Book/page totals

Top 10 Lists

On this page:

Monday, October 31, 2011

read full post >

cover of Just Run

I purchased and read this book because it was the ebook was sale for 99 cents, and the description of the protagonist intrigued me: a woman math professor on the run, who sees patterns and numbers and also knows about poker from her father. I was rather disappointed with the character of Dr. Renee Carter-- she seems like the generic pretty-lady plucky heroine, with a few trappings and comments to remind us she works as a college professor. Dr. Carter accidentally gets in trouble with some bad guys because, in her role as mentor to the campus poker club, she notices a statistical anomaly that would significantly benefit the owners of the website. Because of this, a couple of bad guys come to "take care of" her and the other professors she consulted about the data. When the hit men frame Renee for the murder of the local sheriff, she ends up on the run with the regional detective who was called in, Trent Schaefer. Carter can tell there is something off about Trent (he's a little too good at surviving on the run), something he's not telling her, but she never really does figure it out, and the best that can really be said is that she survives.

Read more...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

read full post >

Warning! This book is dangerously engrossing. I started it in the evening, thinking I would just read a few chapters before I went to sleep, and I ended up staying up much later than I intended. (I think the last book I read like that was The Hunger Games...). Helen is a teenager who lives on the island of Nantucket, and she does her best to avoid attention (attracting people's attention actually gives her painful cramps); this is difficult, because she is very tall, quite beautiful, and stronger than a girl her size should be; she is afraid that she might be a freak, but doesn't admit it to herself and does her best to keep others from thinking it. The book begins just as the school year is about to start up again, and the whole island is buzzing with gossip about a new family that has just moved to the island. Helen isn't particularly interested in them, but she has started seeing visions of three bloody women (the Furies, but she doesn't know that), and having strange nightmares that seem a little too real; and the first time she sees some of the Delos boys at school, she launches herself at Lucas with an immediate, irrational hatred and tries to kill him. Eventually, Helen discovers that Lucas and his family are special, and that she is like them--they they call themselves Scions-- and that is really only the beginning of her discoveries. Apparently, the Fates are really into re-runs, and one of their favorites is the Starcrossed Lovers.

Read more...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

read full post >

cover of Vernor Vinge's 'The Witling'

Ajao Bjault and Yoninne Log-Wot are an archeologist and space pilot team form Novamerika doing an initial investigation of the planet Giri, using cameras and microphones and computer technology to learn the language and the culture of the local people, who seem to be primitive miners and farmers. Their companion colony ship is on its way down to join them on the surface, in spite of Ajao's concerns that they don't understand the culture enough, or their strange roads, or a whole class of words... And he turns out to be right, because those words they didn't understand were the ones for the Talent all the mammals on this planet have, in varying degrees: seng (a kind of far-sensing), reng (teleportation), and keng (a kind of remote-killing by jumbling a person's insides). The ferry landing goes drastically wrong, since they underestimated the power and sophistication of the local people, and Ajao and Yoninne are captured and become caught up in the political machinations of the Summer and Winter Kingdoms. Their one initial ally is prince Pelio-- heir to the throne, but himself a "witling", with so little of the Talent that he is considered a cripple, and needs to be attended by his watchbear, Samadhom, for protection from others.

Read more...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

read full post >

cover of 'Mark of the Horse Lord'

Red Phaedrus the gladiator was born a slave and unacknowledged bastard son of a Roman merchant in the household, son of a northern slave woman; when his owner died he was sold, and then sold again to be a gladiator. Phaedrus survives four years as a gladiator (no small feat), and when Governor Sylvanus Varus celebrates his appointment in Corstopitum with an elaborate four days of games, Phaedrus draws the lot of dueling to the death with his one friend among the group. He nearly loses, but when he survives he wins his freedom-- which, it turns out, he doesn't really know what to do with. Fortunately (or, perhaps unfortunately), his red hair and northern face catches the eye of a merchant who has a particular use for him.

Read more...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

read full post >

cover of 'The Tremendous Trifles'

This is a collection of short essays, taken from Chesterton's column in the Daily News.  He describes them as "a sort of sporadic diary - a diary recording one day in twenty which happened to stick in the fancy - the only kind of diary the author has ever been able to keep."  They range widely in topic-- from fairy tales, to art and color, to travel, and morality, and what it means to be human.  As he says in one essay, "let us learn to write essays on a stray cat or coloured cloud."  Many of them are little stories of moments in time, an interesting experience or an instant of insight; as he describes in one of these essays, the kind of moment that has "no explanation and no conclusion; it is, like most of the other things we encounter in life, a fragment of something else which would be intensely exciting if it were not too large to be seen."  Some of them are more entertaining or illuminating than others, but overall I quite enjoyed reading this book.  Because most of the pieces are fairly short, it is an easy book to read a little at a time.

Read more...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

read full post >

cover of 'The Story of the Stone'

Another story of the adventures of the brilliant Master Li and his stout peasant assistant Number Ten Ox in an ancient China filled with myths and monsters, with a new mystery for them to unravel. A monk from the Valley of Sorrows comes to seek the assistance of Master Li, because one of the monks has died strangely (perhaps murdered), and the Laughing Prince has been seen-- a psychotic ruler of the valley generations ago who destroyed the beautiful land with his mines, and who experimented on peasant "volunteers" to learn anatomy. Part of this mystery is a strange fragment of a manuscript that the dead monk had found, which delights Master Li immensely and is what initially draws him in to the mystery-- a forgery so beautiful and perfect in form and calligraphy, but so obviously a forgery by the content, with words and phrases that the original author would never choose.

Read more...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

read full post >

Jerusha Abbott (or Judy, as she decides to call herself) is the oldest girl at the John Grier Home (an orphanage), and when the subject of her future comes up at a Trustee meeting, along with the fact that she is quite good in school (particularly in English)-- they read a humorous essay she's written for school about the Wednesdays when Trustees come to visit the orphanage, and one eccentric Trustee decides to pay for her to go to college and educate her as a writer. He prefers to remain anonymous - she doesn't even know his name, and all she sees is a tall silhouette, and a shadow from car headlights that looks like a daddy-long-legs spider, which is where Judy comes up with her nickname for him. His only requirement for putting her through college is that she write him a letter once a month. From there on, the book is told entirely through Judy's letters to her benefactor as she goes through her four years of college. The book is a quick, entertaining read, and Judy is delightfully engaging letter-writer: the letters change style depending on her mood or the things she is learning in college, and she is good company.

Read more...

Monday, August 01, 2011

read full post >

cover of Connie Willis' 'D.A.'

This fun novelette (even shorter than a novella!) takes us into the world of Theodora Baumgarten, a student at Winfrey High School where just about everyone (except her) wants to get into the fiercely competitive IASA Space Academy. The story is told from Theodora's perspective, with her wry commentary on everything that goes on; she'd wanted to do remote learning but her mother was a "nostalgia freak", and her dad went along with the idea because he wants her to be independent, and what better place to do that than in a crowd? Shortly after the story begins, there is a mandatory assembly called, and the rumor is that one of the students has been selected to for Space Academy. No one is more surprised than Theodora that it is her name the visiting admiral announces-- particularly since she didn't apply, and really doesn't want to go into space. But things happen very quickly, no one will listen to her protests that she didn't apply and doesn't want to go (mostly because none of them understand why you wouldn't want to go or be selected for something so prestigious), and she is whisked away to Space Academy where she is sent aboard the RAH (a spaceship named for Robert A. Heinlein) and launched into space before she can clear up the mistake. Fortunately, she's got a good friend on the outside, Kimkim, who can hack into just about anything; they manage to re-establish communication and work together on figuring out just what has happened.

Read more...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

read full post >

cover of Connie Willis' 'Inside Job'

Rob is a professional skeptic and debunker who edits and publishes the The Jaundiced Eye, a little publication that tries to keep up with and discredit the various scams of mediums, channelers, psychics, and the like that people are so eager to believe and pay. He is joined in his work by Kildy Ross, a beautiful and wealthy former actress who decided she didn't want to pursue the fame game (as she tells him, she didn't want to play the love interest in "Hulk IV", date Ben Affleck, or end up in rehab). Kildy takes Rob to see Ariaura, a new psychic who claims to channel Isus, an ancient priest of Atlantis; Ariaura is clearly a poor fake, speaking in thees and thous without even getting the grammar right, and Rob can't figure out why Kildy would bother bringing him; but then, in the middle of the session, something strange happens-- another voice speaks out, a gruff, skeptical voice that sounds an awful lot like H. L. Mencken.

Read more...

Friday, July 15, 2011

read full post >

Cover of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I haven't felt very "into" Harry Potter in a while-- I think that maybe after I finished reading the last book, I felt like I was done; I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to a good series. When "The Deathly Hallows Part 1" movie came out last fall, I wasn't excited about it and I didn't actually end up seeing it until just a few weeks ago. But I guess the enthusiasm of other Harry Potter fans and seeing a few of the later movies again was contagious and got me back into it. So, I decided to re-read the last two books in the series, leading up to seeing the last movie, and I'm glad that I did. This is the book where we, with Harry, learn who Voldemort really is, and how the boy Tom Riddle became the fearsome Lord Voldemort. And we also get to see a bit more human and vulnerable Dumbledore.

Read more...

Monday, June 20, 2011

read full post >

cover of Elizabeth Moon's 'Speed of Dark'

In a near-future world, this book tells the story of an autistic man named Lou. Lou seems like a very high-functioning autistic person: he lives by himself, he drives a car to work, where he works with a team of autistic people who do some kind of abstract, pattern analysis or pattern generation that seems pretty technologically advanced and profitable to their company, and he even goes to a weekly fencing group. Early in the book, Lou is thinking to himself (during his required quarterly psychiatric evaluation, where he is careful not to say to much or say the "wrong thing") that "the speed of dark is as interesting as the speed of light, and maybe it is faster and who will find out?" This is a recurring question, which is pretty interesting in itself-- because of Lou's notion that dark must be at least as fast as light, since it is moving ahead of the light to get out of the way; but it also comes to have a larger significance in the book: certainly the darkness hints at ignorance and the unknown, but there is also Lou's discovery that the questions he asks aren't necessarily invalid even though he is "different" and has been told this all of his life.

Read more...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

read full post >

cover of Dogsbody

dogs·bod·y: A person who is given boring, menial tasks to do; naval slang for someone of very little importance.

Like the title, this book works on so many levels; it is well worth repeat readings. The luminary of the dog-star Sirius, as punishment, is sent to Earth where he is born as a half-breed pup. So, he is literally born into a dog's body, but in the process, he's also given a pretty low status, especially for someone who used to be something like an angel. I've lost track of how many times I've this book, but I still had new insights into the book this time around. When I first read of Diana Wynne Jones' death, my first thought was that I should re-read my favorite of her books as a kind of memorial, and this was the first favorite DWJ book that came to mind (although then I remembered the Chrestomanci books, and Howl's Moving Castle...).

Read more...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

read full post >

This sequel to The Eight primarily follows Alexandra, the daughter of Cat and Solarin-- although it couldn't follow The Eight properly if it didn't also have a parallel story in another time line (filled with cameos of famous historical personages); among others, this alternate story includes Charlot, the prophet son of Mireille, but it also includes some new characters including the young Haid&eactue;e, the adopted daughter of Ali Pasha who makes a journey from Albania to Europe- in part to find her natural father, Byron; but of course, there is something to do with pieces from a certain chess set. As a child, Alexandra was a chess prodigy, and on a fateful trip to Russia - where she might have become the youngest chess grandmaster ever had she won - her father is shot and killed. Now, Alexandra is a young woman living in D.C., working at an open-hearth restaurant, and completely estranged from her mother-- until she gets a strange, mysterious invitation to her mother's birthday party in Colorado. what Alexandra doesn't know is that she is being drawn into the Game that her mother has tried to protect her from since Alexandra was a child.

Read more...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

read full post >

cover of 'The Tough Guide to Fantasyland' by Diana Wynne Jones

This is Diana Wynne Jones' hilarious skewering of the many tropes and clich├ęs of fantasy fiction. It is structured as a guidebook written for a traveler, to help them make sense of or prepare for their journey through Fantasyland. The book, after an initial intro, is ordered into alphabetical sections, each of which starts with a "gnomic utterance" and has entries for places, features, or stock characters in the many worlds of Fantasyland. Throughout, the entries refer to things that "the Management" may or may not do (the managers organizing your tour through Fantasyland, of course-- i.e., the authors), and many of the entries have italicized phrases of words marked with "OMT" to indicate an "Official Management Term" (for those phrases or adjectives that somehow seem to always get used in Fantasy novels).

Read more...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

read full post >

cover of Connie Willis' 'Blackout'

Set in the same world of time-traveling historians as Doomsday Book and To say Nothing of the Dog, this book follows several historians who are going to various parts of England during the second World War, in order to observe and study history as it happens. At the beginning of the book, there is a flurry of activity as students are running around Oxford trying to get in touch with Mr. Dunworthy (or avoiding him, for fear he'll change his mind and decide their trip is too dangerous), getting their props and outfits for the period and place they'll be going, memorizing or getting implants of vital knowledge they'll need to do the research they intend or to stay safe while they're there. There seems to be something going on with the time-travel lab-- assignments are getting shuffled around and re-ordered, drop dates are getting moved up-- but the characters we follow aren't privy to whatever it is that might be causing this, and for the most part are so anxious to get out on their trips that they aren't worried too much about the bigger picture. As the novel progresses, we follow three main historians: Merope, who is working as a servant in the country where London children have been evacuated; Michael, studying the heroism of ordinary people, plans to go to Dover as a reporter so he can interview the men involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk; and Polly, who is going to London to work as a shop girl so she can study the behavior of Londoners in the bomb shelters during the Blitz. Of course, for each of them, something goes wrong that changes their assignment and their time in the past.

Read more...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

read full post >

cover of Ellis Peters' 'One Corpse Too Many'

In the twelfth century, the town and Abbey of Shrewsbury are caught up in the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud. Stephen's advisors have told him he's gone too easy on those who oppose him, so when the town of Shrewsbury falls Stephen decides to make an example of the 94 soldiers who guarded the citadel by hanging them from the castle walls. The Abbot asks the kind, thoughtful, level-headed Cadfael to take on the grisly task of preparing the hanged men for burial and cleaning them up so that the people of the town can claim any dead kinsmen. Cadfael, with his attention to detail, notices not only that there is one more body than expected, and that one of the men was strangled rather than hung. Cadfael uses his skill and knowledge to investigate this murder and figure out why and how this unknown young man ended up with the other 94 guards.

Read more...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

read full post >

cover of 'A Game of Thrones'

An intense, complicated book with a large cast of characters, and plenty of political maneuvering and betrayal. This is the kind of world where children who wander around the castle, climbing walls or trying to catch cats (as children do), are likely to see or hear something that could get them killed. The book is narrated in the third person, but each chapter follows the perspective or events around a different person, so the story starts with Eddard Stark and his family in the northern part of the kingdom, but the story ranges out as members of the Stark family travel, and as we get the stories and perspectives of other characters, such as Daenerys and Vyserys, the exiled children of House Targaryen, which formerly held the throne of the Seven Kingdoms.

Read more...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

read full post >

cover of Katherine Neville's 'The Eight'

In the 1970s, Cat Velis is a computer expert working with big-business clients until she gets sent to Algeria as a kind of punishment for not playing along with the boys' club and throwing a bid as she was asked to do. In 1790s France, Mireille and Valentine are two novices at the convent of Montglane Abbey. With the political unrest of the French Revolution, the Abbess decides she must unearth the mystical treasure that has been hidden at Montglane-- a chess set given to Charlemagne, that is, according to legend, incredibly valuable beyond the gold, silver, and jewels of the pieces themselves, but some secret equation encoded in the pieces and the board. The Abbess unearths them and scatters the pieces with nuns and novices sent out from Montglane, in order to keep the entire set from falling into the wrong hands. The stories in the two different time-lines proceed in parallel, and Cat discovers that she is caught up in something involving the same chess set that Mireille was, and that some of those pieces may be in Algeria.

Read more...

Google Search

Google