Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: Justice League, Volume One: Origin by Geoff Johns (Author), Jim Lee (Illustrator), Scott Williams (Illustrator) (L)

Synopsis: In a world where inexperienced superheroes operate under a cloud of suspicion from the public, loner vigilante Batman has stumbled upon a dark evil that threatens to destroy the earth as we know it. Now, faced with a threat far beyond anything he can handle on his own, the Dark Knight must trust an alien, a scarlet speedster, an accidental teenage hero, a space cop, an Amazon Princess and an undersea monarch. Will this combination of Superman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman be able to put aside their differences and come together to save the world? Or will they destroy each other first?

Review:  Having seen the movie (Justice League: War), I wanted to read the source material. With bright colors and detailed action shots, this is a fantastic comic. I enjoyed the witty dialogue, the action, the plot, and the art. The authors and artists capture the personalities and responses of each superhero accurately and I enjoyed reading this. I will definitely read the next in the series.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-3461-4
Year Published: 2012
Date Finished: 4-20-2017
Pages: 192

Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Pretty Deadly, Volume One: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos

Synopsis: Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

Review: I knew this was dark going in, but holy schmoly! With vivid reds, fire-burnt oranges, and smoky blacks, with a poet’s words and a vindictive hand, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos, give the reader a bloody, gut-wrenching tale about Death and the Mason and the Woman and the Daughter. Part western, part folktale, part gothic story, with the same creepy taste as Poe and Lovecraft, we follow the Mason as he travels the wide west, his companion a small girl wearing the Vulture Crown. Who she is and why she matters, and why the lady in white with the habit of dying wants her dead and the lady with the scull painted on her face wants her alive - well, read the tale to find out!
Perfect for anyone who enjoys Macabre or Gothic tales, the Grimdark or the Bloody, this is the book for you. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards:  Eisner Awards in 2014: DeConnick for Best Writer, Rios for Best Penciller/Inker and Best Cover Artist, and Jordie Bellaire for Best Coloring.

ISBN: 978-1607069621
Year Published: 2014
Date Finished: 4-21-2017
Pages: 120

Review: Bronze and Sunflower by Wenxuan Cao (Author), Meilo So (Illustrator), Helen Wang (Translator)

Synopsis: When Sunflower, a young city girl, moves to the countryside, she grows to love the reed marsh lands - the endlessly flowing river, the friendly buffalo with their strong backs and shiny round heads, the sky that stretches on and on in its vastness. However, the days are long, and the little girl is lonely. Then she meets Bronze, who, unable to speak, is ostracized by the other village boys. Soon the pair are inseparable, and when Bronze's family agree to take Sunflower in, it seems that fate has brought him the sister he has always longed for. But life in Damaidi is hard, and Bronze's family can barely afford to feed themselves. Will the city girl be able to stay in this place where she has finally found happiness? (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a sweet and lyrical tale, part folktale, part myth, part historical fiction, part children’s adventure. With simple prose, the author takes the reader through the history of Sunflower, as she follows her father to the Cadre School. During the Cultural Revolution in China, her father, an artist, is sent to the country to be “educated” in the ways of the simply farmer. His named his sweet and shy daughter for his favorite flower. When he dies, she is sent to live with a nearby country family, who’s only child, a boy named Bronze, is mute. There, through the seasons and cycles of the village, Sunflower and Bronze, brother and sister, face with courage, wisdom, and love the many trials that come upon them.
I would highly recommend this for children. It is an honest book. It doesn’t pretend that life on a farm wasn’t hard, that starvation and death aren’t real. But it does show that family and love are what helps us survive. In addition, the exposure, in a colorful, honest way, to the life in China during this time is perfect for young minds. Enough explanation is given to open up understanding but not overwhelm with useless facts. The story deftly weaves bits of Chinese culture into the narrative and it is excellently done, gibing a clear picture of the wonderful and fascinating world.
Worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Hans Christian Andersen Award


ISBN: 978-1406348460
Year Published: Chinese (2015) / English (2017)
Date Finished: 4-18-2017
Pages: 400

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Synopsis: Twenty-five years have passed since humanity quarantined the mysterious aliens known as Moties within the confines of their own solar system. They have spent a quarter century analyzing and agonizing over the deadly threat posed by the only aliens mankind has ever encountered-- a race divided into distinct biological forms, each serving a different function. Master, Mediator, Engineer. Warrior. Each supremely adapted to its task, yet doomed by millions of years of evolution to an inescapable fate. For the Moties must breed-- or die. And now the fragile wall separating them and the galaxy beyond is beginning to crumble. (from the online description)

Review:  As the sequel to the Mote in God’s Eye, I was excited to return to this universe. Mote was a fine book, a little slow, but fantastic, easy to see what it won all those awards. This one – not as much. First, it starts very slow, a rounding up of all the previous characters. The main character this time isn’t Lord Blaine, but Bury, the merchant, magnet, and now, spy to the Empire. His PTSD from his time with the Moties leads to strong paranoia about them – and it serve the Empire well. The Moties are close to breaking the blockage and it is up to Bury to use all his power to convince the right people to prepare before it is too late.
We get to meet Lord and Lady Blaine’s children and a few other new characters, and revisit old ones too. However, the story moves slowly. So much time spent on the characters speaking yet very little development or action. The action takes place at the end, and will intriguing, by the time I got there, I just wanted the story over. There are some tense parts (being the very real dangers the Moties present) but those don’t make up for the tedious back and forth of nothing.
Sadly, this doesn’t live up to the first novel, although it is part of the series and worth reading if you enjoy hard science fiction with strong conflict and real moral dilemmas. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN:0-671-79574-0
Year Published: 1993
Date Finished: 4-17-2017
Pages: 413

Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen (L)

Synopsis: Jae is a slave in a dying desert world. Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free. Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well. But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn. Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever. (from the online description)

Review: I picked this from the Library, after reading the first few pages as a sample. I was intriguing by the premise and expected it to be interesting, but your typical YA angst.
It was a bit more. Allen delves deeper into slavery and elitism, oppression and rebellion. She very much demonstrates the idea that Winners Write History, and what that means for the Losers of the conflict. The character developed is solid, and the romance isn’t obnoxious or overshadowing of conflict. And the Jae, she isn’t perfect or all-powerful. She isn’t always good. She is a hurt, abused, slave who finds herself in possession of unheard of power – and finds herself tempted to use it for revenge. The plot is fast-paced and well-done, despite relying on a few forced spots or coincidences to move things forward. The world building is complex enough to enjoy, but not so convoluted as to lose the reader.
It must be noted this is Allen’s first published book. It lacks the polish and finesse of more experience writers. However, her second book comes out in December, and I am certain as time goes and she gains experience, we will seem fantastic stories come from her mind. I look forward to reading them. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-101-93214-8
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 3-30-2017
Pages: 320

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer

Synopsis: To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven in this “fast-paced narrative that is…part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract, and part out-and-out thriller” (The Washington Post). In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door. (from the online description)

Review: Abdel Kader Haidara spent a lifetime collecting and guarding the ancient scrolls and books of his culture – only to see them threatened by Islamic extremist. Calling upon the librarians of the collections, and their families, he organized a daring and clandestine operation to move the priceless relics to safety.
I expected this book to get more into the actual operation. Instead, Hammer starts with the life of Haidara and moves into the history of the region and the rise of the Islamic extremist. While the focus is on the libraries, the story encompasses more than just the fate of the scrolls. Hammer gets into political and social context of the event and why these people would feel threatened by the knowledge contained in these works of art.
Despite being more a history book, the prose is lively and fast-paced, uses easy to understand vocabulary, and reads more like an article in a general magazine than a history book. It is easily readable by someone with a middle school reading level and possibly for elementary age children. There is mention of violence and some of the atrocities committed by the Islamic extremist, but nothing gory.
 It wasn’t what I expected but I enjoyed it, and found it enlightening. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7740-5
Year Published: April 2016
Date Finished: 3-27-2017
Pages: 277

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review: And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II by Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee

Synopsis: A galvanizing narrative of the wartime role played by U.S. Army nurses—from the invasion of North Africa to the bloody Italian campaign to the decisive battles in France and the Rhineland. More than 59,000 nurses volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps alone: 217 lost their lives (16 by enemy action), and more than 1,600 were decorated for meritorious service and bravery under fire. But their stories have rarely been heard. Now, drawing on never-before-published eyewitness accounts—many heroic, some mundane and comic—Monahan and Neidel-Greenlee take us to the front lines, to the withering fire on the beaches of Anzio and Normandy, and to the field and evacuation hospitals, as well as bombed and burned hospital ships. We witness the nurses—and the doctors with whom they served—coping with the physical and psychological damage done to the soldiers in combat. We see them working—often with only meager supplies and overwhelmed by the sheer number of casualties—to save the lives and limbs of thousands of wounded troops. With them we experience the almost constant packing up and moving on to keep up with advancing troops, foxholes dug under camp beds, endless mud, and treacherous minefields. The vividness and immediacy of their recollections provide us with a powerfully visceral, deeply affecting sense of their experiences—terrifying and triumphant, exhausting and exhilarating.
A reveling work that at last gives voice to the nurses who played such an essential role in World War II.

Review: After reading this, my foremost thought was why is this information not taught in elementary or middle school? Why is the contribution of these brave women not part of our basic history? I learned more about World War II reading this book than in any history course in my 16 years of formal education.
With clear and passionate prose, Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee take the reader through the history of American nurses in the North African and European theatre during World War II. It begins with D-Day in Northern Africa, when Allied troops (mostly British and American) landed in Algeria and French Morocco. It was the first and only time that nurses went ashore at the same time as the first wave of soldiers (with D-Day in Italy and France, the nurses were sent in two-three days behind the initial forces). The history ends with the surrender of Germany two years later, as the nurses emerged from the exhausted trek from the shores of Normandy to the dense forests of Germany.
It’s hard to explain what these nurses went through – cold that froze water in their cups in Africa, near constant shelling in Anzio, shifting battle lines in Germany, lack of food and sleep, working with low supplies, disrespectful colleges and commanders, and always, surrounded by suffering, pain, and death. Yet, they preserved. Even when they had ships sink under them, tents explode over then, beloved friends died from shrapnel, and had their husbands and boyfriends killed far from them, they preserved. Even when called upon to stay and face almost certain capture, they volunteered. Not one asked to go home, but always forward, always towards the danger, determined to support the men who fought.
Yet, they were not awarded Veteran status when they returned home, nor where they given Veteran benefits. They were often excluded, mocked, shunned, or treated as second-class despite their braver service. It wasn’t until the last twenty year that the US Government stepped up and recognized their sacrifice. Thankfully, Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee have preserved their story for future generations.
I highly recommend, particularly if you have young girls. It is a must for all women to know our heritage.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-375-41514-9
Year Published: 2003
Date Finished: 3-26-17
Pages: 514

Review: Lumberjanes Vol. 2: Friendship To The Max and Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen

Synopsis: Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp...defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons...what’s not to love?! Friendship to the max! Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way. These five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! But having stumbled onto a mysterious force wreaking havoc in the camp, it’s a race through the woods as the Lumberjanes work together to save not only their friends, but maybe even the whole world!

Review: What a fun story! I wasn't sure what to expect, but it far exceeded my expectations. Strong female leads, excellent female relationship, passes the Bechdel Test (in fact, boys aren't even mentioned) - plus, mysterious creatures, strange artifacts, an enigmatic camp director, mythological beings come to life, stressed-out-but-loving counselor, magic, adventure, danger, and humor. It’s everything I would want from a graphic novel. I can’t recommend this story enough.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Eisner Award, for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens, 2015. Nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60886-687-8 / 978-1-60886-727-0
Year Published: April 2015 / October 2015
Date Finished: 3-21-2017
Pages: N/A

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Review: Two Plays by Shakespeare

Synopsis: 
As You Like It: Exiled from her home, Roselind takes to the forest, where she meets the aristocrate but abused Orlando. Dressing as a man, she woos Orlando, bringing about happiness for herself and several other couples.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Hamlet comes home on the death of his Father to find his Mother has married his Uncle. A spectre of his Father warns him that his death was murder and charges the Prince to revenge his death, leading to tragic consequences for all.

Review: 
As You Like It: Considered Shakespeare's weakest play, this is a frivolous, sprightly, and ridiculous play. It’s full of angst romance, innuendo, and word play. While no As You Like It or Much Ado About Nothing, it’s an enjoyable play. As for the dramatization, it was very well done. 
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Hamlet is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s best work. It is clear why. With intensity and emotion, with passion and anger, Shakespeare’s prose explores the depths of the human existence, and the things that crush the heart of man. Grief, madness, revenge, love – how they interact, how the intertwine, how one can kill the other – the play weaves the reader through complex ethical and philosophical tangles.  Hamlet, in particular, faces the clash of love and revenge, duty and honor, what is right and what is expected. This dramatization was excellent. In particular, the actor who read for Hamlet and the actress who read Ophelia both had a fervor that made their reading enthralling. I found myself breathless at points, every word captivating. 

Note: These we both Fully Dramatized Editions by ArkAngel Shakespeare Series.

Bookmarks: 

As You Like It: 3.5 of 5

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: N/A
Year Published:  c.1599 / c1603 (Audiobooks 2005 / 2003)
Date Finished: 3-17-2017
Pages: N/A

Monday, April 3, 2017

Acquisition: March Book Haul

Hooray for Me! I only spent $1.90 on Books in March!

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Let's Explore with the Electron by Alfred Bender

MLP: Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell by G. M. Berrow

And the book on Electrons was for school so it doesn't really count. 


Review: From Pearl Harbor to Calvary by Mitsuo Fuchida

Synopsis: Mitsuo Fuchida was a Captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service who is perhaps best known for leading the first air wave attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Fuchida was responsible for the coordination of the entire aerial attack working under the overall fleet commander Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. After World War II ended, Fuchida became an evangelist, Christian preacher and frequently traveled to the United States to minister to the Japanese expatriate community. He became a United States citizen in 1966. His autobiography was originally released in 1953, and this edition will be published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 2011.

Review: Published in 1951, this is a simple book, with simple prose. Translated from the Japanese, this is told by Fuchida, from his days as a pilot for the Japanese Airforce leading the attack on Pearl Harbor to his days as a missionary and evangelist for Christ.
Fuchida explains in simple prose how strongly he believed in the Manual of War, the book of Japanese Military Protocol and Philosophy. He believed in superiority of the Japanese people and he believed in the cause of his nation. But after, with the devastating defeat, he was lost. A chance encounter with a street evangelist changed his life. He found a peace and a purpose to his life, unlike any he’d know.
The remainder of the book speaks about his life as an evangelist, working with the young men of Japan. Compelling and encourage, this is an excellent read for anyone interested in foreign missions and the mission work in Japan. 

Note: This review regards the Audiobook, read by Karl Choi

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1618430106
Year Published: 1951 (Audiobook 2011)
Date Finished: 3-15-2017
Pages: N/A

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias (Audiobook)

Synopsis: In a world with so many religions, why Jesus? We are living in a time when you can believe anything, as long as you do not claim it to be true. In the name of “tolerance,” our postmodern culture embraces everything from Eastern mysticism to New Age spirituality. But as Ravi Zacharias points out, such unquestioning acceptance of all things spiritual is absurd. All religions, plainly and simply, cannot be true. Jesus Among Other Gods provides the answers to the most fundamental claims about Christianity, such as:
Aren’t all religions fundamentally the same?
Was Jesus who He claimed to be?
Can one study the life of Christ and demonstrate conclusively that He was and is the way, the truth, and the life? 
In each chapter, Zacharias considers a unique claim that Jesus made and then contrasts the truth of Jesus with the founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism with compelling insight and passionate conviction. In addition to an impressive breadth of reading and study, he shares his personal journey from despair and meaninglessness to his discovery that Jesus is who He said He is.

Review: As with all Ravi's book, there  are excellent  points and thought-provoking arguments, but his prose winds a bit and the point can sometimes get lost in the prose.  This is worth listening to but should be noted that his answers are clear-cut.

Note: This review regards the Audiobook, read by the author.

Bookmarks; 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0849943270
Year Published: 2002
Date Finished: 3-15-2017
Pages: N/A

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of Batman by Brian Augustyn, Michael Mignola, P Craig Russell, Eduardo Barreto (Graphic Novel)

Synopsis: Presenting a new edition of the title collecting the adventures of the Victorian era Batman. This volume includes the breakthrough Elseworlds epics GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT and MASTER OF THE FUTURE, which pit the Dark Knight against Jack the Ripper and a death-dealer from the skies over Gotham. This title features artwork by Mike Mignola (HELLBOY) and P. Craig Russell (THE SANDMAN). (from the online description)

Review: Told in the classic Batman style, with crazed villains and much daring-do, this graphic novel contains two short stories, both of which are amusing and entertaining. It won't win any awards for storytelling, as the plot is run-of-the-mill for Batman. But seeing him in the Victorian era is a fun twist.
The first tale sets the Dark Knight against the notorious Jack the Ripper, and has a touch of the macabre to it. Also woven in is a tale of revenge and the beginnings of the Dark Knight. The villain wasn’t hard to figure out and the story was a bit trite, but that didn’t detract from the overall amusement of the graphic novel. The authors and artists did a fine job of making Batman just as brooding and badass in a world without the high-tech gadgets for which he is known.
The second tale was decidedly more steampunk, with flying fortresses and robotic men. The villain was clear from the start and had the requisite touch of crazy all of Batman’s foes seem to possess. Again, the plot was a bit trite, but fun, none the less, and had a nice dose of dramatic action.
Over all, this was a fun read and I recommend it to any Batman fan. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-1153-0
Year Published: 1989 / 1991 (Compilation 2006)
Date Finished: 3-10-17
Pages: 100

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Twisted True Tales from Science: Medical Mayhem by Stephanie Bearce

Synopsis: Ground-up mummy bones, leeches sucking human blood, and a breakfast of dried mouse paste. It sounds like a horror movie, but those were actual medicines prescribed by early doctors. Medical students studied anatomy on bodies stolen from graves and had to operate on people while they were awake. Learn about the medicines that came from poison and doctors who experimented on themselves and their families. It's a twisted tale of medical mayhem, but it's all true! (from the back of the book)

Review: This book is intended for a younger audience. The writing is about a third-fourth grade level. But this doesn’t mean that Bearce dumbed down the science. She uses clinical terms, even Latin, and talks about microbes, chemicals, and human body parts with intelligence and openness. The book is organized in a time-line, starting with ancient medical remedies and moving to modern medicine. Accompanying the text are funny illustrates, side notes about science, and even how-to experiments! There is some reference to some gross and graphic medical procedures, but nothing inappropriate for younger minds. She is honest about issues as well, explaining how social convention often was at odds with scientific evidence. There is no reference to sex or sexually transmitted diseases in the book, in case parents are concerned about that issue.
This would be excellent for home-school or classroom use. Interesting and engaging, while staying true to scientific principles, kids will enjoy reading and learning from this book. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 976-1-61821-572-7
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 3-6-2017
Pages: 147

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

Synopsis: In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more. 
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. (from the back of the book)

Review: Warning: This book is not for the squeamish. It leaves the reader raw, scrapped open, burnt, and in awe of the military nurses who stood between their patients and all the powers of Hell, and said, “Not on my watch.”
Based on the actual stories of Army nurses, Teresa Messineo gives us two women, Kay and Jo, who forged a friendship in nursing school, a bond stronger than family. They end up on opposite sides of the conflict; Kay, trapped by the Japanese on Bataan, in the Philippines, and Jo, abandoned in no-man’s-land somewhere in Europe. Each face the demons, the death, the terror of war, each find a strength unheard  of inside themselves, each walk out a different person, and yet, find healing, through work, through friendship, through love.
There is no sugar-coating or glossing-over the trauma each of them faced. And, having recently read several books about the real-life nurses during World War II, Messineo doesn’t exaggerate what happened on either front. While Kay and Jo are fictional, the horrors they see and live through – those are authentic. It is perhaps this, more than anything else, that make this novel so powerful.
Worth reading, to understand that time, to open our eyes to the women who gave so much to serve others, to inspire us to more. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-245910-7
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 3-5-2017
Pages: 306

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle

Synopsis: In one of the most famous and widely-read novels of our time, Pierre Boulle tells the story of Colonel Nicholson, brilliant officer, disciplinarian, perfectionist, whose passion for duty led him to perform an almost impossible feat of military genius for the Japanese Army he hated. (from the back of the book)

Review: I wanted to like this book. Considering its place as a classic and the source for a famous, award-winning movie, I expected it to be something …more? Instead, it was dull, too much telling, stereotypical characters that felt like wooden dolls tromping across a stage. I understand it was based on the author’s experience as a POW under the Japanese. In particular, he claimed it was a French captain’s collaboration with the Japanese that he based Colonel Nicholson on. However, history does not support this.
Perhaps the writing doesn’t translate will in to English, which is why the writing is dull and the characters trite. The story has promise, the class of honor and patriotism. But the characters never felt real enough to engage the reader, and draw them into the conflict.
So much potential, wasted due to poor writing. Read it if you want to read a classic about this time on our history, as there seems to be a lack of fiction about it, but don’t expect anything spectacular. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: France's Prix Sainte-Beuve in 1952 

ISBN: N/A
Year Published: 1952 (French) / 1954 (English)
Date Finished: 3-5-2017
Pages: 150 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese by Elizabeth Norman

Synopsis: In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells and shrapnel.
But the worst was yet to come. After Bataan and Corregidor fell, the nurses were herded into internment camps where they would endure three years of fear, brutality, and starvation. Once liberated, they returned to an America that at first celebrated them, but later refused to honor their leaders with the medals they clearly deserved. Here, in letters, diaries, and riveting firsthand accounts, is the story of what really happened during those dark days, woven together in a deeply affecting saga of women in war. (from the back of the book)

Review: Why isn’t this book required reading for all students in school? Seriously. Not only does is cover a vital portion of history, one often over-looked (like the history of the Japanese expansion that lead to the war in the Pacific), but it covers the attitude towards women during the World War and the origins of the Feminist Movement that would sweep America in the 1960s and 70s. It also covers the tactics that decided the fate of so many during the early days of the war in the Pacific, the reason we fought, the reason it cost us so much in blood to win, and the price we paid for it.
These women deserved more than just the lip-service recognition they received. Many were simply looking for adventure, romance, and an easy job in the tropics. What they got was nearly four years of hell, tending wounded with no supplies, interned under the harshest conditions, suffering for debilitating injuries and disease exasperated by starvation and neglect – and yet, thru all of their suffering, they thought first of their patients and last of themselves.  
After their rescue, they were paraded around, used as propaganda until the end of the war, then forgotten and shoved aside. Many suffered life-long ailments from the injuries and starvation they went through during their incarceration. These women paved the way for their daughters and sisters to stand up and demanded the recognition, the opportunities, the fair treatment that many of us enjoy today. Without their demonstration of the courage, strength, and intelligence, many of us would not have the life we have today. They are heroines many times over and worth remembering and honoring.
This ought to be required reading for all high school students. Not only does Norman explain the politics and events that lead to the American involvement in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, but she puts names and faces to the women who served under the most horrendous conditions.  This book brings together so many aspects vital to understanding this time on American History, and can start a dozen conversations in a dozen directions.
Norman’s prose is lively, concise, full of facts, but never dull. She is a thorough and reliable historian, with the sources for her assertions listed diligently in the back. Full of first-hand testimony, rigorous culling of historical documents, and personal papers of the very women who served, this is an excellent book in both scholarship and subject. Vital reading for all of us. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Lavinia Dock Award for Historical Scholarship, American Academy of Nursing National Media Award, Agnes Dillion Randolph Award

ISBN: 0-671-78718-7
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 3-1-2017
Pages: 327

Monday, March 6, 2017

Acquisitions: February Book Haul

I tried. I really did....

Total Cost: $35.60

Total Purchased: 23

The Letters of John and Abigail Adams by Frank Shuffleton

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

A Christmas Party by Georgete Heyer

Sprig Muslim by Georgete Heyer

The Convenient Marriage by Georgete Heyer

Lady of Quality by Georgete Heyer

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle

An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle

The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister

Mission to Cathay by Madeleine Polland

The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper: Bloundhound by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Peleandra by C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

Zulu War: 1897 (Osprey Military Series) by Ian Knight and Ian Castle

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Synopsis: Chizuko came to visit her friend Sadako in the hospital. She had a piece of gold paper that she had cut into a large square. "Watch!" she said, and she folded the paper over and over, and it tumed into a beautiful crane.  "If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, " Chizuko said, "the gods will grant her wish and make her well again." Sadako Sasaki was only twelve years old when she died. She was two when an atom bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan, where she lived with her family. Ten years later, she had leukemia as a result of radiation from the bomb. Sadako had folded six hundred and forty-four cranes. The flock hung above her bed on strings. Her classmates folded the rest. Today Sadako is a heroine to the children of Japan, who visit her memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park to leave the paper cranes they make in her honor. (from the back of the book)

Review: Short, but with a depth far beyond the word count, this simple story give a human face to the suffering caused by the atomic bombs. Sadako has the entire world going for her – a born runner, swift and sure-footed, with a cheerful, eager outlook on life, Sadako dreamed of being on the running team of her junior high school.
But the year before she was to enter, she was diagnosed with the “atomic bomb disease” – leukemia. This hideous cancer ate away at her body, slowly killing her. Before she died, she attempted to fold 1,000 origami cranes, to fulfill a Japanese legend. 
After she died, her classmates took up her cause, folding cranes and raising money, to build a memorial to Peace. Called Hiroshima PeacePark, the memorial is dedicated to the children of the world and their plea for peace. In the center of the memorial is a statue of Sadako, holding a golden crane.
Coerr tells the story with simple, precise, prose. She changed some of the actual story for fiction’s sake, but that essence remains the same – a life cut short by war.
Excellent reading for young children, a starting place to explain the war and what is can do to others. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-440-47465-5
Year Published: 1977
Date Finished: 2-28-2017
Pages: 64

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

Synopsis: The book tells the story of a young boy named Diamond. He is a very sweet little boy who makes joy everywhere he goes. He fights despair and gloom and brings peace to his family. One night, as he is trying to sleep, Diamond repeatedly plugs up a hole in the loft (also his bedroom) wall to stop the wind from blowing in. However, he soon finds out that this is stopping the North Wind from seeing through her window. Diamond befriends her, and North Wind lets him fly with her, taking him on several adventures. Though the North Wind does good deeds and helps people, she also does seemingly terrible things. On one of her assignments, she must sink a ship. Yet everything she does that seems bad leads to something good. The North Wind seems to be a representation of Pain and Death working according to God's will for something good. (from the online description)

Review: This has all the lyrical prose of a Victorian Children’s Fairy Tale, whimsical and wholesome. It dangerously approached saccharine sermonizing – if not for the North Wind. Sometimes a Tall Woman with Dark Hair, sometimes a Wolf, or a Fairy, or an Unseen Breath, she is the most intriguing character in a fairy tale I have encountered in some time. Biden by her unnamed Master, she often does what seems cruel, causing pain, suffering, and even death. And yet, in the end, is it revealed that all she does is for the healing, the betterment, and the good fortune of people. She is neither callous nor wanton in her destruction, but precise and obedient, doing her duty with a single-minded service to her master. A the Back of the North Wind is a place, a place she cannot see or visit, but a place she often takes those she is bidden to carry there. It seems a place where neither time nor illness nor hungry nor suffering dwell.
Daylight is a bit too cherubic for my taste, but I related to his constant out-of-place nature. He doesn’t fit in but doesn’t seem to notice. It is thought Daylight was modeled after MacDonald’s own son, as a tribute to the boy.  His angelic goodness is off-set by the secondary characters, rough-and-tumble crowd, cabbies and street urchins, drunks and benevolent gentlemen. They seem real in a way Daylight does not. But perhaps that is the point.
This is a fantastic fairy tale, whimsical and imaginative, but with a somber ending that makes this far more than just a gossamer tale of nonsense for children.  To understand that pain and death are important teachers, vital to our life and growth, is a lesson worth teaching our children. MacDonald’s story helps explain this concept to children in a way that makes sense to them. And may help adults understand a concept that seems so contrary to our minds.    

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8167-0470-8
Year Published: 1871
Date Finished: 2-26-2017
Pages: 316

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review: The Gospel in George MacDonald: Selections from His Novels, Fairy Tales, and Spiritual Writings edited by Marianne Wright

Synopsis: If you don’t have the time to read all the novels of George MacDonald, the great Scottish storyteller who inspired C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, W. H. Auden, and J. R. R. Tolkien, this anthology is a great place to start. These selections from MacDonald’s novels, fairy tales, and sermons reveal the profound and hopeful Christian vision that infuses his fantasy worlds and other fiction. Newcomers will find in these pages an accessible sampling. George MacDonald enthusiasts will be pleased to find some of the writer’s most compelling stories and wisdom in one volume. Drawn from books including Sir Gibbie, The Princess and the Goblin, Lilith, and At the Back of the North Wind, the selections are followed by appreciations by G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis and accompanied by classic illustrations by Arthur Hughes.

Review: Published by Plough Publishing House and edited by Marianne Wright, this is a survey of the gospel message in the fiction and non –fiction writing of George MacDonald. MacDonald was mildly popular during his time, but has the honor of being a major influence in C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton.
Plough Publishing and Wright have done a fine job of organizing MacDonald’s work into subjects, including topics like Finding God, Marriage, Death, and Eternity. Each section of prose is prefaced by a one-two line summary of the scene or source of the quote. In quotes that contain MacDonald’s native Scottish dialect, the translation is provided.
The quotes come from a wide range of Macdonald’s work, including novels, fairy tales, sermons, and private letters.  It is excellent chosen collection and a thorough survey of his writing.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed MacDonald’s work, but in particular, to those who wish to get a comprehensive overview of MacDonald’s theology and where it appears in his non-theological writing.  From here, one can find specific works of MacDonald’s to read. This is a must for any complete theological library. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0874867664
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 2-22-2017
Pages: 340

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii, 1941 by Barry Denenberg (A Dear America Book)

Synopsis: Amber Billows and her family move to Oahu in 1941, as her father, a reporter, is transferred there to cover the tensions with Japan. Amber, concerned with making friends and grades, only knows about the tension from the military men her father brings home as part of his job. Then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and Amber’s life – and everyone else’s – changes.

Review: Without realizing it, Amber does an excellent job of capturing the tension that people in Hawaii felt regarding the possible war with Japan. While Amber doesn’t always understand the reactions of the adults, as an adult reader, I do. This is a testament to the author’s writing. He does an excellent job of capturing the chaos, the shock, the blood, panic, and surprise, how in one morning, paradise became hell. The characters are engaging and well-rounded. In particular, I like Amber’s mother, and understood her actions, as an adult, in ways Amber could not. While the author does not spare the details of the attack or the hospital scenes after, this is acceptable for older elementary age readers. It’s an excellent introduction to Pearl Harbor and what happened after. Worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-439-32874-8
Year Published: 2001
Date Finished: 2-16-2017
Pages: 156

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, Seattle, Washington, 1941 by Kirby Larson (A Dear America Book)

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis lives with her Father, a pastor at a local Japanese Baptist Church, and her older sister, in Seattle, Washington, in 1941. Her brother, Hank, enlisted in the Navy and is sent to Pearl Harbor. She spends days dreaming about boys and movie stars, wishing she could wear lipstick, and navigating seventh grade. Then Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and overnight, everything changes. When his congregation is sent to the Internment camps, her father goes with them, forcing Piper to leave her life in Seattle for life in Idaho. This Journal covers the months prior to Pearl Harbor up to the middle of 1943.
Although the people are fictional, the story is based on a real-life minister named Emery Andrews, who follows his congregation to their internment camp.

Review: With clear and simple prose, author Kirby Larson brings to life Piper Davis. Piper is a young girl whose life is centered on boys, lipstick, and friends – until her brother is caught at the attack on Pearl Harbor, until her Father’s congregation, all Japanese, are persecuted and sent to internment campus, until she if confronted with the realities of war. Larson did an excellent job of making Piper’s struggle authentic. Piper’s best friend and boyfriend both think it’s good to send the Japanese away, and don’t understand Piper’s struggle. Her worry for her brother, her concern about her people she’s known all her life, her initial struggle to accept her father choice to move to Idaho, and her own realization about right and wrong makes this a strong story worth reading. It’s a complex subject and the book does an excellent job of making it understandable to young readers without dumbing down the subject. Suitable for elementary age readers and a fine place to start for discussions about this topic.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-545-22418-5
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 2-15-2017
Pages: 311

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 Mirror Lake Internment Camp, California 1942 by Barry Denenberg (A Dear America Book)

Synopsis: In 1942, twelve-year old Ben Uchida, his mother, and sister are sent to live a Mirror Lake (Manzanar) Internment Camp. Ben’s friend, Robbie, insists he keep a diary. In it, Ben records his life at Manzanar, both the mundane and the profound. Based on actual people, this journal documents an important moment in American history.


Review: Told in simple, clear prose, this journal follows Ben from the morning of December 7, 1941 through his journey to Mirror Lake (Manzanar) internment camp. Ben is honest and forthright, greeting the injustice with humor and a stalwart resilience. He expresses anger through levity, and only a few moments does his fear and anger appear in his words. Ben uses Baseball to cope – losing himself in the game. Without realizing it, he makes keen observations of the people around him. He often remarks on event that he doesn’t know the significance of, but that the reader will.
Other reviewers have remarked on the lack of historical accuracy in the slang and language. This is partially correct. At the same time, we don’t tend to use slang in diaries (not that I’ve seen) and the event described are accurate. The prose is simple and clear, and suitable for elementary-age readers. It is an excellent starting place for discussions about civil liberty, the injustice of racism, and what it means to be a citizen. Worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-590-48531-8
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 2-14-2017
Pages: 156

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Synopsis: Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp--with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the nation’s #1 hit: "Don't Fence Me In."  Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States. (from the back of the book)
Review: Told from the viewpoint of Jeanne Wakatsuki, this covers her experience as a child in the Internment camps for Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Jeanne left California at seven and spent over three years in the camps. Not only does she speak about the trip there, and life in the camps, but she speaks intimately about how being in the camps effected the rest of her life. This is what makes the book so powerful. Not only to we walk through the camps with her, but we walk through the camps after. Several times she states that her Father died in the camps, although he lived for twelve years after. This is a profound statement in that illustrated how the camps followed those imprisoned there long after the camps were reduced to rubble and dust.  When I learned about this part of our history, we never spoke about life after, so this was the first time I understood the lasting effects of what our government did to our citizens. Given today’s particular social and political climate, this book is a vital read. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-553-27258-6
Year Published: 1973
Date Finished: 2-8-2017
Pages: 203

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Synopsis: On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family's possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.
In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today's headlines.(from the back of the book)

Review: This story centers on a Japanese-American family and starts the day the notices went up, ordering all Americans of Japanese descent to report for Internment. Told from different points of view, mother, father, brother, sister, each placing a portion of the story into place, giving the reader an all-encompassing view of the emotions, the sorrow, the endurance, the loss, which these people suffered.  It’s heartbreaking. Some, like the father, never recover. Some, like the children, have their life irrevocably altered, leaving behind whoever they might have been and becoming someone else. And some, like the mother, simple accept what comes, without complaint, like a rock at the edge of the sea. Otsuka’s prose, simple and evocative, create images that do not easily leave the mind. One can almost taste the dust of the camp, feel the biting wind, and smell the desert. A must-read, particularly in today’s social and political climate.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: American Library Association's Alex Award,2003; Asian American Literary Award, 2003

ISBN: 978-0-385-72181-3
Year Published: 2002
Date Finished: 2-7-2017
Pages: 144

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Synopsis: A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times. (from the back of the book)

Review: It’s hard to explain the plot of this book; it has none and yet, it’s a story unlike any other. Told in First Person Plural, the book is divided into eight chapters: Come, Japanese / First Night / Whites / Babies / The Children / Traitors / Last Day / A Disappearance. Each chapter covers a particular part of life, a gathering of many experiences, told by the voices of many women. First, the women came over from Japan as picture brides, crowded into great steam liners. From there, we follow them through the first night of their marriage, their life working in America, birthing babies and the people these babies would grow into. Then, Pearl Harbor, and the internment of the Japanese. There is more pain then joy in these chapters, these voices, these stories. This is not a pleasant book. There is too much reality to be so. There is joy, but it is laced with suffering, with resignation, with hardship and sacrifice. Otsuka has given a voice to people whose story would be lost otherwise. Worth readying, particularly in today’s volatile social and political climate. The lives of these women have much to share and much to teach. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Prix Femina Étranger 2012, France , Pen/Faulker Award for Fiction, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-74442-5
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 2-6-2017
Pages: 129

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: Silence by Shusaku Endo

Synopsis: Seventeenth-century Japan: Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs. Shusaku Endo is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese fiction writers of the twentieth century, and Silence is widely considered to be his great masterpiece. (from the online description)
Review: For me, this book started a bit slow. It took me a chapter or two for the story to capture me. But when it did, I was pulled into the struggle of Father Sebastian Rodrigues. With a sense of righteous duty and an ardent love for Christ, Rodrigues and another priest, make the arduous journey from Rome to Japan. There, the meet with the persecuted Christians and work to unite and comfort them. But they are betrayed by another character, and the Japanese authorities begin the long process of torturing Rodrigues.

Here is there the story gets raw and gritty. Rodrigues watches the suffering of those who stay faithful to God, watches their pain and hears their prayers, and wonders why God stays Silent. And it is the Silence of God that permeated the story.  The very question the Psalmist asked: Why does God let the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer?  A question that every Christian has asked, every Christ-follow wondered at, every person who watches a loved one suffer. Where is God? Why is He Silent? The ending left me raw and open. There is no answer to the question. We are left to wonder, as Rodrigues wondered, left to hold a faith in the face of Silence. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Tanizaki Prize, 1966

ISBN: 0-8008-7186-3
Year Published: 1965 (In English, 1969)
Date Finished: 2-2-2017
Pages: 201

Friday, February 3, 2017

Acquisitions: Janaury 2017 Haul

For the first time, I'm actually tracking how many books I buy each month and the cost.

Turns out, I buy more than I realized - and spend more than I realized.

Yes, you are all very shocked by this, I can tell.

Moving on.

Total Bought: 28

Total Spent: $48*

What I Bought: 


The Dead in Their Vault Arches (Flavia De Luce, Book 6) by Alan Bradley
The Complete Works of William Law (Kindle) by William Law
The Emperor's Edge Collection (Books 1-3) (Kindle) by Lindsay Buroker
Flannery O'Connor: The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, Book 1) by Deborah Harkness
The Toll Gate by Georgette Heyer
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner
If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the House by Lucy Worsley
A Tangled Web by L. M. Montgomery
The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan
The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus, Book 5) by Rick Riordan
Plague of Memory (Stardoc, Book 7) by S. L. Viehl
Sylvia and Bruno by Lewis Caroll
Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century by Nicholas Basbanes
Maus II by Art Spiegelman
Maus  by Art Spiegelman
Vampire Knight 19 by Matsuri Hino
Vampire Knight 11 by Matsuri Hino
Vampire Knight 10 by Matsuri Hino
Monstress, Volume I: Awakening by Marjprie Liu
Pretty Deadly, Volume I: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn
Berkeley Physics Course: Volume 2 by Edward Purcell


*This is a bit misleading. 1) $11 went towards a supplemental school books.2) Ten were purchased with gift cards, so the actual money spent was $122. But most of it wasn't my money, and that's what I focus on.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Ramble: To Be Read....

I read more than one book at a time. And I tend to read in what I think of as "Tracks" or "Paths".
It's a weird booky thing, but it has a logic to it. The subject to one book leads me to another, and that one leads me to the next. The books connect, creating path.

For example, currently, I have Four Paths:

Path One: Horror / GrimDark
    
Current Read: IT by Stephen King
 Next Up: No idea, as the King is taking me months to read. But probably 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg, or maybe another King. I’m open to recommendations, but it has to be something I own.

Path Two: Science Fiction / Fantasy Series.
This Path is directly linked to my reading goals for 2017. I have stacks of sci-fi and fantasy books, and many series I’ve diligently collected to completion. Time to get reading. This also includes piles of Manga and Graphic Novels I’ve amassed.

Current Read: The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (The sequel to The Mote In God's Eye)
Next Up: Thomas Harlan’s In the Time of the Sixth Sun Trilogy. I’m eager to read this. The premise is Japan reaches the Aztecs before the Spanish, setting in motion the eventual world domination by the Aztecs, and now – humans are in space, a young species vying for a place in the stars against the ancient aliens cultures. After that, most likely The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Path Three: Non-Fiction / Historical Fiction.
Currently, this is focuses on Japanese Literature, but will move into Japan during World War II, then on to Women during World War II. This is the most defined path and I’m approaching a dozen or more books laid out already.

Current Read: Silence by Shusake Endo.
Next Up: Either The Buddha in the Attic or When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, Followed by Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, then The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo, two non-fictions, And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II by Evelyn Monahan and We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by by Elizabeth M. Norman, then maybe Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel. After that, maybe The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer or Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s by Susan M. Hartmann or Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Oh, and Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman.

Path Four: Christian.
This is an always path, meaning I’m always reading a Christian non-fiction. This comes out of a reading ideology I created for myself years ago, called The Rule of Three. Meaning that for every Fiction I read, I had to read one Non-Fiction and one Christian.

Current Read: The Gospel in George MacDonald: Selections from His Novels, Fairy Tales, and Spiritual Writings edited by Marianne Wright
Next Up: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, then How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer. After that, I’m not sure. I’ll probably just dig through my piles of Christian books and see what strikes by fancy.


Paths are how I pick my TBR piles. What about you? How do you pick your TBR?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: The Emperor of the Last Days by Ron Goulart

Synopsis: They Held the Fate of Freedom in Their Hands. Dan Farleigh: a pleasant young fellow with a kinky craving for the company of computers. Janis Trummond: a beautiful young woman reporter out to dig up the dirtiest secrets of man’s world. Professor Supermind:  mental master of machines. Tin Lizzie: a gifted if ungainly bionic teenager. Deadend: A Chicago thug whose thoughts were deadly weapons.  No imagination could have conceived this oddly twisted team – and no human imagination had. Their master and mentor used the Bernard Maze. But to friends he was Barney – a computer who decided to take charge before it was too late to save the world from – The Emperor of the Last Days. (from the back of the book)

Review: Ron Goulart is known for both his writing of pulp fiction and his study of it. This is clearly of that genre. With cheeky supercomputers, dastardly men of power, sexy women, teleporters, bionic arms that shot lasers, fractured governments and robots galore, this is the pulpiest of pulp fiction. Humorous, with likable characters and fast-paced action, it’s a fun, easy read. And, given that is was written in 1977, his treatment of gender is done well – the women have intelligence, actives parts, and demonstrate logic and reason. It won’t win any awards, mind you. Goulart has a bad habit of jumping scenes with no warning, which can be disorienting. There are no great morals or explorations of the human condition. But that is what makes it pulp fiction, right? Worth reading, just for fun. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-03201-4
Year Published: 1977
Date Finished: 1-29-2017
Pages: 189

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Synopsis: The united 'Second Empire of Man' spans vast distances, due to the Alderson Drive which has enabled humans to travel easily between the stars. After an alien probe is discovered, the Navy dispatches two ships to determine whether the aliens pose a threat… Called by Robert A. Heinlein: "Possibly the greatest science fiction novel ever written," this magnificent exploration of first contact and a truly alien society is a "must read" for science fiction fans. (from the online description)

Review: First contact stories tend to fall into two tropes: either the benevolent aliens come to help to poor humans or Independence Day. Niven and Pournelle deftly side step these tropes and give us a first contact story both riveting and real. Moties, as they are named, are both benevolent and dangerous. And it falls to a diverse, flawed sortie of humans to determine the fate of both the Moties – and the human race.
A fast-paced plot, combined with complex characters and an intricate world of limiting technologies, create a story both mind-expanding and heart-wrenching. There are no good guys and bad guys, simple creatures, Motie and Human alike, working towards the survival of their species.
My only complaint is, once again, is the portrayal women. Only one female with speaking lines, but she is an integral part of the story, mostly. She could be replaced with a male and the story wouldn’t change much, despite her being presented as an educated woman with intelligence. She is often the “heart” of the discussion, favoring emotion-driven benevolence over logic. There are remarks to a male-centric society and she seems accepting, even supporting, of that institution.  One of the few shallows characters, sadly, but better than most women in pre-1980s sci-fi/fantasy novels.

It will up to the individual to determine if this book lives up to the hype, but for my part, I think it does. Worth the time to read. 

Bookmarks: 5 of 5

Awards:  Nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, Hugo Award for Best Novel, and Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1975)

ISBN: 0-671-43403-9
Year Published: 1974
Date Finished: 1-25-2017
Pages: 560

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card (An Ender Story)

Synopsis: Orson Scott Card offers a Christmas gift to his millions of fans with A War of Gifts, a short novel set during Ender's first years at the Battle School where it is forbidden to celebrate religious holidays. The children come from many nations, many religions; while they are being trained for war, religious conflict between them is not on the curriculum. But Dink Meeker, one of the older students, doesn't see it that way. He thinks that giving gifts isn't exactly a religious observation, and on Sinterklaas Day he tucks a present into another student's shoe. This small act of rebellion sets off a battle royal between the students and the staff, but some surprising alliances form when Ender comes up against a new student, Zeck Morgan. The War over Santa Claus will force everyone to make a choice. (from the online description)

Review: Set during Ender Wiggin's time at Battle School, this short novel centers on other characters. While Wiggin is an integral part to the story, he isn't the main character. The main character, Zeck, hails from a fundamentalist abusive home, and it is his growth, brought about by the subtle rebellion of Dink Meeker, that we follow. Although this lacks the depth of Card's other stories, it carries water and is most certainly worth reading.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7653-5899-8
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 1-23-2017
Pages: 196

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Synopsis: Can a bear's vacation, with more rain than sun, end up being, the one that's most fun?

Review: Being an avid reader of the Berenstain Bears as a child, I'm always on the lookout for ones I don't own. This one, while not the best one, is cute and amusing. The Bears go on vacation with high expectations, but they suffer one disappointment after another. But by keeping a good attitude and sticking together, they manage to turn what could have been bad memories into fun ones. This is a fine lesson for kids on how to handle disappointment, that it is your attitude that matters most. With color pictures and simple, clear, prose, this is a fine read for young kids.

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 679-80060-3
Year Published: 1989
Date Finished: 1-19-2017
Pages: 32