Monday, May 31, 2010

Better than Chocolate: Demon's Covenant

My favorite YA book last year was Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon, so I've been eagerly waiting ever since I found out it was part of a trilogy. I seem to have a very different sense of closure than most people, so that I'm often happy with a book when all the reviews say it's just a set-up for the next book, or I finish a book and figure it's the first half of the real thing only to find that's all she wrote. Anyway, I was glad there would be more, and I had just enough time to anticipate the second book, The Demon's Covenant.

The demon books are about family, and how far to go to protect your family, even at a risk to other people. Would you kill someone to save your brother's life? Would you kill a murderer to save his life? The two families making these decisions are a pair of brothers who live by themselves and hide from or hunt the demon-calling magicians, and a sister-brother combination who run afoul of those magicians. They become friends, but loyalties shift because family always comes first. And because they are all teenagers, the conversations are full of snark and sarcasm, just the way I like it. The dialogue doesn't ring quite true, but it's so much fun I don't care. I like how carefully detailed each character is, and how the connections between all four play out. It's the kind of book where I turn back to the first page after reading so I can savor it again, knowing how all the pieces fit together. I hope the third book is as much fun. A-

Hey, this book is second in a series! Go me!

Cosy Werewolves: Silver Borne

cover imageWell, when I say cozy I'm obviously not referring to the machine guns, or the torture-by-fae-illusion, or the minor massacre in the bookshop that almost ended up with our heroine Mercy getting devoured by her best friend. No, Patricia Brigg's Silver Borne is cosy because I know the characters and their strengths, I enjoy seeing the developments in their friendships and rivalries, and while I worry a bit about the outcomes for some of the supporting characters, I'm sure Mercy herself will make it through. She doesn't even have to angst about her love life anymore, although I did get a bit too much of her love for her werewolf fiance.

I like the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy books, and I'll keep looking for more. B.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Marching Along!

This plan of starting with picture books makes me feel like I'm making good progress already, merely because I checked out a handful of books. See, not only are the books very short, the bookcases are too. At this rate, I should finish by the end of the summer, unless I discover that moving into books with actual words slows me down.

P prefered to do puzzles and disappear mysteriously during library time last week, so I chose the books myself, but he's still willing to help me read them.
  • The Great Doughnut Parade, by Rebecca Bond. We both liked the energetic watercolors, and the progression of the pages from spare and white to crazy and colorful. The parade also moved from reasonable to crazy, with a quiet ending that charmed us both, and led to a new appreciation of the title page. This is a good book for bed time, since it leaves on a peaceful note but not one that screams "NOW I WANT YOU TO GO TO SLEEP."

  • The Good Little Bad Little Pig, by Margaret Wise Brown. Two thumbs up from P and me for this story of a pig turned urban pet. Sometimes he's good and sometimes bad. The part where I'm crying out "Hey, Emmett couldn't have a pig in the city" was lost by P, since he doesn't have a favorite book called Emmett's Pig.
  • You Bad Dog, by Lesle Baker. Lulu the little dog delights in getting Bridget the babysitting Carl's look-alike in trouble. Cute but not a classic.

  • Martha Doesn't Say Sorry, by Samantha Berger. Martha is a ground hog or something who speaks in pink, and doesn't say sorry until her family blackmails her into it. The illustations are grand; P and I both laughed at her expressions. I admit I was rooting for her to hold out; it was a bit sad when she capitulated and joined the ranks of polite society.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Large Library Haul

I misjudged some hold rates this week, so I picked up a few too many books, especially with my spring challenge goal of getting down to a reasonable pile. Oh well. Also, I went by myself, but only got one extra book. Go me!

My hold shelf offered up:
  • Demon's Covenant Sarah Rees Brennan. Which I've already read and then went back to savor the tasty bits. This YA book is better than chocolate.
  • Never Less Than a Lady, Mary Jo Putney. I also read this one, mainly because I got to hang out during a choir rehearsal. Reading was better than accidentally singing along and ruining their concentration.
  • The Power of Reading, Stephen D Krashen. Teacher book about reading. I like reading. I like reading about reading. I like reading about reading about reading, but there aren't many books about that.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan. Another YA that I've heard a lot about. It sounds like Witch of Blackbird Pond with Zombies.
  • Stolen Innocence, Elissa Wall. Child polygamist escapes after a forced marriage. Memoir.
  • Five Odd Honors. Jane Lindskold. Another book in the mah jong fantasy series which I've been enjoying.
  • Lifelode, Jo Walton. I've enjoyed everything she's written so far, but in very different ways. It will be interesting to see what this one does.
  • Thunder at Gettysburg, Patricia Lee Gauch. A picture book. In addition to doing my library read, I'm also going through the recommended lists. A few times my library recommended books they didn't have, so I request 'em.
  • Ten Little Mice, Joyce Dunbar. Another picture book; I do believe this is the last one on my preschooler recommends list! I can now replace it with the new edition.
Nine holds is a lot for my reformed self, so I hustled myself away before checking anything out other than four CD's and:
  • The Gaslight Dogs, Karen Lowachee.
Last week I checked out a few books but not that many, including another Kate Braestrup memoir. And I found the book I loaned P but can't remember where I put it. Too bad I didn't put it in my library bag...

Total Books from Library Elf (counting all the kid stuff that I'm legally responsible for even if I hope not to read it): 76. Stuff on my card: 68. Overdue and not at hand: 1.

I'll go sign up for Library Loot this week. That's a weekly event hosted in turns by Eva's A Striped Armchair and Marg's Reading Adventures (this week's host) where bloggers can share their library finds of the week. Some of them make me look restrained.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2nd Challenge: Local Habitation

I'm signing up for another challenge, although I think I'll backdate some books. I read them planning this challenge, so I think that's fair. This is The 2nd Challenge, which is for reading the 2nd book in a series. Or by an author, hmm, maybe my last book also counts. I'm going to try for a lot of books where it's the first book by an author, but the 2nd in a series. Because I'm a rebel, that's why!

I've heard a lot about Seanan McGuire urban fantasy, Rosemary and Rue, so when I saw the 2nd book, A Local Habitation on the library enticement shelves, I grabbed it. October Day is a half-fairy private detective, commissioned to check up on a small company that also happens to be a small fairy kingdom. And the scene of some recent murders. I was not impressed by the detection skills of October, since by the time she solved the mystery just about the only person left standing was the culprit, but there were some fun scenes with her apprentice and her possible love interest. Not something I'll seek for, but I'll probably eventually read something else in the series. B-

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Suspenseful Dissertation: Genesis

I love the premise of Bernard Beckett's Genesis almost as much as I enjoyed the book. Anaximander delivers her graduate defense to a panel of stern and probing judges, which a few breaks for drinks and reflexion. Her defense covers a crucial period in her futuristic world's development, when a man and a self-learning robot were forced together to see if the robot would develop more fully. She is charting the man's possible motivations and influences, and even presents a short film illustrating her conclusions.

Charlie Stross wrote a book that also dealt with robot motivations and stuff, although in his book the robot is the main character, and the Hugo-nominated book is very annoying, with a lot of time spent having the robot grow bigger boobs. This book looks at the nature of consciousness and humanity in a more nuanced way, observing the lonely man's increased reliance on the robot from the distance of an academic report, but with the huge emotional importance that a dissertation has on the writer. Failing to convince here has huge personal implications, while the subject under study had big societal importance, and the ideas presented have universal interest. I'm making it sound dry, but it's fresh, gripping, and short. A-

Yummy Popcorn Book: Rebels and Strangers

I've been in a bit of a reading slump, surrounding myself with piles and piles of partially read books but not really committing to anything. So I decided to take the pressure off with a fun science fiction romance, because the combination of space ships, sex, and a guaranteed happy endings was just what I needed. Luckily for me my local library had a Linnea Sinclair book on their recommended shelf, and her Rebels and Lovers hit the spot nicely.

You've got your super-rich but loyal and sexy computer savvy hero, your spunky but in a tight-spot space freighter pilot heroine, and lots of spies and backstabbing and hyperspace. The action moves along, the characters behave mostly like grown-ups, and all was well -- I finished the book before seeing something shiny in the shelf across the room! This is actually the fifth book in her universe, and it was easy to spot the characters featured in earlier books (because they were married and happy) but I didn't feel I missed anything. This book had much lower goal posts than the White book I just read, but it managed to hit them squarely. B+

Monday, May 24, 2010

And Falling, Fly: Wrong Book For Me

A friend of a friend wrote a book, so of course I got it and read it. I really wanted to like it, but although I found it lush and frequently intriguing, the disconnect between my expectations and the delivery kept me from really enjoying it.

Skyler White's And Falling, Fly, tells the story of a new sort of vampire, one that drinks need and fear along with blood. White is interested in the emotions of immortality, lushly describing the despair and longing for longing Olivia feels as she lives her unlife. Interspersed with her emotional twisting is Dominic's neuroscientific search for an understanding of memory, because he is convinced that his memories of past lives are signs of a mental disorder. They meet at an Irish refuge for the unworldly. White plays with their opposing world-views; Olivia who knows she is an eternal fallen angel and Dominic, who knows she is a mentally deluded vampire hallucinater. The text tries to leave both options open.

There's a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal books out nowadays, most of them light and fluffy or gory and violent. White's book exists uneasily among these tropes, borrowing the easy romance of the paranormal fluff that sits uneasily among the emotional weight she tries to give the characters. I couldn't really believe in the vast love between the two characters because they never understood anything about each other, which weakened the rest of the book. I like the way White tries to look deeper into the tropes of eternal life, but I wish she hadn't leaned so hard on the flimsy love of the easier books. C+

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Essays on Love: Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

The gentle and loving essays in Kate Braestrups's Marriage and Other Acts of Charity were a calm and encouraging oasis in my reading life. Although she doesn't skimp on the awfulness of the rough years of her first marriage, she concentrates on the benefits to everyone when adults treat each other with respect and love. Or at least try to, since as a minister she notices how frequently she fails. The marriages covered in the book include her first, with its hard times and then more joyful years until her husband dies, her second, involving middle aged lovers instead of young idiots, two marriages of her co-workers, one just beginning and one trying to tear itself apart, and glancingly, her parents and other family and friends that she encounters.

It's not a paean to the bliss of the married state, but an examination of the joy and work that family entails. I'll probably look for other works by her; her other memoir concentrates even more on her job as a game warden chaplain, I think. B+

This was supposed to be my "M" book, but I'm two weeks late. And it's not looking good for the letter "O" either.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Space Viking: Aristocrats in Orbit

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking has the rewards and flaws of classic science fiction. The characters and writing are bold and confident, sure of themselves and the value of their story. The women are even flatter than the men, and mainly stand around ministering to the sick or adoring the men. The politics are pure Campbell-era, with strong men changing history, either allowing the degenerate masses to despoil civilization or rising above and forcing society to stay on the correct track.

The best part of this slim tale is the toying with conventions. The early chapters set up the worlds of raiding planets (the Vikings, with planets named after swords) and raid-ees, either failed civilizations or degenerate ones. The Bad Guy is insanely evil, and he shows up at our hero's wedding and shoots the bride. Revenge time! Hero buys a ship and goes out into the universe searching for bad guy. Then the well-traveled path takes an interesting turn; hero becomes all wrapped up in establishing a safe base with economic trading partners and a well-organized trading system, and he can't really be bothered to stalk around the universe like a two-legged Ahab. The silly political systems are interesting in an archaeological kind of way, but the arc of healing from loss rings true. B-.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Late Library Haul

We (well, I) had a great time romping about the library last library day. When we got there P dejectedly showed me a note from his teacher, indicating that he had been neglecting an assignment and had to go to a library after school, research his topic, and turn in his report by tomorrow. What luck that I read that at the library after school!

It turns out that P had been paralized by indecision -- he couldn't pick a letter of the alphabet. Every student chose a letter and then reported on rain forest animal starting with that letter. P had been left with Q. (I suspect X was also still available.) The teacher suggested quail, but we could find no evidence of their presence in the rain forest. And Quetzels are much cooler anyway. So I helped P find the bird shelves and the rain forest shelves, and reassured him by showing him the index and how the bird only showed up on one page in each of the ten books so I hadn't really handed him 2000 pages to read.

Meanwhile the other children languished in dreary tedium. X went to the playground, but A and N didn't want to go without me, and poor A was starting a fever (as I found out later). But telling me in a LIBRARY that there isn't anything to do just starts my astonished listing of all the delights around them, which in this library includes gazing down into a river to look for fish. Finally I got them into playing (with puzzles, computer games, and some of the other delights) pretty much just in time to wail that did we have to leave already?, which meant success to my ears. I barely had time to pick up some more picture books for my read-the-library project, a few CD's of music, pay for a damaged book, and grab my holds:
  • Silver Borne, Patricia Briggs. Another in the Mercy Thompson stories, about a were-coyote and her were-wolve, fae, and vampire friends/enemies. Fun popcorn reading.
  • Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, Florence King. My next book club book, which I'm almost done with since I gave up on the library and borrowed it from a friend.
  • Embers, Laura Bickle. Recommended by Elizabeth Bear on
Total Books from Library Elf (counting all the kid stuff that I'm legally responsible for even if I hope not to read it): 72. Stuff on my card: 55, I think 22 of those are books I'm planning to read.

I'll go sign up for Library Loot this week. That's a weekly event hosted in turns by Eva's A Striped Armchair and Marg's Reading Adventures (this week's host) where bloggers can share their library finds of the week. Some of them make me look restrained.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vamp Me, Kid: The Eternal Kiss

While waiting for Sarah Rees Brennan's next Demon book (Demon Covenant, next week) to come out, I saw she had a story in The Eternal Kiss: 13 Tales of Blood and Desire. Trisha Telep asked 14 women (two collaborated) to contribute a story about vampires and maybe some kind of a kiss. The result was a bit uneven, with some stories hitting my feminist buttons hard and others packing a nice twist ending. Sometimes the vampires are the protagonist, sometimes the love interest, sometimes the evil monsters that dim the night. Sometimes they are all at once.

Brennan's story, "Undead Is Very Hot Right Now" delivers her practiced snark, showing a new vampire in the latest boy-toy band promoted by a cynical and alarming producer. The scene where he discovers that she somehow has sewn his cape to his sleeve, forcing him to do "that vampire thing" when he tries to cover his eyes from the flashbulbs of the paparazzi, had me snorting my soda.

On the weak side, Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie's "Passing" was the worst example of idiot girls, a theme that recurred several times. After spending two years in an elite vampire hunter training academy, Jenn has apparently learned which boys are available and which ones are dating other girls. Jenn has been sneaking out to smooch the local vampire lord, but luckily Antonio helpfully points out that she doesn't really like that evil undead guy, she likes HIM, and the scales fall from her eyes and she joins with him and some friends in a brotherhood of vampire killers. There is no agency and very little action around Jenn.

I wouldn't hunt this book down, but the stories were fun to read and a nice way to dip a toe into all that vampire stuff. There are a variety of different takes on the legend, from different perspectives, which ends up being an interesting way to look at youth and whether growing old is a fate worse than undeath. B-

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another Challenge -- What's In a Name

I've found another challenge I want to sign up for, since I finished a few. Some of them I mentioned, and others I didn't, because I've fallen a bit behind. A bit. Cough cough. I blame No-Screens Week, because otherwise I'd have to blame myself. Back to the challenge.

The What's In a Name Challenge posts six categories, and you find books to fit each one. I'm planning to just read along and hope to accidentally hit them all, and if not I'll frantically search in November and December to fill out the holes. I like this plan because I've already hit a few books-in-one, and I've had my eye on this challenge because of those books. The six categories are:
  1. Food. The title of the book mentions a food. I read Banana Heart Summer, by Merlinda Bobis. I guess I should get around to reviewing it so it will count. I could use Tentacles, which is about hunting giant squid (yum, endless calamari), but that is cheating and anyway I didn't review that one either. I'll get something up so I can check this off.
  2. Body of Water. I first saw this abbreviated as "water" so I was planning on using Rain Is Not My Indian Name, but I guess not. Although Beth F, who hosts the challenge, used "waves." To avoid controversy, I will substitute Gary Paulsen's Caught By the Sea. Although I should promote it from a paragraph in a catch-up post to a review.
  3. Title, such as President or Queen. Such as, Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner. Or Someday My Prince Will Come, mentioned in that catch-up post.
  4. Plant. Chalice of Roses, the romance anthology, fits nicely. It's in that catch-up post too.
  5. Place Name. Still missing!
  6. Music Term. When I read Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro, I knew I would do this challenge. It seems to be in that giant catch-up post too. I see a trend here.
Clearly the challenge for me here is in actually writing some reviews. I shall try! Thanks for a fun challenge, Beth F!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reading My Library

To celebrate reaching 100 books in the Support Your Library Challenge, I'm starting a long-running goal of reading a book from each shelf of my library. P and I paced about during their party this weekend to set the parameters. Reference books don't count. Neither do audio books or movies. I'll start in the kid's side, with picture books, move through chapter books, Early Readers, and biographies, then come back on the nonfiction side, which wraps around to Young Adult on the tall people side. I'll move around on the wall, then come back through the stacks, so alternate fiction and nonfiction for comfortable pace changing.

P think this is an insane ambition, but he is humoring me by helping with the picture books. We only did one case, since it wasn't an official library day, and then we read them all this weekend. Clearly I can pick up the pace, at least until the books go over 32 pages.
  • A Bear and His Boy, Sean Bryan. Delightful rhymes and pictures drive this book about a bear who wakes up with a boy on his head. We enjoyed the list in the front, and then checking off his activities during the day (although the list wasn't in chronological order!).
  • Another Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown. We were both hoping for another self-referential book, so this charming book about growing up from one to five was a bit of a disappointment.
  • My Special Day at Third Street School, Eve Bunting. This book made up for our meta-textual disappointment. It's the story of an author visit, with a child suggestion she write a book about the visit, and this is the book! Except it isn't; the author's name is different and the dedications don't match the ones described in the story. So it's a book about itself, except it isn't! We both like that kind of silliness.
  • Otis, Janie Brynum. The pig on the cover drew me to this book, which is about a pig with a cleanliness fetish. His parents assure him he'll learn to like mud, but he doesn't agree. I worried about which way the moral would go for a few pages, but he learns to be happy and clean.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This week was a small step back, because the library had a party on Saturday. And P and I discussed my plan to read a book from each shelf, and then we picked up a few picture books to start that plan. He's helping me read the picture books, despite thinking I am certifiably crazy. Last Thursday I had brought some stuff home for regular library day, so my total inched up a bit.

My hold shelf offered up:
  • Black Magic Sanction, Kim Harrison. Although I probably won't actually read this one; I skimmed through a bunch of it and it is too silly for me to read cover to cover. I should acknowledge that this series has left me on the sidelines.
  • The Sword of the Lady, S.M. Stirling. Another aging series. I will not be surprised if this suffers the same fate as BMS-- I hit a silly part, skip around, then declare victory. But I haven't started yet, so I will try not to prejudge.
  • Lust, Geoff Ryman. Recommended by Jo Walton.
  • Watch Me, Norah McClintock. Another YA by this author.
A few books mobbed me as I tried to get out:
  • William S. and the Great Escape, Zilpha Keatley Snyder. A new book by a trusted kidlit author.
  • Fledgling, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I read this book on the web as they wrote it, so it will be interesting to see any changes in the final version.
  • Rebels and Lovers, Linnea Sinclair. This is an author I found in the Romantic SF blog fiesta early this year, so I'll try out her newish book.
I then browsed the picture books, which is where I'm starting my read-the-library-program. There were only three shelves in the first book case, so P and I both picked two. With picture books, we decided it was OK to have a spare:
  • Another Important Book, Margaret Wise Brown
  • My Special Day at Third Street School, Eve Bunting
  • A Bear and His Boy, Sean Byran
  • Otis, Janie Bynum
Total Books from Library Elf (counting all the kid stuff that I'm legally responsible for even if I hope not to read it): 76. Stuff on my card: 59. I think N and A picked up a pile of loot at the party while I wasn't looking. I know N needed his card for something... I hope it was books.

I'll go sign up for Library Loot this week. That's a weekly event hosted in turns by Eva's A Striped Armchair and Marg's Reading Adventures (this week's host) where bloggers can share their library finds of the week. Some of them make me look restrained.