Wednesday, December 31, 2014

122:120 The Asian World 600-1500CE by Roger V. DesForges & John S. Major

First read and reviewed in May 2011.  Here's my review from then:

Middle School History covering China, Korea, India, and Japan from 600AD-1500AD.  I really enjoyed the presentation and learning more about this period of time in Asia.  Interesting to see how religion spread through the different areas and how it would change in accordance to the needs of the people of that region.  I found it fascinating to learn that the Korea had a movable metal-type printing machine 50yrs before Gutenberg made his movable type press.  There were lots of little tidbits like that which makes the history much more fun and accessible to the middle schooler and even to those adults (like me) who tend to find history dry and boring.

Page count: 173p/33,896p ytd/214,934p lifetime

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

121:120 Who Were The Beatles? by Geoff Edgers

A short children's biography on who The Beatles were (mostly I suspect for parents who loved the Fab Four to buy for the children to get them to appreciate the band more LOL).  It is a basic overview of their childhoods, how the band was formed, their part in history, briefly covers the break-up, and the direction their lives took after that up through 2001. It is simplistic, being written for Grades 3-5 but I bought it for my second son when he was about that age because he loved the band (and still does) and now my younger boys also enjoy them and have enjoyed reading the book.  I will admit to eye-rolling them when I was younger since that was music from my mother's teenage years and she loved them so I had to rebel and go in for heavy metal so while I was always aware of them, I didn't know much of their background story but I figured I could at least read this to get some idea.  I enjoy their music (good thing since the 16yr old plays so much of it on CD, his guitar, and the piano) but I feel no need at this point in my life to dive much deeper into their history so this was a nice compromise for me.

Page count: 106p/33,723p ytd/214,761p lifetime

Monday, December 29, 2014

120:120 Torchwood: Another Life by Peter Anghelides

The first book in the books for the Torchwood TV series.  The Torchwood team is trying to track down a killer that is gnawing out the back of vagrants heads.  What they don't realize until they find the person they think is behind it is that he is just a pawn being controlled by another, almost definitely alien intelligence.  In the midst of their investigation, a storm the likes of which has never been seen around Cardiff is underway and the entire city is flooding and some nuclear rods have gone missing and while doing the autopsy on their first suspect, Owen has come down with a bad case of radiation poisoning which puts him out of the action and left to his own devices.  As anyone familiar with the series knows, that is never a good thing.

I've seen all of Torchwood (even Children of Earth and Miracle Day which were awful) and I felt the writing was a bit stiff in this one at times which made it harder to get into.  Also the plot was really hard to get into until over half way when things finally started coming together which again, just made it hard to get into.  Overall it wasn't bad but it just wasn't great either and I was hoping for better.

Page count: 253p/33,617p ytd/214,655p lifetime

Sunday, December 28, 2014

119:120 Doctor Who: Made of Steel by Terrance Dicks

Quick Reads with David Tennant as the Doctor and Freema Agyeman as his companion, Martha Jones.  Cybermen are attacking in England but only a few are ever seen.  When Martha and the Doctor end up at her hospital for a visit, the Doctor is drawn into the investigation and Martha is taken captive by the Cybermen who want the Doctor's help in releasing the rest of their army from the Void.

As it says on the cover, it's a quick read which means it is assumed you know who all the characters are and previous events that are referred to in passing.  There is no character development of any sort but it's a fun little read if you know the universe and is great for the younger kids who get daunted by the longer books (or who this book was originally bought for).  I felt Martha's portrayal was a bit weak but the 10th Doctor was decent enough although nothing spectacular.

Page count: 99p/33,364p ytd/214,402p lifetime

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

118:120 The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The first book in the Mary Russell series.  Mary's parents have died in an accident and she is now living in a small town in England.  She is wandering one day when she stumbles across the famous Sherlock Holmes.  He lives in the town now after having retired some years earlier.  She has a keen mind and they strike up a friendship and he begins training her after his own methodology.  In between her time at Oxford, she ends up taking on some cases with him and their relationship is cemented when someone starts trying to kill them both.

I've had a lot of friends raving about this series so I picked up a few as I could at the local used bookstore and grabbed the first one on Kindle so I could start the series sooner.  I really, really enjoyed it.  I've read several of the original Holmes stories, some of the anthologies with stories written by other people, and can't get enough of the BBC Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and I felt that this captured the spirit of Holmes wonderfully and it was nice to see a strong female character actually in the lead.  Mary is, of course, a bit daunted by Sherlock when they first meet but not intimidated by him and not afraid to speak her mind.  I can't wait to get the rest of the series and find the time to read them all.  I've heard they are all just as good as this one.

Page count: 384p/33,265p ytd/214,303p lifetime

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Releases I'm Looking Forward To: 1st Quarter 2015

My usual disclaimer:
Let me state, this is really based on authors or series that I'm already reading since those are the things I follow.  I'm not paid to write this blog nor do I have any affiliations with any publishers so I don't receive free books or advance notice of things except what I glean off Facebook from people who do have those contacts or what I research on my own (which again, leads back to authors that I'm already reading).  Maybe someday I'll be one of those who has the contacts and gets ARCs but it's not today.

I am so far behind my reading from the last two quarters that I'm going quite crazy looking at all these beautiful books on my bookshelf but right now I'm frantically reading new authors as I managed to get behind on that and I'm soooo close to making my goal for the year in new authors that I want to get that done first.  Maybe with the kids being on break, I can manage to not only do that but start getting caught up on my other reading as well.  Hey, a girl can hope!

Tales from the Nightside by Simon Green kicks off the new releases for 2015.  It's been a while since we got to delve into the world of John Taylor and his "friends".  This is a collection of 10 short stories where we get to find out some of the backstories of the characters that he has worked with and with any luck, we'll get some John and Shotgun Suzy as well.

Release date: Jan 6

At the end of the month, we have the next installment in the Sisters of the Otherworld series told from Delilah's point of view, Panther Prowling by Yasmine Galenorn. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the main storyline with Shadow Wing is getting moved ahead in this story either and that kind of bums me out.  I love the sisters but it seems like the main story has taken a backseat for the most part and it's being stretched out.  I will, of course, be reading this one because I can't not read it but I hope that things will get back on track with the main plot soon.

Release date: Jan 27

With no releases in February that I'm tracking, I get two new books to choose from at the beginning of March.  Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs gets back to seeing how things are going with Anna & Charles.  They are taking a trip to Phoenix for personal reasons but nothing is ever so simple and while they are there, they find that the Fae are stealing human children and replacing them.  Looks like a war with the Fae may be starting up and they are in the line of fire.

Relesae date: Mar 3

Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire is the other one coming out at the beginning of March and we get to hear more from Alex Price and his girlfriend, Shelby.  Apparently things are not going well back in Australia according to Shelby's family so the two of them head to the Land Down Under to deal with some werewolves.  I have a feeling this will prove to be an 'interesting' trip.

Release date: Mar 3

To finish off the first quarter, we get the first in a new series with Prudence by Gail Carriger.   Alexia's daughter is leading off this series and I can't wait to be back in that world and in India to boot!  I'm sure that any daughter of Alexia and Sir Maccon will be a serious handful and delightful to adventure with.

Release date: Mar 17

So definitely a small number of books in the first quarter but there are enough books on my shelves that I won't be lacking for anything to read.

Happy Reading!

117:120 Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly

Joseph and his family have fled their home in the Ukraine and headed to Krakow after the Tartars have laid waste to their home.  They are being hunted even in Krakow as Joseph's father is hiding the Great Tarnov Crystal, a jewel that is said to possess great powers and one that is worth killing for.  Pan Andrew, Joseph's father, has fulfilled his family's ancient oath to protect it for as long as they could but now that the secret is out, he must give it to the King of Poland but first he must survive and keep it safe long enough to be granted that audience.  To keep his identity secret, he takes on the job of the night trumpeter who sounds the Heynal with the broken note in each direction on the hour.  His family has found sanctuary in the house with an alchemist and his niece but there are others nearby with less pure motives that would steal the crystal if they knew it's whereabouts.

Beautifully researched and simply told, it's easy to see why this was awarded the John Newberry Medal.  This book was chosen years ago for my 2nd son's book club and he asked me to read it but between one thing and another I just now got around to it.  It was a nice little read with some historical significance.

Page count: 208p/32,881p ytd/213,919p lifetime

Friday, December 19, 2014

116:120 Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

The 4th book in the Starcatchers series.  This one takes place about 20 years after the adventures in Peter and the Secret of Rundoon.  George and Molly have gotten married, had 3 children, and settled into more mundane life.  The Starcatchers seem to have disbanded as the need for them appears to be over but now there are strange disappearances in the tunnels of the London Underground and a strange adviser to Crown Prince Edward.  James, Peter's friend from the island that returned with the Asters after Rundoon, is now an Inspector and very suspicious of what he is seeing so he goes to visit Molly and tell her of his worries.  Right afterward, he disappears and Molly goes in search of him.  After she also disappears her daughter, Wendy, takes it upon herself to find this mysterious Mollusk Island and her mother's friend Peter as the only one who may be able to help save her mother.  Peter can not refuse and returns to London to find that not only is Molly missing but there is a frightening new foe called The Skeleton and Ombra is back disguised as the soon-to-be king's adviser, von Schatten.  Peter must find enough allies and enough courage to stop Ombra and the Skeleton once again or the world will pay the price.

Apparently the series was basically over after the last book but with children clamoring for more, this book was brought to life.  I read it aloud to my younger two and they loved it.  I found it a nice simple story that did a good job of bridging the Starcatchers series over to where we first met Peter Pan in the original book by Mr. Barrie.

Page count: 515p/32,673p ytd/213,711p lifetime

Saturday, December 13, 2014

115:120 Doctor Who: Judgement of the Judoon by Colin Brake

With the Doctor as played by David Tennant.  The Doctor is traveling on his own, between companions when he discovers a distress call from a ship that has been boarded and left in horrible shape by a squadron of Judoon.  After helping the ship, he decides to go after the Judoon and see how he can help them and halt the destruction that they seem to leave in their wake.  The trail takes him to the Elvis the King Spaceport, Terminal 13, in New Memphis.  The Terminal has just barely opened and has been experiencing nothing but problems in the weeks that have followed.  The Judoon have followed the trail of the Invisible Assassin there and the Doctor has followed the Judoon.  Now the Doctor has convinced the head Judoon to work with him in a more subdued fashion to try and find this assassin and bring him/her to justice without using typical Judoon methods.  Along the way, they meet a young girl, Nikki, who is a private eye and whose case seems to be meshing up with theirs in unusual ways as she is trying to track down a pickpocket.  Between the three of them, maybe they can figure out what is going on or maybe they will just be drawn into the feud between the mob factions of Uncle and the Widow.

It was a fun book and it wasn't too hard to hear David Tennant's voice saying the Doctor's lines in my head which is always a good sign that they've captured the spirit of that incarnation.

Page count: 247p/32,158p ytd/213,196 lifetime

Friday, December 12, 2014

114:120 In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

"Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants."  

There you go, the secret of this book and he lays it out right in the first chapter.  So why read on?  Because what Mr. Pollan goes to do is lay out the problem with the Western Diet and how it's killing us.  We have become a slave to Nutritionism and not food.  Science keeps telling us to eat more of this miracle nutrient and less of this one over here and we will be healthy and all will be good.  But it doesn't work and then next week or year or decade, they realize that what they first told us was absolutely wrong and they reverse it.  The Low-Fat Diet is a beautiful example of this.  We were told to eat less fat because consuming fat was making us fat and leading to heart disease.  So industry came to the rescue and took the fat out of everything replacing it with sugar and sodium and things we can't pronounce.  And that made us fatter than ever. Heart disease didn't go down and now we are told that carbs are the problem.  Eat more fish! Omega 3s! Paleo! Atkins!  The list goes on and all it does is leave those who need to eat more confused then ever.  There are now organic toaster pastries with Omega 3s.  Are those healthy?  The obvious answer is no but since Fritos can now put on their packages that they are a "heart healthy" food, who knows any more, right?!  

This is the point of Mr. Pollan's book, helping to decipher what we have been being told for the past 40+ years (longer than my lifetime). He breaks down the studies and tries to help the typical person understand what is being studied and how and what the results most likely mean.  How studies are flawed and how that tweaks the results.  He has his own rules for eating that he lays out in the last section but really, what it boils down to is the words at the top.  I had already started doing this after some less than stellar lab work at the doctor's and while it will be a few months before I know conclusively if it is helping in that department, my body is already showing positive changes to the new way of eating.  I highly recommend this book and I'm so glad that my son's high school health course uses it.

Page count: 244p/31,991p ytd/212,949p lifetime

113:120 Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Set in the early 19th century in Mexico we follow the story of Tita, the third and youngest daughter born to a well-off family who cried so much while in the womb as her mother chopped onions that she was born early right there in the kitchen.  As the youngest, it is her lot to never marry and instead spend her life taking care of her mother.  When she falls in love as a young teenager, her mother in a fit of spite marries the oldest daughter off to Tita's love in stead and forces Tita to make the wedding cake.  Tita makes a beautiful cake, infused with her tears which when eaten at the wedding causes all the guests to turn to melancholy thoughts of old loves and sends everyone out of the hall in tears.  As Tita's life continues, she continues to perfect her cooking and the cake is not the last meal she serves that imparts her emotions to those that partake of it.  She spends many years pining after that which she can't have and any happiness she finds stripped away from her by her mother but in the end, she can finally say that she has found what she always longed for.

I think I picked this one up from a Freecycle book lot or something because it is not something that I would normally have just bought.  The story itself borders on tragic almost the whole way through with only brief pauses as Tita finds happiness briefly before it is lost again.  Her mother seems to be a sadistic and cruel person who delights in making Tita's life as miserable as possible and you can't help but hate her completely.  Each month/chapter starts with a recipe which look interesting although I doubt I would ever make any of them but it was a nice twist to include since food and cooking is such a huge part of Tita's life.  I want to say that I enjoyed this book but I can't, it was just too depressing to actually enjoy.  It was good, simple but well written, but definitely not something uplifting or joyful.  Think more along the lines of Romeo and Juliet.

Page count: 246p/31,667p ytd/212,705p lifetime

Monday, December 8, 2014

112:120 Hinges of Destiny by Goranson

This book is not yet out in publication.  I was paid to read it and fill out a survey with my thoughts on it.  Therefore, this will be very brief since I have no idea how much, if any, the book will change before being published (if it ever is).

Elizabeth Stewart has been terrified of flying ever since her husband and son were killed in a crash 6 years ago.  She wouldn't be in the airport now if the meeting with this client (and thus her possible promotion) depend on it.  Unfortunately, she got there early enough to scrutinize everything.  Why were those suits looking at something on the wing?  Are the service crew taking longer repairing something?  Why is the pilot coming off the plane looking so distraught?  The last one is something she could follow up on and so she did and what she heard did nothing to reassure her and in fact disturbed her even further.  She sat in the waiting area pondering what to do all through the time when the plane left and then she went to see if she could get on another flight only to learn that shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed.  Was it due to the pilot?  Should she have said something to someone?

Now she is the only person from the flight who might have answers but she also has her own inner battles to fight as well.

So this book is not in my usual genre so I'm not sure who typical it was of it's genre.  I found it hard to relate to the main character who kept weighing her options and always picked what seemed like the stupidest thing to do in any given situation to make her own situation worse.  There were several awkward transitions and many of the "plot twists" were predictable and/or very contrived.

Page count: 383p/31,421p ytd/212,459p lifetime