Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Biography

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite biography is.

My answer:
Little Princes: One Man's Promise To Bring Home The Lost Children Of Nepal 
Conor Grennan

The product description:
In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.

Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.
For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually become his wife and share his life’s work.
Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.
I first wrote about this book back at the beginning of 2011. That review is here. Since then, it's stayed as my favourite biography read to date. In fact I rather want to read it again. I haven't been able to stop talking about and recommending Little Princes either.

The biggest thing about Conor Grennan's book and why it's stayed in my head so long I think is the way it reminds me that we ordinary people can do something good in the world if we set our minds to it. Essentially, that's what he does in the events that became the book Little Princes.

I also loved the kids we meet throughout the story, even though over the course of the last year and a bit since I read Little Princes, I find that I can't remember their names anymore. Despite that, I remember reading about them and the way they were reunited with their families.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home The Lost Children of Nepal is possibly my favourite biography. What's your favourite?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Rambling: Teen Books

In the past year or so I've noticed a bit of a trend within the teen books section of the bookstore: Authors I've seen in the regular fiction section are starting to come out with teen books now: Philipa Gregory, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Weber, and Elizabeth George are only a few of the authors names I've seen.

Many of them are newer books, but a few have been writing for the teen market for a while now, like Mercedes Lackey who's onto the third book in her Shadow Grail series which started with Legacies. Or, James Patterson, known for the Maximum Ride series and some other teen novels such as Daniel X.

What kind of puzzles me though is the way that some of the books tie into the authors' other books. Sherrilyn Kenyon's the first author that comes to mind for me with this. She's better known for her paranormal romance series concerning the Dark Hunters. This is where I get somewhat surprised, and I'm trying to figure out what market she's appealing to.

I certainly wouldn't recommend the Dark Hunter books to teens at all, but Nick, the main character in this series is also a character in those books - this series concerns his teen years before we see him as a Squire to the Dark Hunters. At the same time, I feel like this series contradicts that one. I just don't see any place for zombies and the like in the Dark Hunter series as I know it, but that seems to be the main topic of the Chronicles of Nick novels. On the other hand, I have to admit - I haven't read any of the Chronicles of Nick series. Maybe someone who has can enlighten me.

The author that comes to mind as having done a really good job tying a teen series into an existing world is David Weber. Instead of trying to use an existing character, he's working with a time-period much earlier in the world and a character we don't know very much about - Stephanie Harrington, the discoverer of treecats. A Beautiful Friendship, the start of this series maintains the feeling of the main series, and is interesting to readers of that series, and would also work to attract new readers.

Why turn to teen books though? There've been spin-off books before in the Honor Harrington world, and some of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books were shelved as teen/young adult at the library even though they're classed as fantasy in the bookstore. Is it that they have a particular story to tell which best fits that medium? or is more likely that there's a market for teen fiction right now?

What do you think is the answer? All I know is that I like some of these books, and the David Weber ones especially seem to be missed by adults who like science-fiction and his other books. Heck, if I hadn't been in the regular habit of checking the upcoming books by some of these authors, I'd have missed out on some very good stories!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Historical Figure?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week my question is really two questions: The first, the one that the title asks is "Who is your favourite historical figure?" However, the alternate question, and one I'm also interested in the answer to is (This was the question I'd meant to ask in the first place, I think) "Who is your favourite historical figure to read about?"

I can see there being two very different answers to those two questions.

My answer to the first question changes on a regular basis. I don't think I have any real "favourites" just interests that change from time to time. At the moment, I'm reading all I can about Alexander the Great, but who knows who my focus will change to next.

In terms of reading about, generally referring to fiction, I have to say my favourite historical figure is Cleopatra - especially as written by Jo Graham in her novel Hand of Isis. There's something about her that captures my imagination - but I'm not just limited to fiction. I've also quite enjoyed reading Stacy Schiff's biography Cleopatra: A Life, although to be honest, I've yet to finish the read.

I think throughout the years, a lot of people have agreed with me on this one - including such notables as Shakespeare. And yet, we don't really know all that much about her - only things said by her opponents really. Could that be part of her allure?

Who's your favourite historical figure, and if the answer is different, who's your favourite historical figure to read about?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Book From August

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week it's my usual question for the first week of a new month: What was your favourite book last month?

My answer:
I have a fair number of books to choose from to answer this question this time. August was one of the best reading months I've had in a long time. I'm going to go with No Sailing Waits And Other Ferry Tales: 30 Years Of BC Ferries Cartoons by Adrian Raeside. I haven't laughed as hard as I did when I was reading those in a long time. Actually, I'm still laughing at the memory of some of the cartoons as well. They're that funny - at least if you're familiar with the issues involved. This one might honestly be more of a local-type book.

The amusement was only increased by my recent re-exposure to the BC Ferries system in the past month as well. Ferry waits and all. Although, the Sunshine Breakfast is no more - still I think I remember actually enjoying the Sunshine Breakfast. Maybe I was in the minority?

Regardless, this was my favourite read for the month of August. What was yours?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I Thought The Labour Day Weekend Was Supposed To Be A Holiday

Or "Why I Haven't Been Reading". Instead, I've been busy.

We went away for the weekend, and I haven't worked that hard in a long time, but I had an incredible amount of fun at the same time. Some of my relatives have a farm, and they're in the process of replacing a barn. The destruction has started. We moved the last few things out, and cut back the blackberries that had taken over the outside of two sides of the building. That was a fun job, considering the thorns were going through everything - including skin. I've bathed my two cats and gotten less scratches.

Once the blackberries were removed, then the true destruction started. Out came the crow-bars and the hammers. By the end of the afternoon, everyone had gotten the metal siding off of the two sides and some of the interior braces out, as well as the floor boards. There was also a wasp's nest discovered, although nobody got stung. The actual structure got left for another day (and perhaps some professionals to remove).

I ended up being coached through driving the tractor with the trailer full of trash from the barn most of the way to the burn pile. Given that it's a much slower-moving vehicle, with no other traffic around, I found it less terrifying than attempting to drive a car.

When not doing any of the above - which also included helping to medicate one of their horses - I had either my drop spindle or my spinning wheel going.

That was Saturday. Sunday was a bit of an easier day - slept through the morning chores unfortunately. I'd kind of wanted to participate. Still, got to groom both horses and help to give them a bit of a work-out before cleaning out the paddock and feeding them. Then it was time to go home again and back to the city - taking with me a big bucket of blackberries for jam as well as a couple of dozen farm-fresh eggs.

Monday ended up super-busy as well, though not with working-type things (at least not until really late). After we got home from everything else though, I still had a big bucket of blackberries to deal with and they were starting to go. So, from about eleven until one thirty this morning, I was busy making blackberry jam. Turned out I had just enough berries for the recipe, but the recipe also ended up making an extra jar's worth of jam. Absolutely delicous.

And the trend is continuing even though the weekend is over. This morning, I ended up making a batch of soda bread to eat with the jam. It deserved to be spread on something a bit more special than mere store-bought sliced bread.

All in all, in the past four or five days I've gotten maybe ninety pages read from any novels, and something like thirty from one of my indexing books.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Favourites: Your Favourite Classic

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite classic is. And, yes that question could be considered open to debate. After all, there's classic science fiction, classic westerns etc. It'll be amusing if you opt to answer one of those, but I'm actually referring to the more "classic" version: books like Jane Austen's or Charles Dickens etc.

My answer is:
Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. It's the only true classic novel that I've been able to read and enjoy multiple times. For some reason I can't get into Jane Austen's books (although I should probably give them another try - it's been more than a few years), and the same thing's been true with most of the other classic's I've tried (other than the children's stories like The Jungle Book). Recently, I've discovered a few more good classics - truly classic science fiction by Jules Verne, but other than that, it's Jane Eyre for me.

There's something about the story that grabs me every time I read it, I don't quite know what, but where a lot of the other classics I've tried have bored me completely (I think it was Shirley that I couldn't get more than a couple of chapters into), this one captures me.

What's your answer?

Please leave either your response in the comments or a link to your response.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spinning My Wheels And Getting Nowhere

The title about sums things up with my spinning today. I've been working on plying this gorgeous mix of blues/greens (It looked like a lake) of BFL fiber that I'd spun into singles. I'd decided to ply it with a metallic silver thread. So far, so good, and the first of the two bobbins of singles went pretty well. In fact, it's now sitting in a hank/skein. On to the second one, and this is where things started going wrong.

First of all, I ended  up spinning a small section of it the wrong way - all my usual clues lead me wrong. Got that fixed, and solved the snapped plying thread - though the join isn't the nicest. Got quite a ways farther in - maybe a third of the bobbin of singles, and the whole bobbin popped out of the flyer. Got that fixed (or so I thought. It turns out, I think, that it was part of the bigger problem) and continued plying.

That's when things got really fun. First of all, the plying thread ran out. Not a problem, although my joins are atrocious. I had another package. However, at about two thirds of the bobbin of singles is when I discovered the real problem: The end of the bobbin I'm plying onto had separated from the rest of it. Not the end for the brake band, but the other end, and the plied yarn had pushed it right off of the rest, so of course, the whole thing didn't fit properly on the flyer any more. I'd had hopes of finishing the singles before I had to deal with it though.

I think I made things worse instead of better. I got to about the 3/4 point and the whole thing fell off the flier again. So, rather than break the thread and end up making three hanks, I unwound the whole thing onto a handy cat toy, so I could transfer the skein to a new bobbin - which needs replacing too (I think all of them do, really). This one's got some nicks that catch the yarn.

Fun, fun, fun. It turns out, I can't remember which way I was twisting it, so I'm now stuck. If I go the wrong way, it'll mean adding more twist again, and that'll be a mess.

I just want to get this lot finished and off the wheel. If I never have to see it again, it'll be far too soon!

Update: I've managed to figure out which way to spin it again, and gotten the whole thing back onto a new bobbin. Now I'm back to the point I was at before the whole mess started, and I've glued the old bobbin back together again.

It'll at least get me through the weekend - where I'm going to need all the bobbins I have, I think.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marque and Reprisal - Elizabeth Moon

Marque and Reprisal - Elizabeth Moon
Marque and Reprisal (Vatta's War Two)
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright: 2005

The product description:
Kylara Vatta, risk-taking, rule-breaking, can-do heroine of Trading in Danger, is back in business–the kind that’s anything but usual–in the new military science fiction adventure by ace action storyteller Elizabeth Moon.

The exciting military career she hoped for never got off the ground–but Ky Vatta ended up seeing plenty of combat when she took the helm of one of the commercial transport vessels in her family’s fleet . . . and steered it into a full-blown war. Now the lessons she learned in that trial by fire are about to pay off: because this time, the war has come to her. To be exact, someone unknown has launched a full-throttle offensive against Vatta Transport Ltd., Ky’s father’s interstellar shipping empire. In short order, most of Ky’s family is killed, and subsequent attacks sever vital lines of communication, leaving Ky fighting, in every sense, to survive.

Determined to identify the ruthless mystery enemy and avenge her family’s name, Ky needs not only firepower but information. And she gets both in spades–from the band of stranded mercenaries she hooks up with, from her black-sheep cousin, Stella, who’s been leading a secret life, and from Stella’s roguish ex-lover, Rafe. Together they struggle to penetrate the tangled web of political intrigue that’s wreaking havoc within InterStellar Communications, whose effective operation their own livelihoods–and perhaps lives–depend on.

But the infighting proves to be infectious, and it isn’t long before Ky’s hired military muscle are turning their suspicions on the enigmatic Rafe, whose wealth of knowledge about ISC’s clashing factions and startling new technologies has begun to make him smell like a rat . . . or a mole. With swift, violent destruction a very real possibility, the last thing Ky needs is a crew divided against itself–and she’s prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that Vatta stays in business, as well as in one piece.

What she’s not prepared for is the shocking truth behind the terror– and a confrontation with murderous treachery from a source as unexpected as it is unrelenting.
Marque and Reprisal is the sequel to Trading In Danger and the second book in the series. This is the one where I started to remember more of the events and characters from the last time I read the book - back when it first came out.

If you're looking for a good military science fiction series, this is rapidly returning to become one of my favourites. At five books, it's one that's easy enough to get into in terms of time-commitments. On top of that's there's great characterization and plenty of tension. Plus a number of lighter moments too. The terrier puppy and more of Aunt Grace's fruitcakes come to mind as examples of the latter.

Currently, I'm reading the third book in the series - Engaging the Enemy, and loving it. Elizabeth Moon writes in a way that comes across as realistic, both in her fantasy novels and in her science fiction. Realistic despite not even being close to real - that's a challenge she succeeds at and does so very well.

Kylara Vatta, or Ky is quite the character. Fully real and human - flaws and strengths alike. I think that's the main reason I'm loving this series as much as I am. She's got quite the talent for getting herself both into and out of scrapes. For every problem she manages to solve, another two come to light, leaving her in a new set of circumstances.

I'm definitely loving this series, and I'm going to recommend it to any fan of military science fiction, starting with Trading in Danger.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Author's Blog?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite author's blog is. It doesn't have to be the blog of your favourite author though (assuming he or she even has a blog), but the author's blog that you check the most or enjoy the posts from the most.

My answer:
I've found that a number of the authors I like have blogs: Elizabeth Moon (The Deed of Paksenarrion, Trading in Danger) has a number, Jo Graham (Hand of Isis) has one, Patricia C. Wrede (Caught In Crystal) has one, as does L.E. Modesitt Jr. (The Parafaith War). Other authors do too - but these are the ones I tend to check the most often.

Of them though, my favourites are Elizabeth Moon's general blog, MoonScape, and her Paksworld blog, closely followed by Patricia C. Wrede's blog. A lot of the reasons I like these three are that (normally at least) they're updated fairly regularly. Also, it's the subject matter involved.

Patricia C. Wrede's blog is almost entirely centered on writing: tips, tricks and techniques. Some posts are about the mechanics of writing, and others are geared around the business side of thing. All in all, for anyone who's interested in writing, fiction or otherwise, I think this is a fascinating blog to check out - if not to bookmark and return to on a regular basis.

Elizabeth Moon's MoonScape blog on LiveJournal is an equally fascinating read for the variety of topics discussed: writing, politics, knitting, cooking and land management are all subjects that come up regularly. Personally, while I find them all interesting, there are two subjects that seem to be inspiring me more than the others: knitting and cooking. Every time I read a post on the latest in her adventures in knitting socks, my determiation to learn to knit socks is reinforced. And, the same thing for cooking. Just recently I tried making beef stock from scratch for the first (and not the last) time.

At the same time, her Paksworld blog is also fascinating to me because the world of The Deed of Paksenarrion is one of my favourite series. I love the insights into that world - the research, background on the writings and the world, and the like. Not to mention the snippets - both not used and from the future books in the series.

What is your favourite author's blog?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Rising Thunder - David Weber

A Rising Thunder
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright Date: March 6, 2012

The product description:
Peril and strife strike on a double front for Honor Harrington and company. After a brutal attack on the Manticoran home system, Honor Harrington and the Star Kingdom she serves battle back against a new, technologically powerful, and utterly nefarious enemy. And as if that weren’t task enough, Honor must also face down a centuries-old nemesis in the crumbling, but still mighty, Solarian League.
The war between the People’s Republic of Haven and the Star Kingdom is finally won and peace established, but grave danger looms–for there is a plan well on its way to completion designed to enslave the entire human species. Behind that plan lies the shadowy organization known as the Mesan Alignment. 
Task number one for Honor is to defend against another devastating Mesan strike–a strike that may well spell the doom of the Star Kingdom in one fell blow. It is time to shut down and secure the wormhole network that is the source of the Star Kingdom’s wealth and power–but also its greatest vulnerability. Yet this is an act that the Earth-based Solarian League inevitably will take as a declaration of war.  
The thunder of battle rolls as the Solarian League directs its massive power against the Star Kingdom.  And once again, Honor Harrington is thrust into a desperate battle that she must win if she is to survive to take the fight to the real enemy of galactic freedom–the insidious puppetmasters of war who lurk behind the Mesan Alignment!
This is the fifteenth installment in the Honor Harrington series.There are times when I don't know if that is a good thing or not - the thought of starting a re-read of the series beginning with On Basilisk Station is downright terrifying now. Both because of the number of book in the series, and also because of the way the series has grown. The sheer number of point of view characters is staggering, and trying to remember them from book to book is getting close to impossible. Honestly, I'm rather looking forward to the new Honorverse companion (House of Steel) - in hopes there will be a character list included.

That said, the minute I finished reading Mission of Honor, I absolutely had to get my hands on this book. Lately David Weber's been laying on the cliff-hanger endings. Unfortunately for my curiosity, there's another one at the end of A Rising Thunder - and this time I have to wait until next year before I can find out what happens next.

David Weber has written some of my favourite military science fiction with the Honor Harrington books. I only wish I could review this series better. At the moment, I find myself more reviewing the whole series rather than the specific book, and even then, I'm worried about giving away spoilers.

I think it's fair though to say that a lot of things change through the course of A Rising Thunder. A lot of things. And whether or not those changes are going to be for the better or for the worse isn't completely clear in a lot of cases - after all, there is somebody (or a group of somebodies) pulling strings.

Overall, I think this was a good book - just not one you can pick up without the knowledge gained from reading the previous books in the series.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Star Wars: X-Wing: Mercy Kill - Aaron Allston

Star Wars: X-Wing: Mercy Kill
Aaron Allston
Copyright Date: August 7, 2012

The product description:
The intrepid spies, pilots, and sharpshooters of Wraith Squadron are back in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which transpires just after the events of the Fate of the Jedi series!

Three decades have passed since Wraith Squadron carried out its last mission. Taking on the most dangerous and daring operations, the rogues and misfits of the elite X-Wing unit became legends of the Rebellion and the Second Galactic Civil War, before breaking up and going their separate ways. Now their singular skills are back in vital demand—for a tailor-made Wraith Squadron mission.

A powerful general in the Galactic Alliance Army, once renowned for his valor, is suspected of participating in the infamous Lecersen Conspiracy, which nearly toppled the Alliance back into the merciless hands of the Empire. With orders to expose and apprehend the traitor—and license to do so by any and all means—the Wraiths will become thieves, pirates, impostors, forgers . . . and targets, as they put their guts, their guns, and their riskiest game plan to the test against the most lethal of adversaries.
It's been a long time since the last X-Wing novel, Starfighters of Adumar, also by Aaron Allston. A long time not just in our years, but between the events of Star Fighters of Adumar and Mercy Kill. As a result, there's the entirety of the New Jedi Order books and more to be taken into account with the newest of the X-Wing stories. As a result, much of the Wraith Squadron we see in this book is made up of the next generation of characters - still led by Face, and there are a couple of the old Wraiths that show up - not to mention Piggy. In a sense, this is his book.

There were a lot of things in this book that I liked - the Wraiths way of getting things done, some of the jokes that were familiar running jokes from the earlier books etc. On the other hand, I felt quite lost while reading Mercy Kill. I think this book more than the previous books in the X-Wing series hinges on being familiar with the rest of the Star Wars canon. And I'm not. After reading the first few books in the New Jedi Order series, I found I didn't care for the new style as much. Therefore, I'm almost completely unfamiliar with the new structure of the galaxy, not to mention most of the cast of characters.

Mercy Kill is still readable without that knowledge, but I did feel rather lost at times. Sort of a "who is this? what caused this?" kind of thing. Apparently, for example, the Wraiths had been decommissioned at some point before the story starts, and from what I gathered, it was for supporting the wrong side in a conflict. That's about all I know though.

So, I'm about middling on this book. I liked it, but not as much as I'd hoped to. The thing is, I don't know how much of that is the fault of the book, or my lacking familiarity with the Star Wars world as it is at the time of Mercy Kill. I'm finding it hard to really judge Mercy Kill, but I don't know if I'm making my opinion based on the merits of the book itself or not.

What's your opinion of the book? I know most of the reviews I've seen are more or less positive.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Trading In Danger - Elizabeth Moon

Trading In Danger
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright: 2004

The product description:
Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father’s only child to buck tradition by choosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it’s no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can’t hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It’s adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family’s misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down.

Expelled from the Academy in disgrace–and returning home to her humiliated family, a storm of high-profile media coverage, and the gaping void of her own future–Ky is ready to face the inevitable onslaught of anger, disappointment, even pity. But soon after opportunity’s door slams shut, Ky finds herself with a ticket to ride– and a shot at redemption–as captain of a Vatta Transport ship.

It’s a simple assignment: escorting one of the Vatta fleet’s oldest ships on its final voyage . . . to the scrapyard. But keeping it simple has never been Ky’s style. And even though her father has provided a crew of seasoned veterans to baby-sit the fledgling captain on her maiden milk run, they can’t stop Ky from turning the routine mission into a risky venture–in the name of turning a profit for Vatta Transport, of course.

By snapping up a lucrative delivery contract defaulted on by a rival company, and using part of the proceeds to upgrade her condemned vehicle, Ky aims to prove she’s got more going for her than just her family’s famous name. But business will soon have to take a backseat to bravery, when Ky’s change of plans sails her and the crew straight into the middle of a colonial war. For all her commercial savvy, it’s her military training and born-soldier’s instincts that Ky will need to call on in the face of deadly combat, dangerous mercenaries, and violent mutiny. . . .
I read Trading In Danger back when it first came out and loved it then. Loved it just as much on this read too. This is the first book in the Vatta's War series, followed by Marque and Reprisal, my current read (among many) and Engaging the Enemy.

From almost the first page, Trading in Danger was a book I had a hard time putting down. Even though I have read the book before, I found that I couldn't remember any of the details, making it almost like a first read again.

I've said this about Elizabeth Moon's writing before in my review of Remnant Population - she's really good with characterization. Each of the characters rings true in three dimensions and that was true again with Trading In Danger.

One great thing with re-reading a series like this years later: I don't have to wait until the next book comes out to continue the story. All of the books in the Vatta's War series are long since out in paperback and I've already bought books three and four. Now to find book five, Victory Conditions.

Definitely a series I'd recommend to fans of science fiction. I'd be willing to bet that if you like David Weber's Honor Harrington series, that you'd probably like the Vatta's War books too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Favourites - Your Favourite Non-Fiction Subject To Read About?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite non-fiction subject is to read about? As much as we all love our novels, I'd be willing to bet there's a non-fiction subject that interests you as well. Books about writing or language? Cookbooks? Current affairs (There's certainly a lot of those)? Sports?

My answer is history. Specifically ancient and medieval history, although I do sometimes venture into other time-periods as well (see my recent review of Peter Ackroyd's book London Under). I'm not even fully sure why I love history so much, but I do. There's something about the Romans and the Greeks especially that has caught my interest for the last several years. Both in terms of the greater events - wars etc, but also concerning individual lives.

I've actually had fun reading a number of my textbooks after the classes were done with. Very few have ended up being sold on. Most are still a part of my ever-growing collection of books. And yet, there are times when history books are the absolute last thing I want to read.

So, what non-fiction subject sparks your interest? Be as general or specific as you want to be either in your own post or in the comments here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wraith Squadron: Star Wars: X-Wing 5 - Aaron Allston

Wraith Squadron: Star Wars: X-Wing 5
Aaron Allston
Bantam Books
Copyright: 1998

The product description:
They are the galaxy's most elite fighting force. And as the battle against the Empire rages, the X-wing fighters risk life and machine to protect the Rebel Alliance. Now they must go on a daring undercover mission--as the crew of an Imperial warship.

It is Wedge Antilles' boldest creation: a covert-action unit of X-wing fighters, its pilots drawn from the dregs of other units, castoffs and rejects given one last chance. But before the new pilots can complete their training, the squadron's base is attacked by former Imperial admiral Trigit, and Wraith Squadron is forced to swing into action--taking over an Imperial warship and impersonating its crew. The mission: to gain vital intelligence about Trigit's secret weapons, to sabotage the admiral's plans, and to lure him into an Alliance trap. But the high-stakes gamble pits Wraith Squadron's ragtag renegades against the Empire's most brilliant master of guile and deception.

Are they up to the challenge?

If not, the penalty is instant death.
The X-Wing series is my favourite of the numerous Star Wars novels, and this is one of the funniest. Aaron Allston has a knack for leaving me laughing out loud at all of the characters - and the running jokes, some of which span all of the books. Ewoks come to mind as do a few others.

The X-Wing series of novels is rather broken into two different sets. There`s the Rogue Squadron novels, and then, with Aaron Allston's contribution, the creation of Wraith Squadron. There`s some overlap, between the two, but not much.

In this one, Wedge Antillies takes a group of misfits and makes it work. I love the way they end up working together, even though there are quite a few problem-characters. In fact, it could be said that the whole lot of them are problem characters.

Honestly though, I haven`t laughed as hard repeatedly at a novel series as I have with this one. I've lost track of the times I've read Wraith Squadron and the others over the last years. This is, again a series that I started out by borrowing from the library, and ended up buying after I'd borrowed them all multiple times.

Wraith Squadron introduces us to the characters, and sets up situations for the next several books, but at the same time, it also tells an enjoyable tale in itself. Kell Tainer, Face Loran, Grinder, all of them had me grinning at the least, if not outright laughing.

Definitely recommended for any Star Wars fan, especially with the release of Aaron Allston's newest Star Wars novel: X-Wing: Mercy Kill.

No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales: 30 Years Of BC Ferries Cartoons - Adrian Raeside

No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales: 30 Years of BC Ferries Cartoons
Adrian Raeside
Harbour Publishing
Copyright Date: April 11, 2012

The product description:
As a part of our provincial highway system and a lifeline for coastal communities, BC Ferries plays an integral part in British Columbians lives. This is especially true for cartoonist Adrian Raeside, who has been drawing cartoons portraying the ferry fleet for over thirty years. From breakdowns, groundings, the Fast Ferry Fiasco, the Sunshine Breakfast, German-built ferries, the Million Dollar Man (David Hahn) and fuel surcharges, Raeside has covered it all in his unique style. The best of these hilarious and sometimes poignant cartoons are for the first time compiled into a book, a unique chronicle of our ferry fleet and a must-read for anyone who has ever endured a two-sailing wait at a ferry terminal.
I have to admit,  when I read No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales: 30 Years Of BC Ferries Cartoons, it had been a while since I used the BC Ferries network. Now, having been on the ferries again, and having waited several sailings to get home, I'm finding the book to be even funnier.

The whole book is full page, black and white editorial cartoons surrounding various issues concerning BC Ferries. Perfect for anyone who uses this part of the British Columbia highway sytem on a regular basis. I'm reasonably certain that there's no way you'll find Adrian Raeside's book in the ferry gift stores either.

A very funny and quick read, but one that I'm sure you'll be laughing over and rereading after every time you're stuck waiting for a ferry - whatever the reason: breakdonws, traffic or the ferry staff going on strike.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Upcoming Science Fiction New Releases

My last new releases post was meant to hold all of this as well as the books it had, but it was getting too long to manage, so I split it into two.

This time, it's all of the science fiction books I'm waiting for the release dates on, starting with a whole load of David Weber's novels.

Midst Toil and Tribulation
David Weber
Release Date: Septemner 18, 2012

The product description:
After centuries of stasis, the island kingdom of Charis began to defy the edicts of the Church of God Awaiting—egged on, some say, by the mysterious warrior-monk Merlin Athawes. Now, in the wars and intrigues that have cascaded from Charis's declaration of independence, the populous Republic of Siddermark is sliding into chaos. Vicar Clytahn of the Church of God at harvest time. King Cayleb of Charis, his queen Sharleyan, and Merlin Arthawes will have their hands full trying to stave off wholesale starvation in Siddermark while at the same time shipping in enough land combat units to fend off the "volunteers" from the Church's Temple Lands. And while Vicar Clyntahn is hailed in the Church for his boldness and audacity, there are those who remember how dependent Church power is on money from Siddermark...and who wonder what will happen if Siddermark starves.
Bursting with vivid invention and the sweep of lived history, Midst Toil and Tribulation will build its series' audience to a new level.
I need to go back and give this series a re-read. I've honestly fallen behind on the events in the Safehold world.

House Of Steel: The Honorverse Companion
David Weber
Release Date: May 7, 2013

The Indigo/Chapters product description:
An all-new David Weber Honorverse short novel, I Will Build a House of Steel, chronicling the early days of the Manticoran Star Kingdom and the reign of King Roger. Have you ever finished the latest Honor Harrington novel from David Weber and wished you could linger in Weber's Honorverse just a bit longer?  Now you can with this treasure trove of tech, specs, and insights on David Weber's mega best-selling Honor Harrington series.  Orbital characteristic of key planets, regimental order of the Royal Navy, backstory on the history and drama of the Star Kingdom's birth and early days-you'll find it all here, thoughtfully arranged by the Bureau 9 Weber research group, and overseen by David Weber himself.

This one looks interesting.

Shadow of Freedom
David Weber
Release Date: March 5, 2013

The product description:

#18 in the multiply-bestselling Honor Harrington series.
Wrong number? There are two sides to any quarrel . . . unless there are more.
Michelle Henke, Queen Elizabeth of Manticore's first cousin, Honor Harrington's best friend, and the commanding officer of Manticore's Tenth Fleet, is just a bit surprised when a messenger arrives from the Mobius System to inform her that the Mobius Liberation Front is prepared to rise in rebellion against the hated regime President Svein Lombroso. She can understand why anyone would want to rebel against someone like Lombroso, but why tell her about it? After all, she has problems of her own, like the minor matter of a life-or-death war against the Solarian League.
Michelle has just handed the "invincible" Solarian League Navy the most humiliating, one-sided defeat in its entire almost thousand-year history in defense of the people of the Star Empire's Talbott Quadrant. But the League is the most powerful star nation in the history of humanity. Its navy is going to be back – and this time with thousands of superdreadnoughts.
Yet she also knows scores of other star systems — some independent, some controlled by puppet regimes, and some simply conquered outright by the Solarian Office of Frontier Security — lie in the League's grip along its frontier with the Talbott Quadrant. As combat spreads from the initial confrontation, the entire frontier has begun to seethe with unrest, and Michelle sympathizes with the oppressed populations wanting only to be free of their hated masters.
And that puts her in something of a quandary when the messenger from Mobius arrives, because someone's obviously gotten a wrong number. According to him, the Mobians’ uprising has been carefully planned to coordinate with a powerful outside ally: the Star Empire of Manticore. Only Manticore — and Mike Henke — have never even heard of the Mobius Liberation Front.
It's a set-up . . . and Michelle knows who's behind it. The shadowy Mesan Alignment has launched a bold move to destroy Manticore's reputation as the champion of freedom. And when the RMN doesn't arrive, when the MLF is brutally and bloodily crushed, no independent star system will ever trust Manticore again.
Mike Henke knows she has no orders from her government to assist any rebellions or liberation movements, that she has only so many ships, which can be in only so many places at a time . . . and that she can't possibly justify diverting any of her limited, outnumbered strength to missions of liberation the Star Empire never signed on for.
She knows that . . . and she doesn't care.
No one is going to send thousands of patriots to their deaths, trusting in Manticoran help that will never come.
Not on Mike Henke's watch.
The way I'm reading through A Rising Thunder at the moment, I can't wait for this one to come out.

Fire Season
David Weber and Jane Lindskold
Release Date: October 2, 2012

The product description:

Fire weather... That’s what the treecats call those rare seasons when the slightest spark can set aflame the the vast green reaches they call home.

Teenager Stephanie Harrington rapidly learns just how deadly those fires can be. Guided by her treecat companion, Lionheart, Stephanie and her good friend Karl Zivonik venture into the heart of a raging inferno to rescue twin treecats put at risk by human carelessness. Only the trio’s absolute trust for each other stands between them and disaster.
But Sphinx isn’t the only thing ripe for burning. Stephanie has fallen hard for new arrival to Sphinx, Anders Whittaker. When Anders vanishes without a trace, Stephanie is at the forefront of the search. Then a lightning strike sets the Copperwall Mountains aflame and as a provisional ranger she is ordered to her post.
Will Stephanie choose to honor the claims of her planet or those of her heart? 
I loved the first book in this series, A Beautiful Friendship, so I'm definitely looking forward to this one, teen book or no.

Upcoming New Releases

It looks like it's going to be a very good few months for new releases. Mercedes Lackey, Kylie Chan, David Weber, Michelle Moran, Jack Whyte and more. All of them have at least one book coming out.

For Kylie Chan, it's an entire trilogy that's going to be available. Like last year with White Tiger and sequels, it's coming out one per month in September, October and November.

Earth To Hell: Journey To Wudang: Book One
Kylie Chan
Release Date: September 25, 2012

The product description:
A fabulous story of gods and demons, shapeshifters and martial arts . . .

It is eight years since Xuan Wu, God of the Northern Heavens, living in Hong Kong as wealthy businessman John Chen, was exiled from the mortal realm. Emma Donahoe and Simone, John's daughter, are facing a new series of threats, while their best fighter, Leo, sits in Hell. They must persuade him to come home . . . but, in Hell, nothing is as it appears.

On Earth, Simon Wong, the Demon King's son, is no longer around to trouble them, but his associates have taken over Simon's underworld activities. The otherworldly stones are being targeted and are in danger of their kind being completely destroyed.

It seems that the Demon King is the only one Emma can turn to for help . . .
Hell To Heaven: Journey To Wudang: Book Two
Kylie Chan
Release Date: October 30, 2012

Currently there's no product description on or the Chapters/Indigo website.

Heaven To Wudang: Journey To Wudang: Book Three
Kylie Chan
Release Date: November 27, 2012

The product description:
The third book in an addictive new urban fantasy series of gods and demons, martial arts and mythology, from the author of White Tiger. Ancient Chinese mythology comes to life in this bestselling series of martial arts and demons, dragons and gods, legends and lies ...and a journey to the depths of Hell. The demons that could control stones and elementals have been defeated, but the most powerful of Simon Wong's associates still remains - the one who can create almost undetectable copies of humans and Shen. This demon has allied with Kitty Kwok and together they plot to trap Emma and Simone in a web of copies. Wudang Mountain is enveloped by dark foreboding as Xuan Wu begins to reappear - sometimes human, sometimes turtle, but always without memory. Emma and Simone must race from Hong Kong to Hanoi as they try to rescue Xuan Wu before the demons capture him.
The first trilogy, Dark Heavens, by Kylie Chan was one of my favourites last year. All I know at this point for the Journey To Wudang books is that I've been looking forward to reading these since I finished Blue Dragon.

Mercedes Lackey has several books coming out over the next few months as well. The one I'm looking forward to the most is Redoubt, the fourth book in the Collegium Chronicles series.

Redoubt: Book Four of the Collegium Chronicles
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: October 2, 2012

There's no product description yet, but this is the sequel to Foundation, Intrigues and Changes. I for one, am looking forward to more adventures with Mags, Bear and the rest of that group.

Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters
Mercedes Lackey
Release Date: December 4, 2012

Again, there's no product description, but I'm willing to guess that instead of the usual Christmas Valdemar short story anthology, that it's going to be an anthology of short stories set in the Elemental Masters universe. Should be interesting to see what takes other authors have - not to mention who the authors might be. I wouldn't mind seeing some of the same names I've seen in the Valdemar anthologies.

The Ship Who Searched
Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey
Release Date: February 5, 2013

The Indigo/Chapters product description:
Tia Cade is a headstrong, smart, and very normal girl-until she contracts a terrible illness that leaves her with the bare semblance of life. Tia's only hope: to become the oldest person ever to train to be one of the legendary star travelers, the brainships  But now that Tia is free of her ravaged body, there still remains the task of finding the right partner to be her Brawn, the human element every brainship requires. And when the disease that debilitated Tia threatens thousands more, selecting a Brawn who is her true soul mate may allow Tia to find the origin of the terrible plague-and perhaps even a cure.  25th Anniversary edition featuring a new introduction by Mercedes Lackey.

My reaction on this one is: "it's been twenty five years already?" I've loved this book for quite a while now - it's my favourite of the Brainships series. I know it's not exactly a new release, but I'm including it here anyway. On the other hand, as glad as I am to see it re-released, I have to say that I prefer the original cover art.

This isn't the first time that The Ship Who Searched has been re-released. Back in 2003 it came out as a part of the book Brain Ships, which also contained the novel PartnerShips.

I'm definitely looking forward to Jo Graham's next book, which seems to be following on a trend in historical fiction - though I shouldn't say that quite as I think The General's Mistress has been in the works for a long time. Still, there seems to be an up-surge of novels set in the last few centuries in France:

The General's Mistress
Jo Graham
Release Date: October 23, 2012

The product description:
Liberté, Egalité, Sensualité. . . .

As a spirit of change overturns Europe’s old order, strong-willed Elzelina Versfelt enters her own age of revolution. Married as a romantic young girl to a man who wanted only her money, but neither loves nor desires her, Elza refuses to be chained any longer. Leaving Amsterdam, her marriage, and her home, she flees to France—where the old rules no longer apply, debauchery is not a sin . . . and nothing is forbidden.

Yet Elza finds herself bound in a new way, to the ambitious General Moreau. And while they share pleasure, pain, and carnal adventures, she dreams of another man, an unruly red-haired soldier she first saw in the promise of a Tarot card. Drawn by this half-real, half-imagined hero, Elza defies her relationship with Moreau, and begins a perilous search across war-torn Europe. . . . But will this woman with the instincts of a survivor, the passion of a courtesan, and the gift of second sight ever find the destiny for which she has risked it all?

This stunning novel blends history with the language of the heart to tell a sensual story of an era of upheaval . . . and of the clamoring, dangerous desires of a woman’s soul.
After reading Jo Graham's novels sent in the ancient world, I'm interested to see how she handles more recent history. And the cover art looks absolutely gorgeous.

The Second Empress: A Novel Of Napoleon's Court
Michelle Moran
Release Date: August 14, 2013

The product description:
National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir

   After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.
   Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.
   As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.
   Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies.
I'm going to have to say that based on Michelle Moran's other books, this looks like it's going to be a really good read.

OK, I'll admit this one is a bit of an oddity. Still I think it's neat - even though there's no way I'll be able to read it. My latin's just not that good.

Hobbitus Ille: The Hobbit (Latin and English Edition)
J.R.R. Tolkien and Mark Walker
Release Date: September 13, 2012

The product description:
Fascinating for Latin learners and for Tolkien fans of all ages, The Hobbit has been translated into Latin for the first time since its publication 75 years ago.

In foramine terrae habitabat hobbitus. (‘In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.’)

The Hobbit, is one of the world’s most popular classic stories, appealing to adults as much as to the children for whom J.R.R. Tolkien first wrote the book. Translated worldwide into more than 60 modern languages, now Hobbitus Ille is finally published in Latin, and will be of interest to all those who are studying the language, whether at school or at a higher level.

In the great tradition of publishing famous children’s books in Latin, professional classicist and lifelong Tolkien fan Mark Walker provides a deft translation of the entire book. His attention to detail, including the transformation of Tolkien’s songs and verses into classical Latin metres, will fascinate and entertain readers of all ability, even those with only a minimal acquaintance with the language.
As weird as it sounds, I want to add this to my collection.

The Enchantment Emporium - Tanya Huff

The Enchantment Emporium
Tanya Huff
DAW Books
Copyright: June 2010

The product description:
First in a brand-new urban fantasy series from the author of The Blood Books

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, and they like to keep this in the family. Alysha Gale is tired of having all her aunts try to run her life, both personally and magically. So when the letter from her Gran arrives willing her a "junk" shop in Calgary, Alysha jumps at the chance. It isn't until she gets there that she realizes her customers are fey. And no one told her there's trouble brewing in Calgary-trouble so big that even calling in the family may not save the day...
One of the funniest books I've read in a long time! The Enchantment Emporium is right up there with the Blood Books and the Keeper series for leaving me laughing out loud. And both those series have lines that I still laugh at, years after I read them. Examples include that first rainstorm in Summon the Keeper - the line about it being not significantly drier. I've forgotten the exact wording, but still laugh at the image it invokes.

I'm wishing I'd read the book back when it first came out, now. Oh well, better late than never as they always say. I have to say thanks to the customer who told me how good it was, as that was the incentive I needed to read The Enchantment Emporium.

The whole book is set around a very different style of magic, one I still, even after finishing, don't really understand much about. On the other hand, that doesn't make a difference as to how enjoyable the read was.

I really think it was the characters that made the book for me: Alysha and her family are an absolute hoot - especially the various Aunties, but you can't forget her cousin Charlotte (who stars in the sequel: The Wild Ways) and her antics.

Tanya Huff sets her books in Canada, which is a refreshing change when it comes to urban fantasy novels. This one's set in Calgary, but her other series have included Toronto and Vancouver among other places.

As I said at the beginning, this is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time, and it holds marker as being my favourite book for the month of July. Definitely recommended.

The English Ghost - Peter Ackroyd

The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time
Peter Ackroyd
Vintage Books
Copyright: October 31, 2011

The product description:
An enormously enjoyable spooky collection of ghost-sightings over the centuries, full of the spirit of place, in true Ackroyd style.

The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and some are silent, some smell of old leather, others of fragrant thyme. From medieval times to today stories have been told and apparitions seen -- ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun.

The English Ghost is a treasury of such sightings which we can believe or not, as we will. The accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the door-slamming, shrieking ghost of Hinton Manor in the 1760s and the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth's nephew at Cambridge, to the headless bear of Kidderminster, the violent daemon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat and the modern-day hitchhikers on Bluebell Hill. Comical and scary, like all good ghost stories, these curious incidents also plumb the depths of the English psyche in its yearnings for justice, freedom and love.
After reading London Under, and hearing people raving about how good his other books like The Biography of London are, I had high hopes for The English Ghost. Hopes that were, sadly, disappointed. I couldn't even finish the book.

Based on Peter Ackroyd's other books, I thought I was going to be reading perhaps a detailed account through time of a few noted haunted sites. Or, perhaps a history of ghost sightings around Englind. Well, maybe that's what The English Ghost was meant to be.

However, what I found the book to be was more or less just a collection of eighteenth and ninetheenth century accounts of ghost sightings with nothing to connect them together. Nothing about repeated accounts from the same location, nothing from Peter Ackroyd himself to tie the individual accounts together. Not at all what I was expecting.

To me, the book felt rushed, and didn't live up to the standards I expected from Peter Ackroyd. I'm afraid this one's going on the rare "abandoned" pile.

Friday Favourites: Your Favourite Book Trend

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite book trend is. It's the opposite of the usual thing I hear, where people are complaining about a current trend, ie zombies or vampires. So, rather than hearing more complaints, I'd love to know what it is you're enjoying - even if it is one of those things that everyone else is complaining about.

For myself, I guess I'm going to have to claim the trend of urban fantasy novels. I'm actually having a lot of trouble answering this question - I guess because I tend to read by authors rather than by trends - however, I'm finding myself to be more likely to pick up an urban fantasy novel by an unknown author - or a historical fiction one, which there's a growing trend for too.

What's your answer?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Friday Favourites: Your Favourite Book From July?

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

This week I'm asking what your favourite book from the month of July was.

My answer (along with an excuse for why I'm so quiet these days):

First the excuse: I've got something stuck under some of the keys on my keyboard right now and need to clean it properly. In the mean time, typing properly is horrible - the enter key and a couple of others feel mushy.

Now for my answer, and it's a book I still need to review:
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff.

The product description:
First in a brand-new urban fantasy series from the author of The Blood Books

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, and they like to keep this in the family. Alysha Gale is tired of having all her aunts try to run her life, both personally and magically. So when the letter from her Gran arrives willing her a "junk" shop in Calgary, Alysha jumps at the chance. It isn't until she gets there that she realizes her customers are fey. And no one told her there's trouble brewing in Calgary-trouble so big that even calling in the family may not save the day...
After a customer recommended this one to me, I decided to give it a try. I know I've loved reading a number of Tanya Huff's other books, namely the "Blood" series, and all the things I loved about those books were present in this one. The setting however, is new: The Enchantment Emporium is set in Calgary, which I have to admit I don't know anything about in terms of geography and architecture. However, it was still a very good read, and I'd be willing to be that for Calgary residents there's the same thrill I got out of Blood Debt, of seeing familiar places described and mentioned.

Definitely a fun read and one I have to recommend to fans of urban fantasy. I'd say more, but I want to save some comments for my actual review.

I do have to say though, that despite loving The Enchantment Emporium, I'm having a nearly impossible time getting into the sequel, Wild Ways.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Favourites: Your Favourite Book To Re-read

Friday Favourites - a chance to rave about a favourite reading/book related topic each week.

Sometimes you just want a chance to rave about some favourite aspect of reading that doesn't really come up during regular blogging posts - that's what this is about. I'm willing to bet that at least some of those will come up one week or another.

I'm asking what your favourite book to re-read is this week. I'd also be curious to know why you like re-reading that book.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
My answer is obvious to anyone who knows me: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I've been reading and re-reading it since I was eleven, possibly a bit younger.

Sometimes, it's to return to a world that's become familiar and comfortable to me - although I wouldn't want to live there at all, too many dangers. But, I know the story - there's no surprises there anymore. Even so, re-reading's not boring in any way.

Other times, when I'm re-reading the Lord of the Rings, I find myself noticing some new details about Tolkien's writing and the world of Middle-Earth. Sometimes it's some nuance of his writing style and vocabulary, other times it's something concerning the customs of one of the cultures in Middle-Earth.

Bilbo's Last Song - J.R.R. Tolkien
I never quite know which it will be each time either, I just know that it's going to be a really good read which will often leave me in tears by the end - especially when I combine it with a reading of Bilbo's Last Song, my favourite of Tolkiens poems. Quite honestly, I'm glad to see that it's being reissued this fall. The poem, for all that it's short is absolutely my favourite, and lavishly illustrated by Pauline Baynes, it works so well with the chapter The Grey Havens in The Lord of the Rings.

What's your favourite book to re-read?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Remnant Population - Elizabeth Moon

Remnant Population - Elizabeth Moon
Remnant Population
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright: 2003

The product description:
For forty years, Colony 3245.12 has been Ofelia’s home. On this planet far away in space and time from the world of her youth, she has lived and loved, weathered the death of her husband, raised her one surviving child, lovingly tended her garden, and grown placidly old. And it is here that she fully expects to finish out her days–until the shifting corporate fortunes of the Sims Bancorp Company dictates that Colony 3245.12 is to be disbanded, its residents shipped off, deep in cryo-sleep, to somewhere new and strange and not of their choosing. But while her fellow colonists grudgingly anticipate a difficult readjustment on some distant world, Ofelia savors the promise of a golden opportunity. Not starting over in the hurly-burly of a new community . . . but closing out her life in blissful solitude, in the place she has no intention of leaving. A population of one.
With everything she needs to sustain her, and her independent spirit to buoy her, Ofelia actually does start life over–for the first time on her own terms: free of the demands, the judgments, and the petty tyrannies of others. But when a reconnaissance ship returns to her idyllic domain, and its crew is mysteriously slaughtered, Ofelia realizes she is not the sole inhabitant of her paradise after all. And, when the inevitable time of first contact finally arrives, she will find her life changed yet again–in ways she could never have imagined. . . .
Remnant Population is a book I've read a couple of times now, and I find that it definitely lives up to the standards I expect from one of Elizabeth Moon's novels. Namely, interesting, realistic and different characters. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another book (either science fiction or fantasy) where the main character is a senior citizen.

Going over a lot of the reviews on, I noticed a few people complaining about all the detail that Elizabeth Moon goes into about Ofelia's day-to-day life. Personally, I found that aspect of the book fascinating. In fact, I wouldn't mind finding out the fine points of the various recipes described. They sound absolutely delicious. Of course, I like cooking, gardening and crafts.

There were a few things that surprised me about the cultures as Elizabeth Moon describes them. How is it that things can go so far backwards and still work well? So much of Ofelia's family's attitudes I just don't understand. She was given a scholarship for a high-school education, but her family just gave it to her sister and sent her out to be a janitor? The cultural expectation that housewives didn't need to know how something worked, just had to be able to use it? Or how about the idea that it's perfectly acceptable to slap, threaten or beat a woman? Overall, the cultural attitudes felt rather 1930's or earlier to me.

And the corporate attitudes? I'm still shaking my head. I rather get the feeling that they liked their colonists having those beliefs. It probably made it easier for them - though maybe it had consequences that they weren't as aware of - there seemed to be quite a high mortality rate among the colonists and their children. Maybe better education would have reduced that? But the uneducated masses would have been easier to control.

The aliens though, the People, those were neat. This is where I have to say that I strongly prefer the original cover for Remnant Population to the current one. I liked having the picture give me an idea of what they looked like in combination with the descriptions within the story. That's also where the author has thrown in another twist on the standard science fiction models.

All of those factors though, add up to make for quite the story, one where you end up feeling good for Ofelia and the life she ended up with. In some ways, I found myself envying her a bit - skill at cooking and in the garden as well as her abilities with crafts. In others, as I said, I just can't understand that mindset.

Overall, I found Remnant Population to be a book I had a lot of trouble putting down, even on a re-read. Definitely worth reading if you like either science fiction or Elizabeth Moon's other books.


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