I liked James Bradley's earlier books, but this one's a dud. I only made it through the first hundred pages, most of which was a rant about the horror...moreI liked James Bradley's earlier books, but this one's a dud. I only made it through the first hundred pages, most of which was a rant about the horrors of assuming whites were the superior race. No really, pages upon pages of it. Examples, snide remarks, appalled declaiming, etc.. Yes, Mr. Bradley, that was a common belief of the time among white men. Yes, it was wrong. But I don't see any righteous indignation about any of the other beliefs of the time that turned out to be wrong, and there were many.
I would have been fine with a page or two about this, because it was relevant to the story he claimed to want to tell. But after very few pages, the whole book degenerated into a diatribe against the belief of white supremacy at the time, which is sadly not what the book was supposed to be about. Skip it.(less)
Night Watch was a fascinating book. Set as several separate stories in one book, it follows the adventures of Anton, an agent of the Night Watch, who...moreNight Watch was a fascinating book. Set as several separate stories in one book, it follows the adventures of Anton, an agent of the Night Watch, who until recently was not a field agent. The stories are set in Russia, modern day, but people with supernatural powers are divided into two secret organizations: the Night Watch (the "good" guys), and the Day Watch (the "bad" guys). As you would expect from a Russian novel, nothing's nearly that clean-cut. As the book progresses, Anton becomes increasingly aware of how he's being manipulated and used by both sides, and why. The betrayals, changing loyalties, and quickly shifting alliances make for fascinating reading.
I particularly liked some of the characters, the gritty feel of the stories, and the way Anton grows visibly in power and knowledge during the course of the book. He is clearly talented, brilliant, and suspicious, making him one of the more promising agents in either organization.
The only thing I really didn't like about the book was the translation (sorry!). It muffed most of the really good lines, dropped some of the drama, and missed some strong Russian archetypes and beliefs for the sake of literal translation. Word-for-word translations of some of the idioms made for confusing reading and many fewer clues to what was really going on. I was annoyed enough that I think I'm going to get the other books in the series in Russian. And maybe someday offer my own translation. :)
The Mystery of Grace tells the story of Grace, a mechanic who is shot and killed during a convenience store robbery. She discovers that rather than th...moreThe Mystery of Grace tells the story of Grace, a mechanic who is shot and killed during a convenience store robbery. She discovers that rather than the kind of afterlife she expected, she's trapped in a tiny world that echoes the few blocks surrounding her apartment building, with all the other people who have died in that area for the last few decades. She is told that twice a year, she can return to the world of the living, but nobody she knew will recognize her. On her first trip out, she meets and falls in love with John, a man who is still alive. The story follows her attempts to puzzle out why she's stuck, and what she wants out of her existence.
In my experience, de Lint writes two kinds of books: the gorgeous urban fantasy explorations, and the somewhat caricatured preaching on an idea. This is definitely one of the latter. He has a lot to say about faith, what's required, what life and death are about, and what should be important to people. Some of which I agree with, some of which I don't, but none of which I needed repeated every page.
Despite this, I liked the book. Mostly for the setting, I think -- he creates a very vivid and beautiful world (ours, but from Grace's point of view), and manages to take the (overused!) tough female mechanic stereotype and turn it into a sympathetic, believable, and even unique main character. I liked Grace a lot, and liked her life (and death) and her world. I just wish it could have stood on its own.(less)
This was an interesting book, though a bit starry-eyed for me. It chronicles the friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during Wo...moreThis was an interesting book, though a bit starry-eyed for me. It chronicles the friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during World War II, attempting to characterize the way they each viewed and developed their relationship.
Interestingly, Meacham describes the relationship as being somewhat one-sided: he casts Churchill as the needy friend who would do anything for Roosevelt, and who adored him publicly and privately; and Roosevelt as the popular kid -- someone cold and somewhat manipulative, who was all smiles and fellowship around Churchill, but publicly complained about him and made fun of him when they weren't together. The grade-school dynamic is reinforced during their meetings with Stalin -- Meacham describes how Roosevelt tried to meet with Stalin privately to disavow any agreement with Churchill, and how when the three of them met, Churchill tried overly hard to be warm and friendly, but Roosevelt made snide remarks about him constantly to Stalin, and the two of them (Roosevelt and Stalin) made fun of Churchill to his face.
While amusing, this seems like an overly glib and simplistic view of their relationship. These were not grade schoolers -- they were men at retirement age (or past it) who had fought their way to the top of their nations, and were hardly naive schoolchildren. The book makes me curious about what was actually happening, and what their relationship was actually like.
Despite the gossipy tone, it's an interesting book, and contains a lot of useful information about the interactions between the two men, and how they shaped the war. It was a quick read, engaging and thought provoking.(less)
I won a signed ARC! Yay! This was an extremely satisfying ending to the cliffhanger in book 9. It follows Russell and Holmes separately, as they each...moreI won a signed ARC! Yay! This was an extremely satisfying ending to the cliffhanger in book 9. It follows Russell and Holmes separately, as they each make their way back to London after the disastrous events of the last book. Along the way, Russell meets and is aided by an odd man, Robert Goodman, who hides strange secrets. It's hard to say much about the book without spoilers, but they each find even more disastrous news in the paper, and events proceed to an exciting and decisive conclusion.
Things I liked about the book: parts are told from the points of view of both Holmes and Russell, and I thought the contrast between the thought processes and conclusions of each of them was well done and interesting. We see why Holmes correctly avoids one city, but why Russell logically doesn't. I also liked Goodman a lot, and thought he added enormously to the story. His presence tied in with the theme of the two books really well -- I see why King wanted to call the book The Green Man, and I agree with her. The book was far more about Goodman and legend than it was about Mycroft and the villain. I also liked Estelle -- she was preternaturally well behaved in the first book, and while she was still precocious in this book, she definitely had preschooler moments. As a mom, I relate to both that and Russell's somewhat random and fearful attempts to appease her.
There was a lot more action in this book than in previous ones, or maybe it just felt that way because the stakes were higher. I think this was one of the better books in the series, and I really enjoyed it. I wouldn't recommend starting with this book, since it's the second half of a story, and assumes a lot of knowledge of the characters, but for Holmes/Russell fans, this is an excellent addition to the series.(less)
Having really liked Street Magic, I went back and picked up Night Life, the first in Kittredge's previous series. I have to say, I didn't like it all...moreHaving really liked Street Magic, I went back and picked up Night Life, the first in Kittredge's previous series. I have to say, I didn't like it all that much. Luna seemed strident, unpleasant, and borderline psychotic, and did little other than really irritate the people around her (and me!)
The book revolves around a series of murders, which Luna (as a police detective) is determined to solve. This is complicated by the fact that they seem to be related to the werewolf community, and Luna is packless, and so has no actual standing in that community. The were most likely to be the murderer (Dmitri) turns out to be alpha in the local pack, and their relationship forms the romance (or lack of it) side of the book.
If I were Dmitri, I have to admit, I would have just ripped Luna's throat out and been done with it. Maybe that's not the best recommendation for the book. :) Still, there were some interesting characters (I like Sunny, Luna's cousin) and while the plot was painfully predictable at times, it had occasional interesting twists. I haven't bought the second book yet (no kindle edition!) but I probably will at some point, to see if the series improves.(less)
I first read a Pete and Jack short story in one of the multi-author supernatural fiction collections, and liked it enough to pick up this book. I have...moreI first read a Pete and Jack short story in one of the multi-author supernatural fiction collections, and liked it enough to pick up this book. I have to say, this is the first attempt I've seen to do "grim and gritty" supernatural fiction that's actually succeeded. It has what looks to be an interesting magic system, sympathetic characters, believable motivations, and an engaging setting.
The book starts with the event that ended Pete and Jack's association when they were teenagers. The echoes from that event (which isn't fully explained, even by the end of the book, and appears to form the basis for the second book as well) reverberate through the book, as more is revealed. In the end, neither one of them is blameless (nobody is, in this book), and they each come to their own accommodation with the events in the end.
The book isn't flawless -- the tone wavers at times, as if the author isn't actually very familiar with the setting, and is working to maintain it. There are brief flashes of optimism and idealism which, rather than seeming like salvation, seem a bit out of place and forced. And even though the ending was very much a setup, and the necessary place for the plot to go, it still seemed overly fortuitous and planned somehow.
But I still thought the book was well worth it, and I'm looking forward to the next one. (less)
Okay, okay, I admit it. These are romance novels. Good ones! I'm having way too much fun reading them.
This book starts four years after the last left...moreOkay, okay, I admit it. These are romance novels. Good ones! I'm having way too much fun reading them.
This book starts four years after the last left off, with Cat working for the government and avoiding Bones at all costs. Well, as you might imagine, those costs get too high, and he shows up again, giving them a chance to figure out what happened last time, and how to start again. Lots of action, violence, romance, excellent sex (though the author is perhaps slightly less creative than one might expect from the genre -- I'm interested in seeing the next book), and general craziness all around. (less)
So, I've read a fair amount of the literature about group dynamics and social influence, and taught classes that discussed and used it. So I thought I...moreSo, I've read a fair amount of the literature about group dynamics and social influence, and taught classes that discussed and used it. So I thought I'd know much of what was in this book already. While I was familiar with some of it, there were a number of tricks I hadn't noticed, and excellent descriptions of the ones I had, complete with explanations. Definitely worth reading!
Influence describes the six categories of techniques that have the potential to influence us without our conscious awareness. One, for example, is the mark of authority -- people are more likely to follow directions and suggestions given by someone with a title (Dr., Judge) than otherwise. The same applies to suggestions given by people who dress as if they are in the successful upper-class, or who are acknowledged authorities in some field (it doesn't have to be the one under discussion). What makes the book interesting (besides the highly useful listing of techniques and defenses) is the additional research -- including the surveys showing that people *are* in fact completely unaware that they're doing it. When asked about an experiment, they will insist that the given technique won't work, but when actually involved in the experiment, will fall for it almost every time. Really interesting stuff.
I read recently that if you trace the locations (by location-aware cell phones) of a small population in an American city over a 6-month period, on average, the movement collapses into standard predator patterns. ( http://www.citeulike.org/user/sjc/art... ). This says something profound about the reasons we give for our behavior vs. the underlying causes. Cialdini sheds some light on these differences by pointing out some other areas where our thoughts don't match our actions, and explaining the unconscious shortcuts we use to help us function in our daily lives.
Plus, it's got some great tricks to get out of being pressured into buying stuff or contributing to charities you don't like. :D(less)
Miriam was looking for something to read the other night, and I ran across some Agatha Christie novels. She ended up not reading them (she wanted Murd...moreMiriam was looking for something to read the other night, and I ran across some Agatha Christie novels. She ended up not reading them (she wanted Murder on the Orient Express, so I bought her that, and she really liked it, but didn't feel a need to read other Christie novels), so since I had them piled up, I picked this up and read it.
Wow, I totally love the Miss Marple stories! This is a collection of very short mysteries, most of which are related after the fact as a puzzle for others, either at the Tuesday Club or at a dinner party. The salient facts are given, and everyone gets a chance to guess what really happened. Of course Miss Marple figures them all out. I managed to get about half of them, but they were all really fun to read, and I appreciate Miss Marple much more at nearly 40 than I did when I last read Christie's books as a teenager.
The best thing about these stories is that they're easy to read out loud, and you can let other folks guess the answer too. And they're so short, you can fit them in just about anywhere. And still very compelling, and revealing of human nature.(less)
Okay, I have to admit I picked this up because I saw the cover for the 4th in the series, and it was so over the top (title and picture) that I had to...moreOkay, I have to admit I picked this up because I saw the cover for the 4th in the series, and it was so over the top (title and picture) that I had to laugh. Then I read the back, laughed some more, and told Cesar it was ridiculous. And then got home, thought about it, and downloaded the first one. Ahem.
Okay, so it didn't suck (so to speak). In fact, it's way over the top in much the same way as Van Helsing -- played straight all the way through, but everything is a cliche taken to the extreme. Lots of erotic scenes, extreme violence, and silliness. I really liked it!
Also, this book should be required reading for every woman going off to college. It meticulously covers just about every standard scam used to take advantage of young women at some point. The characters in the book don't always fall for them, but they're all presented clearly, with the things to look out for listed. Very interesting.
Anyway, it was lots of fun, and I've already started the second book.(less)
I liked most of the stories in this collection, but I didn't think any of them were particularly outstanding. I liked the Cin Craven story the most, I...moreI liked most of the stories in this collection, but I didn't think any of them were particularly outstanding. I liked the Cin Craven story the most, I think, and the stories by Rachel Caine and Jim Butcher were fun, but nothing too spectacular. It's always nice to read these collections, though, and find new authors who might be worth following. In this case, I found a good book *next* to this one on the new books shelf, so that's good enough. And I might go back and find the Cin Craven books now, since I haven't read them.(less)
I found this book an excellent overview of the state of the art of military robotics. Singer's style is easy to read and entertaining, and he covered...moreI found this book an excellent overview of the state of the art of military robotics. Singer's style is easy to read and entertaining, and he covered a huge range of ideas in a (relatively!) small space. The book briefly covers the history of warfare, history of computers, and history of robotics. It includes backgrounds on and discussions with the major players in the military robotics field, as well as digressions on non-military robotics and non-robotic military issues. Finally, there is some speculation about the future of both robotics and warfare, based on current trends.
If anything, though this is a pretty hefty book, I would have liked it to be twice as long. The issue of when a robot reaches self-awareness and deserves rights got a couple of pages, for example. That could easily have been (and is, by other authors) a book on its own. And speculation about future warfare was limited, both by uncertainty and page space. The state of the art is obviously dated -- there were several breakthroughs that deserved mention in the book, but happened between manuscript acceptance and publication. So, um, read it quickly, before it's too out of date! It's a fun and thought provoking book, and has a complete set of notes and references at the end, which led me to several other interesting works and websites to keep an eye on.(less)