Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Lost Gate (Mither Mages)

Orson Scott Card
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From Publishers Weekly

Card's newest series opener can't decide whether it's a thought experiment featuring a nifty magic system, a YA urban fantasy, or a series of fantasy interludes, so it settles for performing all three tasks satisfactorily, if not spectacularly. Danny North, descendant of exiled mages from another world, is taken aback when he comes into his true powers as a gatemage. He could reconnect his people with their long-lost home world, but gatemages are usually killed to maintain a fragile peace among the exiled clans. Fleeing his home, Danny finds refuge and slowly explores his potential, planning to open the first Great Gate in 14 centuries. Meanwhile, on the far-off world of Westil, a young gatemage named Wad finds love, conspiracies, and betrayal in a remote castle while struggling to recall his hazy past. Though occasionally uneven and meandering, this ambitious tale is well crafted, highly detailed, and pleasantly accessible. 
Much fun - in a Harry Potter sort of vein.  Listened to it thanks to the Public Library (hooray for taxes!!!) and OverDrive.    Of course now I have to wait for the next installment....

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins 
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In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. 

Fast paced - it's a great story if you like dystopic future + reality TV.  Seriously, it's much more than that - a gripping story, and I'm sure a welcome find to Scholastic as the Harry Potter revenues wind down.  Like Harry, it has a serious undertone that makes it far more than your average YA novel.

This was the first book I got from - the Kindle lending cooperative.  And of course, I've already requested the next book......

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Victorious (The Lost Fleet, Book 6 of 6) 

Jack Campbell
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Now Victorious leads the charge again-and "Black Jack" Geary is in command... 
As war continues to rage between the Alliance and Syndicate Worlds, Captain "Black Jack" Geary is promoted to admiral-even though the ruling council fears he may stage a military coup. His new rank gives him the authority to negotiate with the Syndics, who have suffered tremendous losses and may finally be willing to end the war. But an even greater alien threat lurks on the far side of the Syndic occupied space.
I've really enjoyed and been impressed with this series - so much so that I held on to this book for over a year before I finished it - I was just reluctant to have the series end.  BUT... it doesn't!!  A new series has started (in hardback this time) and the first book is waiting for me at the library - so I spent this last weekend reading this one - and it was great!

The thing I liked about these books - besides the premise:
 the hero Jack Geary coming to terms with his revival after a century of sleep to take command of a fleet immersed in a hundred year war that has taken a toll on the people and policies of the Alliance. He needs to fend off the near-deification his heroic "Black Jack" persona is remembered as, AND use it to drive his fleet into the discipline and structure they will need to fight their way back to Alliance space.
there is a tremendously well though out strategy and tactics AND logistics of supply and resupply.  These books are much better at describing space battles than Weber and company will ever be. I'm just waiting for lunchtime to go fetch my book at the library.....

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Losing the Peace 

William Leisner
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Fortune has smiled on Lieutenant Jasminder Choudhury, chief of security on the U.S.S Enterprise.™ She has survived. But her homeworld, Deneva, one of the planets targeted in the massive Borg invasion, has not. The entire surface has been wiped clean of everything, killing anyone who did not evacuate and rendering the planet uninhabitable. Choudhury is left to wonder whether her family was one of the displaced. Or are they all gone forever?The Enterprise is just one ship, and Jasminder Choudhury is just one officer, yet her story is being repeated over and over across the galaxy. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons haunt the space ways, seeking comfort, looking for someplace safe, somewhere, anywhere to find solace. Captain Jean-Luc Picard is ordered to do everything he can to rescue and if need be to recover the lost souls from the Borg invasion.
For the first time in generations, citizens of the Federation know want, uncertainty, and fear. Bloodied yet unbowed, the Federation now stands on the edge of a precipice. The captain of the Enterprise finds himself in the unenviable position of wondering whether it is true that those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace.

Boy - I am so out of the loop in current Trek fiction... I struggle at times to put the pieces together.  Fortunately there are wikis and more to answer questions.   This book deals with refugee issues post-Borg (and really, REALLY post-Borg - as I'd seen in earlier Voyager books), memories of Jack Crusher, Picard and Dr. Crusher married... all kinds of post TV/movie series game changes.  Fun to read and see how all the pieces are played out.  And it's by a local author!

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption 

Laura Hillenbrand
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: From Laura Hillenbrand, the bestselling author of Seabiscuit, comes Unbroken, the inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini--a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time. You’ll cheer for the man who somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you’ll want to share this book with everyone you know. --Juliet Disparte
An amazing, evocative, harrowing and inspiring story.  I could not put this down.

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne in)

Mark Hodder
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From Publishers WeeklyA historical figure already larger than life, Capt. Sir Richard Francis Burton, pursues a legendary and violent Victorian creature, Spring Heeled Jack, at the behest of the prime minister in this convincingly researched debut. Fans of steampunk will be intrigued by the alternate history setting, in which the queen dies mid-century; they will also enjoy following Burton and his sidekick, poet Algernon Swinburne, as they investigate the dark secrets of 19th-century England and recall Burton's legendary expedition to find the source of the Nile. Burton is an intriguing character, but the story might have benefited by more than token appearances of his intrepid fiancée, Isabel Arundell, and better integration of the fantastical elements--werewolves, time travelers--into the narrative before a wild ending that pulls everything together. 
Great fun in a steampunk vein, with a clever device (that reminds me of the Star Trek 2009 movie) to fracture "real history" from the history of this book's narrative.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void 

Mary Roach
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: With her wry humor and inextinguishable curiosity, Mary Roach has crafted her own quirky niche in the somewhat staid world of science writing, showing no fear (or shame) in the face of cadavers, ectoplasm, or sex. In Packing for Mars, Roach tackles the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit. Roach is unfailingly inquisitive (Why is it impolite for astronauts to float upside down during conversations? Just how smelly does a spacecraft get after a two week mission?), and she eagerly seeks out the stories that don't make it onto NASA's website--from SPCA-certified space suits for chimps, to the trial-and-error approach to crafting menus during the space program's early years (when the chefs are former livestock veterinarians, taste isn't high on the priority list). Packing for Mars is a book for grownups who still secretly dream of being astronauts, and Roach lives it up on their behalf--weightless in a C-9 aircraft, she just can't resist the opportunity to go "Supermanning" around the cabin. Her zeal for discovery, combined with her love of the absurd, amazing, and stranger-than-fiction, make Packing for Mars an uproarious trip into the world of space travel. --Lynette Mong
 Great fun, and makes the reader understand how really, really, hard it is to put people IN space *AND* keep them alive.  Recommended.