Full disclosure: I received a copy of this eBook for free from the author.
Some authors are just in love with language. They pile metaphor upon metapho...moreFull disclosure: I received a copy of this eBook for free from the author.
Some authors are just in love with language. They pile metaphor upon metaphor, simile upon simile, description upon description, never saying in 10 words what could be said in 100. The verbosity can be overwhelming.
This book is exactly the opposite. The writing is dry and plain. It almost reads like a script where the author provides the action and direction, but leaves out all description of the characters and sets, trusting the casting agents, set and costume designers to fill in the details.
Although it is neither particularly long nor heavy reading, I've been trying to read this for months and just cannot finish it (I'm giving up a bit over 1/3 of the way through). The story has something to it, a light space opera tying Greek mythology to a long-time space-faring struggle. The writing is just missing something fundamental. (less)
Pale Demon is the ninth book in the Rachel Morgan/Hollows series and is easily the best of the last few. Harrison manages to wrap up many of the ousta...morePale Demon is the ninth book in the Rachel Morgan/Hollows series and is easily the best of the last few. Harrison manages to wrap up many of the oustanding threads in reasonably satisfying fashion, without meandering too far off rail as she did in some of the previous books. Future books may go in many different directions from this ending and it will be intriguing to see which direction she decides to take it.
A large portion of the story takes place as part of a cross-country road trip, giving the readers the first real look at the broader implications of The Turn as it affected the country as a whole (all of the previous books, but one, had taken place essentially entirely in Cincinnati, and even that one was really a fairly simple shift from one city to another). This helps expand the background and story to a broader vision than has really been previously given.
On the other hand, Rachel's relationships with others is still a bit rough around the edges at times. The story starts with what is essentially a giant step backwards in her relationshp with Trent, not flowing very naturally from the events of the previous book(s). This discordance is gradually overcome, but feels like it was forced into the story for dramatic tension then becuase it was a natural progression from the overall plot.
In a similar vein, I'm not sure how happy I am with the romantic direction the story is taking. Off the top of my head, Rachel's relationships average about two books each. It started with Nick, which was clearly doomed and problematic from the beginning, shifted to Kirsten, which was ended for plot reasons, had a brief dallience with the out-of-town-witch-whose-name-escapes me, which was clearly meant as filler, and in the more recent books has had something start up with Pierce. This doesn't include the more complicated issues of her relationship with Ivy, which is one of the more tragic elements of the longer story. The shift in this book is in some sense very predictable, and one could ask how and why this didn't begin sooner. On ther other hand, Harrison threw a curve ball to readers by not having it happen sooner, so perhaps the better question in why does this suddenly happen now. It's not clear how well this will translate in the next book or two.
Overall this book was an excellent addition to the series and has carried through on the promise of the previous volume to get the story and writing back on track. Interestingly, with very little change, this could easily have served as the final book in the series. It's clearlly not meant to be that way, but Harrison closed off enough events in a staisfying enough manner that she could have shut down the tale here, something I certainly wouldn't have predicted at the start of this book. It certainly leaves her with a wide-open pallete of possibilites for the future.(less)
A bit of a letdown after the previous story. Butcher did some fairly daring with the end of the last book and this book (he didn't have to; there were...moreA bit of a letdown after the previous story. Butcher did some fairly daring with the end of the last book and this book (he didn't have to; there were any number of ways he could have played the end of the previous book differently, although they would have been a cop out). Unfortunately, from the broad perspective, there was only way this book could end and it was obvious from the very beginning. The story felt more telegraphed than some of the others and felt a bit rushed. Also, the writing is a bit more redundant (I noticed this in the previous book also); Butcher has to describe various aspects of magic and/or background to the reader in exposition (in case they hadn't read or didn't remember details from previous books), but he's done it so often that he's now starting to repeat his exposition within the same volume. Another sign of rushed writing, or poor editing. There was also a continuity oddity or two that seemed off to me.
All of this is not to say that Ghost Story isn't a good book, but it doesn't stand as one of the better books in the series and definitely doesn't fails to live up to the promise of the previous volume.(less)
"The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: The Definitive Reference to More than 2000 Species" requires an extra subtitle or an asteris...more"The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: The Definitive Reference to More than 2000 Species" requires an extra subtitle or an asterisk which reads "Except Cactus". I was rather surprised in my initial browse the complete lack of any information about cacti, since these are by far the best known group of succulents, although eventually I discovered the explanation when I went back to the beginning and found, on page 15, the following statement:
Almost all the members of the cactus family (Cactaceae), for example, are succulents, and in popular terminology the term cactus can stand for any fleshy or spiny desert plant. This is hardly accurate, of course, and the horticultural adage that “all cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti,” bears repeating, despite a few exceptions. The variety and diversity of all the kinds of succulent plants make it impractical to cover them in any detail in a single volume, and so this book will restrict itself to the “other succulents,” those many thousands of species that are not members of the cactus family.
While I have no problem accepting this logic and decision, it did seem to me that this fact should have been made much clearer in the title of the book.
Moving beyond the decision to concentrate on everything but cactus, the guide seems to be quite solid. Plants are organized by taxonomic group, with descriptions and photos for many species. The photos are generally of high quality and successfully display major characteristics of different groups as well as highlighting the morphological variety of succulents. They also are weighted heavily toward photos of plants in the wild, rather the cultivars, which I think is a bonus.(less)
Similar to the other books, a workman-like mass-market style mystery (much in line with the style of James Patterson), entertaining enough for fans of...moreSimilar to the other books, a workman-like mass-market style mystery (much in line with the style of James Patterson), entertaining enough for fans of the show but not offering much more to the general mystery fan.(less)
The first book in (yet another) urban fantasy series, this one revolves around a woman named Wren who uses magic and thieving skills to retrieve missi...moreThe first book in (yet another) urban fantasy series, this one revolves around a woman named Wren who uses magic and thieving skills to retrieve missing objects for clients. It's a pretty good tale, with an interesting back story and take on modern magic (tying it rather directly to electricity). It's got some fairly strong similarities to Jim Butcher's Dresden series, although it is much lighter in tone. A series with a lot of future potential.(less)
An interesting little short story set back in time relative to the primary Rachel Morgan tales which gives a little different view of Ceridwen and Alg...moreAn interesting little short story set back in time relative to the primary Rachel Morgan tales which gives a little different view of Ceridwen and Algalirept than the primary stories.
This series keeps getting better. Kim Harrison keeps managing to tie together distant threads from across the books, taking the overall story in new and interesting ways.
This book feels particularly like a turning point. I have no idea how long the series is intended to be (there may not be a specific intent), but I could definitely see this book as a hump book, really setting things in motion for the grand finale. It's not that I believe everything will be wrapped up in just one more book...rather, I think threads are coming together so the overall plot could fun faster and smoother to a conclusion.
Of course, she may not be ramping up to a finale. She might just keep going and given the quality of the series so far, at this point I certainly wouldn't see that as a bad thing.(less)
Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs is an excellent resource...if you live in the right part of the country. I happen to live in the southwest and...moreDirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs is an excellent resource...if you live in the right part of the country. I happen to live in the southwest and was immediately disheartened when the first couple of trees I tried looking up in it were completely missing (e.g., mesquite and palo verde, both of which are quite common out here). I did find the third I tried, Desert Willow, so not all was lost.
Beyond the bias against southwestern trees, the book is excellent, with information on the growing habits of thousands of trees. It needs to be made clear that this book is aimed at gardening and landscaping. It is not a scientific text or a field guide. It is focused on the growth characteristics of trees you might wish to plant or cultivate.
I particularly like the special indices at the rear of the book which list plants by specific characteristics, such as flower color, fall color, time of flowering, fragrance, fruit, shade tolerance, salt tolerance, etc. (less)
Series keeps getting worse. The authors couldn't even string together enough of a mystery to fill the whole plot, so they had to run three independent...moreSeries keeps getting worse. The authors couldn't even string together enough of a mystery to fill the whole plot, so they had to run three independent and unrelated cases to just fill pages. It takes the murder-by-number writing style to a whole new level.(less)
Somehow I got fooled into thinking the last story was the final one of the series. This story picks up far in the future of the previous tales and may...moreSomehow I got fooled into thinking the last story was the final one of the series. This story picks up far in the future of the previous tales and may finally be the beginning of the end of this completely forgettable story. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the stories, but they are too short and covering too broad a background for any depth.(less)
This book is pretty typical for the "murder by numbers" style of writing that James Patterson's co-authors have become so familiar with. It's pretty m...moreThis book is pretty typical for the "murder by numbers" style of writing that James Patterson's co-authors have become so familiar with. It's pretty much like all of the other books in the series, neither clearly better nor worse. The villains have never had much depth to them, and this tale is no different. The protagonists are a bit more static in this book than in previous ones; Clare and Cindy play pretty small roles, Lindsay stays fairly stable, and Yuki's role as the replacement lawyer becomes more solidified. (less)
Collecting issues 6-10, the first 4 contain a story revolving around the (1st) post-Buffy slayer, Faith. It's a good solid story which captures the ch...moreCollecting issues 6-10, the first 4 contain a story revolving around the (1st) post-Buffy slayer, Faith. It's a good solid story which captures the character quite well. The last comic is a somewhat odd one-shot (I presume) which doesn't follow directly from the previous story and feels at this point like filler (although it may hold more importance in future issues). Overall, a more solid book than the first one.(less)
Picking up where the TV series ended, the first 5 comics are pretty good, with decent script and art. The biggest problem I had was it's been too many...morePicking up where the TV series ended, the first 5 comics are pretty good, with decent script and art. The biggest problem I had was it's been too many years since I've since the TV shows and there are a lot of references to events and characters that were just lost on me. Worth reading for fans of the show, but be up-to-date on the mythology for background.(less)
A science fiction short story about a president's brain which, well, disappears (the title is not particularly metaphorical). Very much Scalzi's style...moreA science fiction short story about a president's brain which, well, disappears (the title is not particularly metaphorical). Very much Scalzi's style, with a light mix of humor and geekery.(less)
Company man is a tricky book to categorize. It's an alternate history mystery with some steampunk elements (although I personally wouldn't call it ste...moreCompany man is a tricky book to categorize. It's an alternate history mystery with some steampunk elements (although I personally wouldn't call it steampunk) and science fiction overtones.
The story takes place in a northwestern coastal city of the US in 1919/1920; this city does not exist in the real world but is the center of technology and innovation in this alternate world and is essentially run by *the* technological giant of the planet. The story is focused on a security employee for The Company who has unique ways of gathering information.
Overall, the story is fairly interesting and moves through a lot of politics and conflict between management and workers and police and corruption. The biggest flaw is toward the end. There is a big twist which was well built up and not unexpected. It is followed by a second twist that simply didn't work well and sets up a disappointing and lackluster ending. It was a shame that a book doing so well stumbled to the finish.(less)
A mini-comic which serves as a prequel of sorts to Mass Effect 2, it introduces one of the locations (Omega and the bar Afterlife) and characters (Ari...moreA mini-comic which serves as a prequel of sorts to Mass Effect 2, it introduces one of the locations (Omega and the bar Afterlife) and characters (Aria T'Loak) one encounters in the game. The story is rather terse with little depth (but what can one expect from an 8 page graphic novel?).(less)
I thought this book started off with a bang, a fabulous concept with a ton of possibility (granted the beginning was completely expository, but in a g...moreI thought this book started off with a bang, a fabulous concept with a ton of possibility (granted the beginning was completely expository, but in a good way). The remainder of the book just fizzled. The concept was wasted, the story rather flat, the characters largely uninteresting. Perhaps my disappointment comes from the fact that I was so pumped after the beginning that the rest was a major letdown (I came into the book with no particular expectations at all). It just feels like there was room for a great story, and instead the author decided to do a raterh mundane character study.(less)
This book is a mixed bag. The story is fairly cliched and predictable, although well written. The big negative in my mind was that the main male lead...moreThis book is a mixed bag. The story is fairly cliched and predictable, although well written. The big negative in my mind was that the main male lead was extraordinarily irritating. He was such an extreme ass for the first half of the book or so, so unrealistically written, that the rest of the story shouldn't have unfolded the way it did. (less)
Making my own soda is something I've been interested in for awhile, so I approached Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda with a lot of curiosity. Primarily...moreMaking my own soda is something I've been interested in for awhile, so I approached Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda with a lot of curiosity. Primarily a recipe book for soda, with a bit of interesting historical detail and humor sprinkled in here and there, the book is fairly straightforward in approach and the recipes are generally very simple to follow. There are three approaches to soda making and many of the recipes can be made with all three (although some are restricted to only one approach): mixing with pre-bought seltzer, creating your own seltzer with a siphon, or brewing. So far I've only tried the first two, but may try brewing at some point in the future. I've made about 10 of the recipes at this time and have found the results to range from fabulous to disappointing (to be fair, the same can probably be said of many cookbooks since everyone's tastes vary). The cream and juice sodas I've made have been great; the root-beers have been interesting, but with extremely bitter aftertastes, despite seemingly absurd amounts of sugar (this was quite disappointing, because I was most looking forward to the rootbeers). The peanut-butter cream soda was a complete disaster (how much of this was the recipe versus my own ability to make it may be hard to determine).
Many of the ingredients are easy to find, but some are quite a bit more difficult than the author implies, despite hints on where to get them. I live in one of the largest major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and couldn't find most of the basic rootbeer ingredients at any local store, including homebrew stores, health-food stores, etc. I ended up purchasing them online, which was easy and, per volume, probably cheaper than I would have found locally, although I had to buy in a quantity larger than I might prefer when still testing recipes. Plastic bottles for brewing (specifically recommended in the book in lieu of glass) are also difficult to find, because most homebrewers tend to prefer glass and this is what the stores generally carry.
I was a little disappointed in the lack of diet recipes in the book. Schloss discusses artificial sweetners in the opening section and essentially says "they ruin the taste, don't use them." Given the at times very high sugar content (and thus high calorie count) of many of these drinks recipes, a little more support for those who love soda but would prefer lower calorie options would have been aprpeciated. At least all of the recipes use natural sugars and avoid corn syrup.
A minor pet peeve of mine, common to many cookbooks, not just this one, is that many recipes call for things like "the juice of a medium orange" or "the zest of two lemons". I realize this is common parlance, but personally I find it much more useful and helpful to translate these into measurable volumes, particularly since the average size of fruit that one finds in a store today may be quite different (usually larger) than it was years ago (you can look up the approximate values for these concepts online and will often find that what you get out of a single fruit can be 50-100% larger than what the technical volume is supposed to be).
The volumes of the recipes vary a lot, ranging from 1 serving to 3 servings (about a liter) to 1 gallon. In many cases it is not at all obvious why there is so much variation in output amongst the recipes and a little more standardization might have been useful. The last part of the book contains food recipes to go with sodas, but realistically this just felt like filler material to flesh out the final length of the book a bit more.
Desipte these issues, I have quite enjoyed the experimentation with sodas and will continue to do so in the future. Definitely a good choice for soda lovers considering making their own.(less)
Mass Effect: Deception is the fourth tie-in novel for the Mass Effect video game trilogy. Although it directly follows the events of the third book, i...moreMass Effect: Deception is the fourth tie-in novel for the Mass Effect video game trilogy. Although it directly follows the events of the third book, it is written by a different author (the first three books were all by one author). The story falls somewhere between the second and (soon-to-be-released) third game in the series. Overall, I found the quality of the writing to be improved over the previous books, and this is likely the best of the series so far. The games are high-drama space opera, and the plot and style of the books tend to follow the somewhat pulpy nature of this genre. The writing is generally solid, if not spectacular (although see below), and I can honestly say I was surprised (in a good way) at how the story ended. Until the third game is released, it is difficult to judge whether the book will provide solid background to elements of the game or serve more as filler material (I suspect a bit of each).
The author occasionally fell into the common video-game-tie-in-novel trap of trying to put completely meaningless game detail into the book (e.g., emphasizing the manufacturer of specific weapons), but it wasn't nearly as glaring as in the first book of the series, and often I felt he was slipping some game details into the book in a entirely suitable and subtle manner. The other major problem that jumped out at me was an occasional redundancy of narration, which I view as much (or more) as bad editing rather than bad writing. It's not the worst case I've seen in recent years, but there were at least two occasions that jumped out at me (from a single quick read) where a description was repeated almost verbatim (and completely unnecessarily) in two different chapters. For example, at one point there is a statement which says something like (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "The two guards turned to watch him until the gate acknowledged his identification and unlocked. He had to pass through a second security gate as he headed to the upper floor, then entered a four digit code to unlock his apartment." A number of chapters later, the same individual returns to his apartment and that entire few sentences are repeated almost exactly. While certain details might bear repeating for plot purposes, there is no reason to repeat the fact that he has to go through a second security gate, not enter a four-digit code to enter his apartment.(less)