Witchcraft is illegal. Witches are burned. But in class 6B there is an anonymous note claiming someone in the class is a witch.
What I like best about...moreWitchcraft is illegal. Witches are burned. But in class 6B there is an anonymous note claiming someone in the class is a witch.
What I like best about this is the range of students in the classroom. This isn't just a protagonist and an arch-enemy with a gang. There are 7 or 8 distinct children, plus groupies, plus 3 or 4 teachers with conflicting goals and personalities.(less)
An Italian city. Two feuding families. Two star-crossed lovers...ummm, wait, wrong story. Two feuding magic families. Two children who struggle with m...moreAn Italian city. Two feuding families. Two star-crossed lovers...ummm, wait, wrong story. Two feuding magic families. Two children who struggle with magic, thrown into the middle of a plot to destroy the city.
Perhaps nothing particularly special, but written with the typical Diana Wynne Jones grace and charm. There are some nice depictions of the chaos in the embattled city as the plot ramps up.(less)
The sentences are clunky. The paragraphs don't stay on topic. The metaphors range from unsuitable to nonsensical. The sett...moreIs this some kind of a joke?
The sentences are clunky. The paragraphs don't stay on topic. The metaphors range from unsuitable to nonsensical. The setting is bland. There is no sense of tension or suspense. The first person narrator seems as bored as I am. Ho hum...ghost horse...ho hum...evil house...ho hum.
The narrator can't even stay focused. For example, in the middle of a conversation his mind wanders...hey, this guy reminds me of someone else...yeah, let me consider this...on second thought, they aren't much alike at all...ho hum.(less)
A decent book about an orphan girl in Nazi Germany, absolutely ruined by the narrator.
The author uses a personification of death as the narrator. The...moreA decent book about an orphan girl in Nazi Germany, absolutely ruined by the narrator.
The author uses a personification of death as the narrator. The main purpose of the narrator is to immediately repeat/comment on the story so that we know when we are supposed to feel strong emotions. Aargh! This is at best patronizing. Perhaps the author felt that the subject (orphan girl + Nazi Germany) had insufficient potential for emotional impact? Death also intrudes during slow parts of the book to deliver spoilers to assure us that more intense parts lie ahead. It is just awful.
Otherwise the book is...well, pretty much what you would expect from the set up.
The other beef I have with it is the character of the abusive mother with a heart of gold. Didn't make any sense, but I would have happily overlooked that part if the narrator wasn't constantly annoying me.(less)
There is a most excellent book inside of this novel. Kizuldah is a poor back-water village in fictionalized Kazakhstan, where only the richest family...moreThere is a most excellent book inside of this novel. Kizuldah is a poor back-water village in fictionalized Kazakhstan, where only the richest family owns a TV/computer and they let their neighbors use to watch kung-fu movies. However the internet is coming, specifically Air - a new wireless technology that is beamed directly into the brain. A trial run of Air goes wrong, but leaves the village woman Chung Mae with a permanent internet connection along with some side effects. It is both an opportunity and a curse. Chung Mae realizes how disruptive this technology will be, and spends the book fighting to learn how to use the internet for herself and at the same time trying to teach / brow-beat her fellow villages into getting prepared for the new world.
I love the depiction of Chung Mae. She is selflessly trying to help the village at the same time she is selfishly trying to make money off the whole process. She is trying to band the village together at the same time as her pride causes conflicts right and left. She is wise and foolish, and tries to make the best of it either way. At one point the computer teaching program she is using puts her in the role of Owl, which to the West symbolizes wisdom but in her village culture symbolizes Death, which suggests both how the traditional village and modern internet collide and how Chung Mae's personality is both helpful and abrasive.
There are only a few things that keep me from giving this book 5 stars. There is a physically impossible pregnancy, which serves one the metaphorical level as the coming of the future, but on the practical level is so bizarre that it was off-putting. There are also some "super-powers" (if you will) that Chung Mae gets from her connection to Air. Mostly these are occasional visions of the past and future, that work well with the themes of the book. However there are also a few parts that imply Chung Mae has control over time and space which are dissonant weird and unnecessary.
So on the whole this is an excellent voyage, only marred by a few unexpected and jarring potholes on the way.(less)
A weak entry in the series. Wherein everything that Jack holds dear is threatened, and he keeps letting it happen because that's what his dad would wa...moreA weak entry in the series. Wherein everything that Jack holds dear is threatened, and he keeps letting it happen because that's what his dad would want. ???(less)
A fantasy mash-up of computers, jinn, Arab Spring, and ABC Afterschool Special.
This is a rather unsophisticated novel that I think would make more sen...moreA fantasy mash-up of computers, jinn, Arab Spring, and ABC Afterschool Special.
This is a rather unsophisticated novel that I think would make more sense if they dropped the protagonist's age and reclassified it as a YA book. (Not that I think YA needs to be unsophisticated, but it is a bit more justifiable at that age.) How unsophisticated? Well, the protagonist who thinks he is in love with the rich, pretty girl finds out he was really in love with his next door neighbor and childhood friend all along. Seriously.
The protagonist is a hacker, and major chunks of the book are based on computers and programming. It can be difficult to work computers into a fantasy novel, and it fails here. The author clearly has little to no familiarity with computers and programming, but insists on giving detailed descriptions of it that make no sense at all. Grrr. I think a better route would have been to avoid details, or alternatively maybe inventing a fake Middle-Eastern-ish computer vocabulary would have worked.
One other thing that bothered me was the low level but pervasive sexism/racism/cultural prejudice. I assumed near the beginning that the author was making a comment on Arabian society (deserved or not) which I was mostly okay with, but then she introduced an American character who was biased in the same ways so it didn't feel like there was a purpose to it. In my opinion the book ended up having the female characters being the stronger and smarter ones, but the male characters being the dominant ones (what I call the Hermione Syndrome) which bugs me and makes me wonder why couldn't the main woman be a lead character?
P.S. The author keeps using "World of Battlecraft" to refer to what is obviously World of Warcraft. I have seen this type of thing before, rarely, and am curious if this really is a legal requirement or is this just a personal choice of an author or what? Anyone know?(less)
I simply do not have the knowledge to be able to manage the author's continuous stream of biases and errors, and if I did have that much knowledge wha...moreI simply do not have the knowledge to be able to manage the author's continuous stream of biases and errors, and if I did have that much knowledge what would be the point of reading the book?(less)
Nate Silver is noted for baseball statistics but more famously for election predictions. He has written a book about the craft of making accurate pred...moreNate Silver is noted for baseball statistics but more famously for election predictions. He has written a book about the craft of making accurate predictions across many different fields. His main points are a general overview of how predictions fail, how statistical models can be created and improved, and what the "Bayesian" statistical viewpoint is all about. I really liked this book at the beginning where it has a lot of good discussion based on sports, politics, and science. For example, the section about weather forecasting talks about the inherent difficulties, the improvements that have been made, and the ways the local forecaster will spin the prediction to make them more agreeable to human perception.
Unfortunately I found the quality dropped off after the beginning. The point of the chapters was more vague, and the examples were thinner and further removed from core of modeling. The entire section on computer chess seemed pointless because to me it would be a great stretch to categorize what those programs do as prediction modeling, and the chapter on climate change was mainly about the politics and not the prediction science.
Of course there is also my perennial complaint about the ridiculously minimal amount of math in popular science books, but at least the publishers of this book didn't think including (*gasp*) actual charts would hurt their sales.
If the description intrigues you, I would recommend it.(less)
Humans (with two invincible super soldiers) are finally fighting against their alien overlords. Who will win? I certainly won't spoil the tension for...moreHumans (with two invincible super soldiers) are finally fighting against their alien overlords. Who will win? I certainly won't spoil the tension for you.(less)
A satisfying new entry at the border of the urban fantasy genre. It eschews the typical real world setting to create a world where the magic that powe...moreA satisfying new entry at the border of the urban fantasy genre. It eschews the typical real world setting to create a world where the magic that powers society is traded as a commodity, and specialized sorcerer/lawyers are needed to handle the difficult contract disputes.
This book revolves around the death of the god Kos the Everburning. Tara is (to force things into my terminology) on her first case as the assistant to the lawyer for the Kos estate. Tara has to struggle to serve her client, to prove herself to her new firm, to move and work amongst the Kos worshipers who she looks down on. Oh yeah, and to stay alive.
Note: the protagonist is not a sarcastic private investigator. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr. Gladstone.
I haven't done the book justice. There is much hostility between gods and sorcerers, because the sorcerers intrude upon the gods powers. There are different worshipers who act for reasons varying from love to emotional addiction. This is a little bit asking what are you willing to trade off to achieve power. It is much more well rounded than a simple criminal/legal investigation.
Above, I way overemphasized the role of the legal aspects. It under-girds the book but it mostly isn't explicit during the story. No one will confuse this for "Law & Order: Special Wiccans Unit." I personally hope the author pushes the legal side more to the forefront in the sequels, because that is most unique aspect of the book. (less)
I am not rating or reviewing this book, because the author's use of words rubs me the wrong way and my brain keeps analyzing it as a Bulwer-Lytton con...moreI am not rating or reviewing this book, because the author's use of words rubs me the wrong way and my brain keeps analyzing it as a Bulwer-Lytton contest entry. For example:
He didn't see Jame, who was already parallel to him in the shadows.
As opposed to being perpendicular to him in the shadows?
Then Jame saw that a large, indistinct form was taking shape before her.
How does an indistinct form take shape? It started out looking indistinct, but as it took shape I could more clearly see that it was indistinct. The words struggle against each other.
I have at least four more examples from the first 15 pages, and I'm just not going to be able to enjoy the good parts of the book.(less)