Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail by Marcus Rediker

Synopsis: In Outlaws of the Atlantic, award-winning historian Marcus Rediker turns maritime history upside down. He explores the dramatic world of maritime adventure, not from the perspective of admirals, merchants, and nation-states but from the viewpoint of commoners—sailors, slaves, indentured servants, pirates, and other outlaws from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Bringing together their seafaring experiences for the first time, Outlaws of the Atlantic is an unexpected and compelling peoples’ history of the “age of sail.” With his signature bottom-up approach and insight, Rediker reveals how the “motley”—that is, multiethnic—crews were a driving force behind the American Revolution; that pirates, enslaved Africans, and other outlaws worked together to subvert capitalism; and that, in the era of the tall ship, outlaws challenged authority from below deck. By bringing these marginal seafaring characters into the limelight, Rediker shows how maritime actors have shaped history that many have long regarded as national and landed. And by casting these rebels by sea as cosmopolitan workers of the world, he reminds us that to understand the rise of capitalism, globalization, and the formation of race and class, we must look to the sea. (from the back of the book)

Review: Often histories from the Age of Sail speak about the big names - Columbus, Nelson, Blackbeard - but this books, it gathers the voices of the lowly sailors, the slave, the common man. Exploring sailing, not just from the viewpoint of pirates, but also the sailors pressed into service during the wars, the slave transported across in unspeakable conditions, and the sailor who wrote about life as sea as a common laborer. The author did a fine job of making this interesting to read - with easy prose, moderate vocabulary, he struck a balance between easy-reading and scholarly works. It's also a fresh take on the history of sailing in the Atlantic, bringing to light several stories and voices not often heard. A fine addition to any maritime library!

Note: I received this free from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3410-1
Date Finished: 5-19-2015
Pages: 241

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (A Flavia de Luce Mystery, Book 2)

Synopsis: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (from the inside of the cover)

Review: Once again, I didn't actually read this. I listened to the audio book while traveling. As before, the incomparable Jane Entwistle brings Bradley's story to life. Bradley captures the essence of the change from child to adult. Flavia is beginning to lose some of her childlike shine and to take on some of the worn understanding of adulthood. The mystery is not the center of the book - Flavia is. Her adventures, her thoughts, her life, her family - that is the center of the story. The mystery is merely how we get to know her. My eagerness to watch Flavia grow is nearly overwhelming. I can't recommend this story enough, and in particular, the reading by Jane Entwistle.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-385-34231-5
Date Finished: 5-19-2015
Pages: 358

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: The 5 Core Commitments by Mark Balmer

Synopsis:Written by the Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Melbourne, this book is the explanation of that church's basic tenets: Commit, Celebrate, Connect, Communicate, Contribute

Review: This is a thin, simple little volume, and yet, it's extremely powerful. With clear prose, Balmer expands and explains these five concepts. Together, these tenets make up the aspects of the Christian life. As Christians, we commit to Christ, we celebrate Him, we connect to Him and other Christians, we communicate through prayer and the Bible, and we contribute - time, money, talents. While not deep concepts, and certainly nothing new, it was a timely reminder and something good to hear. This is worth reading, even if you don't attend this church. It's a good primer on the Christian life and beliefs.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1935144251
Date Finished: 3-17-2015
Pages: 131

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: The Empress of Earth by Melissa Scott (The Roads of Heaven, Book 3)

Synopsis: Silence Leigh is an anomaly: though a mere female, she has mastered the skills of both pilot and mage. Now, after years of tutelage, comes her final test: to reopen the road to lost Earth, thereby restoring Man's home to communication with the other worlds and securing herself an undeniable right to a starship of her own. But the road to Earth is well guarded. If subterfuge does not breach his defenses, Silence and her husbands must fight. And against them stand the mysterious Rose Worlders and their siege engines. (from the back of  the book)

Review: As the third and last in the series, I was pleased to finally reach the conclusion. Using the items gained in the last novel, Silence, her husbands, and her master set out to find a way to Earth. I found the description of the process interesting, although it took a more of the book than I think it should have. Once on Earth, our intrepid heroes spend an enormous amount of time of the learning about Earth, it's cultures and people - and why it's been cut off from the rest of human race. The Rose Worlders keep Earth trapped and the pollution controlled with machines. Silence and her crew spend the last few chapters setting up a rebellion  - and then in the last few pages - everything happened at once. Literally, the entire rebellion, all the action, all the wrap up - all of it - 5 pages, max. While the story (this one, and the trilogy as a whole) is a good story, I was often baffled by the part of the story that Scott choose to focus on. Why the whole thing with the gang and the farm people and the entire chapter about them traveling in a train?
In the end, it's a good story and a good trilogy, worth reading, but I haven't quite figured out Scott's style of writing yet.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISN: 0-671-65364-4
Date Finished: 5-11-2015
Pages: 346

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Neil Gaimen's Lady Justice by C.J. Henderson et. al. (FCBD Edition)

Synopsis: Janine Farrell, crippled after the death of her family, is chosen by Justice (the goddess) to wear her blindfold. When Janine wear the blindfold, she gains the strength, agility, and select invisibility - and a drive to seek out and exact justice against those who do evil.

Review: This wasn't as good as I thought, given that it's based on an concept by Neil Gaiman and the cover which looked amazballs. It was lack-luster, predictable, and a bit cheesy. While I still think the concept and art have potential, and I might even try a another volume, but this one - not so much.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0043016042183
Date Finished: 5-9-2015
Pages: 13

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: Tales of Honor #0: Bred to Kill by Matt Hawkins and Linda Sejic (Honor Harrington FCBS Edition)

Synopsis: A short tale from David Weber's Honorverse, staring Honor Harrington. This is a Free Comic Book Day 2015 Edition

Review: I enjoyed this! Honor Harrington is a bad-ass character, once I enjoy reading. With pleasing art, color, and style, and some fast-paced dialogue, this was a fine read. Makes me want to read more!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: None
Date Finished: 5-9-2015
Pages: 11

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Silence in Solitude by Melissa Scott (The Roads of Heaven Trilogy, Book 2)

Synopsis: In Five-Twelths of Heaven, Silence Leigh discovered her talents as a female mage. Now, she struggles to control the strange power of molding reality. Her unique abilities - as both pilots as well as mage - make her the only person capable of reaching long-lost earth. Mysterious captors hold the planet apart; no one has contacted mankind's home for centuries. But more than one obstacle stands in her way. Silence finds herself making a deal: she will undertake a hopeless rescue mission in exhange for a unique map. In she succeeds, Earth is save. If she fails.... (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the second in Scott's The Roads of Heaven trilogy, and unlike in many ways to the first. This novel starts with Silence in mage-training, but tevents force her, her husbands (yes, both of them) and her magus master on the run. To escape, they are forced to make a deal with an old acquaintance of her master. He will remove the price on their head and give them the map to Earth they need in exchange for the impossible - Silence must rescue his daughter and heir from the heart of the very government trying to capture them. Again the story starts a bit slow, but picks up quickly and by the end, is edge-of-your-seat. I liked watching Silence grow. Having spent most of her life with men, in a "man's" job, or being asked to pretend to be a man (or to act less female) it was interesting to see her navigate an entirely feminine setting. Even though she is female, she holds most females in contempt, doubting their intelligence and worth - simply because they are not like her. To see her change as a character made the book that much more interesting.
There are some cheesy bit, and the end was a bit far-fetched (SPOILER: I mean, if you can change or damage another ship's keelsong that easily, why doesn't everyone do that?) But in the end, the story is not about the battle of the Hegemon and I understand what Scott didn't want to spend loads of time on that. The story is about getting to Earth - and by the end of this second novel, Silence, her Husbands and her mentor have all they need to make the trip. I'm eager for the third and final to see where Scott takes us on this journey.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-671-65699-7
Date Finished: 5-8-2015
Pages: 313

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Five-Twelfths of Heaven by Melissa Scott (The Roads of Heaven Trilogy, Book 1)

Synopsis: The Magi had mastered the new physics and harnessed the newly discovered power of elemental harmonies – Alchemy. In so doing, they changed the face of technology for all time. But it was pilots like Silence Leigh who conquered the starlanes. Silence herself dreamed of a ship – a ship of her own and a destiny removed from the Hegemony’s oppression. But not until she joined the crew of the Sun-Treader did the dream take on reality …and a destiny never imagined became Silence’s own as well. (from the back of the book)

Review: I acquired the second and third in the series from The Great Sci-Fi Book Haul of 2013. It took me two years to find the first (which I did about three weeks ago) - and yes, I could have purchased it on amazon, but the cheapest was always about $5-$7 and I didn't want to pay that. By holding out, I got it for free.
The book took me a while to get into. The plot starts slow, but picks up quickly, and becomes richer and more engaging as the book progresses. Silence Leigh is an interesting character set in an complex world. Most of her world is controlled by a Hegemony, a social system where women are little more than slaves, without rights or power. Into the system comes Silence, who was raised in the Fringe by a grandfather who supported her desire to be a star ship pilot - something unheard of in the Hegemony. In the end, events force her into a marriage of convenience with two men - yes, a triple marriage. The author, Scott, is apparently known for the gender-bending sexuality of her novels. Since this is my first Scott, I can't speak to more of that.
The most interesting part of the Scott's world building is space flight. It took me until nearly the end of the book to figure out the details, but once I did, I find the system fascinating. To fly by music, literally, is creative and intriguing. And then to add it the concept of magus, and their abilities to bend or manipulate reality. It almost has a Star Wars feel  - magic and machine, technology and fantasy blended.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how modern it felt - being that is was published in 1985, I expect some dated references but they're weren't any that I could detect. No gold-lamé jumpsuits or green bulbous aliens or laser swords. Scott did an excellent job of creating logical technology and systems that give the story a credible feel.
In the end, while this book isn't a stay-up-into-the-wee-smaws sort of story, I enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading the next two.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-671-55952-4
Date Finished: 5-1-2015
Pages: 339

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ramble: Free Comic Book Day

While I have heard of this marvelous phenomenon, Free Comic Book Day, for several years, I don't usually get a chance to participate.

Not this year! I actually heard about it in time, and rallied my troops (a.k.a. fellow nerd-friends) and we trooped off to our local comic book shop to partake.

While the shop usually only lets adults take one, the owner let me take two - we go in a lot and buy things, so he likes me.

Here is what I picked up:

Tales of Honor - the Graphic Novel based on David Weber's Honor Harrington series, which I have, although I haven't read. I do enjoy bad-ass female military stories, and this is just the thing.

Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice - I was attracted to the cover and the title, and then when I saw the author? Well, that sealed the deal. I enjoy Gaiman's work, even if I don't always understand it. And this just looked fabulous!

PS: Husband got this one. We aren't Canadian, nor do we have many friends who are. He got it purely for the humorous factor.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Review: Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts by Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill

Synopsis: Delavier’s Women’s Strength Training Anatomy Workouts delivers the exercises, programming, and advice you need for the results you want. Based on the anatomical features unique to women, this new guide sets the standard for women’s strength training. 290 full-color illustrations allow you to see inside 157 exercises and 49 programs for strengthening, sculpting, and developing your arms, chest, back, shoulders, abs, legs, and glutes. Step-by-step instructions work in tandem with the anatomical illustrations to ensure understanding of maximizing the efficiency of each exercise. You’ll see how muscles interact with surrounding joints and skeletal structures and learn how variations of movements can isolate specific muscles and achieve targeted results. Delavier’s Women’s Strength Training Anatomy includes proven programming for reducing fat, adding lean muscle, and sculpting every body region. Whether you’re beginning a program or enhancing an existing routine, working out at home or at the gym, it’s all here and all in the stunning detail that only Frédéric Delavier can provide. (from the back of the book)

Review: I reviewed Delavier's Mixed Martial Arts Anatomy book a few years ago. So when I saw this one up for review, I eagerly applied to review it. It did not disappoint! If possible, this was even better. Once again, I was impressed with the clear, precise instructions, the clean text, the sturdy construction of the book, and the easy-to-understand organization and layout. Delavier's ability to gather and compress a large quantity of information into an understandable format is impressive. Again, as a novice, I found the instructions and examples free from jargon, easy to follow, and logical. The book is organized into three parts - instructions on how to develop your personal program, the exercises, and then suggested programs depending on your goals. The exercises take up the bulk of the book, each one detailed with drawings and precise instructions. Delavier adds multiple precautions and warnings about how to do these movements without injury and I appreciate that.
In the end, this is an excellent book that will assist any female looking to begin or improve her strength training exercises.

Note: I received this free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4504-6603-5
Date Finished: 5-2-2015
Pages: 351

Friday, May 1, 2015

Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, Book 1)

Synopsis: It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” (from the back of the book)

Review: To be fair, I only actually read the last bit of this novel. For most of it, I listened to the lovely Jayne Entwistle bring the story to life via audio book. It was brilliant. Her crisp voice read Bradley's words with a lively, clean, sound. And Bradley's words - oh, the simile, the vocabulary, the literary references - delightful. The main character, Flavia, is endearing and enchanting. I should like to have a child like her. He perfectly captured the mind of an eleven-year-old girl. The plot, twisting and twinning, characters full of mystery, the emotional depth all combine to make a nearly perfect novel. I'm hooked - utterly and completely, and I must have more of this marvelous story.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Agatha Award, Best First Novel 2009, Alex Award 2010 (Nominated), Amelia Bloomer List, Young Adult Fiction 2010, Anthony Award, Best First Novel 2010 (Nominated), Arthur Ellis Awards, Best First Novel 2010, Barry Award, Best First Novel 2010 , Dilys Award 2010, Macavity Awards, Best First Mystery Novel 2010, Spotted Owl Award 2010, YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 2010, YRCA, Senior Division 2012 (Nominated)

ISBN: 978-0-385-34349-7
Date Finished: 4-29-2015
Pages: 370