Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Finds

Posted by Simcha 6:27 AM, under | 3 comments




I had read a couple of books this week that I really enjoyed and wanted to tell you about but with my kids home for summer vacation I just wasn't able to find the time to write any reviews. Hopefully I'll manage to do so next week. In the meantime, here are a few books that I added to my TBR pile this week.

A couple of Books on the Nightstand recommendations that I really want to read:


The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

by Alice Ozma, Jim Brozina

When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundreth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college.

Alice will approach this book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her.

Books included in the Streak were: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Shakespeare's plays.


Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

by Nina Sankovitch

Nina Sankovitch has always been a reader. As a child, she discovered that a trip to the local bookmobile with her sisters was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held her immigrant family together. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of forty-six, Nina turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. In her beloved purple chair, she rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections Nina made with books and authors (and even other readers), her life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turns out, can be the ultimate therapy.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also tells the story of the Sankovitch family: Nina's father, who barely escaped death in Belarus during World War II; her four rambunctious children, who offer up their own book recommendations while helping out with the cooking and cleaning; and Anne-Marie, her oldest sister and idol, with whom Nina shared the pleasure of books, even in her last moments of life. In our lightning-paced culture that encourages us to seek more, bigger, and better things, Nina's daring journey shows how we can deepen the quality of our everyday lives—if we only find the time.

This one sounds like a promising YA dystopia book.

Eve (The Eve Trilogy #1)

by Anna Carey

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.


This week's favorite images and links:

There is a series of incredible photographs on slate.com taken by Jordan Matter of dancers posing in public areas in ways that appear almost supernatual.

 


I'm not much for posting animal pictures but this one is just too cute not to share


(Via Imgur)

And I love the villain of this Wonderella comic, The Mad Spoiler. Sounds like something out of a Jasper Fforde novel.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold

Posted by Simcha 4:39 AM, under | 8 comments

Dr. Ethan Urquhart is an obstetrician on the isolated, all-male planet of Athos where women are forbidden and infants are conceived in uterine replicators. Since the establishment of the planet, two hundred years ago, the same ovarian culture has been used for the reproduction of infants, but now those cultures have begun breaking and must quickly be replaced in order to keep the population from dying out. New ovarian tissue is ordered by mail but when it arrives the box contains trash instead of the cultures that were purchased. Athos has been swindled! Out of desperation, the leaders of Athos decide that a delegate must be sent off-planet to personally purchase some quality culture tissue, and Ethan is unanimously appointed for the job.

Ethan has never been off of Athos and is terrified that he might be forced to deal with one of those creatures of sin that he has heard of but never seen, a real-life woman. Unfortunately when he arrives in Kline Station the first person that Ethan encounters is Commander Eli Quinn, and she appears to be the only one willing to help him navigate the bewildering space station. But meeting Eli is only the first in a series of disastrous events that involve kidnapping, torture and space newts. Despite his better judgment Ethan finds himself teaming up with Eli in order to stay ahead of the thugs who are after him and unravel a plot that may put the future of Athos in danger.

Ethan of Athos is a fun and humorous, fast paced adventure that was very different from the three other books in the Vorkosigan series that I’ve read so far. While the other books revolved around military battles and Vorkosign politics this story was more of a lighthearted spy thriller, involving characters that are not regulars of the series, other than Eli Quinn, who we meet briefly in The Warrior’s Apprentice. Ethan of Athos can therefore be read as a stand-alone by those who have not read any of the other Vorkosign books, though reading The Warrior’s Apprentice does hep you make sense of the small details and references to characters not in the book.

Regular reader of the Vorkosigan books may be disappointed that Miles Vorkosigan doesn’t make an appearance here, though we do get to hear about him a bit from Eli, who clearly holds him in awe. I did enjoy getting to know Eli better and was glad to see that she had completely recovered from the battle in which her face had been blown off.

I also enjoyed learning about the all-male planet of Athos and the different ways in which they they have developed a society that functions completely without women, though I would have liked to have found out more about how it came to be and the source for their prejudices against women. I was a bit disappointed that Ethan doesn’t really question any of it when he finally does encounter cultures different from his own, though he does at least manage to lose his fear of women by the time he goes home. I’m curious to see if Athos will turn up again in any of the other Vorkosigan books. I hope it does.

Ethan himself was a pleasant enough character but he didn’t make as much of an impression on me as some of Bujold’s other protagonists. I found him a little bland and not particularity interesting, though he does gain some substance as the story goes on. I would have really liked it if Ethan had responded more strongly to his new environment as well as to the prejudice that he frequently encounters when people find out where he is from, but instead Ethan remain strangely untouched by it all.

While I would have been happy if some of the interesting issues in Ethan of Athos had been explored in a bit more depth it was still a very entertaining and fun read and I really hope to encounter Athos again in one of other books in the series.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Scifi and Fantasy Releases: Week of July 24

Wow, I don't remember the last time that I put together a New Releases list that contained so many books that I wanted. I just want to warn you right now, reading this list may put you in danger of some serious overspending.

Although I'm not usually a YA urban fantasy reader one of the books at the top of my list this week is Supernaturally, Kiersten White's sequal to Paranormalcy, which I had really enjoyed. 

A new book from Juliet E. McKenna, Dangerous Waters, sounds like it might be just the kind of fantasy that I enjoy and so it has made it to the top of that list as well.

Ekaterina Sedia also has a new book out, Heart of Iron, and after hearing such good things about her other books I'm eager to give this one a try. And the last book I want to mention (although there are several others) is a short story collection that sounds like it might be a lot of fun, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory.

And, of course, there is the new Jim Butcher novel, Ghost Stories, for all you Dresden Fans (which I am not, despite all my efforts) and Nicole Peeler's newest addition to the Jane True series, Eye of the Tempest, which I haven't decided yet if I'll be getting. OK, that's it. I promise. I will stop trying to tempt you now.

Hope you have a great reading week!

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Black Night (Madeline Black, Bk 2)
Christina Henry
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: July 26

Madeline Black is an Agent of death, meaning she escorts the souls of people who have died to the afterlife. Of course, not everyone is happy to see her...

If obstinate dead people were all that Maddy had to worry about, life would be much easier. But the best-laid plans of Agents and fallen angels often go awry. Deaths are occurring contrary to the natural order, Maddy's being stalked by foes inside and outside of her family, and her two loves-her bodyguard, Gabriel, and her doughnut-loving gargoyle, Beezle-have disappeared. But because Maddy is Lucifer's granddaughter, things are expected of her, things like delicate diplomatic missions to other realms.


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Bloodlands
Christine Cody
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: July 26
Publisher: Ace

It was called the New Badlands, home to the survivors of a cataclysm that altered the entire nation. Then the vampires arrived, and it was rechristened the Bloodlands. Not because of the vampire, but because of the gun-for-hire who'd decided to slay every monster in the country by any and every means necessary.


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Den of Thieves (Ancient Blades, Bk 1)
David Chandler
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Eos
Release Date: July 26

Born and raised in the squalid depths of the Free City of Ness, Malden became a thief by necessity. Now he must pay a fortune to join the criminal operation of Cutbill, lord of the underworld—and one does not refuse the master . . . and live.

The coronet of the Burgrave would fulfill Malden’s obligations, though it is guarded by hungry demons that would tear the soul from any interloper. But the desperate endeavor leads to a more terrible destiny, as Malden, an outlaw knight, and an ensorcelled lady must face the most terrifying evil in the land.


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The Devil's Diadem

Sara Douglass
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Eos
Release Date: July 26


Maeb Langtofte is lucky, she knows, to have gained a position in the household of the Earl of Pengraic—one of the most powerful men in England, a man whose holdings rival even King Edmond’s. She is lucky that his wife, Adelie, whom Maeb serves, is a kind, pious woman (in contrast to the Earl, whom Maeb finds dark and secretive). But when word arrives that a plague is sweeping through Europe like a human wildfire, everyone in the Earl’s household is put on edge. It is whispered that victims of this plague are spontaneously engulfed in flames—as if the flames of Hell had suddenly leapt up to claim them. It is also whispered that the Devil himself is to blame. 

As the disease spreads into England, so too does civil unrest. King Edmond calls his lords and their armies to return to London, and the Earl obeys, leaving Maeb and his family to fend for themselves. But it turns out that the Earl has been hiding far more than simple state secrets, and that his family, left alone, is at risk of losing not only their lives but also their souls. To her horror, Maeb will learn that, indeed, the Devil himself may have arrived on her doorstep. And worse, what he demands may, in fact, be running through her very veins.


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Eye of the Tempest (Jane True #4)
Nicole Peeler (Goodreads Author)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: July 26


Nothing says "home" like being attacked by humans with very large guns, as Jane and Anyan discover when they arrive in Rockabill. These are professionals, brought into kill, and they bring Anyan down before either Jane or the barghest can react. Seeing Anyan fall awakens a terrible power within Jane, and she nearly destroys herself taking out their attackers.
...moreNothing says "home" like being attacked by humans with very large guns, as Jane and Anyan discover when they arrive in Rockabill. These are professionals, brought into kill, and they bring Anyan down before either Jane or the barghest can react. Seeing Anyan fall awakens a terrible power within Jane, and she nearly destroys herself taking out their attackers.

Jane wakes, weeks later, to discover that she's not the only thing that's been stirring. Something underneath Rockabill is coming to life: something ancient, something powerful, and something that just might destroy the world.

Jane and her friends must act, striking out on a quest that only Jane can finish. For whatever lurks beneath the Old Sow must be stopped...and Jane's just the halfling for the job.


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Dangerous Waters (The Hardrumal Crisis, Bk 1)
Juliet E. McKenna
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Solaris
Release Date: July 26

The Archmage rules the island of wizards. From here he enforces the Edicts of the Council of Wizardry. Foremost is the ban on magecraft in warfare. But there is a rumour of rogue wizardry in Lescar’s recent civil war. There’s the rise of Artifice, its adepts not subject to the Archmage’s edicts. Now the Emperor of Tormalin is offering them his protection. There are corsairs raiding the Caladhrian Coast, enslaving villagers and devastating trade. Barons and merchants beg for magical aid. But all help has been refused.
This is no comfort to Lady Zurenne whose husband has been murdered by corsairs. Now a man she doesn’t even know stands as guardian over her and her daughters. Corrain, former captain and now slave, knows that man is a rogue wizard, selling his skills to the corsairs. If Corrain can escape, he’ll see justice done. Unless Jilseth, magewoman and Archmage’s confidante, can catch the renegade first, before the full extent of his villainy is revealed.
If that happens, at a time when wizardry faces so many other challenges, the scandal could have dire consequences indeed!
Dangerous Waters is the first book in a stunning new fantasy series from a major voice in fantasy.


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Germline
T.C. McCarthy
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: July 26


Germline (n.) the genetic material contained in a cellular lineage which can be passed to the next generation. Also: secret military program to develop genetically engineered super-soldiers (slang).
War is Oscar Wendell's ticket to greatness. A reporter for The Stars and Stripes, he has the only one way pass to the front lines of a brutal war over natural resources buried underneath the icy, mineral rich mountains of Kazakhstan.
But war is nothing like he expected. Heavily armored soldiers battle genetically engineered troops hundreds of meters below the surface. The genetics-the germline soldiers-are the key to winning this war, but some inventions can't be un-done. Some technologies can't be put back in the box.
Kaz will change everything, not least Oscar himself. Hooked on a dangerous cocktail of adrenaline and drugs, Oscar doesn't find the war, the war finds him.


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Ghost Story (The Dresden Files #13)
Jim Butcher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Release Date: July 26


When we last left the mighty wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn't doing well. In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin.

But being dead doesn't stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he has nobody, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own.

To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic..


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Ghosts of War (The Ghost, Bk 2)
George Mann
Genre: Steampunk
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: July 26

NEW YORK CITY IS BEING PLAGUED BY A PACK OF FEROCIOUS BRASS RAPTORS...

...strange, skeletonlike creations with batlike wings that swoop out of the sky, attacking people and carrying them away into the night. The Ghost has been tracking these bizarre machines, and is close to finding their origin: a deranged military scientist who is slowly rebuilding himself as a machine.

However, this scientist is not working alone, and his scheme involves more than a handful of abductions. He is part of a plot to escalate the cold war with Britain into a full-blown conflict, and he is building a weapon—a weapon that will fracture dimensional space and allow the monstrous creatures that live on the other side to spill through. He and his coconspirators—a cabal of senators and businessmen who seek to benefit from the war—intend to harness these creatures and use them as a means to crush the British.

But the Ghost knows only too well how dangerous these creatures can be, and the threat they represent not just to Britain, but the world. The Ghost's efforts to put an end to the conspiracy bring him into an uneasy alliance with a male British spy, who is loose in Manhattan protecting the interests of his country. He also has the unlikely assistance of Ginny, a drunken ex-lover and sharpshooter, who walks back into his life, having disappeared six years earlier in mysterious circumstances.

While suffering from increasingly lucid flashbacks to WWI, the Ghost is subjected to rooftop chases, a battle with a mechanized madman, and the constant threat of airborne predators, while the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Can he derail the conspiracy and prevent the war with the British from escalating beyond control?


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The Goblin Corps
Ari Marmell
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: July 26


Morthul, the dreaded Charnel King, has failed.

Centuries of plotting from the heart of the Iron Keep, deep within the dark lands of Kirol Syrreth—all for naught. Foiled at the last by the bumbling efforts of a laughable band of so-called heroes, brainless and over-muscled cretins without sense enough to recognize a hopeless cause when they take it on. Machinations developed over generations, schemes intended to deliver the world into the Dark Lord's hands, now devastated beyond salvation. But the so-called forces of Light have paid for their meddling with the life of Princess Amalia, only child of the royal family of Shauntille.

Now, as winter solidifies its icy grip on the passes of the Brimstone Mountains, disturbing news has reached the court of Morthul. King Dororam, enraged by the murder of his only child—and accompanied by that same group of delusional upstart "heroes"—is assembling all the Allied Kingdoms, fielding an army unlike any seen before. The armies of Kirol Syrreth muster to meet the attack that is sure to come as soon as the snows have melted from the mountain paths, but their numbers are sorely depleted. Still, after uncounted centuries of survival, the Dark Lord isn't about to go down without a fight, particularly in battle against a mortal! No, the Charnel King still has a few tricks up his putrid and tattered sleeves, and the only thing that can defeat him now...may just be the inhuman soldiers on whom he's pinned his last hopes.
Welcome to the Goblin Corps. May the best man lose.


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Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation, Bk 1)
Justin Gustainis

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