her hands.

I do not really have anything to say about this book. It was okay. It was not boring but I really did not have much fun with it. I think that it because this is the first book that Stasheff wrote. I can see where the seeds of a great writer are but this is not his best work. That said if you want to read the Warlock series you need to start with this one. I may read more in the Warlock series just to see where it goes but I still like this Wizard in Rhyme series the best. I think that my main problem with the book is the way women are treated in the book. They are sex objects or annoying, To expand on those points I mean this. There are women in the book everywhere but they are either just boobs with no faces, no personalities, just there for sex. Or in the case of the queen or Gwen they just get in the way; they are only really good when a man is directing them.

Rating is a 3 stars. I get nothing for this review. I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Ghost Map

Today's non-fiction post is on 'The Ghost Map' by Steven Johnson. The subtitle is 'The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic- and How it changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World'. It is 299 pages long with notes and appendixes. It is published by Riverhead Books which an imprint of Penguin Group. The cover is plain and makes it very clear that you are about to read something non-fiction and should be proud of yourself for doing it. I think that There Be Spoilers Ahead but I'm really new to this non-fiction thing so Be Ware? Or Aware? Still not sure. Oh well on with the review.

From the dust jacket- Trust Steven Johnson to put an intriguing and unconventional spin on a well-known story! The nimble-minded nonfiction writer who dazzled us in Emergence, Mind Wide Open, and Everything Bad Is Good for You now parses a storied incident from the annals of public health-- the Broad Street cholera epidemic of 1854, a deadly outbreak that literally decimated London's population in eight days. At the center of the story stand two heroic figures: Reverend Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow, whose combined efforts in mapping the disease solved the mystery of how cholera spreads and created a model of information design with wide-ranging implications. Using historical narrative as a scaffolding for some of his famously big ideas, Johnson shows how this story from Victorian times offers lessons for modern cities facing a host of problems-- from urban sprawl to environmental crises and the threat of bio-terrorism.

I am trying to get more variety in my reading diet so I am going to read one non-fiction book at a time. The reason for that is because I read about four to five fiction books at once so adding one non-fiction is pretty good. This book was wonderful. Now I have read history books because I have a college degree and they do not give other to you without having to read at least one thing mind-numbingly boring but Johnson is not it. His prose is wonderful; he tells the story of how Dr. John Snow proved to everyone that cholera was waterborne in a way that is like reading a thriller. When I read that Reverend Whitehead had some of the water from the contaminated pump I got chills. I was so worried about him that it annoyed me to have to wait to get back to see how and why he survived. Johnson taking the problem of the outbreak from all angles. He discusses the current theories of disease, where John Snow came from, why Reverend Whitehead was so important to the discovery. I read this book in about five days, I just wanted to know what was going to happen and how Snow was going to stop the outbreak. While I was reading this I was thinking about how an outbreak like this would effect the world now and then Johnson starts talking about that too. All in all a wonderful way to start my non-fiction habit.

I give this five of five stars. I get nothing for my review, I borrowed this book from my library.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Red-Headed Stepchild

Today's post is on 'Red-Headed Stepchild' by Jaye Wells. It is the first in the Sabina Kane series which is five volumes long. It is published by Orbit which is am imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. It is 328 pages long not including extras like the author interview and a preview of the next book Mage in Black. The intended reader is female but anyone who likes urban fantasy should enjoy this story. There be Spoilers Ahead.

Sabina Kane is a half-breed. She is half vampire and half mage. Mages are not just humans with magic powers but a different species from humans like vampires, fearies and demons. All are children of Lilith. Sabina has been raised by her grandmother who is the leader of the vampire society called the Dominae. Because she is a half-breed only job is open to her and that is assassin. Sabina is good at her job but it is a job for outcasts. The novel starts with Sabina burying a body that she just fed from when a friend came to her. She has been told to kill her friend because he is a traitor to the Dominae. She does it in spite of her doubts. Then her grandmother, who Sabina is totally loyal to, asks her to get close to a half-vampire half-demon who is undermining her power. Sabina is unhappy but loyalty to the Dominae is everything to Sabina. In addition to everything else she has had some strange things happening to her lately. First she has been seeing a white owl with red eyes following her. Then a mage, Adam Lazarus, just happens to be around like in the vampire club then again when is she attacked from by some thugs. The mage says that he has been sent from that from of her family who want to get to know her. Sabina does not believe him because her grandmother told her that the mage half disowned her at birth. But Adam swears that they did not know she was alive until recently. Sabina pushes him off because she has to stop the bad guy from destroying all that matters to her. Then things get complicated.

I did like this book. It is easy to read, the dialogue is believable but I have some problems. My problems are not with the writing style or word choice but with some of the characterization. As the reader we are to think that Sabina is smart but she does some dumb things in the book. Like when Adam threatens Sabina. She is refusing to have any more magic lessons so he says that if she does not he will go to the mage leaders and tell them about what is really going on. That would mean war between the mages and vampires which would cause war which would cause the deaths of hundreds of people on boths sides and that is not even the innocent people who would die in the crossfire. I would have called him on that and I would have told him what I think about that kind of blackmail. But she does not do that, she gives into it with little trouble. That makes her a little weak to me but I am willing to trust the author to see where this series goes.

My rating is 3 dead vamps and 1/2 pint of blood. I get nothing for my review and I bought this book with my own money.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Today's post is on 'Reshirts' by John Scalzi. The book in total is 317 pages long with the main story being 231 pages long, three fiction shorts at the end from 235-314 and acknowledgments from 315-317. It is published by TOR. The cover is a Star Trek redshirt on it with the saying 'They were expendable... Until they started comparing notes.' on it. The intended readers is anyone who likes, Star Trek, funny sci-fi novels and meta-fiction. Once again There be Spoilers Ahead.

The main narrative follows Ensign Anderw Dahl who has just transferred to the Universal Union's flagship The Intrepid. He is replacing another poor soul who went on an away mission. Dahl quickly realizes that this something odd about The Intrepid and away missions. Someone will die on the away mission but never the ship's captain, its chief science officer, the head engineer, the head doctor or the handsome lieutenant. There are even rules about about who will die on the away missions. Dahl begins to learn more about the tragic history of The Intrepid which was just a normal ship until five years before when anyone but those five could and would be killed by the dumbest things. With his friends who want to survive the Narrative too they do brave and stupid things to insure that. Like going back in time with only six days to stop the Narrative from killing them all.

This book was very funny. It is third person close with the reader following Dahl as he moves into this meta self-awareness. The meta in this is pretty good. Scalzi works it into the story well and he backs it up nicely with the plot. The pokes at Star Trek are pretty obvious if you have watched either the original series or The Next Generation. There is little language in this book, when it is there I understood why, I even thought the same the words that the characters were saying/thinking. There is only hinted at sexuality so no worries about that. It was a quick read for me because I was laughing with the dialogue which is really funny and clever. But I really love when dialogue just clicks. This is also my book by Scalzi and I am so excited to read the book that made him famous which is 'Old Man's War'.

My overall rating for Redshirts is four killed and one half maimed.