**spoiler alert** Like a cross between the TV shows "V" and "Revolution" with a little "Ender's Game" thrown in. I was intrigued by the premise and th...more**spoiler alert** Like a cross between the TV shows "V" and "Revolution" with a little "Ender's Game" thrown in. I was intrigued by the premise and the characters. I suspected the twist way before it was revealed. And I wasn't sure how Yancey was going to end the book; a happy ending undercuts the whole story, while an unhappy ending would be way too depressing. By not really choosing either and leaving it open, Yancey retains the questions asked by main character Cassie throughout the beginning of the book while also leaving the possibility of a sequel. I think, however, that a sequel would do the book a real disservice.(less)
This was a real page-turner, with an interesting main character, a fascinating premise, and several layers of mystery that aren't quite all revealed,...moreThis was a real page-turner, with an interesting main character, a fascinating premise, and several layers of mystery that aren't quite all revealed, even by the last page. I'm looking forward to the next installment!(less)
The Giants have had their share of memorable moments these past few years: Matt Cain's perfect game, Barry Bonds breaking the single-season home run r...moreThe Giants have had their share of memorable moments these past few years: Matt Cain's perfect game, Barry Bonds breaking the single-season home run record and two World Series Championships in 2010 and 2012 are probably the biggest events that Giants fans would cite. But perhaps the biggest Giants moment of all came in 1954, when the best Giant of all, Willie Mays, made what is routinely described as the best catch of all time. You've seen the famous photograph of Mays at the fence of the Polo Grounds, number 24 clearly showing on the back of his jersey, glove above his head, just about to catch the ball. Or perhaps you've seen video of the play on one of MLB network's "Countdown" shows. Most baseball fans have a familiarity with the play.
But even if you've seen the video a hundred times, it's worth it to read Arnold Hano's account of The Catch in his 1955 book A Day in the Bleachers. Hano recounts all the aspects of going to the game on September 29, 1954, at New York's Polo Grounds to see the hometown Giants take on the Cleveland Indians in the first game of the '54 Fall Classic. The reader follows Hano as he waits in line, buys a ticket, settles himself in the bleacher seats, watches bp, interacts with fans (Giants fans, a few Indians fans, and a lady in a red hat who is normally a Dodger fan, but is rooting for the Indians that day, for obvious reasons), and takes in a World Series game.
Hano does an excellent job of weaving together details of the bleacher experience and statistical context with an interesting play-by-play account of the game. It's easy to get caught up in the drama of the contest, and even though I knew that "The Catch" was coming and what the outcome of the game would be, I still greatly enjoyed the journey. It was also interesting to see how similar in many ways the experience of going to an important ball game is today to what it was in Hano's day. His snarky comments concerning the baseball intelligence of Yankees and Dodgers fans (Hano has low opinions of both), along with the differences between the American and National leagues (and this is before the advent of the designated hitter, remember) still hold true today. But in other ways, the experience is very different. There are no replays of the action, for instance, and Hano has little idea what type of team the Indians are, having had few (if any) chances to see them play. The contrast between this and today's MLB.com-ESPN-Quick Pitch world is astounding.
For any baseball fan, but especially any Giants fan, this book is an absolute must-read.(less)
Firefly, the cowboys-in-space TV show that was cancelled before it could find its feet, has become a cult favorite among fans of science fiction on te...moreFirefly, the cowboys-in-space TV show that was cancelled before it could find its feet, has become a cult favorite among fans of science fiction on television. The series was followed up with a movie that tied up a few loose ends left by the show's cancellation, but ultimately, there's a feeling of what-might-have-been that surrounds the show (see Nathan "Captain Malcolm Reynolds" Fillion's recent much-hyped online comments about how he'd buy the rights and restart the show if he ever won the lottery).
I enjoyed the show very much - when I saw it later on DVD. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a volume of criticism about the show in our library system. The essays in Finding Serenity were, for the most part, good, although there were a few too many about gender and the female characters - those essays began to feel a little repetitive. I enjoyed the two essays about Asian culture and Chinese language as they appear on the show. The insights into the way the network treated the show (airing episodes out of order, using a completely different episode to start the show instead of the original pilot, sticking the show in the Friday night "death slot," and the list goes on) were very interesting, and it's not surprising that the show got the ax - it didn't really get a chance to shine. Two essays really stood out: Jewel "Kaylee" Staite's piece listing her recollections of being in the show, and John C. Wright's piece on chivalry, which asks how the concept of chivalry (a foundational piece in westerns, but almost always out of place in sci-fi)could possibly work in a hybrid show like Firefly. These two pieces give a great behind-the-scenes glimpse of the show and made me think about how the characters interact with each other in a way I hadn't considered before.
Overall, Firefly is a detailed and layered piece of television art, and hopefully future audiences will enjoy the show as much as I have. Now, I think I'll go watch "Out of Gas" again...(less)
Marcus, like his father before him, is an officer in the Roman army stationed on the barbaric island of Britain. Many years ago, Marcus' father and hi...moreMarcus, like his father before him, is an officer in the Roman army stationed on the barbaric island of Britain. Many years ago, Marcus' father and his Legion marched north of Hadrian's Wall and never returned. Rumors are now coming south of the Wall: the Eagle, the standard and symbol of the Ninth Legion has been seen in one of the temples of the barbaric tribes of the north. With such a symbol, the tribe could rally others and mount an attack on the lightly defended Wall. Marcus knows that this cannot be allowed to happen, so he volunteers to go north of the Wall and retrieve the Eagle. With his freedman friend Esca, a Briton, Marcus searches throughout Caledonia to find the Eagle and to find out the fate of his father.
This is an excellent story. The Roman Britain setting is well drawn and the characters that inhabit it are all realistic. Marcus was an interesting narrator and while the ending of the story was a bit predictable, I found his quest to be compelling. If you're looking for historical fiction that will bring the ancient world to life, this is a good story to try.(less)
The introduction of movies with sound - known at the time as "talkies" - brought about a revolution in Hollywood. The Songs of Hollywood explores how...moreThe introduction of movies with sound - known at the time as "talkies" - brought about a revolution in Hollywood. The Songs of Hollywood explores how music, and more specifically, songs with words in them, shaped the movies they appeared in. Furia and Patterson explore the relationship between movie studios and sheet music publishers, the careers of many famous songwriting teams (many of whom are perhaps more well-known for their musicals) and the experiences of the performers who made their names singing and dancing on the silver screen.
Early directors and producers were unsure of using songs in movies; the idea of a character bursting into song to explain his or her feelings was too different from real life and it was thought that audiences wouldn't like to see that on screen. It wasn't until much later when several visionary directors began to really incorporate the songs into the characters and stories that movies were able to use songs in a setting other than a performance, ie, the character is a singer and is auditioning or performing a song in the course of the show.
It was very interesting to see how attitudes towards songs changed between the first talkies in the '20s and '30s and the way songs are used in movies today. The number of famous songs and famous singers and songwriters who came out of Hollywood is astonishing, particularly because I associate so many of them with settings other than the movies. This is a well-written and fascinating history.(less)
When Aoife turns 16, she's going to go crazy. She knows it will happen: her mother's in a sanitarium, her beloved brother disappeared awhile ago after...moreWhen Aoife turns 16, she's going to go crazy. She knows it will happen: her mother's in a sanitarium, her beloved brother disappeared awhile ago after he threatened her with a knife, and plenty of people have been struck down by the Necovirus (like the whole city of Seattle) which screws up human brains. Until then, Aoife has decided that she will learn everything she can about engineering, in the hope that maybe somehow she won't go crazy, and can spend her life working with machines like the gigantic one that powers the city of Bost...Lovecraft. Then Aoife gets a mysterious message from her brother saying that he needs her help. With her friend Cal and guided by Dean (who has secrets of his own), Aoife journeys to her father's house in Arkham, intent on finding her brother, even if he has finally gone crazy.
I gave this book the "fantasy" tag, and it is that, but I think a better descriptor would be "steampunk." The setting is full of machines, dirigibles and clockworks and Aoife's ambition is to become a mechanical engineer. It's a fascinating setting, even if it did take me awhile to figure out that "Lovecraft" was standing in for Boston. I suppose I probably would have got there sooner if I knew anything about the Lovecraft/Cthullu mythos (I don't, obviously). However, not knowing about that author or his works did not keep me from enjoying this one. I was mostly fascinated with the setting, although the twists and reveals for Aoife, Dean and finally Cal were all interesting (Cal's especially caught me by surprise). If I have a chance to visit the world again via a sequel, I'll most likely take it.(less)
After a freak volcanic eruption kills his entire family, Trei must leave his homeland to go and live with his aunt and uncle on the floating island ca...moreAfter a freak volcanic eruption kills his entire family, Trei must leave his homeland to go and live with his aunt and uncle on the floating island called Milendri. "Floating Island" is not a redundant term - the islands actually float high in the sky, kept aloft by the magic of the sky dragons and guarded by the kajuraihi, the men who wear wings and fly. When Trei sees one of these men on his journey to Milendri, he is immediately entranced and swears to himself that he will become one. Trei is warmly welcomed by his aunt and uncle and cooly welcomed by his cousin Araene, a girl with a quick tongue and a passion for cooking. Like Trei, Araene has a dream: to become the most famous chef on Milendri. However, circumstances are conspiring to keep Trei and Araene from fulfilling their dreams. Can the cousins work together to do the things they love best?
The idea of islands that float in the air is not a new one, but it's not one that I've seen too often (the other good example I can think of is the Firefly episode "Trash") and the corps of flying men who defend it is new. I liked the magic system Neumeier uses as well - the power is used by the people but it comes from dragons, who allow the people to use it. Trei was an interesting and likeable character, but the one I liked best was Araene. She is a strong and well-rounded heroine, stuck in a tough situation who has decided to deal with things her own way. I would love to see these characters again in another book.(less)
Sophie's favorite class is chemistry; Mr. Petersen is so handsome! Too bad all her classmates seem to know about her crush - they won't stop teasing h...moreSophie's favorite class is chemistry; Mr. Petersen is so handsome! Too bad all her classmates seem to know about her crush - they won't stop teasing her. Sophie's least favorite activity is the Friday night seances her great-aunt Tabitha makes her participate in. Unfortunately, spirituality is a major pastime of Ediburgh's fashionable ladies, so there's not much Sophie can do to get out of them, particularly when she starts showing signs of being a medium herself. Then the medium from great-aunt Tabitha's last seance is found brutally murdered, and Sophie and her friend Mikail are plunged into a mystery that reaches to the highest levels of Scotland's government. Can Sophie solve the mystery and keep Scotland and the Hanseatic League from going to war with Europe?
The Explosionist is set in a fascinating alternate history in which an independent Scotland is allied with the Scandinavian nations while most of continental Europe (and England) is under the dominance of the descendants of a victorious-at-Waterloo Napoleon. In Sophie's Edinburgh, the Enlightenment has come to full flower (with some horrifying results) and the only reason Scotland is an independent country is its factories that produce the explosives invented by Alfred Nobel. Davidson's ability to work in concepts and names from history is wonderful, and the world feels very real. Sadly, Sophie is not the most interesting character, and the murder mystery is a bit predictable. I would, however, be very interested to read another story with different characters set in the same world.(less)
Fitz is the illegitimate son of a prince and that's the root of all his problems. He has never met his father and doesn't remember his mother. He has...moreFitz is the illegitimate son of a prince and that's the root of all his problems. He has never met his father and doesn't remember his mother. He has many enemies, doesn't really fit in anywhere in the castle, and his best talent is the Wit, a way of relating to animals that is frowned upon by pretty much everybody. Fitz struggles with feelings of aloneness and not belonging until he meets Chade, a mysterious nighttime figure who is the king's assassin, sent to teach Fitz his craft. Finally, Fitz has a purpose, but when he is sent to poison a prince in a neighboring kingdom, he hesitates. Can he bring himself to murder for the only person who he has ever felt close to?
Fitz himself was a bit of a dull character, but the world he inhabits is fascinating, and I found some of the other characters, like Chade the assassin and Verity, Fitz's uncle, to be pretty interesting. While the story is not predictable, there were a few plot points that I expected long before they were revealed. This is not a stand-alone book, but unfortunately, the other libraries in our consortium don't have any more of the series, so I may not ever get to find out the end of Fitz's story.(less)
Jack is a Spacer. He lives on the space station Freedom and spends his time working in Gert's pub to save up credits for a new zip scooter and sometim...moreJack is a Spacer. He lives on the space station Freedom and spends his time working in Gert's pub to save up credits for a new zip scooter and sometimes hanging out with his friends. But Jack's understanding of his world turns upside-down when he meets Kit, an Earthie fresh off the latest space freighter to dock at Freedom. Before he really knows what's happening, Jack is helping Kit escape the station and finding out that the things he thought he knew might not be true after all.
Margaret Bechard has created one of the most interesting sci-fi settings I've read in awhile. Her characters are interesting, and their future slang is easy to pick up on and fun to read. Like all really good science fiction, Spacer and Rat brings up questions about life and humanity, but it does so subtly and gracefully. I would absolutely *love* to see this book made into a movie - Bechard's space station setting would be fantastic on the big screen.(less)
Jim and Angie were thrown back in time to the Middle Ages - the 14th century, to be more precise - and have had to restart their lives. They have a co...moreJim and Angie were thrown back in time to the Middle Ages - the 14th century, to be more precise - and have had to restart their lives. They have a comfortable English castle, some fertile tracts of land, and 20th century sensibilities that keep clashing with the prevailing culture, but all in all, it's not too bad. Jim can even do magic to a small extent, so they have a pretty good life. That is, until Jim gets called away to go and save the English prince who has been captured while gadding about in France. Jim's not that great with magic, and he's not that great with weapons, but he's a knight and a vassal of the English king, so he has to go. Can he save the prince make it back to Angie alive?
As I was reading the book, it didn't take me long to get caught up in the story. Jim and Angie are interesting characters, and the juxtaposition of their 20th century mindset with their 14th century surroundings is fascinating. As I was writing the plot summary above, though, I realized that it seems like a bit much to try and swallow, even if you are the best at suspending your disbelief. Part of that is because I ended up jumping in to the second book of the series instead of the first book (I *hate* when that happens). When you're reading the book, it's pretty easy to just go with it. I may skip over the first book entirely (since I kinda know what happened, what with reading the second book and all) and see if I can find the third book in the series. (less)
For many centuries, Japan was a closed country inaccessible to outsiders, especially those from the West. As clipper ships and whaling became more pro...moreFor many centuries, Japan was a closed country inaccessible to outsiders, especially those from the West. As clipper ships and whaling became more prominent at the beginning of the 19th century, Americans wondered how they might open the country for trading. Japanese people, too, began to wonder about other countries, but they saw Westerners as barbarians and a danger to their culture and way of life.
In the midst of this, Manjiro, a poor 14-year-old Japanese boy is shipwrecked when the fishing boat he and some others are in gets caught in a storm. The Japanese are rescued by a passing American whaler, and Manjiro begins to learn their language, fascinated by the utterly foreign-ness of the Americans. When the captain of the ship offers to take Manjiro (known to the English speakers as John Mung) to his home in Massachusetts, Manjiro accepts, eager to see the world beyond Japan.
This is a fascinating book. Manjiro is a likeable narrator and the people he meets are all fascinating. Many of them, and many of the events in the book are based on real occurrences. This is excellent historical fiction, for it imparts an accurate understanding of the times and places that it describes.(less)