Friday, January 12, 2018

What a Plant Knows

What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the SensesWhat a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elegantly expressed overview of current plant research, comparing plant senses and human senses. Debunks some of the ideas expressed in The Secret Life of Plants, at least as they were popularized in the media, and yet in the end saying plants are aware. Disappointingly short, only 141 pages plus 30 pages of notes, index, and acknowledgements. Highly recommended for people who love to read science. Good discussion of epinegenetics, also. Saw it reviewed in Science News, asked the library to order, and will be getting it back so the 10 other people in line can read it.
It was so good I bought the book. Scientists who write well are even more rare than writers who write well about science...but if they're writing, they're not doing the science...but if they're not explaining the science...anyway. Richard Feynman, Loren Eiseley, Michio Kaku: that kind of five stars writing.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wow. Just Wow. New Author!!

Beasts of Extraordinary CircumstanceBeasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances

Wow. It's a fable, it's magical realism, it's deep and dark and sad and funny. It's also kind of awkward, in the beginning. This may be because the critical mind is trying to fit the narrative into a box. Then, at some point, the critical mind says, "There must be more, many more books from this author." And then, one realizes, this is never going to fit into a box, this is a living narrative. It starts with a birth, and ends in new life. There's trauma and happiness along the way, all along the way of Weylin's life. Somehow, there's a thread of good humor woven throughout the musical tapestry of this novel, and one is left with a sense of the goodwill that binds all the earth's creatures together, a sense of hope in the mystery that dissolves the wall between wilderness and civilization that is not at all the sense of taming. At its heart, this is a story about what happens when magic (or love) comes into our lives, and we make the choice to believe...or not. There must be more, many more books from this author. It's a mystery, a ghost story, a love story, a fable, a jar full of magic light. Wow.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the e-galley for review, the book is on my Christmas wishlist!!

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Roaring Good Fun

The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendency #1)The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed it, and I want to read the sequel. To me it was not a novel, more a prose anime or an unillustrated graphic novel, but I don't think that's necessarily bad. I don't read manga, so I can't speak to the similarities there, but culture is mere brushstrokes around the author's true idea of storytelling as drama and romance. It takes place in not-Mongolia, not-Japan, not-China. Here's where the American habit of pushing things into genres helps: when I am reading fantasy, I don't expect historical fiction. I expect the culture within the book to have only vague resemblances to the "real world". There is drama aplenty, an attempt to reflect a world transitioning from matriarchies to patriarchies, under magical assault by demons. And the drama of teen love. Two teen girls (warriors! possibly divine!) in love is drama and tragedy by definition, and so while I would have loved this sans reservations in my teens and twenties, I was bored with the angst (though not the adventure) until the last third of the book. Take away all the trappings of grandeur and grime, and we have all either been these girls or met them. What changed my mind to up the star score on the book is that it felt so much like a Chinese martial arts movie, with gods and legends and doomed love--but with an American flash of hope instead of full-on tragedy. (So far--enough for me to read the second book.) As a gamer, the author has a learning curve to establish character and background for readers, but those of us who did not grow up with the visual shortcuts and Hollywood trope shorthand of movies and video games are dying off, and that kind of depth may be something no longer provided by authors but by readers (consumers, appreciators?) in the future. I love this kind of mish-mash when it works, an exploration of the cracks and possibilities in the borderlands of myth and history, culture and conquest, and this one works for me.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the EARC for review.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Get October in September

The Brightest Fell (October Daye, #11)The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Seanan McGuire is on fire. Figuratively, of course. Anyway. The author deserves her accolades, and yes, worth the cost of transitioning to hardcover if you're able. This being the eleventh October Daye novel, it is truly magical—that means tense and bloody in Toby's world. Toby's wedding planning is interrupted by her mom: selfish, casually cruel and arrogant—that's right, she is related to the original Bad Fairy that people would rather not invite to anything. Her mother Amandine will October’s fiancĂ©, the King of Cats, and her fetch’s lover Jazz hostage in their animal forms until Toby finds Amandine's other daughter and brings her back from whatever dimension she's been lost in since 1910. Throw in eternal rivalries and grudges eons old, and Toby must deal with the havoc wreaked. I can't tell you more, except that in Toby's world, though the magic folk are somewhat modern, they are still hidden from the mundane mortals, and McGuire's worldbuilding is superb. Read the whole series, if you haven't. There's a bonus novella, a wonderful surprise.
Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley for the review EARC; the raving is, as always, my own opinion.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Curious Minds

Curious Minds (Knight and Moon, #1)Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Curious Minds is a hoot! The first in the Knight and Moon series, this pure escapist thriller makes us imagine: What would Sheldon and Penny (of Big Bang Theory) do?
Sheldon--I mean Emerson Knight, is a handsome, eccentric rich guy. Penny--meaning Riley Moon, is a red-haired, gun-friendly graduate of Harvard Business and Law Schools. She's the one from Texas. Of course they are not complete copies of the characters, but that gives you the flavor of the book.
Credibility has never been Evanovich's goal; it's always been obvious to and appreciated by her readers that she's a genius at escapist fantasy, just like the sitcoms of old. In this book, co-authors Sutton and Evanovich take on global conspiracy theories, from the lizard people to Nazi heirs. There's a Nazi plot to destabilize the world's global gold reserves, and it's up to Knight and Moon to stop it in the nick of time to save the world, indulging in clever dialogue and edging towards romance on the way. Throw in some mystic Hindu powers, flunkies with assault rifles, exotic menageries, a couple more broadly outlined quirky characters, and you have all the escape you could ever want until the story's over. Book two, Dangerous Minds, was just released, and hopefully it's as fun!

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Green Magic

The Waking LandThe Waking Land by Callie Bates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's worth the hype. I don't know if this one is ya or not, it doesn't need to be. Unlike some other recent reads, every single time I thought she was going for the usual, she turned the cliche around. I'm dazzled. Lady Elanna's grown up a hostage all her life, raised in luxury and favored by the king. What does she do when she's forced to flee her privileged life and face her feelings of betrayal and abandonment in the face of real dangers and responsibilities? Pretty much what any reader of fantasy hopes we would do, with green magic running through our veins: she steps up. The dangers of stepping up are not sugar-coated, either. Beautiful language, stellar character development, and two more books in the pipeline. Hurray, and HIGHLY recommended. I was lucky enough to win an ARC, and thank Del Rey profusely. There's nothing like getting to add someone new to your "favorite authors" list. (Note to publisher: look at those reviews on goodreads, maybe you need to market this as an adult fantasy. Me, Robin Hobb, other adults: 5-4 stars, great reviews; teenagers: 1-2 stars. This is more like Recluce and only mature readers evidently can see it.)

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