Category: Fiction

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Photoshop fail distorted woman body in long dress book jacket Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger (2013)
I really enjoyed this book. I had to take it back to the library already or I would have included some of the clever lines of text. Rats, I did take a photo of one of my favorite bits of repartee but cannot find it now.

The book has sly, clever bits of dialogue scattered throughout. Since the protagonist is only 14 years old, it gives a nice change from having “love interests” cluttering up a perfectly good story.

A touch of Harry Potter suddenly off to wizard school, in the case a rambunctious young girl goes off to “finishing school” that is more of a spy school and therein lies the fun.

I saw this book in a list of good “steampunk” stories and it fits that genre nicely. Toss in the “you can never miss with vampires and werewolves” elements, and it is a fun world to live in. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

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Time’s Up by Janey Mack

parking meter graphicTime’s Up: A Maisie MgGrane Mystery by Janey Mack (2015)

I enjoyed this as a nice read with humor and a good plot for a fun fiction read. It is the first in what will be a series focusing on the single daughter of a pair of cop/lawyer parents with five brothers, also split between cops and lawyers. At least I think five brothers, it was hard to keep track. The first handful of pages grated on me a bit because of excessive analogies, but they smoothed out and were not intrusive as I went on. The series takes place in Chicago.

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Stealing America by Dinesh D’Souza

book jacket with weird photo of Obama and HillaryStealing America: What my experience with criminal gangs taught me about Obama, Hillary, and the Democratic Party by Dinesh D’Souza (2015)

Creative nonfiction with an emphasis on the creative part is how I would categorize this book.

Arrogance oozes from so many of the commentaries he makes that it is almost embarrassing. Although I do agree that his conviction and length of incarceration in a day half-way house was ridiculous and does smack of a targeted prosecution, the fact that he sees himself as so manly that nobody tried to steal his freaking Rolex even though he was surrounded by “murderers” and “gangbangers” is just one instance of his pridefulness. He seems to take pride in the apparent acceptance and even admiration of himself by this normally threatening group of people.

I learned of a new thing to me: Christian apologetics.  Still not entirely clear on this, but it doesn’t seem to bode well for an atheist to be safe in a country of them. He also takes great pride in his many debates against prominent atheists based on his Wikipedia page (one presumes he edits it).

The book is not worth the time to read.

Banned Books Week – fun and sad at the same time

Here is a link to the New York Public Library Quiz on how well you know your banned books. I was shocked that I only got 33% correct, but some wrong answers were because I didn’t release you could pick more than one answer and sometimes pick all. One was a bit of a trick question because they were all banned, but the question was about the most banned or something similar.

New York Library Banned Books Quiz

Goodreads banned nonfiction — I find it interesting that so many people get their knickers in a twist over sexual content in books. It is like having a car and never reading the manual. We all should know how are bodies work on every and any level.

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The Martian by Andy Weir

orange cover with space-suited astronautThe Martian by Andy Weir, (paperback 2011) and now a movie starring Matt Damon. Since I am coming late to this book, you all probably know the whole story behind it, with him writing it on the web and being discovered and input from others on some technical stuff, etc. so it has a fun backstory too.

I really enjoyed it — even though I expected not to because I generally don’t care for the monologue type dramas. This one was relieved, thankfully, by the externals that were brought in. But it still had me wondering why, when it was just the usual series of man gets in bad situation, FORTUNATELY just happens to have two skill sets needed, botany to grow food and engineering to fix things, and so he proceeds to fix the problems. But since according to traditional storytelling, nothing can go completely smoothly, there must be ”
obstacles to overcome to be truly heroic. The protagonists must always be thwarted in some way, though usually not of their own fault. This was fun because the author made the hero make a rookie mistake with the drill. But at the same time, I, who is the most illiterate person I know about tools, knew enough to see that problem  coming. So it did strike me that that one was a bit contrived, but hey he’s stranded on Mars, I’ll give him a break. But yeah, the author uses the injury as the story point, but it never gets referred to again.

But he just carries on lifting rocks with no apparent impediment of a stab wound; I prefer a little more realism. When a pretty boy gets beat up, he should not magically transform to an unmarked face two hours later, nor should he be able to go on to beat the bad guys up with bare hands over and over without breaking something. But that’s just me.

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Wool by Hugh Howey

book jacket with title "wool" showing sky and green hill on field of staticWool by Hugh Howey, (2011) This book is science fiction, set in the far future, with people living in 100 story silos without the majority of the people being aware that there are other silos with living people as well. Cartoon villain, but it is hard to write good villains.

This book was a pretty good read, despite my criticisms here. It started out pretty interesting with the world building, but I had a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief that anyone designing silo underground living would NOT HAVE AN ELEVATOR. The whole protagonists must overcome “obstacles” is routine, but usually the obstacles should be believable. 100 stories and lots of equipment and so on, yet no explanation to justify why no elevators. Maybe I missed some sentence or two somewhere offering some lame excuse but I would think that it would be a critical component. However, the desire to have “runners” who pound up and down stairs (geez, not even a DUMBWAITER) to carry stuff and messages is so absurd that it really spoiled the book for me entirely. Of course, I could predict that there would be a fight and that the ability to blockade said SINGLE stairwell would be a crucial plot element (one I just started flipping through yada yada yada). Similarly, it was totally obvious that the second tube [spoiler alert, although of course you will guess before getting there anyway] would have one more person lurking.

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The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, Lola Rogers (Translation)

the core of the sunI don’t remember now how I learned about The Core of the Sun, but I am so glad I did, and so glad my public librarians are astute and consistently have almost every book I want to read. Johanna Sinisalo is Finnish, so that is unusual to have the opportunity to read books by Finnish authors. But, WOW, this book is so original and odd and the dystopia envisioned is akin to what all the critics are saying when they compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale, one of my favorite books ever.

On Goodreads, after reading some of the reviews, I wrote:

Michael’s description was well done, but did include an error: it is Vanna, the morlock lead character who becomes addicted to chilies. Manna is the sister she is looking for. And it must have been important to the author to also head the chapters with Vanna/Vera because it represents how they even took her original name away from her, just because they could or as a deliberate psychological ploy. The comment is made a bit later about not allowing women to have r in their names, but it was not explored or explained further, beyond her later meeting a morlock woman with an r in her name. But she just leaves it there, without attributing any significance to it. So I was kind of waiting for that to be a foreshadowing of a twist of some sort, or some further exploration on gendered names, but none was developed. It is a slim book, and probably would be too digressive from the narrative if she didn’t have a consistent basis for it in her world-building.

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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Layout 1Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold (“A new Vorkosigan Saga Novel”)

When I read my first Bujold I was swept away by the phrasing, the characters, the world she built, and especially the sly, dry humor. Miles Vorkosigan is one of the best characters ever created in science fiction. I especially liked Brothers in Arms because it has Ivan too. Not as fond of her other more fantasy series though. This one should probably not be read until you have read all the others in the series because the entire book is peppered with references to past anecdotes that were full stories but do not carry the same punch as it would if you knew the characters involved.

p. 128 Like an army in the Time of Isolation, this reduced them to scavenging for provisions from the nearby civilian population.”

This is a highly amusing and appropriate way to describe how Cordelia and Jole, after a night in a cabin, go to the neighboring cottage that let them borrow the cabin to stay overnight. What a colorful and charming way to say “They went and got some breakfast at the landlords,”

p. 135 He laid out the plates and her tea with his usual military precision and then stood back and cleared his throat in the time-honored signal meaning, I am about to tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

 Isn’t that a great description! nothing  routine in the description of a routine. Serving food with “military precision” and instead of having Ryk simply say, “I have something to tell you” by coming at it from Cordelia’s perspective we get to know her character better, the dry humor, and the unspoken understanding between long time comrades.

Ghem Soren’s face pinched, trying to decode this; Kaya, sighing, translated, “That means no, Mikos.” Jole thought she knew very well it meant, Over my dead body,  but the lieutenant wouldn’t have been sent to him if she’d been as lacking in nous as some of the rank-and-file.”

Isn’t that great prose!  We learn that there are cultural differences that need requiring, diplomatically, and that Kaya has the respect and appreciation of her ability to grasp nuance. Plus the humor of the common but not truly serious phrase, over my dead body to most accurately establish his true opposition.

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