Monday, October 28, 2013

Good vs. Evil

The Faceless OneThe Faceless One by Mark Onspaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow.  I usually avoid horror, but I love shamanic themes, so I asked for this title. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think it counts as a paranormal thriller, like James Rollins’ first books. A screenwriter, Onspaugh makes the cut in a novel that would make a great movie. Engaging characters, (including spirit being Raven), heroes of all age groups, ripping good story: the book has elements of a great buddy story, heroism against evil, child in danger. Usually one wants to say pick one and stick with it, but Onspaugh balances the elements very well.

The Faceless One is one of those first novels that makes you hope for more,  despite some slight awkwardness of dialogue and plot in a couple of places. I’m not expert in Tlingit mythology, but the magical aspects hold up. There are some great comedic moments, too. Publish more, please!

(I received a temporary Ebook for review, from the publisher and Netgalley. Netgalley reviewers are not paid.)

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tree and Dragon

Trade Secret (Liaden Universe, #17)Trade Secret by Sharon Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1. I was lucky enough to get a temporary advance e-galley of the book from Baen and Netgalley, for review. Netgalley reviewers are not paid. Also, I started reading the series in their first late 1980s publication; I own all the other books in the series, and have reread them all.

2. Trade Secret is a sequel to Balance of Trade, continuing Jethri Gobelyn's  growth and journey as a young Terran trader from a long-established space merchant family who finds himself adopted into a Liaden trading family. You could enter the series with Balance of Trade, and surely you should read it before reading Trade Secret. You would find out that as wide as space is, civilized worlds are few, and Terrans and Liadens are starting to encounter each other more and more-encroaching and antagonizing each other on the whole. Terrans are large and loud and trusting and sneaky. They are kind of democratic. Liadens are short and quiet and quick to offense and twisty. They have a social code akin to that of Japan and Regency England's ton. And of course each race is more than that. And has two arms, legs, and one head (mostly thick), and breathes oxygen. (And hates the Yxtrang, who have the same extremeties, but harder heads, more tattoos, and military imperatives.)

If you have read Balance of Trade, we learn more about Jethri’s origins, Liaden sexual customs, Jethri’s kin, his Liaden nemesis, and other matters. A very fine coming-of-age novel, and a pleasant filling-in of backstory.

3. I do not know if it is possible just to "like" the tales of Korval and Tree and Dragon. (To be fair, it's possible to have favorites in the series.) I can tell you that if you like a mixture of humor, dueling, magic, drama and derring-do, you will become a fan. Anne McCaffrey was a huge fan. It seems if you are an avid science fiction reader and a Georgette Heyer fan, you will certainly be a friend of Liad.

4. As with Bujold's Miles books, and Asaro's Skolian Empire, you will have to accept some jumping around in time--the books are not published in chronological order.  Certainly many of us think that Agent of Change is the best place to start, being the book that was first published.

Fast ships! Sentient turtles who grow knives and whose ships hallucinate their
way through spacetime! Telepathy! Sentient trees who guide the genetics of their
caretakers! Ancient robots! Cats! Conspiracies! True love! How can you resist?
Rush out to buy the chronicles of Liad and thus ensure there will be more. will give you a few choices of where to start next.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

An Appetite for Science

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013 by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always, a wonderful journey. Though technically I would title it The Best Science and Nature Essays 2013.

Once again gathered from trade publications as widely varied as the New Yorker, Outside, Playboy, Scientific American, Harper's, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and filtered by a highly qualified guest editor, in this case Siddartha Mukherjee, cancer physician and researcher and author of The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner for general nonfiction. His theme was "how science happens."

Is space digital? How do we measure the universe? How do you do triage for endangered species? What's the next pandemic? These are just some of the questions explored by the writers and scientists within these pages. Very fitting, since science and writing both very often start with questions. :)

I usually enjoy every essay and this year is no exception--even the very short ending essay about the social utility of psychopaths.

I'm sure it was reading this anthology year after year that led me to eventually subscribe to Science News, which presents a mostly distilled version of papers and abstracts across the sciences in articles unfortunately too short for inclusion in this anthology, though also for the lay reader.

Yes, buy it and read it!  It will whet your appetite for science writing.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

I'm a fan, girl!

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great book! It's Cath and Wren's first year of college, and it sure seems like Wren doesn't want to be a twin anymore. It's not like they don't both have abandonment issues already, what with their Mom walking out the door when they were 8. But they and their Dad soldiered on. College is in Lincoln, though, and Dad's home in Omaha with his own issues. Cath made it into a fiction writing class, even though she's only a freshman. It's lonely being the most naive geek on the planet. Sometimes she feels like her real life can be lived only when she's writing her fanfic in the world of Simon Snow. With her other half gone AWOL, Cath learns to navigate solo, not without stumbling. Making friends, difficult choices, and new worlds along the way, Cath finds all kinds of love in the process.

It's the dialogue--snappy, snarky, smart--that makes the book shine so. And that perfect depiction of the awkward outsider we first know ourselves to be. I have to run off now and read the other two books. More, please!

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