Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Hope's Folly by Linnea Sinclair

Synopsis: Admiral Philip Guthrie is in an unprecedented position: on the wrong end of the law, leading a rag-tag band of rebels against the oppressive Imperial forces. Or would be, if he can reach his command ship—the intriguingly named Hope’s Folly—alive. Not much can rattle Philip’s legendary cool—but the woman who helps him foil an assassination attempt on Kirro Station will. She’s the daughter of his best friend and first commander—a man who died while under Philip’s command, and whose death is on Philip’s conscience.
Rya Bennton has been in love with Philip Guthrie since she was a girl. But can her childhood fantasies survive an encounter with the hardened man, and newly-minted rebel leader, who it seems has just become her new commanding officer? And will she still be willing follow him through the jaw of hell once she learns the truth about her father’s death?
It's an impossible mission on a derelict ship called HOPE'S FOLLY. A man who feels he can't love. A woman who believes she's unlovable. And an enemy who will stop at nothing to crush them both. (from the back of the book)
Review: This is the third in Sinclair's Dock Five series, and the second I've read. It vexes me I read them out of order, but my fault as I own the second of the series and didn't check to see which was which when I snatched this off the shelf.
Guthrie is a secondary character in the first two, and I am pleased he was given his own story. Rya is hilarious, and a character I connected with immediately. The world-building, as always, is fabulous. Sinclair has a talent for intrigue, raising the stakes, make each character unique (even the secondary), and make the reader unable to set the book down.
In this, I particularly like Rya's self doubt - it felt real, not the debilitating whining of your average beauty-who-thinks-she-isn't. Rya knows herself, her looks and her abilities and accepts who she is as she is. It's Guthrie who changes Rya's self-doubt - and it is Rya that shows Guthrie he can love.
The conflict they encounter had me on the edge of the seat (or, more accurately, staying up late into the night on work night to finish.)
Of the two I've read, I preferred this one. Not that the other was bad, but the previous was in first person and I do not always enjoy that. This was an excellent book and I highly recommend if you enjoy good science fiction with a strong romantic bent.

Bookmarks:  8 of 10

Awards: Several. See here for details.

Date Finished: 1-16-2012
Pages: 423

Ramble: End of Year

I feel slightly guilty that I did not write an End of Year Review. This prose would include of best of list, an analysis of my goals achieved (or not) and my projection for the coming year.

But truthfully, my only reflection is on the achieved goal of writing a review for ever book read. Which, if my math is correct, is 115. That's quite a load, if you account for the number of hours I'm compelled each day to attend to matters not related to books.

Therefore, my belated closing statement for 2011 is this: It's was a good year for reading.

2012, perhaps, will be better. But I am writing more, so reading less - an inevitable trade.

As such, I have begun a new blog, were I shan't speak at all about books. Okay, maybe a bit. But it will be to practice writing about other things.

2012: To Writing. To Reading. To Learning and Growth. Let's get going, people!

Aquisitions: Birthday Loot

Being that I dropped donations off to a local thrift store, I was not able to resist the siren call of popping in for a moment to peruse their wares. My search for a teired serving stand and a 8x8 pyrex continues, but I found two books I was most intent on owning.

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Dooomsday Book by Connie Willis

Then, as it is my birthday, my dear husband escorted my to Barnes and Noble and I used a gift card and a few dollars to purchase three additional books.

The Sentinel Mage by Emily Gee

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines

With so many exiciting choices, which do I read first?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Ship Fever and Other Stories by Andrea Barrett

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century, the elegant short fictions gathered here take their impulse from the wold of science. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they illuminate the secret passions of those driven by a devotion to, and an intimate acquaintance with, the natural world.

Review: The common thread between these stories is the explosion of natural science during the 1700-1800s. Some of the stories take place in the modern era, but have their roots in the past. The characters were complex, twisted, flawed and round. I was impressed with Barrett's ability to draw complete characters in a such short words. I did not enjoy the stories - there were no warm fuzzies or smiles - but the stories lodged in one's mind, the prose, the characters. I consider this a good book, even if it made me sad to read.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: National Book Award, 1996

Date Finished: 1-11-2012
Pages: 254

Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Synopsis: Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest. But there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. (from the back of the book)
Review: This was the third of the three books that retell Grimm's The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Of the three, it was my least favorite. The twelve princess are named for flowers, in alphabetic order. The oldest, Azalea, tries to protect her sisters, but leads them to the hands of the Keeper, who an evil sorcerer trapped by ancient magic. Azalea's relationship with her father is explored and the resolution, her growth and her Father's is interesting. The second sister, Bramble, was my favorite. Brash, bold, outspoken - she made me laugh.
What ruined this book for me was the endless dance metaphors. Everything was compared to dancing - eating, drinking, walking, dressing, riding, bowing, opening doors, picking up trash - whatever, it didn't matter. Within the first few pages, I was done with the dance metaphors. As the rest of the book was so wonderful, I was annoyed to have that one oversight hamper my enjoyment of this otherwise good work. I would mention it, but I would recommend the George and Marillier books first.

6 of 10


Date Finished: 1-5-2012

Pages: 472

Review: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Synopsis: Five adventurous sisters. Four dark creatures. Three magical gifts. Two forbidden lovers. One enchanted frogs. Cross the threshold into the Wildwood, and enter a land of magic, daring, betrayal and true love.

Review: This is the second of the three books I read that retell Grimm's The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Of the three, this one follows the story the least. Only five sisters, and they aren't princesses, merely the daughters of a rich merchant. This story is woven with the Transylvania myths of Baba Yaga and the Vampires, and told from the viewpoint of the second sister. Combine all this with a villain who is thinks he's right, a magic frog and dark promise made as children, and you have a wonderful story. Of the three, this elicited the most emotion and this is the one I stayed up late to read. I connected easily with Jena, the main character, and with her sisters. They danced every night by choice, their dancing a place of refugee and joy amidst a deepening pool of sorrow in the real world. The love was the best kind - a friendship that became love. It was swee
I highly recommend this work, particularly for those who like myths and fables and talking animals.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 12-30-2012
Pages: 407

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Synopsis: Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of disability. She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome - and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life....
But Bill has a disability of his own. He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hands with seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of - big surprise - murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fear she's next....

The chatter about this book (and the TV show) is substantial. I finally found a readable copy for cheap (i.e. free) and dove in, to see what all the fuss was about.
I was bored. There is no other word for it: bored. And sad, because the premise is excellent, the characters rife with potential. I loved the idea of southern vampires, the world, the culture. It was all excellent. Which makes me wonder why I just didn't enjoy the work. I had trouble connecting to Sookie, Bill seemed boring, the bad guy was not-that-scary, the sex was graphic and gratuitous. I don't know. I can see why others would rave over this work, but for me, it just didn't do it. However, I would not dissuade others from reading it, as I think other would derive great entertainment from Harris's book, even though I did not.

6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 12-22-2012
Pages: 260

Review: The Poems of St. John of the Cross trans. and ed. by John Frederick Nims

Synopsis: A collection of poems, in English and the original Spanish, written by the 15th centrury Christian mystic St. John of the Cross.

Review: I read St. John's The Dark Night of the Soul, and found it vague and mysterious, but with merit. His poems are the same - beautiful, but vague and hazy. His words meander like a winter wind. I usually enjoy poety that is clipped and brief, but his was too metaphorical for me. I think his work will appeal to some, but not me.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 12-21-2012
Pages: 151

Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Synopsis: As the crown princess, Rose is never without a dance partner. She and her eleven sisters are treated to beautiful gowns, slippers, and dances at party after party in their father's palace. But their evenings do not end when the guests return home. Instead, Rose and her sisters must travel deep into the earth to the wicked King Under Stone's palace. There, the girls are curse to dance watch night, even when they grow exhausted or ill. Many princes have tried - and failed - to break the spell. But then Rose meets Galen, a young solider-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure. Together they begin to unravel the mystery. To banish the curse, they'll need an invisibility cloak, enchanted silver knitting needs, and, of course, true love.

This is the first of three books I read that retell the story of the Twelve Dancing Princess, first introduced by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.
Of the three, this one follows the original tale closest. The twelve princess are named for flowers (a common choice in retellings of this fable) and they are run from late teens to toddler. One of the reasons this tale is easy to retell without getting boring is the original never specifies why they dance - whether cursed, forced, choice or joy. This story chose cursed, a curse that twisted well with the hero, a solider, and the secondary plot of a country broken by war. The world-building, the war, the people, are loosely based on European society, but not enough that it loses it's magical quality.
The hero, Galen, has a depth the is pleasant to read. A solider who fought and lived through horrible events, but maintains a lightness, a humor, and a humility that makes him a wonderful character.
And the knitting! Galen knits, part of his appeal, and it becomes pivotal in the story. The author even includes a pattern in the back of the book!
The princess had less depth, aside from the oldest few, which is to be expected. It would be impossible to build detailed characters in a YA novel and have it be short enough. Rose, the main princess, was an endearing character, her pain, joy, loyalty to her sisters and concern for her country gave her a depth I enjoyed.
As for the love story, it was obvious, but still sweet and believable. Over all, this was a delightful retelling, one I would recommend.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 12-18-2011
Pages: 272