Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Giant Days, Volume 1 by John Allison, Whitney Cogar, Lissa Treiman

Synopsis: Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of hand-wringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird. (from the online description)

Review: Advertised as a “slice-of-life” comic (so, no superheroes, aliens, or strange mystical beings), this story follows three young women as the go to University. And as you would expect, things go awry.
With warmth, humor, and a keen eye for the details of a first semester at college, the author draws the reader into a world both familiar and new. He accurately captures the uncertainty, the bravado, and the wonder of being a new at college. I particularly enjoyed the complexity of the characters and their relationships, the situations they find themselves, and how they solve the problems they often encounter.
The art is bright, bold, and expressive, and is as much a part of the story as the words. Entertaining and thought-provoking, with flawed, endearing characters and engaging stories, this is worth reading.  
Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Two Eisner Awards and Four Harvey Awards (2016)

ISBN: 978-1-60886-789-9
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 6-10-2017
Pages: 56

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Birthmarked by Carah O'Brien (Birthmarked Trilogy, Book One)

Synopsis: In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife, Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia's mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia's choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying. (from the online description)

Review: Set in a future earth, where water is scarce and supplies limited, Gaia lives on the outside of the Enclave. As a midwife, she is bound to take a quota of the babies she delivers and give them as tribute to the people inside. But it isn’t until her parents disappear and she goes searching for them, that she learns why.
I won’t spoil the story here, but I will say, this was a decent read, neither bad nor good. The world-building is an intriguing blend of science fiction, with some living in primitive style and some living in high tech wonder. The idea of women forced to surrender their children gives the story an emotional edge. But the characters lacked depth, often one-dimensional, and the plot seemed contrived and forced at points.
I finished the book and it end feeds directly into the next in the trilogy. But I wasn’t hooked enough to read the next of the series.
Readers of Young Adult fiction will enjoy this, as it has a similar premise (strong female protagonist fighting evil to save family) as many of the most popular YA books. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-312-67472-4
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 6-4-2017
Pages: 361

Monday, June 5, 2017

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Synopsis: By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force. (from the online description)

Review: I watched Bladerunner recently, and figured it was about time I read the story it was based on. All I have to say is – WTF? The book and movie, aside from sharing androids and Deckard, are NOTHING alike!
The book is a confusing mash of philosophy, angst-ridden introspection, and reflections on a religion/cult of empathy that makes very little sense to me, yet seemed integral to the story. I never did understand Rachel’s connection to the escaped androids, or what the Rosen family had to do with them. 
In the end, I gathered one of the more obvious points of the story – Deckard felt sympathy for electric sheep, but not the androids he “retired”. As the story progresses, he sees this hypocrisy in his life along with the realization that he can’t continue as a bounty hunter if he feels empathy for his quarry.
But as for the philosophy points of the story, I didn’t understand them. Some of the story was confusing and made no sense, and the whole Mercer thing was weird. It all, it was a depressing view of the future, but not an unlikely one, sadly. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards:  1968 – Nebula Award nominee, 1998 – Locus Poll Award, All-Time Best SF Novel before 1990 (Place: 51)

ISBN: 978-0-07-756623-4
Year Published: 1968
Date Finished: 5-31-2017
Pages: 244

Review: Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World by Karen Ehman

Synopsis: Our culture is self-obsessed – in our schedules, relationships, and especially online. (Can you say selfie?) But in this near-narcissism, people are less content than in decades past. Why? Because we forgot the joy that comes from putting others first. Doing so requires us to live alert, listening for “heart drops,” hints from those in our lives who need a helping hand or a generous dose of encouragement. Living alert lifts our own spirits, showing us that blessing others blesses us even more. Listen, Love, Repeat offers biblical teaching and suggests doable actions that are simple, heart-tugging, sentimental, even sneaky and hilarious. This message:
 • Presents scriptural examples of those who lived alert, including Jesus, who noticed those who least expected to be seen.
 • Explains the role of good works for followers of Christ. They aren’t our ticket to heaven but they are our marching orders on earth.
 • Gives creative ideas for showing love to friends and family, and suggests practical ways to reach out to the lonely, the marginalized, the outcast, and the odd duck. Additionally, it helps you comfort the grieving, showing what you can do when you don’t know what to say.
• Provides inspiration for blessing the “necessary people” in your life, those often-overlooked souls who help you get life done every day, and teaches you how to hug a porcupine by genuinely loving the hard-to-love.
 As we scatter love, we create a safe space where we can openly share the gospel. We get to see lives changed right before our eyes. Most importantly, Listen, Love, Repeat will enable you to live a life that is full of kind deeds, not to selfishly shout, “Hey! Look at me!” but to humbly implore, “Will you look at Him?” (from the online description)

Review: This was recommended to me by a woman at church.
I found Erhman’s advice well-stated and important. We do live in a self-centric society and as Christians, this is opposite from how Christ instructs us to live. Erhman’s advice to listen to others, intentionally listen, to learn how to love that person in specific ways, excellent to hear. Her examples should the positive impact we can have just doing small things. Her admonition to not worry about a perfect home but to create  welcoming space is important in the day and age of pinterest and Martha Stewart. Her chapter on loving those who grieve offered important advice and should be heeded by all.
But again, I have the same problem with her work as with most books aimed at Christian women. This book felt like it was only for the White Upper-Class Women in an Emergent Christian Church. Many of her idea cost money, and women with low-incomes are worried just about feeding their own families and keeping a roof over their heads, not whether their towels all match. This felt very rich white American to me, and while that particular demographic will benefit from hearing this advice, it unsettled me.
My other concern is that many of these ideas are highly suitable for Extroverts or Social Butterflies (she admits she is one) but for the Introvert or Socially Shy, many of us would rather crawl across the desert on glass than engage in so much social interaction. Thankfully, she doesn’t condemn those who may not feel comfortable being so social, and even those of us who may quake inside at the idea of speaking to strangers will find good advice here about being intentional towards other people. We don’t need to host large parties, but writing cards, leaving secret gifts and other behind-the-scenes actions are there for us as well.
In the end, there is nothing heretical or untrue, no egregious deviation from the Gospel, and her genuine desire to encourage other to love those around them in evident. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-310-33967-0
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 5-28-2017
Pages: 251

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: Pirates: From Blackbeard to Walking the Plank by David Pickering

Synopsis: A quick, easy-to-read guide about real Pirates, their history, ships, methods, and eventual demise.

Review: With thick glossy pages and bright illustrations, this reads more like an encyclopedia of Pirates than a textbook. The pages are color-coded according to subject, making it easy to find the precise bit of information one wants. It starts with the history of Pirates (going back to before the Pyramids) and ending with modern piracy in the waters around Africa and South Asia. The book covers many of the most well-known Pirates, their ships, hide-outs, and methods. The information is not in-depth nor is the prose complex, making it perfect for elementary age children interested in Pirates. Adults may use this as a starting point for further reading.

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-124172-7
Year Published: 2006
Date Finished: 5-28-2017
Pages: 254

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Acquisition: May Book Haul

This month was moderate. I managed to purge 50+ books from my collection. But it was also, Free Comic Book Day and there was a Library Book Sale ($6 a Bag), so, yea....

In all, I purchased 42 books, although several of them were single issue comic books. And not included in this list is the pile of free comic books I picked up in our loot-quest on Free Comic Book day.

I spent a total of $33.38

The Reality Matrix by John Dalmas

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

The Last Argument of Kinds by Joe Abercrombie

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

ShipBreaker by Paulo Bacigalupi

The Mammoth Book of Black Magic ed. by Mike Ashley

Aladdin and Other Tales for the Arabian Knights by Aon.

Hammer's Slammer by David Drake

Ligh Brigade, Volume One by Peter J. Tomasi and Peter Snejbjerg

Teen Titans: A Kid's Game by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone

Can't You Sleep, Little Bear by Martin Waddell

Anne and The Old One by Miska Miles

Complete Tales and Poems  by Edgar Allan Poe

Hellbent  by Cherie Priest

A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski

Two Years Before the Mast by R. H. Dana

The Thousand and One Nights by Aon.

Wolf Pack (Battletech) by Robert Charrette

D.A. by Connie Willis

The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honore de Balzac

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan

Does Christianity Teach Male Headship: The Equal-Regard Mariage and Its Critics by David
Blankenhorn, Don Browning, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

A Thousand Signs, A Thousand Revolts by Christiane Bird

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott

The Town Beyond the Wall by Elie Wiesel

This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Piercing The Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Irredeemable, Volume One by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Two by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Three by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Four by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Five by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Six by Mark Waid, et al

Archer and Armstrong, Volume One: The Michaelangelo Code by Fred Van Lente  (Author), Clayton Henry (Illustrator), Pere Perez (Illustrator), Matt Milla (Illustrator). 

Review: Sherlock, Lupin, & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler

Synopsis: While on summer vacation, little Irene Adler meets a young William Sherlock Holmes. The two share stories of pirates and have battles of wit while running wild on the sunny streets and rooftops. When Sherlock's friend, Lupin, joins in on the fun, they all become fast friends. But the good times end abruptly when a dead body floats ashore on the nearby beach. The young detective trio will have to put all three of their heads together to solve this mystery. (from the online description)

Review: As a Sherlock junky, I excitedly picked this up when I found it at a used bookshop. Sadly, it was trite, boring, and not well researched.
The story plodded on and on, with all the action happening in the last chapter. It took forever to get to some of the clues and then – bam! – all the mystery solved in about three pages. And it was easy – no big reveal, no unmasking the culprit, just a very, “oh and, you’re the bad guy.” The mystery itself (who killed the dead guy) was boring and I honestly wasn’t very interested in the outcome.
In addition, the characters often used modern slang or syntax; there was a lack of attention to historical details or the social conventions of the time, and even the correct food! It was frustrating to someone who values historical accuracy in a novel.
If you are looking for mystery stories for kids, this is not the book for you. There are far better ones out there. 

Bookmarks: 2.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4342-6526-5
Year Published: 2011 (2014 in English)
Date Finished: 5-25-2017
Pages: 238

Friday, June 2, 2017

Review: Can't You Sleep, Little Bear by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth

Synopsis: It's Little Bear's bedtime and he can't sleep because the bear cave is too dark! Will Big Bear find a way to help Little Bear sleep?

Review: These books are too adorable, sweet, and fun. This particular story is perfect for bedtime. Little Bear is afraid of the dark, but with Big Bear's help, he finds the light and safety enough to sleep soundly. With Firth's adorable and perfect illustrations, this story is a must for any child's collection.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-56402-262-5
Year Published: 1988 (U.S. Version, 1994)
Date Finished: 5-25-2017
Pages: 32

Review: The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honore Balzac

Synopsis: The story follows the decadent heir Henri de Marsay, who becomes enamored of the titular beauty, Paquita Valdes, and plots to seduce her. He succeeds but becomes disillusioned when he discovers she is also involved with another lover and so plots to murder her. When he arrives to kill her, he discovers that she is already dead by the hand of her lover, his half-sister. She declares that Paquita came from a land where women are no more than chattels, able to be bought and used in any way. In the last lines of the story, de Marsay tells a friend that the girl has died of "something to do with the heart." (from the wikipedia page)

Review:  After reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, I determined to read Honore Balzac myself. It seemed prudent to begin with a slim volume, or I might be compelled to finish a book I loathed. I’m thankful I did. Balzac writes in style similar to Salman Rushdie (bleck) or Tolstoy, where I’m certain they are saying Very Important Thing About Life, but even should my breath depend on it, I cannot comprehend the word
This story was composed entirely of tedious prose interspaced by the occasional bright flash of violence or lust, only to drop immediately back into excessive verbiage. Only by reading an outside synopsis was I able to pick out the plot of the story. Most of the book was devoted to a dull, pretentious, philosophical expose of the people who inhabit Paris.
Per my rule, I shall give Balzac on more try. I own a large novel of his and will eventually read it. But I am reluctant to waste time on a writer whose style I already know I do not enjoy. 

Note: I have chosen a picture of an original illustration for the first printing of the book instead of the cover. There are many covers, ad the story has long by out of copyright. 

Bookmarks: 2.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-7867-0561-2
Year Published: 1835 (Trans. in 1998 by Carol Cosman)
Date Finished: 5-23-2017
Pages: 119

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: D.A. by Connie Willis

Synopsis: Theodora Baumgarten has just been selected as an IASA space cadet, and therein lies the problem. She didn't apply for the ultra-coveted posting, and doesn't relish spending years aboard the ship to which she is assigned. But the plucky young heroine, in true Heinlein fashion, has no plans to go along with the program. Aided by her hacker best friend Kimkim, in a screwball comedy that has become Connie Willis's trademark, Theodora will stop at nothing to uncover the conspiracy that has her shanghaied. (from the inside flap of the book)

Review: More of short story or novella than a full novel, this is an amusing sci-fi tale. Theodora Baumgarten is hilarious. Smart and snarky, she has no interest in the IASA, unlike nearly everyone else she knows. So when she is chosen, having not even applied, she is furious. Using her mind and sheer stubbornness, she sets about to get herself kicked out. But her quest leads her to a conspiracy – a conspiracy that just might be the best thing to ever happen to her.
Although it started a bit slow, the story picked up quickly by the middle. Theodora’s antic made me laugh several times, in particular her snarky mouth towards the IASA students and faculty. And her brilliance at discovering the “secret” was exciting and humorous. I very much enjoyed the big reveal at the end, and found it a satisfying end to this light, enjoyable story. Perfect for a quick read and the content is suitable for elementary kids and up. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59606-120-0
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 5-22-2017