Friday, January 30, 2009

Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein

Starship Troopers
Robert A. Heinlein
Berkley Publishing Corporation
Copyright: 1959
42502605095 ?

According to the back of the book:

Cosmic Combat
The Mobile Infantry of the startling twenty-second century attracts young and eager-to-serve Johnnie Rico. He enters basic training as a naive youth who must learn quickly how to cope with every soldier's problems of courage, discipline, and loyalty.

But he barely learns the value of freedom before he finds he must fight for it bravely - in fantastic interplanetary battles against he most incredible adversaries of the future.

Some older science fiction wears well, and some seems incredibly dated. Robert Heinlein has both sorts, but this book is definitely one of the former. Despite the fifty years since it was originally published, I found this story to be as gripping as that of many of the modern authors who write military science fiction such as David Weber.

It rather shows as well in the book itself. The copy I read, well it's been taped together, the cover's battered, and some of the pages are ripped. Obviously a well loved book.

Heinlein has created a very interesting world with some thought-provoking points for the reader in the many lectures on various political systems the characters give. And, what's more, the lectures don't seem out of place in the books, not like something that's been inserted to give the reader information. The fact that they make you think doesn't get in the way of the entertainment value either.

I was reading the book on the bus yesterday and got stopped several times by people wanting to comment on what a great book Starship Troopers was. It definitely fits the mold of 'classic science fiction'.

The plot is a bit typical: Boy reaches the age of adult-hood and enlists in the military against the will of his family... I've read other books following a similar line, but there are some interesting twists in this one.

On the other hand, because of the age of the book (I'm guessing), there are points where it seems very familiar. Perhaps Starship Troopers was part of the inspiration for other authors such as Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game and Anne McCaffrey (the Telepaths series)?

Not a long book, but a good one none-the-less. If you haven't read it and you like classic science-fiction, it's worth giving this one a try. This is a book I still see on bookstore shelves, and I think I can see why. Unlike some of Heinlein's books such as Time Enough For Love (which I will admit that I like a lot), this one is suitable for readers from their early teens on up. The younger readers will probably enjoy the adventure, while the political discussions are fodder for the older ones.

Guardian List of Must Read Science Fiction

Copied and pasted from Davebrendon's Fantasy & Sci-Fi Weblog:

It’s a list that The Guardian has been running, and this one focuses on SF books: if you’d like to join in the fun, just copy the list, bold all the titles you’ve read, and repost it. :-)

I see a lot of authors here that I recognize but haven't read, and some that are on my 'intend to read' list.

Here’s the list, plus my own ‘bolded’ reads.

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (195 8)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
5. Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
6. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
7. J.G. Ballard: The Drowned World (1962)
8. J.G. Ballard: Crash (1973)
9. J.G. Ballard: Millennium People (2003)
10. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
11. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
12. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
13. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
14. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
15. Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)
16. William Beckford: Vathek (1786)
17. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
18. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
19. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
20. Charles Brockden Brown: Wieland (179 8)
21. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
22. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
23. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
24. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
25. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
26. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
27. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
28. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
29. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
30. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
31. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (198 8)
32. Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
33. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
34. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
35. Angela Carter: The Passion of New Eve (1977)
36. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
37. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)
38. GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (190 8)
39. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
40. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
41. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (199 8)
42. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
43. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
44. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
45. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (196 8)
46. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
47. Thomas M Disch: Camp Concentration (196 8)
48. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (198 8)
49. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
50. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
51. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
52. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
53. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
54. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
55. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
56. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
57. M John Harrison: Light (2002)
58. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
59. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
60. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)
61. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
62. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
63. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
64. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (199 8)
65. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
66. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
67. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959) (Does seeing the play of this count?)
68. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (189 8)
69. PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
70. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
71. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
72. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
73. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
74. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
75. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
76. CS Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56) (Book 1 at least)
77. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
78. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
79. Ursula K Le Guin: The Earthsea series (1968-1990)
80. Ursula K Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
81. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
82. MG Lewis: The Monk (1796)
83. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
84. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (200 8)
85. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
86. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
87. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
88. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
89. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
90. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
91. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
92. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
93. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
94. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
95. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
96. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (198 8)
97. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
98. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
99. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
100. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
101. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
102. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
103. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
104. Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
105. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
106. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)
107. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
108. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (181 8)
109. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
110. Frederik Pohl & CM Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)
111. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
112. Terry Pratchett: The Discworld series (1983- ) (A few of them)
113. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
114. Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials (1995-2000)
115. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
116. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
117. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
118. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
119. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
120. Geoff Ryman: Air (2005)
121. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (198 8)
122. Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)
123. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)
124. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
125. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
126. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (181 8)
127. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
128. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
129. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
130. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
131. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
132. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
133. JRR Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937)
134. JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
135. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)
136. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
137. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764)
138. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
139. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
140. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
141. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
142. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (189 8)
143. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (193 8)
144. Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
145. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
146. Virginia Woolf: Orlando (192 8)
147. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
148. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
149. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

TBR Challenge Lite

Given that I've already decided to get a number of my unread books read this year, I have just signed up for the TBR Challenge Lite (version B). It looks like it will be fun, although I haven't yet set a reading list for this challenge. I'm tempted to just take books off of my existing 'To Read' list that I've already posted to All Booked Up.

One thing I'm sure of it that it will end up being a mix of both fiction and non fiction books.

So far, the books I've read for this challenge:
Tangled Webs by Anne Bishop
The Shadow of Saginami by David Weber
Island In the Sea of Time by S. M. Stirling
Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton
Bess Of Hardwick by Mary S. Lovell
Standard Of Honor by Jack Whyte

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fortress Of Frost And Fire - Mercedes Lackey

Fortress Of Frost And Fire
Mercedes Lackey and Ru Emerson
Baen Books
Copyright: 1993

According to the back of the book:

Once A Necromancer
Always A Necromancer
At least that's what all the other elves are telling the young human Gawaine about his master, the Dark Elf Naitachal. Of course Gawaine doesn't believe them; Naitachal has always treated him well and honorably, explaining that though he once was a necromancing Dark Elf, and still has the ebon skin of the breed, he long ago forsook all things black in order to become the first elven Bard.

But though Naitachal means every word he says and though Gawaine has known all along that things might get a little uncomfortable for a human with a Dark Elf master, neither has guessed what temptations the future might hold: for Gawaine to forsake his master and for Naitachal to go back to his old necromancing ways.

This is about the first Mercedes Lackey title I've abandoned. Although the publisher's note on the back says that you don't need to have any knowledge of the Bard's Tale computer game put out by Electronic Arts, in truth, I think you do, if only to make head or tail of the character's back stories. Never having even heard of the game outside of what was written on the cover of this book, I found myself at a disadvantage.

I've never before read a book based on a computer game. I guess you could argue that the X-Wing series by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston were based on the games, but to me they spun off of the original Star Wars movies. In some ways, I felt that I was reading a computer game by the point I gave up on the story here, which is disappointing as this was one of the books I'd set for myself for the one reading Challenge I signed up for thus far.

What I found was that each of the characters was very much a 'type'. There's the Dwarf, the lizard-man, the archer, the paladin and the druid, not to mention the warrior. All of them band together to face an evil. It's very much a computer game type plot.

Although the book was somewhat funny, it just didn't grip me enough to finish, and the opportunity has come to pass it along to someone who should appreciate the book more.

New template for the blog

Much as I liked the old 'Thisaway' template I was using, I found that for longer periods of time on the site it was hard to read. I think this one is a bit easier to read, albeit having somewhat less character. Hopefully this is just the first steps towards creating a custom template of my own in the future.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rambling about book categorization

I've started wondering how books get categorized by libraries and bookstores. The book that started me wondering is the one I posted about yesterday: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.

When I bought the book, I distinctly remember that I found the book on the shelf in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy section. However, when I've seen The Blue Sword on the shelf in the store in the past months it's been shelved under Teen Books. I've also found out via LibraryThing that this book is a Newberry Honor book, suggesting that it was always intended for young adults. The Ace edition which I have has nothing about any of that that I can find on it, either in the reviews, the back cover or the front cover.

That's not the only example I can think of either. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game has been shelved in both Teen and Science Fiction, as has Tolkien's The Hobbit (Childrens' and Fantasy). When I'm selling the book, I usually direct people to the editions in Fantasy, as it has (depending on the edition) either got Tolkien's own illustrations, or is the Alan Lee illustrated version.

Library cataloging gets even more confusing. Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar trilogy (Arrows of the Queen, Arrow's Flight and Arrow's Fall) were shelved in the young adult section of my local libraries, but in the bookstores they're classed as fantasy. The same thing is true of a lot of the more recent Star Wars novels. For some reason, although the majority of the earlier Star Wars novels are in the regular fiction shelves, most of the New Jedi Order books are to be found in the Childrens' department at the library. Every bookstore I've been in has them shelved as part of the Science Fiction section.

Even in the Childrens/Teen books there's a fair amount of variation. The Trickster books by Tamora Pierce are definitely for older teens, while the Immortals series and the Keladry books are, in my opinion at least, more suited to the true childrens shelves, yet they're still shelved as teen books (but not always with the other Tamora Pierce books). I found the earlier ones (Alanna and the Immortals Quartets) in the childrens department of my local library, so it seems that they've been moved upwards.

And then there's the Heinlein novels. Some of those, although categorized as Science Fiction seem more to be suited to the Childrens/Teen sections. (Of course, I'm not talking about Time Enough For Love or any of the ones like that. I'm thinking more of The Rolling Stones and the like) I'd love to know what their original audience was. Was it science fiction, or were they originally written for children?

What is it that gets a book categorized as one or the other? I'd like to know, simply to make it easier to make recommendations for people. I'm always hesitant when recommending to teens in case their parents won't approve of my suggestions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley

Edited on Feb 23, 2009 to add review links.

The Blue Sword

Robin McKinley
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 1982
Ace edition 1987

According to the back of the book:

This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.

And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King's Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle.

And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies...

The Blue Sword

This is honestly one of my favorite tales of all time. It's certainly my favorite of the books Robin McKinley has written. The first time I read The Blue Sword, it must be ten years or more now since, I was reading it at a friends, and they loaned it to me to finish. I finished it that night, and the next day started reading it from the first page again, enjoying it just as much the second time. The book hasn't lost its' fascination for me since. I reread it regularly.

The set up for the cultures reminds me strongly of the British Empire in India, at least how it's described in M.M. Kaye's books, with the Homelanders being the British. On the other hand, the Hillfolk remind me somewhat of the Beduin, so it's not a complete parallel.

Harry Crewe is an interesting character, she's certainly not perfect in any sense of the word, but she's very 'real'. Confident when she needs to be, but also very uncertain about what has happened to her, and why. Loves horses and books. The way she's blamed some of her actions on reading too many novels is perfect. I've done the same, although nowhere to the degree she has (In my case, it's learning to spin with a drop spindle). I like her, and if it were possible to have characters from books for friends, I think I'd like to have her for a friend.

There is a sense in The Blue Sword of stories and history untold. The book is simply filled with background details that are enough for the story, but leave the reader wanting to know more. Why have the Hillfolk dwindled the way they have? Who (and what) is Luthe? Why is strong kelar so rare? Why have many of it's gifts been lost? And these are just a few of the questions. Some are answered in The Hero And The Crown, but not most of them.

The story is dramatic and serious while remaining funny where it needs to be, mostly through little jokes in the dialogue between the characters, and in Harry's thoughts. There's a familiarity to the world which makes the magic and unexplained even more real. Perhaps it comes from the similarities to our world that I've already mentioned.

The one thing that bothers me a little, is the love story at the end. It seems to come out of nowhere, with not more than the slightest hints of what's to come. The relationship fits the story, and makes for the perfect ending to the book, I just think it would have been interesting to get a bit more on the characters' thoughts about each other before the marriage proposal.

I think there are some short stories set in this world, but I'm not sure. I certainly remember reading them (I think) but I can't remember in what books, or what the titles are.

Interestingly, when I first bought The Blue Sword years ago, I found it categorized under 'Fantasy'. Now, it can be found in Teen Fiction. I don't know why it's been changed, but I wonder if it has made the book more visible to readers, or less. The story certainly doesn't read like a teen novel to me.

Well worth the read, this book is one I'd almost class as being too short. I certainly give it a five star review.
Medieval Bookworm: The Blue Sword
Arch Thinking: The Blue Sword
The Book Smugglers: The Blue Sword
Crimson Cloud Nine: The Hero And The Crown and The Blue Sword

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Urban Fantasy Land Readers Choice Award

The Urban Fantasy Land blog is running a reader's choice award. If you read any of the books/authors in this genre, you should go on over and vote.

I'll be honest and admit that I haven't read most of the one they list, such as Kelley Armstrong or Jim Butcher. However, some of them I do intend to read in the future. Besides, the way the voting is set up, you only have to vote in the categories where you've read something. In my case, that was the two categories in which they had a book by Laurell K. Hamilton.

Running down their list is also a good way to add to your 'I'd like to read this' list.

Upcoming Science Fiction Gadget And Other Updates

I've added a gadget to show a list of upcoming science fiction releases on the sidebar of the blog. Currently it's showing the date for the paperback release of By Schism Rent Asunder by David Weber.

I've also added more links to other book review sites and authors' blogs in recent days.

The Protector's War - S. M. Stirling

The Protector's War - S. M. StirlingThe Protector's War
S. M. Stirling
Copyright: 2006

According to the back of the book:

It's been eight years since the Change rendered technology inoperable across the globe. Rising from the ashes fo the computer and industrial ages is a brave new world. Survivors have banded together in tribal communities, committed to rebuilding society. In Oregon's Willamette Valley, former pilot Michael Havel's Bearkillers are warriors of renown. Their closest ally, the mystical Clan Mackenzie, is lead by Wiccan folksinger Juniper Makenzie. Their leadership has saved countless lives.

But not every leader has altruistic aspirations. Norman Arminger, medieval scholar, rules the Protectorate. He has enslaved civilians, built an army, and spread his forces from Portland through most of western Washington State. Now he wants the Willamette Valley farmland, and he's willing to wage war to conquer it.

And unknown to both factions is the imminent arrival of a ship from Tasmania bearing British soldiers...

Some of my recollections on this book are a bit sketchy, as I put it down in the middle for a couple of weeks while I finished reading the Adept series. However, I did enjoy reading it a lot none the less. I still wouldn't exactly class this series as science fiction, either, even less so now than in the first book. It's kind of heading towards fantasy instead.

The Protector's War is the second of five books in this series (so far). The first was Dies The Fire, and the next book is A Meeting At Corvallis, followed by The Sunrise Lands and The Scourge of God (currently still in hardcover only). Some people say that the three books: Island In The Sea Of Time, Against The Tide Of Years, and On The Oceans Of Eternity are also part of this world. Not having read them yet, I can't say either way.

The jump from the end of Dies The Fire, the first book in this series to this one was probably a good idea, but I'd have liked to know more about how they made out in those first couple of years, for example the first winter, watching the survivors among Havel's people and the Mackenizies rediscover the ancient crafts.

I can't think of another novel in which real people alive today play a role, but the British Prince Charles is a figure lurking in the background of The Protector's War, although we never actually see him. I'm not too sure I'm comfortable with that, partly because it's not a very favorable portrayal.

Not all of the issues from this book or the previous one are resolved by the end, leaving plenty for A Meeting At Corvallis, not to mention all of the new problems that can be brought up in that one and the next ones after that.

There's still the familiarity with Tolkien and other fantasy novels running through this book. I like that, being a Tolkien fan myself. On the other hand, the number of signed first edition copies of The Lord of the Rings wandering around in the world is a bit much. In fact, that was my reaction when the first set was brought out in Dies The Fire. The set described was just a bit too perfect, if you know what I mean.

Reading this book made me even more certain that this is a world that I probably wouldn't have survived long in. Perhaps now that things are improving, but I wouldn't have made it long enough to get to that point.

If you like books by Turtledove or any other alternate historian, I'd recommend giving these books a try.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Death of an Adept - Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris

Death Of An Adept
Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 1996

According to the back of the book:
Mystic and historian, Sir Adam Sinclair is Master of the Hunt, leader of a secret brotherhood at war with the dark and unholy Powers that menace our world. In his time he has challenged the forces of evil and been victorious. Now evil is rising once again - an extraordinary evil born of ancient elemental magic and twentieth-century ambition.

And Adam Sinclair will face the most unthinkable crime against his kind: murder.
In this, the final book in the Adept series everything seems to come full circle, back to the events of the first book, with attempts by the Lodge of the Lynx, a cast of familiar villains who've been popping up through most of the other books to summon the aid of Taranis in order to take up their self-appointed task once again. At the same time, Adam's relationship with Ximena, absent except in a few references from the previous two books is taken to a new level as they prepare for marriage.

Death of An Adept is the final book in the series. The first books are: The Adept, The Adept: Lodge of the Lynx, The Adept: The Templar Treasure and Dagger Magic. Also in the same world are short stories in two anthologies edited by Katherine Kurtz, Lammas Night and, set during the Middle Ages, The Temple and the Stone, and The Temple and the Crown.

It had been long enough since the last time I read Death of an Adept that I'd forgotten a lot of the details, such as the fact that John Graham from Lammas Night has a part in this book as well. I'd thought it was just the third book in the Adept series that he came in (as well as one of the short stories), so that made it almost like reading the book for the first time. Always a neat thing to have happen.

Although this book winds up the series (and does so in a very dramatic fashion) the authors left a possible hint for more books. I just wish they'd followed through with other books. Perhaps though, this is a good end. After all, Adam is set to be married, Peregrine is married, and they'd have to find a new villain to write. More books might be a let down, although I think I'd gladly read them.

Overall, I really like this series, although there are one or two little things that niggled on this read through, namely that nearly everyone, when introduced to the supernatural and the psychic believed immediately. There seemed to be no skepticism on the part of any characters.

In all of the books in the series, any of the books from Adam's library which is used in the story, it is likely a real book: I know that Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Temple and the Lodge, both by Baigent and Leigh are real books (they're both in my library, thanks to Kurtz). It's a neat little touch.

One thing I wish when I'm reading this series is that I could wander through Adam's library and see what else he's got on those shelves. It would be interesting to say the least.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes urban fantasy.

The David Gemmell Legend Award

There's a new award out there for fantasy books this year: the David Gemmell Legend Award. According to the website, it's an award for the best fantasy novel of 2008, and they've asked for readers to vote for the best fantasy novel to form their shortlist.

Some of the books on the list include:
Mage Guard of Hamor by L.E. Modesitt
Foundation by Mercedes Lackey
Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

There are a whole host of other books as well. These are just the ones I remember seeing on the list. There's a good chance that one of your favorites will be on the list, so you should go and vote.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Just one more game please"

Down at the bottom of the sidebar, I've added a Google Gadget called "Fishy". I found it earlier today and I've been playing it all day. "Just one more game" indeed. Good luck if you can resist playing more than one game. So far, my highest score is 1500.

Dagger Magic - Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris

Dagger Magic
Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
Ace Fantasy
Copyright: 1995

According to the back of the book:
An ancient order reawakens. A modern evil returns...

Deep within a sea cave, sacred texts of the black arts have been recovered from the corroded hulk of a World War II German submarine. Within these pages lies the power to spwan a new, demonic Third Reich - and make Aryan world conquest a terrifying reality. Now they rest in the hands of the Phurba, a vile Dagger Cult older than Christianity itself.

Only Adam Sincalir can prevent the deadly blades of the Phurba from piercing the heart of humanity. Only he can quell the darkness that lives in

Dagger Magic
As usual with the Adept series, the back of the book is rather over dramatic. Especially so for this book.

Dagger Magic is the fourth book in the series. The other books are The Adept, The Adept: The Lodge of the Lynx, The Adept: The Templar Treasure and Death of the Adept. There's also Lammas Night, short stories in two anthologies, The Temple and the Stone and The Temple and the Crown set in the same world.

The authors did something new for this series with this book: they split the storyline. The book starts with the event that will set off the mystery, the death of two Irish Fisheries officers, then moves to Peregrine's wedding reception where things start to be set up for the rest of the story. There's the main line which starts with Peregrine and Julia on their honeymoon. That one starts with the two of them discovering a dead body washed up on the beach. However, there are some hints that come earlier of another plotline where there are a mysterious series of accidents happening along a particular road. I don't want to go into detail lest I spoil the book though. Either way, the two combine to make a book that's twice the size of any of the previous three volumes in the series.

As I said with the previous books in the series, I think it would be neat to have visited Scotland, as the author has thrown in little details that would make it easier to see the places described if I'd already seen them. It's something I've noticed when I've read books that show places I've been, there's just that little extra bit of enjoyment there when something you've seen is well described.

The cover of this book, I found when I was reading it this time can be rather off-putting to anyone around you. It stars a rather gruesome dagger and the Nazi swastika on a vivid red background. I found passers by asking what I was reading, mostly I think, through disapproval of the cover being in a public place. Funnily enough, it's never bothered me. Neither has the cover of Lammas Night, which is similar in layout and subject.

I wish I knew of books with a similar style to this series as I keep reading and re-reading it, enjoying it more each time.

Writing In History - Jeffrey Alexander

Writing In History
Jeffrey W. Alexander and Joy Dixon
Thompson Nelson
Copyright: 2006

I wish I'd found out about this book back when it first came out as reading it has been most helpful for my understanding of what it takes to write a proper paper for an upper level university course in history (probably also for the Classical Studies department). Now that I'm almost done with my degree, it's not going to be all that helpful. Still, it should improve the final few papers I hand in.

Some of the material is obvious and basic, such as writing proper thesis statements, but other bits are really helpful. For example, the section on coming up with a proper title, or making a strong conclusion. Also, proper use of quotations, citations and the like. None of the style guides I've read went into that at all. There are sections on various types of sources, both original and secondary, and even some discussion of sources you might not normally think of using, such as novels.

The book also discusses various types of assignments that students might be assigned such as book reports and journal writing as well as the main subject of research papers (I'd say these are the majority of term papers we students are assigned).

Writing in History is a really short book at less than a hundred pages, but well worth the evening it takes to read. I've never seen a professionally published book bound with staples the way a magazine is, but I guess it doesn't really need anything more.

Frankly, I think this should be a required/optional book for all history classes, as once you've got it, you don't need to buy it again, but at least you will know about it and be able to take advantage of the advice the book gives.

Thinking about it, although the book is geared to university students, it might be helpful for the final years of high school as well.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Templar Treasure - Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris

Edited January 20th to add links to the other books in the series.
Edited August 21, 2011 to add the cover image.

The Templar Treasure

Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
Ace Books
Copyright: 1993

According to the back of the book:
A Secret Brotherhood. An Ancient Evil...

Mystic and historian, Sir Adam Sinclair is Master of the Hunt, leader of a secret brotherhood at war with the dark and unholy Powers that menace our world.

Now an urgent summons sets the Adept on a life or death search for the Seal of Solomon, an ancient bronze artifact that can bind - or unleash - the demons of old. Guarded for centuries by the legendary Knights Templar, the Seal has been stolen by ruthless and dangerous forces.

If humanity is to survive, Sinclair mus complete the quest for...

The Templar Treasure
This is the third book in the series. The other books are The Adept, The Adept: The Lodge of the Lynx, Dagger Magic and Death of an Adept. Also set in the same world are Lammas Night, The Temple and the Stone, and The Temple and the Crown.

The authors have filled this book with lots of little details that fill out the locations and scenes. I just wish I was more familiar with the settings. I think someone from Scotland or England who's visited Scotland before might have an even greater appreciation for the settings of the books. I know I do when I read books set in places I know or have been to.

The Templar Treasure is set about nine months after the end of The Lodge of the Lynx, and clearly things have happened since then, although everyone is still alright. Some of the things are setting up the next two books, like the relationship between Peregrine Lovat and Julia Barrett, introduced in the first book. Also the one between Ximenia and Adam.

The villains are all new as well, although just as interesting as the ones in the first two books. I can't help having some sympathy for Henri Gerard as well, despite all of the evil he ends up setting off.

Unlike the previous two books, the authors leave some of the side situations unanswered, and they don't come back to them in later books. I'd love to know what it was that Adam and the others found at Fyvie Castle in that hidden room. On the other hand, perhaps it's best not to know, even though the books are fiction.

This is the book which introduced the character of John Graham to me, although there is nothing said in The Templar Treasure to suggest that he has his own book, Lammas Night. That information came from one of the two stories set in this world in the three Templar anthologies Kurtz has edited.

Although I've seen some reviews criticizing writing in these books, to me they are 'old friends' that I can keep coming back to and enjoying over the years.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Unread Books 2009

Edited December 12, 2009 to add a number of books I've bought recently.

I've been joking for the past year or so that my 'To Read' pile is taller than I am. I'm no longer certain it's a joke, as I've been compiling a list of the books I own but haven't read yet. This year I intend to read at least ten of them. The list below is probably about half of the books in this category, and it's a mix of fiction and non-fiction (most of which are books on history, with a sizable mix of biographies thrown in for good measure). Once I've read a book on this list I'm linking from here to the review page for that title. Those books will also be marked with **.

Breath of Snow And Ashes - Diana Gabaldon - Fiction
Lord John And The Brotherhood of the Blade - Diana Gabaldon - Fiction
Lord John And The Hand Of Devils - Diana Gabaldon - Fiction
Star Wars: X-Wing Omnibus 3 - Michael Stackpole - Fiction (Graphic Novel)
**Blood Noir - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction
Strange Candy - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Anthology)
The Children of Hurin - J.R.R. Tolkien - Fiction (Fantasy)
On Faerie Stories - Ed. Verilyn Flieger - Non Fiction
The Tolkien Legendarium - Ed. Carl Hostetter - Non Fiction
Splintered Light: Logos And Language In Middle-Earth - Verilyn Flieger - Non Fiction
**Mr. Bliss - J.R.R. Tolkien - Fiction
Life In A Medieval City - Francis and Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
Life In A Medieval Castle - Francis and Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
Women In The Medieval World - Francis And Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
The Histories - Herodotus - Non Fiction (History)
The Peloponnesian War - Thucydides - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
The Name Of The Rose - Umberto Ecco - Fiction
**Standard Of Honour - Jack Whyte - Fiction
The Eagle - Jack Whyte - Fiction
Absolute Honor - C. C. Humphries - Fiction
The Battle For Middle-Earth - Bonnie Rutledge - Non Fiction
The Ring Of Words - Jeremy H. Marshall - Non Fiction
Greek Lives - Plutarch - Non Fiction (History, Biography, Primary Source)
Roman Lives - Plutarch - Non Fiction (History, Biography, Primary Source)
**The Shadow of Saganami - David Weber - Fiction (Science Fiction)
The Forever Hero - L.E. Modesitt - Fiction (Science Fiction)
A Flame In Hali - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross - Fiction (Fantasy)
The Fall of Neskaya - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross - Fiction (Fantasy)
Zandru's Forge - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Ravens of Avalon - Diana L. Paxon - Fiction (Fantasy)
Ancestors of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley - Fiction (Fantasy)
God's War - Christopher Tyerman - Non Fiction (History)
**Fighting For Christendom - Christopher Tyerman - Non Fiction (History) (read as A Brief History of the Crusades)
Barbarians To Angels - Peter Wells - Non Fiction (History)
The Eagle and the Raven - Pauline Gedge - Fiction
On The Oceans Of Eternity - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
**Island In The Sea Of Time - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
**Against The Tide Of Years - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
**A Meeting At Corvalis - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
The Sunrise Lands - S. M. Stirling - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Tolkien: A Celebration - Joseph Pearce - Non Fiction
**Beowulf - Trans. Chickering - Poetry (Primary Source)
Beowulf - Trans. Seamus Heany - Poetry (Primary Source)
Job: A Comedy Of Justice - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Darwin's Paradox - Nina Munteanu - Fiction (Science Fiction)
**Tangled Webs - Anne Bishop - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Lady Of The Forest - Jennifer Roberson - Fiction (Romance)
**Lady Of Sherwood - Jennifer Roberson - Fiction (Romance)
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Reader's Guide - Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull - Non Fiction
The History Of The Hobbit: Mr. Baggins - John Rateliff - Non Fiction
The History Of The Hobbit: Return To Bag-End - John Rateliff - Non Fiction
The Last Light Of The Sun - Guy Gavriel Kay - Fiction (Fantasy)
Masters Of Fantasy - Anthology (Fantasy)
Lives of the Twelve Caeasars - Suetonius - Non Fiction (History, Biography, Primary Source)
The Annals - Tacitus - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
**Bess Of Hardwick - Mary Lovell - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
An Imperial Possession - David Mattingly - Non Fiction (History)
The Peloponnesian War - Donald Kagan - Non Fiction (History)
Augustus: The Life Of Rome's First Emperor - Anthony Everitt - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
Cicero - Anthony Everitt - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
The Dark Champion - Kinley MacGregor - Fiction (Romance)
Caesar - Adrian Goldworthy - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
The Fall Of The Roman Empire - Peter Heather - Non Fiction (History)
Xenophon's Retreat - Robin Waterfield - Non Fiction (History)
Isabella - Alison Weir - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
Anthony And Cleopatra - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
Richard III - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Shakespeare - Fiction
The Comedy Of Errors - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
All's Well That Ends Well - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
Troilus And Cressida - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
Henry IV Part One - Shakespeare - Fiction (Primary Source)
The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer - Poetry (Primary Source)
The Saga of Grettir The Strong - Fiction (Primary Source)
The Conquest Of Gaul - Julius Caesar - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
The Witch World - Andre Norton - Fiction (Fantasy)
The Annotated Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien - Fiction (Fantasy)
Rome And Jerusalem - Martin Goodman - Non Fiction (History)
The History of Britain - Simon Schama - Non Fiction (History)
A Distant Mirror - Barbara Tuchman - Non Fiction (History)
Thomas More's Magician - Toby Green - Fiction
Metamorphosis - Ovid - Poetry (Primary Source)
Mary Queen Of Scots and Lord Darnley - Alison Weir - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
Mary Queen Of Scots - Antonia Fraiser - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
Thomas Cromwell - Antonia Fraiser - Non Fiction (History, Biography)
The Medieval World - Eds. Peter Linehan & Janet L. Nelson - Non Fiction (History)
The Conquest - Elizabeth Chadwick - Fiction
The Archer's Tale - Bernard Cornwell - Fiction
Albion - Peter Ackroyd - Non Fiction (History)
Europe And The Middle Ages - Edward Peters - Non Fiction (History)
The Age of the Cathedrals - Georges Duby - Non Fiction (History)
A History Of Private Life I - Non Fiction (History)
A History Of Private Life II - Non Fiction (History)
The Peasantries Of Europe - Ed. Tom Scott - Non Fiction (History)
Law And Life of Rome - J. A. Crook - Non Fiction (History)
The Temple And the Lodge - Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh - Non Fiction
The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception - Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh - Non Fiction
The Battle Of Salamis - Barry Strauss - Non Fiction (History)
**Pilgrimages - John Ure - Non Fiction (History)
The Knights Templar - Piers Paul Read - Non Fiction
The Lost Tomb Of Alexander The Great - Andrew Michael Chugg - Non Fiction (History)
**His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Throne Of Jade - Naomi Novik - Fiction (Fantasy)
Empire Of Ivory - Naomi Novik - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Black Powder War - Naomi Novik - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Fortress Of Frost And Fire - Mercedes Lackey and Ru Emmerson - Fiction (Fantasy)
Guilty Pleasures 1 - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Graphic Novel)
Guilty Pleasures 2 - Laurell K. Hamilton - Fiction (Graphic Novel)
Greek Lyric Poetry - Trans. Sherod Santos - Poetry (Primary Source)
**Space Cadet - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Trickster's Queen - Tamora Pierce - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Dream Warrior - Sherrilyn Kenyon - Fiction (Romance)
Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada - James Delgado - Non Fiction (History)
The Sharing Knife - Lois McMaster Bujold - Fiction (Fantasy)
On Sparta - Plutarch - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
A History Of My Times - Xenophon - Non Fiction (History, Primary Source)
**Bitten - Kelley Armstrong - Fiction (Horror)
**Moon Called - Patrica Briggs - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Blood Bound - Patrica Briggs - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Iron Kissed - Patrica Briggs - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Cry Wolf - Patrica Briggs - Fiction (Fantasy)
On The Prowl - Anthology (Romance)
Knight Of Darkness - Kinley MacGregor - Fiction (Romance)
Sword of Darkness - Kinley MacGregor - Fiction (Romance)
**Lover Eternal - J.R. Ward - Fiction (Romance)
**Lover Awakened - J.R. Ward - Fiction (Romance)
**Lover Revealed - J.R. Ward - Fiction (Romance)
Sword and Sorceress VIII - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress XV - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress XIV - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress X - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress VI - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress IX - Fiction (Anthology)
Rocket Ship Galileo - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
The Real Middle Earth - Brian Bates - Non Fiction (History)
To Sail Beyond The Sunset - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Lammas Night - Fiction (Anthology)
Roman Poets Of The Early Empire - Poetry - (Primary Source)
Readings In Medieval History - Patrick Geary - Non Fiction (History)
Troilus And Criseyde - Geoffrey Chaucer - Poetry (Primary Source)
Falls The Shadow - Sharon Kay Penman - Fiction (History)
The Reckoning - Sharon Kay Penman - Fiction (History)
Eleanor Of Aquitaine - Alison Weir - Non Fiction (Biography)
**Hand of Isis - Jo Graham - Fiction (Fantasy)
Growing Up In Medieval London - Barbara Hanawalt - Non Fiction (History)
The Lost Capital Of Byzantium - Steven Runciman - Non Fiction - History
Charmed Destinies - Anthology (Fantasy)
**Memoirs Of A Geisha - Arthur Golden - Fiction
The Ties That Bound - Barbara Hanawalt - Non Fiction (History)
Making A Living In The Middle Ages - Christopher Dyer - Non Fiction (History)
The Art Of Medieval Hunting - John Cummins - Non Fiction (History)
Medieval English Prose For Women - Eds. Bella Millett & Jocelyn Wogan-Browne - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen - Fiction
The Parafaith War - L. E. Modesitt Jr. - Fiction (Science Fiction)
For Us The Living - Robert Heinlein - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Sword and Sorceress I - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress V - Fiction (Anthology)
Sword and Sorceress VII - Fiction (Anthology)
Against The Odds - Elizabeth Moon - Fiction (Science Fiction)
Jewels: A Secret History - Victoria Finlay - Non Fiction (History)
Dictionary Of Mythology - Non Fiction
Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World - Viki Myron - Non Fiction (Animal Stories)
Galore - Michael Crummey - Fiction
A Gate At The Stairs - Lorrie Moore - Fiction
**The Golden Mean - Annabel Lyon - Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Hadrian - Anthony Everitt - Non Fiction - Biography
The Inheritance Of Rome - Chris Wickham - Non Fiction (History)
The Chronicle Of Bury St. Emund's - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist - Ray C. Anderson - Non Fiction
Josephus - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
Women in Early Medieval Europe 400-1100 - Lisa M. Bitel - Non Fiction (History)
An Illustrated History of its First 12000 Years: Toronto edited by Ronald F. Williamson - Non Fiction (History)
Becoming Modern In Toronto: The Industrial Exhibition - Keith Walden - Non Fiction (History)
The Complete World Of The Dead Sea Scrolls - Phillip R. Davies, George J. Brooke and Phillip R. Callaway - Non Fiction (History)
The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English - Non Fiction (Primary Source)
The Black Ships - Jo Graham - Fiction (Fantasy)
**Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit (A Novel of King Arthur) - Mercedes Lackey - Fiction (Fantasy)
Born of Night - Sherrilyn Kenyon - Fiction (Romance)
**Griffin and Sabine - Nick Bantock - Fiction
Sabine's Notebook - Nick Bantock - Fiction
The Golden Mean - Nick Bantock - Fiction
Alexandria - Nick Bantock - Fiction
Morningstar - Nick Bantock - Fiction
Gryphon - Nick Bantock - Fiction
Londinium - John Morris - Non Fiction - History
The Archaeology Of Roman Britain - R. G. Collingwood - Non Fiction - History
Lord of the Two Lands - Judith Tarr - Fiction (Fantasy)
Daily Living In The Twelfth Century - Non Fiction (History)
Cathedral, Forge And Waterwheel - Francis And Joseph Gies - Non Fiction (History)
Medicine And Society In Later Medieval England - Caroline Rawcliffe - Non Fiction (History)
Peony In Love - Lisa See - Fiction

Wish me luck. I keep buying more books instead of reading the ones I already have. Maybe I'll manage to read twelve or more of these this year though as seven of the books on here are new acquires rather than books that have been sitting around for a year or more.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Tolkien Book Upcoming

Just saw on one of the blogs I follow that there's a new book by Tolkien coming out later this year.

You can find more information at John Rateliff's blog entry, here.

This new book is, apparently, Tolkien's retelling of the tale of Sigurd. I know I'm looking forward to this one now that I know about it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Andre Norton - Upcoming Books

According to the Chapters/Indigo website, a number of Andre Norton's books are supposed to be due out again in the near future either on their own, or in omnibus editions. She's one of my favorite science-fiction authors, with series like The Solar Queen and Beast Master.

Star Flight
May 26th, 2009
An omnibus volume containing the books The Stars Are Ours and Star Born. I don't think I've read either book, actually.

The Game Of Stars And Comets
April 7th 2009
Another omnibus edition. This book has four: Voorloper, The X Factor, The Eye Of The Monster, and The Sioux Spaceman. Of this volume, I've only read Voorloper, I think. It was certainly a good story. The Sioux Spaceman looks like it will be interesting, according to the description.

From The Sea To The Stars
January 27th, 2009
This book contains Sea Siege and Star Gate. From the description, Star Gate looks as though it will be a good read. Sea Siege, on the other hand, I read a couple of years ago and I didn't care for it especially. It's been long enough now, that I don't remember why particularly.

The Search For The Star Stones
Released November 4th, 2008
This omnibus volume contains the books The Zero Stone and Uncharted Stars. Unlike the other books listed, I already have both as separate books, but I have yet to read them, so I have no comment to make.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dies The Fire - S. M. Stirling

Dies The Fire - S. M. StirlingDies The Fire
S. M. Stirling
ROC Publishing
Copyright: 2004

According to the back of the book:

The Change Occurred When An Electrical Storm centered over the island of Nantucket produced a blinding white flash that rendered all electrical devices and firearms inoperable - and plunged the world into a dark age humanity was unprepared to face....

Michel Havel was flying over Idaho en route to the holiday home of his passengers when the plane's engines inexplicably died, forcing a less than perfect landing in the wilderness. And as Michel leads his charges to safety, he begins to realize that the engine failure was not an isolated incident....

Juniper Mackenzie was singing and playing guitar in a pub when her small Oregon town was plunged into darkness. Cars refused to start. Phones were silent. And when an airliner crashed, no sirens sounded and no fire trucks arrived. Now, taking refuge in her family's cabin with her daughter and a growing circle of friends, Juniper is determined to create a farming community to benefit the survivors of this crisis....

But even as people band together to help one another, others are building armies for conquest.

Dies The Fire is a book that was recommended to me at work last week. I thought it was interesting, so I picked up the one copy on the shelf. I'm glad I did, as I've had a hard time putting it down, culminating in finishing it at one thirty this morning. I've already bought the sequel, The Protector's War.

As I mentioned, this is the first book in the series. The other books are, The Protector's War, A Meeting At Corvalis, The Sunrise Lands and Scourge of God. Whether that completes the series, or if there are more to come, I don't know.

I've seen some reviews which complain about how contrived the storyline is, with everyone having some needed skill, but that didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all. It would have been interesting for one of the main or secondary characters to have not had a skill, and see how they muddled through, but the layout that Stirling created makes sense.

The characters are certainly an interesting bunch. Astrid, a Tolkien and fantasy novel lover, Juniper's daughter being deaf, Will Hutton and his horses. The book is full of quirky and interesting characters.

For a fantasy and science fiction lover, there's a bit of a game of 'recognize that reference'. Tolkien of course is a big one, but there are also mentions of Mercedes Lackey's books as well as some classic science fiction series.

There is a slight element of magic as well, but it's not made explicit whether it's simply coincidence or something else, although the implications are there, and it helps set things up for the next book. The question is, in my mind at least, is this something that worked before the Change, and was simply made more obvious, or something else that changed along with the inability of mechanical things to work?

I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, as I tried, but couldn't finish The Peshwar Lancers about a year or so ago, and I didn't think too much of the coauthored books of the Ship series, written with Anne McCaffrey.

All the historical details Stirling added were another nice touch to this book, and the bits and pieces of history he's chosen to have his characters resurrect make sense, although it seems a bit that every character (at least on the side of the good guys) knows his or her history as a hobby if not at the university level.

Although the book store categorizes this book as science fiction, to me it is just as much a fantasy novel.

One other question I felt Dies the Fire raised for me is "How well would I do in a situation like that?" All I can come up with is "not very well". Read the book and ask yourself the same questions.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Google Adsense For Dummies - Jerri Ledford

Edited on March 2nd, 2009.

Google Adsense For Dummies

Jerri Ledford
Wiley Publishing
Copyright: 2008

Quick and understandable. I bought the book yesterday evening, and I finished reading it this morning (with time for sleep).

Normally I avoid the Dummies series (and also the Idiots series), there's just something about the title that turns me off. However, I was flipping through this book, it being one of the only recent ones I've seen about Google's Adsense program, and I found several useful tips on just quick flips, so I decided it was worth it to buy the book.

Although the book title is Adsense, much of the book content is as much about ways to increase the traffic to your site as it is optimizing the Adsense ads. There are chapters on server logs, on Search Engine Optimization and the like. The author's rationale is that the more people find your site, the more they are likely to click on the ads. Makes sense to me.

Regardless, I found there were a lot of things I could apply to my site, (and to this blog) to perhaps improve traffic and visibility. Some of it I'd read before, in a couple of other books on Google, such as the importance of constant new content. Even if you know some of what Adsense for Dummies has in it, I'm sure you'll find other information you didn't know before.

On the downside, the book is already outdated, even though it came out just last year (now that the New Year has passed us by). For example, the Referrals program which the book spends part of a chapter on seems to have been canceled. Also, it looks like the Adsense for Feeds, which at the time of the book's writing was still in beta seems to have gone live for everyone, although I can't seem to get it to work for me.

There were some sections, such as the ones on video ads that I'll admit I skipped reading as they don't fit in with any of my sites as I have them currently planned.

I'm hoping the tips the book had will show some improvements for me on my sites. Either way, I'm putting more work into both right now.

I do recommend this to anyone interested in the Adsense program, it worked in a logical progression that seems to be missing from the Adsense help center.


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