A huge thanks to Nenia for recommending this when I asked for a Nerd Romance. This was exactly what I wanted and more. I can't even begin to classify...moreA huge thanks to Nenia for recommending this when I asked for a Nerd Romance. This was exactly what I wanted and more. I can't even begin to classify this into a genre. It's so distinctive. First of all, it's hilarious! I felt like Connie Willis nailed what it's like to work in Corporate America. I could have changed the name of HiTek to the places I worked and it would have been exactly the same. The complete waste of time exercises they come up with in the hopes that it will increase productivity (when it actually interferes with it), the jive turkey meetings, and horrible acronyms, and the fact that said environment is so fertile for folks like Flip, Desiderata, and even Dr. Bullock. I loved the wry and deadpan humor. I mainly listened to this while I was doing my Wii Fit exercises, and this is one where you can't be quiet while you read. It made the exercise time fly by!
Sandra is a very accessible heroine. While she does have a snarky way of looking at the world, and the narrator has her sounding a bit superior at times, her inner voice is very realistic. You don't always see people in the most charitable ways internally, even when you make an effort to treat others well. Sandra's field of study is fascinating. She's a sociologist/statistician who investigates fads. I loved the facts about various fads throughout the many years of human history. While I feel that she is really a hater of Barbies and I like Barbies, I can't argue with her on most of what she says. I loved how Sandra processed Flip, who is a complete slave to fads and seems about the most useless person on earth. Flip is that person you know who just seems to make your life a living 'you know what', but then you realize that they do have a purpose in your life, and they help you to grow as a person. With that in mind, her sometimes superior way of looking at Flip and folks like her is put into complete perspective. I also loved how Sandra is a big reader and she processes life events in light of what she's read. This book is definitely for bibliophiles.
Can I tell you I adored Bennet? Oh my, he made my Nerd Love meter go off big time. I wanted to hug him with his horribly fashion-challenged self and his adorable Coke Bottle glasses. Man I wish I could find a Bennet of my own. :)
The sheep storyline had me dying of laughter. Yeah, sheep aren't the brightest animals, and you really understand why they need shepherds. I had no idea about the bellwether and it just draws the story together so well when we learn about it.
I tell you, this is a really clever and just wonderful book. It takes a lot of writing talent to take such dissimilar ideas as sheep, fads, Chaos theory and hair bobbing and actually craft a meaningful story around it. A nice sized read. It helped me enormously with my book reading slump because it was just so clever and vivid and kept me interested. I never thought I'd enjoy a book about something so non-specific as research into fads. I surely did. I definitely recommend this to readers who want something different. And for sure to those looking for Nerd Love and satire about the corporate work environment. It hits high on every point, so five stars!(less)
Willingham's exploration of fables wouldn't have been complete without a look at the Arabian Nights. The folklore of the Middle East fits into this se...moreWillingham's exploration of fables wouldn't have been complete without a look at the Arabian Nights. The folklore of the Middle East fits into this series very well, especially as the Adversary is expanding his takeover of the Fable lands into the Middle Eastern worlds now.
I think that it would be impossible to integrate all of the encompassing Arabian Nights lore into one volume, and I don't think Willingham ever intended to try. Instead, he uses this story as an introductory volume, and it has some elements that really stand out in the 1001 Nights lore. One well done example was the Jinn that the Arabian delegation brings alone with them. I think that perhaps that shows you the powerful motifs of the Arabian Nights in one large sort of concentrated burst at the audience. And of course, the Fables of Fabletown have to account for the power of such a force of nature, and counter-attack or at least attempt to neutralize it, much as one would consider taking on a nation with a stockpile of nuclear weapon that you want to maintain peaceful negotiations with. Never fear, Fabletown has some potent tools in their own toolkit.
Another effective aspect of this volume was the addressing of cultural differences that the Middle Eastern worlds had from what I would consider the European Fableworlds. Prince Charming is a big buffoon, and is completely unequipped to handy any diplomatic relations, thus his predecessor King Cole is called in to do this important job. I did find myself agreeing with Charming on one aspect of the Middle Eastern Fablelands culture though. Sinbad is a diplomatic leader of the Middle Eastern contingent, with a very wicked advisor who might open a few cans of worms that need to be dealt with.
Not related so much to the Arabian Nights storyline but to the overall Fables arc was a story about two wooden creations of Geppetto who fall in love for each other and wish to be human, but will have to pay a hard price. This story reveals Willingham's wonderful storytelling skills and the bittersweet tone and content of this volume in a nutshell. He shows that the opposite side has players that can also evoke the sympathy of the readers, even though their acts and methods might be reprehensible or just neutral morally in the scheme of things.
I'm sure there are some heavy underlying themes in this graphic novel, and I have only scratched the surface. I feel that I would love to reread all of these and revisit the whole series at my leisure, which is why I definitely want to get copies of these for my collection one day.(less)
Oh man! I loved this book. Baldacci took the firm foundation he built in The Innocent and kicked it up sky high. It was like he asked, "How can I real...moreOh man! I loved this book. Baldacci took the firm foundation he built in The Innocent and kicked it up sky high. It was like he asked, "How can I really do something interesting with Will Robie in the next book?" And he did. He introduced Jessica Reel. Jessica Reel is the female counterpart to Will, and that is something indeed. Jessica is Grade A, high level lethal kickbutt to the extreme. Her life is as edgy as you can image, just like Will. I love bonafide tough women characters, and it's kind of hard to find the well done ones. But Baldacci has impressed me, because that is definitely Jessica.
I liked her so much, I really didn't want her and Will to be adversaries. Good thing that Baldacci resolves that very well in this book. Because if you have someone guarding your back, you'd want someone like Will or Jessica. And you definitely wouldn't want them gunning for you!
As far as the action, this book is high level. Yet, the plot and a workable story isn't sacrificed just for a good action scene. Everything holds together, and if it served the story better not to have an onscreen action scene, Baldacci wasn't afraid to do that. This book is a good combination of action and thriller/suspense. I don't love a lot of political conspiracy-type storylines because I just find it dry, but it's well done here. Not too much to bore me, but sufficient for the story. With characters like Will and Jessica, you have understand what their motivations are and what would push them over the edge, and that was here in the novel.
The pacing was excellent. I never got bored. Any downtime between action sequences progresses the story and allows us to learn more about the characters. Actually one of my favorite parts of this book was seeing the way Will and Jessica's minds worked. It's uncanny how their minds seemed to click. That was the fun of this book. Had Baldacci decided to take it in another direction, it still would have been a fantastic book, but I liked it better the way it was done. And I have high hopes to see more of this dynamic duo, or at least see Jessica pop up again.
I did get my other wish for this book, I did get to see Julie again. She wasn't in this book as much, but it fits the story. It was just good to know that she and Will are still in each others' lives and they know they can count on each other. Also great to see Nikki Vance and Blue Man again.
I can't say enough good things about this book. Just adored it. I definitely want to get copies of these books for my collection, because Will is definitely on my list, and Jessica as well. Please write more books about Will, Mr. Baldacci!(less)
I don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd apprecia...moreI don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd appreciate it, because I have an appreciation for Asian culture and people, and swordsmanship; and honestly, something about a book with a woman holding a sword on the cover just pulls me in.
This book speaks to me of a writer who loves Japan, both modern and ancient. Someone who has taken the time to investigate and learn the culture, even to the deepest levels. You can't gain that kind of authenticity any other way.
Bein has taken an idea about three swords crafted by a legendary swordsmith and created a beautifully rich novel around them. While this is labeled as fantasy, the fantasy element is that the swords have animus and their very natures affect the destiny of those around them. Bein cleverly unfolds his story with a combination of past and present narrative. I was a bit worried I would find the historical parts dry, but I didn't. It was fascinating. I realized how little I know about samurai and how bushido affects everything about their lives. The insight into this period was crucial in this novel, because the swords are over nine hundred years old. Since I haven't even lived in cities that old, I can't even conceive of owning something that old! But for a Japanese person, not such a stretch. Now add in the fact that these swords have shaped history in major ways!
It takes some skill to make an inanimate object sinister. But that's exactly what Beautiful Singer is. It's a sword that takes over the owner's mind and leads him hand and headfirst down the path of doom. This is why I don't go in for antiques! The other two swords have their own distinctive natures as well. What was interesting is that the swords can’t make you into something you’re not. They seem to work on the inherent nature of the person. This destiny attached to these swords brings Mariko Oshiro to the front door of elderly Professor Yasuo Yamada, who is the owner of a sword that a violent Yakuza criminal tried to steal. This twisted path could only be destiny, as all the forces send her in the direction of a deep bond with the nearly blind expert swordsman, who takes her on as a student. Because she is the only one who can stop Fuchida, a man who has been seduced by the voice of his own sword, Beautiful Singer.
This book is just so good. It’s amazing how the story just drew me deeper and deeper. I wanted to find out about how these three swords could draw people into relationship with each other from historical to modern times, and not always in a good way. But ultimately, the right people end up in the right places, until we end up in the present with Mariko and Yamada’s story.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top fantasy story with all kinds of out there scenes, this isn’t the book. If you want a book with an excellent narrative building on a concept that seems magical, if you don’t believe in swords that are blessed and cursed, then you’d enjoy this book.
The cultural aspects had major appeal. As I mentioned earlier, the look at bushido and historical samurai was a good learning experience. But equally important was the view into modern Japan. I especially appreciated that the main character was a Japanese woman, who dealt with a society which is profoundly sexist, and she was driven enough to fight for what she wanted and needed in life, even as she ran into stumbling blocks of prejudice within her own agency, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. I admired her drive and determination. I also liked seeing the walls come down between her and Yamada, as she realized that this old man was what she was missing from her life, the companionship and the belief in her that he offered. Yamada, I adored him! No words! I can easily see why Mariko came to love him so much. Relationships can be pigeon-holed because it is the natural way of humans to classify what is hard to define. But they are so complex. They provide what we need in this life in a way that goes way beyond labels. That’s how Yamada and Muriko’s relationship impacted me. And also Keiji and Hayano’s back in the 40s. Heck, all the stories added so much texture to this book.
My feelings for this book are so intricate, that I’m having trouble putting them into words. So I’ll just end by saying I just loved this book so much. It may not hit you the same way, but I hope that others find something to offer them in Daughter of the Sword. (less)
The Innocent is perfect for fans of the enigmatic, laconic, capable action/thriller hero. Will Robie has already been added to my list of kickbutt art...more The Innocent is perfect for fans of the enigmatic, laconic, capable action/thriller hero. Will Robie has already been added to my list of kickbutt artists. Robie kills people for a living on behalf of the US government. He’s very good at it. He has never failed a mission yet, until he is hired to kill someone who clearly doesn’t need killing. He has to flee the scene to stay alive, and ends up on a bus out of DC with another runaway, a young girl named Julie. When he observes that someone is trying to kill her, he takes out the assailant and gets Julie off the bus, seconds before it explodes. Normally Robie is a loner, but this time he has to take on a partner, a person to keep safe while he figures out why their paths have crossed and people seem to be gunning for them both.
I enjoyed this book a lot. Baldacci develops a story of obvious complexity with great skill. He makes it look simple with his straightforward writing. However, layers keep getting pulled away to reveal something very multifaceted as the two various characters' lives intersect in a way that seems random initially. I liked how he conveys Robie’s expertise at what he does. He’s the real deal, Robie is. He’s very observant and skilled, but understated about it. I loved the dialogue between Robie and others, particularly Julie. This book had me laughing a lot. A big, tough guy like him finds out just how mouthy a teenage girl can be (and they can be very mouthy). She’s almost like a chip off the block with her own set of survivor skills. She’s had a tough life and is just as much a survivor as Robie is himself. Although this game they are in is high stakes and playing for keeps. She needs a protector who knows a lot about getting the bad guys dead and keeping alive.
I’m really glad my library had this book. I practically devoured it. I would love to read more books about Will Robie, and hopefully Julie will show up as a cameo. I can’t believe they will see the last of each other.
Definitely recommend this to fans of literary tough guys. Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars. (less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an excellent selection for audiobook. The narrator does a great job of immersing the listener in the world. She...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an excellent selection for audiobook. The narrator does a great job of immersing the listener in the world. She brings Myfanwy to life and makes her thoroughly lovable. I loved experiencing how Myfanwy processes her world as a newly born personality, a complete amnesiac who relies on the extensive note-taking and letters that her prior personality had prepared. Myfanwy is a closet bad*ss, and it was awesome that she kept everyone guessing at her hidden depths. She more than proves the adage, "It's always the quiet ones."
This is an excellent whodonnit as the reader goes through the list of suspects of who would want to kill Myfanwy Thomas and why. The cast of characters (and their various powers) is wacky and out there enough to make the introduction of each character an adventure in itself. And the mix of espionage with the weird and strange is excellently done. I found myself laughing like crazy as I listened. Not only did I laugh, but I also had some vocal 'ugh' and 'wow' moments, seeing as how the Chequy deals with some very strange threats to the British Citizenry, and the Chequy itself is pretty darn strange.
This book also reminded me of one of my favorite shows of all time, The Venture Bros., with its cast of quite bizarrely-talented folks and the odd humor. I eat that show up and so I did with this book!
I hope I can get a copy of this when it comes out in paper to enjoy again in a different format. I think this will definitely go on my favorites list for its mix of quirky humor, bizarre characters, and even more bizarre and dangerous situations that our newly intrepid heroine has to handle.
I would definitely love this to be an ongoing series, and I hope that BBC snaps this up for a potential mini-series. The British humor is excellent, sometimes wry, sometimes laugh out loud, but always funny.
Highly recommended for readers who like a weird twist on the secret spy agency theme.(less)
Royal Street is a very refreshing and enjoyable urban fantasy read. I was captivated by the sights and scenery of New Orleans, and the honest and enli...moreRoyal Street is a very refreshing and enjoyable urban fantasy read. I was captivated by the sights and scenery of New Orleans, and the honest and enlightening perspective of the city during and after the Hurricane Katrina devastation. We did get refugees (both human and animal) from New Orleans around that time in the Austin, and also the poisoned air drifted our way, causing a lot of allergy and respiratory issues. Seeing the aftermath from a more distant perspective was painful enough. I can't imagine having experienced it firsthand. Ms. Johnson allowed me to do this in reading this book. New Orleans has such a personality, that it continually establishes itself as a important character in her own right in books. This reader is not jaded at meeting this beautiful ancient dame yet again.
Drusilla Jaco doesn't cede all the attention to New Orleans. She establishes herself as a likable character whose story you want to learn. She's neither too strong, nor too weak. Her strengths and weaknesses balance themselves out, making her a character I want to accompany on an adventure. Drusilla is a wizard, which is fun. Usually the tendency is to make a female UF protagonist a witch, which I feel can be a bit sexist. It could also be that I am not a big fan of witch storylines and witchcraft. I can and do like the idea of wizards a little more, and why can't a woman be a wizard? In this case, she is not just a wizard, but one with a special heritage which comes into play. That was fun to see Drusilla, or DJ, as she is called, come into herself and her genetic inheritance.
As far as other characters, I definitely liked Alex and Jake. Boy howdy, I do not care for love triangles, but this one feels credible. Both guys have a lot to offer, and you do feel torn. I have made up my mind who I want Drusilla to end up with, but we'll see what the series has to say about that. Either way, so long as it doesn't turn into bed-switching (which has become almost an UF staple lately), I'm okay with going along for the ride. Now that Jean Lafitte, he's a character. I find him sexy, but it's in a "I'm so wrong to think he's sexy" kind of way. I mean, he's ruthless and amoral, and he is physically abusive. I'm not feeling that at all. At the same time, he is a cutthroat pirate, so I can't really ascribe 21st century values to him, can I? Yeah, I'm feeling conflicted. At any rate, he's an interesting character. I can't really tell you about one of my favorite characters, who is in fact an inanimate object that DJ calls Charlie. Let me just say that Lord of the Rings fans will find it very cool indeed!
As far as the urban fantasy action, this book is pretty good on that score although it could have used more showing and more description. I did feel that the final confrontation wasn't as exciting and as well-executed as I would have liked. Admittedly, I am a stickler for well-written action scenes, so I tend to grade harder in that area. I did like that Drusilla does get to save the day. It was important for her to be able to do so, even though she did get a bit of help along the way.
Royal Street is a great start to a series that has me excited to read more. I liked the concept and the characters are appealing and have me interested in reading more, including the Grande Dame of New Orleans.
Urban fantasy readers looking for a book that would appeal to both male and female readers should find something to like in this book. I know I did!(less)
I wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the fairy tal...moreI wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the fairy tale, "The Snow Queen." Another wonderful aspect of this novel is that the main character, Hazel, is a young girl who is Indian in ethnicity (from the country), although adopted by a white, American couple. I think that Ursu has something powerful to say about being 'other' in a society that is primarily of a certain race/culture. How that can impact a young person, and the wounds it causes that person as they walk through a world where they feel alien.
I also enjoyed the deep friendship that Hazel has with Jack. However, I felt that this aspect of the novel, which is probably the crucial element, fell short. Hazel is almost obsessed with Jack. He's like an anchor to her in a stormy sea that her world has become since her parents' divorce. While I don't mind that she is bonded to Jack, I never felt that Jack was as bonded to Hazel as she was to him, which bothered me. Understanding the fairy tale source helps to appreciate the rift that forms between them, but as it was written, it's not enough. We are given breadcrumbs (if you'll forgive the unintentional pun) to suggest that Jack's issues are also about his mother's bout with depression, but while I can see that Hazel and Jack spend so much time together, I could have used more of his viewpoint on how important his relationship to Hazel was to him. Clearly she was the right person to save him, but more depth on his point of view would have been great.
Ursu made the choice of ending this novel with some questions left in the air. I can't fault her on that, but it did leave me dissatisfied about some situations that weren't addressed, both in the winter woodland and in the lives of both Hazel and Jack. Despite that, I do have the conviction that things will work out for Hazel and Jack. Even though the problems in their families might not be resolved, we know they have each other to get through those times. Also, knowing that Hazel has found more connections in her life other than her mother (and absentee father) and Jack. She needs those. She also needs to know she is fine as she is. She needed that validation, especially with they way her father failed her. One scene I was so glad that Ursu included, her mother telling her that she was perfect and didn't need to change was very important. Kids need to hear from their parents that they are approved of and loved despite any perceived short-comings.
As far as "The Snow Queen" retelling, it was well-done, and I liked the manner in which Ursu personalized it to Hazel and Jack's story. I felt that the White Queen's menace and authority was slightly undermined by the resolution. I would have loved more descriptive imagery of her Ice Palace. I liked how Ursu creates a world of magic that intersects with the 'real world' in that children travel to this other place to escape from their disappointing lives on the real side of the woods. I hurt for the children who suffer from the cruel effects of selfish magic that the woods bring out in adults and the creatures who live in the woods.
Ursu's writing is good. She drew me into Hazel's story and I felt for this wonderful little girl. It broke my heart to see her feeling so disconnected and flawed. No child should feel that way. I am all for color-blind adoptions, but I feel that her parents should have worked harder to make sure Hazel wasn't alienated by the fact that her ethnicity was distinctive from her parents and many of her peers. I loved the fact that Ursu does address this so poignantly, but she doesn't offer a lot of solutions for the issues Hazel felt.
Overall, I think my biggest issues with this novel were the lack of resolution on those crucial issues and the fact that I think some really important aspects of the story (outside of Hazel and Jack's bond) weren't dealt with in the depth I wanted. I know this is a book for younger readers, but the maturity of the writing makes me want more from the author as far as an emotional resonance and completion about the familial issues faced by Hazel and Jack.
I would be curious to see what a younger reader thinks of this book. If they grasp the deeper, melancholy aspects of this novel. I feel that its melancholy and darker elements hit the right note for a mature reader, but might be lost on a younger reader. Although the ending is hopeful, I can't help feeling a lingering sadness now that I have finished it.