Saturday, August 31, 2013

94:120 History of US Vol. 9: War, Peace, and all that Jazz by Joy Hakim

Middle-School History covering 1918-1945.  Model T's, wood-frame airplanes, radios, Prohibition, jazz, the Roaring Twenties, Babe Ruth, flappers, the Depression, and two World Wars...all in a thirty-year span.  That pretty much gives a good summary of what you find in this book.  I've noticed that now that things are getting closer to modern times, the jumping around is much less and the author makes it a point to detail a lot more than what I remember learning about from my history classes, middle and high school.  I knew there had been a WWI but had no idea who it concerned or how it ended much less that it had paved the way for WWII.  I had a basic knowledge of Jazz and it's roots but not the bigger picture that was shown in this book.  I knew about the Depression and Black Friday but not the events that had led up to it.  That to me is what is truly important about history, not just knowing about the big events but how those came about and what they caused.

Page count: 201p/24,678p ytd/169,078p lifetime

93:120 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

HeLa cells are known in scientific circles around the world but the story behind them was a mystery for years until one student started asking and uncovered the story behind the cells, the story of Henrietta Lacks.  Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern black tobacco farmer who would have undoubtedly gone unnoticed in history if not for her cervical cancer and the doctor who chose to take tissue samples to send to a cellular scientist.  What came about from that simple little procedure was scientific gold and the start of one family's nightmare as they searched for the truth.

I had mixed emotions on this one.  I found the story of the Lacks's fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time but the way the author jumped about quite a bit, especially in the beginning, definitely made it harder for me to get emotionally invested early on.  By the end, the jumping had settled down and the human interest part of it had picked up while still having enough scientific tidbits to show the relevance to every day life.  The biggest thing, from my pov, was how many questions this has brought up and how many of them are still unresolved when it comes to how these types of things are handled even now.  Definitely something we should all be pondering.

Page count: 386p/24,477p ytd/168,877p lifetime

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

92:120 Redshirts by John Scalzi

The UUC Intrepid is getting another batch of ensigns added to its crew which is a good thing as they seem to be running low again.  Away missions are dangerous things as Ensign Dahl soon comes to realize and missions with senior officers even more so.  Not for the officers mind you, unless you are named Kerensky, but for any lowly ensign who might happen to be with them as they seem to die off at an alarming rate and in some of the most incredibly ludicrous ways.  Then there is the matter of The Box which looks like a microwave but can solve the most complex problems in just under the time allotted.  Just what is going on around this ship?

It's a tale that starts off as a jab at Star Trek's redshirt syndrome and then takes that in strange new directions.  I've never read Scalzi before but he's a favorite of my husband and amongst several of my friends so this seemed like a good one to cut my teeth on.   There were some strange writing ticks that bothered me a bit (the stating who said something every single line is a good one) but on the whole I found it amusing enough and will probably raid my husband's bookshelf at some point to read some of his other works.

Page count: 317p/24,091p ytd/168,491p lifetime

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

91:120 History of US Vol. 8: An Age of Extremes by Joy Hakim

Middle-School History covering 1880-1917.   This book focused first on the power houses of their day: Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan.  It also talked about the inventions and innovations of the Gilded Age but also focused a lot on the extremes between the rich and poor and the politics behind it like the city bosses but also how the progressives came into being trying to deal with the injustices they saw all around and the reforms that came about such as the child labor laws, juvenile courts, the 40hr work week, and unions.  The book leaves off at the start of WWI during Woodrow Wilson's presidency.

I liked this one probably the best of all so far.  Things seemed to flow better from one chapter to the next and I didn't feel like we were bopping around all over the place completely out of order.

Page count: 197p/23,774p ytd/168,174p lifetime

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

90:120 My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

Angel is white trash in every sense of the word.  She lives in a run down, filthy trailer with her alcoholic father, her mother is dead and wasn't any better than her dad when she was alive, she dropped out of high school and hasn't been able to hold down a job, she pops pills and drinks a ton, and her boyfriend is for crap.  The one day she wakes up in the hospital after being found naked on the side of the road.  She has no idea what happened as her last recollections are being at a bar with her boyfriend and talking to another guy.  When she is discharged she finds a mysterious package with her clothes and some bottles of coffee looking sludge and a note that says she should drink one every other day and oh, she starts her job working for the coroner as a van driver the next day and she should not be late and she must keep this job for at least 30 days or else.  She figures it's some sort of work rehab program but it's better than jail but then she starts noticing that brains are smelling awfully good...

A friend got this for my oldest who is zombie obsessed but even he raised an eyebrow at it and wasn't sure he would read it when we ran across it on a list of Top 10 Zombie Books.  There were others on that list that he had loved so he figured he'd give it a try and he enjoyed it and then told me I had to read it too.  I'm not much for the zombie genre myself but there have been the occasional one that I've enjoyed and this one looked better than a lot of the ones I've read at his insistence so I agreed.  I found it poignant in some ways and laugh out loud funny in others.  Angel is who she is and I loved seeing her grow and figure her way through things, including how to manage her own life.  It doesn't try to be anything than what it bills itself as and that is a fun bubblegum read and it succeeds marvelously at being that.

Page count: 310p/23,577p ytd/167,977p lifetime

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

89:120 Darkness Unmasked by Keri Arthur

The 5th book in the Dark Angels series.  Risa is being torn in so many directions and it is definitely wearing on her.  She has her father demanding that she find the keys to the gates of the otherworld to keep them from falling into the wrong hands and there are many others who want her to find them so they can steal them and open those very gates, Director Hunter has just found her lover murdered likely by an otherworld entity and is demanding that Risa find out who and turn them over to Hunter so she can have her vengeance,  and there is the guilt of Tao who is losing his battle to the fire elemental that he consumed to save her and her desire to find a way to heal him.  There are days when she wonders if the world wouldn't be better off without her.

I go back and forth on this series.  The main plot seems to have seriously stalled out with new things just being thrown in for Risa to go deal with instead of the "all important quest to find the keys".  Oh and sex, lots of sex, mostly inappropriately timed.  Well, the inappropriately timed sex is still there but at least there are not pages and pages of it being written so I guess that is something but the yet another side quest does make for a tedious and plodding first 3/4 of the book.  Then out of left-field all h*** breaks loose and the original plot line is back and moving forward at warp speed!  I hit the 100p left mark and couldn't put the book down because I had to see where things were going and I was not disappointed.  Lots of twists and turns I hadn't seen coming and now I'm excited for the next book again.  I only hope that we can get rid of the side quests and focus on the main one and move the true plot along again.

Page count: 392p/23,267p/167,667p

Thursday, August 1, 2013

88:120 Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

Lud-in-the-Mist is a sleep little town nestled between two rivers and between the sea and the hills that lead to Fairyland.  Not much happens there and that's just the way the residents like it.  Master Nathaniel Chanticleer has been there the whole 50yrs of his life as part of a very respectable and long established family and foresees ending his days there and having his son, Ranulph, take over the family home when he dies.  But then Ranulph starts acting funny and the rumor is that he has partaken of the forbidden fairy fruit.  He is sent away for his health but then many of the young girls are similarly afflicted and by the same thing and run off across the hills into the forbidden Fairyland.  Throw in a bit of a murder mystery and you have this story in a nutshell.

I wanted to like this so much more than I did.  Beautifully descriptive language in a rich world but I found it slow and tedious and the characters predictable with very little growth or true development about them.  It was a quaint little tale but I felt like something was missing and the ending was rushed although that may have been because I predicted it at the outset.

Page count: 256p/22,875p ytd/167,275p lifetime

87:120 Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

The 6th book in the Kate Daniels series.  The Pack's children are having problems controlling their beasts during puberty and are not surviving.  There is a medicine in Europe that can help but making it is a closely guarded secret and there is not much to be had in Atlanta.  There is a chance for Kate and Curran to get more but it is certainly a trap as three European packs have asked Curran to come and help mediate a dispute and keep safe the daughter that is pregnant with twins but whose babies have different fathers.  What kind of trap it will be isn't clear and when it finally becomes clear, it will shake their world down to the core.

Seems like we waited forever for this one and it's not fair that it's so impossible to put down that I'm done in two days.  There was so much going on and so many points where I was like "OMG, that did NOT just happen!".  At a few points I was ready to throttle the authors as well because some of that was just not ok.  There are some parts that are just hard to swallow in this one although I'm glad they have the ending they did or I may have thrown the book and refused to ever pick up another one.  As it is, I'm even more completely committed to this series and will be waiting impatiently for the next one.

Page count: 357p/22,619p ytd/167,019p lifetime

86:120 A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

The 2nd book in the Song of Fire and Ice series (otherwise known as the Game of Thrones thanks to the TV show).  Jofferey is on the Iron Throne but Robb Stark has declared himself King of the North, Balon Greyjoy father has declared himself the King of the Iron Islands, and both Renly and Stannis Baratheon are declaring themselves the true heirs to the Iron Throne on the grounds that they are Robert's brothers and Jofferey is actually the son of Jamie Lannister and not Robert.  Sansa Stark is still in the clutches of the Lannisters at King's Landing and Arya is in hiding.  Tyrion tho, steals the show in this book with all his scheming and plotting in such a masterful way.  It's hard not to admire him (and after watching season 1 I would go so far as to say it's impossible).    Catelyn Stark continues to be the most tragic figure through all of this but manages to maintain her dignity and do what she feels must be done.  With all these factions fighting to gain control or at least get out from under control of someone, it makes for a very chaotic time in the land of Westeros.  I really wanted to see more of Daenerys and what was going on with her and the dragons but she definitely seemed to be a bit more of a side story in this one.  With all that GRRM was trying to pack into this I know it's impossible to give everyone equal attention.

Ok, I like crazy stories that are all over the place like this with all the different threads going through them so long as the continuity is good and threads don't get dropped.  So far GRRM seems to be holding it together well but there were definitely a few times when I wanted to throw the book across the room and I'm glad I held off a little bit as usually things became more clear later on and I was able to get back under control again.  I have to say that I get why the "good" characters have to die so quickly but oh man, all I have to say about that is that some of these horrid ones better get theirs in some spectacular ways.

Page count: 728p/22,262p ytd/166,662p lifetime