Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin


"It is 1947, and the long-retired Sherlock Holmes, now 93, lives in a remote Sussex farmhouse with his housekeeper and her young son. He tends to his bees, writes in his journal, and grapples with the diminishing powers of his mind. But in the twilight of his life, as people continue to look to him for answers, Holmes revisits a case that may provide him with answers of his own to questions he didn’t even know he was asking–about life, about love, and about the limits of the mind’s ability to know. A novel of exceptional grace and literary sensitivity, A Slight Trick of the Mind is a brilliant imagining of our greatest fictional detective and a stunning inquiry into the mysteries of human connection. "

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written book told from Sherlock Holmes' point of view and set after World War II. I have always enjoyed the Holmes stories, both the originals and the later pastiches. I especially liked how Holmes acknowledges he doesn't always meet others' expectations based on Watson's descriptions.

Date read: 5/26/2007
Book #: 43
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4* = great

ISBN-10: 1400078229
ISBN-13: 9781400078226
Publisher: Anchor
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 272
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Edison's Eve: The Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood


"A rich and informative exploration of our age-old obsession with 'making life.'

Could an eighteenth-century mechanical duck really digest and excrete its food? Was 'the Turk,' a celebrated chess-playing and -winning machine fabricated in 1769, a dazzling piece of fakery, or could it actually think? Why was Thomas Edison obsessed with making a mechanical doll—a perfect woman, mass-produced? Can a twenty-first-century robot express human emotions of its own?

Taking up themes long familiar from the realms of fairy tales and science fiction, Gaby Wood traces the hidden prehistory of a modern idea—the thinking, hoaxes, and inventions that presaged contemporary robotics and the current experiments with artificial intelligence. Informed by the author’s scientific and historical research, Edison’s Eve is also a brilliant literary, cultural, and philosophical examination of the motives that have driven human beings to pursue the creation of mechanical life, and the effects of that pursuit—both in its successes and in its failures—on our sense of what makes us human."

My thoughts:

This was a fascinating book about early automatons, robots and dolls. The main theme was what does it mean to be human vs. machine and how people felt about machines with human qualities or humans with machine or doll-like qualities.

Date read: 5/26/2007
Book #: 42
Genre: History
Rating: 3* = good

ISBN-10: 0679451129
ISBN-13: 9780679451129
Publisher: A.A. Knopf
Year: 2002
# of pages: 304
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Future War edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois


"From ultra high-tech weaponry to off-planet combat, this collection examines the conflicts of the future from some of the greatest minds in science fiction. Stories by Tony Daniel, Philip Dick, Joe Haldeman, Geoffrey Landis, Paul McAuley, Ian McDonald, Alastair Reynolds, Lucius Shepard, Allen Steele and Gardner Dozois. "

  • Second Variety by Philip K. Dick (1954)
  • Salvador by Lucius Shepard (1984)
  • Floating Dogs by Ian McDonald (1991)
  • The Private War of Private Jacob by Joe Haldeman (1974)
  • Spirey and the Queen by Alastair Reynolds (1996)
  • A Dry, Quiet War by Tony Daniel (1995)
  • Rorvik's War by Geoffrey A. Landis (1997)
  • Second Skin by Paul J. McAuley (1995)
  • The War Memorial by Allen Steele (1971)
  • A Special Kind of Morning by Gardner Dozois (1971)

My thoughts:

I was reluctant to read this book because while I'm a sf fan, I'm not much into military sf. However, these stories were great. Yes, there's fighting, but there's also questions about what it means to be human or machine, how does one come home after a war, what happens when one's not sure what's real and what's not, etc.

Date read: 5/21/2007
Book #: 41
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0441006396
ISBN-13: 978-0441006397
Publisher: Ace Books
Year: 1999
# of Pages 272
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing page

Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow


"When the Devil needs a rogue demon killed, who does he call?

The Player: Necromance-for-hire Dante Valentine is choosy about her jobs. Hot tempered and with nerves of steel, she can raise the dead like nobody's business. But one rainy Monday morning, everything goes straight to hell.

The Score: The Devil hires Dante to eliminate a rogue demon: Vardimal Santino. In return, he will let her live. It's an offer she can't refuse.

The Catch: How do you kill something that can't die?"

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book very much - great characters and an exciting plot. I especially liked the relationships between Danny and her friends.

Date read: 5/18/2007
Book #: 40
Series: Dante Valentine, #1
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Dark Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0446616702
ISBN-13: 978-0446616706
Publisher: Warner Books
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 416
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing page

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches


"Deep in a secret chamber of a Vatican library, a casket is opened for the first time in many hundreds of years. Inside is the rarest and most valuable art object ever discovered: the manuscript of The Divine Comedy, written in Dante's own hand. The manuscript makes its way from the priest to a mob boss in New York City, where a writer named Nick Tosches, near death and ready for anything, gets a phone call from a friend-there's a manuscript that needs authentication. For this writer, the temptation is too great; he steals the manuscript in a last chance bid to have it all. As this dark and twisted journey unfolds, so too does a parallel tale: the odyssey of Dante himself, a man trying to weave a poem that contains the sum of the world's wisdom and the very breath of the divine. IN THE HAND OF DANTE is a work of astounding audacity and beauty. It combines Tosches's vast scholarship about The Divine Comedy, Dante Alleghieri, and the Middle Ages with an equally vast and intimate knowledge of the lowest murdering scum of New York's ugliest streets. This is the masterwork that Nick Tosches has been building toward for years."

My thoughts:

I've been postponing this blog entry because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say. First, this is a compelling and beautifully written book, especially in the passages concerning Dante's conversations with a rabbi about religion and poetry. The first couple chapters are hard to get through - the characters aren't very likable, but once the manuscript is found, the book picks up pace nicely.

Date read: 5/17/2007
Book #: 39
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0316735647
ISBN-13: 978-0316735643
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 384
Binding: Paperback

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore


"The town psychiatrist has decided to switch everybody in Pine Cove, California, from their normal antidepressants t placebos, so naturally -- well, to be accurate, artificially -- business is booming at the local blues bar. Trouble is, those lonely slide-guitar notes have also attracted a colossal sea beast named Steve with a, shall we say, thing for explosive oil tanker trucks. Suddenly morose Pine Cove turns libidinous and is filled with mysterious crimes, and a beleaguered constable has to fight off his own gonzo appetites to find out what's wrong and what, if anything, to do about it.

Strap yourselves in, ladies and gentlemen. It's Christopher Moore time."

My thoughts:

Great book! I liked all the characters - even Steve the Sea Beast and Skinner the dog. I especially liked the ways Steve could camouflage himself to look like ordinary objects.

Date read: 5/12/2007
Book #: 38
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fantasy/Humor

ISBN-10: 0380792745
ISBN-13: 978-0380792740
Publisher: Perennial
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 320
Binding: Paperback

A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre


"John le Carré's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge, and have earned him unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

Immersing readers in two parallel dramas -- one about the making of a spy, the other chronicling his seemingly imminent demise -- le Carré offers one of his richest and most morally resonant novels.

Magnus Pym -- son of Rick, father of Tom, and a successful career officer of British Intelligence -- has vanished, to the dismay of his friends, enemies, and wife. Who is he? Who was he? Who owns him? Who trained him? Secrets of state are at risk. As the truth about Pym gradually emerges, the reader joins Pym's pursuers to explore the unsettling life and motives of a man who fought the wars he inherited with the only weapons he knew, and so became a perfect spy."

My thoughts:

I liked the two parallel stories of Pym writing his life story to his son and of his wife Mary and his handler Jack trying to figure out where he went and why. I also liked the relationship between Pym and his friend Axel as well as the espionage details. It's a long book, but a good one.

Date read: 5/4/2007
Book #: 37
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0340393130
ISBN-13: 978-0340393130
Publisher: Coronet Books (New Ed Edition)
Year: 1994
# of Pages: 576
Binding: Paperback

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark


"Ever since her baby daughters were taken from her thirty years ago, Moranna 'Mad Mory' MacKenzie has lived alone, battling mental illness, in a Cape Breton farmhouse. But when Moranna learns that one of her long-lost daughters is to be married in Halifax, she is determined to attend. Will either of the daughters recognize her? Will they be happy to see her? And will Moranna stay sane enough not to cause a scene?"

My thoughts:

A moving story about a woman whose mental problems both enhance her life and inhibit it. I identified with Moranna's love for music and nature and wished that I could comfort her when her daughters were taken away - though I understood the reason. I cheered her progress in understanding herself and getting her life together.

Date read: 5/4/07
Book #: 36
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0676976565
ISBN-13: 978-0676976564
Publisher: Vintage Canada
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 368
Binding: Paperback

Friday, May 4, 2007

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs


"Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself. "

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this first book in the Mercy Thompson series. As a skinwalker who can change into a coyote, Mercy has an affinity with the fae creatures and can even sniff emotions in either coyote or human form. I look forward to reading the sequel, Blood Bound.

Date read: 4/25/07
Book #: 35
Rating: 3* = good
Series: Mercy Thompson, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0441013813
ISBN-13: 978-0441013814
Publisher: Ace
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 304
Binding: Paperback