Monday, July 28, 2008

Conquistador by S.M. Stirling

First sentence:

"John Rolfe had rented the house for seventy-five a month, which sounded extortionate but was something close to reasonable, given the way costs had gone crazy in the Bay Area since Pearl Harbor."


"If you could re-create civilization, what would you do differently?

Oakland California, 1946. Ex-soldier John Rolfe, newly back from the Pacific is about to make a fabulous discovery. It happens with a flip of his shortwave radio switch, a thunder crack of sound, and a blinding light. He blinks his eyes to discover a portal to an alternate world where Europeans have never set foot on the land he knows as America. Able to return at will to the modern world, Rolfe summons the only people with whom he is willing to share his discovery: his war buddies. And tells them to bring their families...

What mistakes would you repeat?

Los Angeles, twenty-first century. Fish and Game warden Tom Christiansen is involved in the bust of a smuggling operation. What he turns up is something he never anticipated: a photo of authentic Aztec priests decked out in Grateful Dead T-shirts, and a live condor from a gene pool that doesn't correspond to any known in captivity or the wild. These finds soon lead to a woman named Adrienne Rolfe--and a secret that's been hidden for sixty years.

As danger brews on both sides, two realities are threatened, and so too are the live of everyone who crosses the boundary between them...." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This book was an interesting look at an alternate Earth, particularly western America. I liked the interactions between characters Tom, Adrienne and Tully and the ways Tom and Tully noticed the differences between New Virginia and First Side (current Earth).

Date read: 7/19/2008
Book #: 46
Challenges: TBR Challenge 2008, Initials Reading Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF/Alternate History

ISBN-10: 0451459083
ISBN-13: 9780451459084
Publisher: Roc
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 440
Binding: Hardcover
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nathaniel's Nutmeg by Giles Milton

First sentence:

"The island can be smelled before it can be seen."


"The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago--remote, tranquil, and now largely ignored. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, Run's harvest of nutmeg turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a fierce and bloody battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and a small band of ragtag British adventurers led by the intrepid Nathaniel Courthope. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular deals in history: Britain ceded Run to Holland, but in return was given another small island, Manhattan.

A brilliant adventure story of unthinkable hardship and savagery, the navigation of uncharted waters, and the exploitation of new worlds, Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a remarkable chapter in the history of the colonial powers." -- from

My thoughts:

Engaging and informative, this history of the English-Dutch conflict over the spice trade kept my interest throughout the book. I had known a little about how important spices were, and how the search for a new way to the Far East led to Columbus' voyages, but I didn't know all the details about the hardships the merchants and sailors went through.

Date read: 7/17/2008
Book #: 45
Challenges: What's in a Name? Challenge, Non-Fiction Five Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5
Genre: History

ISBN-10: 0340696761
ISBN-13: 9780340696767
Publisher: Sceptre
Year: 2000
# of Pages: 373
Binding: Trade Paperback
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Top Dog by Jerry Jay Carroll

First sentence:

"Just running at first."


"One day, William B. Ingersol sat in an office high above Wall Street conducting corporate takeovers.

The next day, he was a big dog, surviving by instinct alone in a strange new world.

Same difference.

Alice in Wonderland meets Wall Street in Jerry Jay Carroll's brilliant and witty debut novel. A high-powered executive gets a real lesson in looking out for #1 when he wakes up as a dog. Gone are the stock reports, limos, and cocktail parties. In thier place are fairy-tale forests, magical creatures, and hideous monsters. It's a world where you're either good or evil. Our hero decides to thoroughly explore both options before choosing. Because he may be a dog now, but he's still no idiot. And making moral decisions was never one of his strong points..." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a good fantasy fable about learning what's important in life and what's not. I liked the main character, William Bogart Ingersol, aka "Big the Dog," even when he recounts his past behavior. I also liked the interactions between "Big" and the creatures and people of the Fair Lands.

Date read: 7/12/2008
Book #: 44
Challenges: What's in a Name? Challenge, What an Animal! Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0441005136
ISBN-13: 9780441005130
Publisher: Ace Books
Year: 1996
# of Pages: 330
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blood Music by Jessie Prichard Hunter

First sentence:

"The air was very still."


"New York City is caught in the cold grip of a brutal serial killer. The victims are all young, blond women, savagely raped and murdered.

While ravaging his victims, the killer's mind whirls with symphonic images and raging desires--rarely giving thought to his loving wife and child.

Young, blond Zelly Wyche has a new baby, a dependable electrician husband, and a bright future. She, too, is petrified by the madness and unthinkable tragedy of the murders. While the serial killer's solve survivor and a victim's brother mount a desperate vigilante hunt for the 'Symphony Slasher,' a chill runs up Zelly's spine. She is beginning to wonder if the killer could be closer than she thinks.

But no. Impossible. She has to be dead wrong...." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This book was a compelling thriller that kept my attention throughout. I liked getting different character's voices such as the killer, the police and one of the victims.

Date read: 7/4/2008
Book #: 43
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Thriller

ISBN-10: 0804110840
ISBN-13: 9780804110846
Publisher: Ivy Books
Year: 1993
# of pages: 326
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Peace War by Vernor Vinge

First sentence:

One hundred kilometres below and nearly two hundred away, the shore of the Beaufort Sea didn't look much like the common image of the arctic: Summer was far advanced in the Northern Hemisphere, and a pale green spread across the land, shading here and there to the darker tones of grass."


"Hoehler was a man with an idea that would change the world forever...

Paul Hoehler, mathematician of genius, had devised spherical force fields that allowed nothing -- people, objects, light, air, radiation -- in or out.

The ultimate defence initiative and supreme survival technology, it offered total power and the opportunity was not lost on Livermore Electronics Laboratories. Suddenly anyone in the vicinity of a government compound or a defence installation was 'bobbled', locked into a force field and lost to sight forever.

The new Peace Authority had global power in a world where war was obsolete. But outside the impregnable 'bobbles', mysterious plagues began their epic devastation.

And outside the 'bobbles', Hoehler, the man who had created the technology for total power, had become The Peace Authority's most feared enemy, the holder of the long-lost key of hope for a world dominated by soul-numbing repression..." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a thought-provoking look at how technology doesn't always make the world better for everyone. I liked the interactions between Wili, Paul and Alison as they work together to defeat the Peace Authority.

Date read: 7/2/2008
Book #: 42
Series: Across Real Time #1
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 033029959X
ISBN-13: 9780330299596
Publisher: Bluejay Books
Year: 1984
# of Pages: 317
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
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Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

First sentence:

"I sat at a table in my shadowy kitchen, staring down a bottle of Boone's Farm Hard Lemonade, when a magic fluctuation hit."


Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren't for the magic...

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictable as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate's guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta's magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings--and the death of Kate's guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she's way out of her league--but she wouldn't have it any other way... -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a very good paranormal fantasy featuring mercenary Kate Daniels who is not intimidated by anyone - not even the leader of the Shapeshifters. While trying to solve the murder of her friend and guardian, Kate manages to earn the trust and respect of various factions. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Magic Burns.

Date read: 6/30/2008
Book #: 41
Series: Kate Daniels #1
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Urban Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0441014895
ISBN-13: 9780441014897
Publisher: Ace
Year: 2007
# of Pages: 260
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge

For this challenge, hosted by 3M, I must read twelve award-winning books from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008.

Here's my list:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Numbers Challenge

Announcing.... The Numbers Challenge!!!!
Hosted by: Callista
When: January 1, 2008 - August 1, 2008
What: Read 5 books with numbers in the title, including written numbers like "One" or "Forty".

My choices:

John Irving. The Fourth Hand -- finished 3/22/2008
James Patterson. 3rd Degree -- finished 4/27/2008
David McCullough. 1776 -- finished 5/13/2008
Claire Dudman. One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead -- finished 5/15/2008
Barbara D'Amato. Death of a Thousand Cuts -- finished 6/1/2008

Night Frost by R.D. Wingfield

First sentence:

"The old lady's name was Mrs. Haynes - Mary Haynes, but no-one called her Mary for years, not since her husband died."


"A serial killer is terrorizing the senior citizens of Denton, and the local police are succumbing to a flu epidemic. Tired and demoralized, the force has to contend with a seemingly perfect young couple suffering arson attacks and death threats, a suspicious suicide, burglaries, pornographic videos, poison-pen letters...

In uncertain charge of the investigations is Detective Inspector Jack Frost, crumpled, slapdash and foul-mouthed as ever. He tries to cope despite inadequate back-up, but there is never enough time; the unsolved crimes pile up and the vicious killings go on. So Frost has to cut corners and take risks, knowing that his Divisional Commander will throw him to the wolves if anything goes wrong. And for Frost, things always go wrong..." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I liked this gritty police procedural featuring Detective Inspector Jack Frost and his new partner Frank Gilmore who's often appalled by Frost's unorthodox and often slovenly behavior. Despite reduced staff and persistent bad luck, Frost and Gilmore somehow manage to find the answers they seek. I look forward to reading the first two books in the series, Frost at Christmas and A Touch of Frost.

Date read: 6/27/2008
Book #: 40
Challenges: What's in a Name Challenge, Initials Reading Challenge
Series: Jack Frost #3
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0552145580
ISBN-13: 9780552145589
Publisher: Corgi Books
Year: 1992
# of Pages: 432
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Friday, July 11, 2008

Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry

First sentence:

The first light of morning barely illuminated the sky as Gustad Noble faced eastward to offer his orisons to Ahura Mazda.


"In Rohinton Mistry's first novel, Such a Long Journey, Gustad Noble, a dedicated and somewhat innocent bank clerk, finds his familial life and his professional life unravelling as his son rejects filial piety, his best friend involves him in political intrigue, and his own rationality and morality confront a world of change.

Set in 1971 Bombay with its turbulent national politics complemented by worse tensions on the international scene, the novel teems with the life of its city and the many characters who populate Gustad Noble's fascinating world."

My thoughts:

This was a beautifully written book highlighting journeys both physical and emotional. I liked the interactions between Gustad and his friends and family, as even when things were rough, I knew that Gustad cared. I also liked the ways political and religious news affected Gustad and his neighbors.

Date read: 6/27/2008
Book #: 39
Challenge: Book Awards Challenge, Man Booker Challenge
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0771098979
ISBN-13: 9780771098970
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Year: 1993
# of Pages: 413
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

First sentence:

"The tree woman choked on poison, the slow sap of her blood burning."


When seventeen-year-old Valerie Russell runs away to New York City, she's trying to escape a life that has totally betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city's labyrinthine subway system.

But there's something eerily beguiling about Val's new friends. Impulsive Lolli talks of monsters in the subway tunnels they call home and shoots up a shimmery amber-colored powder that makes the shadows around her dance. Severe Luis claims he can make deals with creatures that no one else can see. And then there's Luis's brother, timid and sensitive Dave, who makes the mistake of having Val tag along as he makes a delivery to a woman who turns out to have goat hooves instead of feet.

When a bewildered Val allows Lolli to talk her into tracking down the hidden lair of the creature for whom Luis and Dave have been dealing, Val finds himself bound into service by a troll named Ravus. He is as hideous as he is honorable. And as Val grows to know him, she finds herself torn between her affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This was a good mix of the real and fantastical. I liked the way Val finds the strength in herself to help her new friends, both human and other. I also liked how Black interspersed faery folk among the buildings and parks of Manhattan and New Jersey. I look forward to reading the first book in the series, Tithe.

Date read: 6/26/2008
Book #: 38
Series: Modern Tale of Faerie #2
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Urban Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0689868227
ISBN-13: 9780689868221
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 313
Binding: Hardcover
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Apocalypso by Robert Rankin

First sentence:

"Porrig was lying in the gutter, but he wasn't looking at the stars."


"The Ministry of Serendipity at Mornington Crescent runs everything. And that means everything. When the Ministry learns of a spacecraft that crashed four thousand years ago into the Pacific Ocean it sends an elite team of paranormal investigators to recover it. A mad alien thaws out, there is hell and horror all around and thousands flee in terror.

Porrig has inherited a planet, or it might be a bookshop, or it might be a gateway into another world. And Porrig is worried, because he has learned a terrible secret. But if he told people, would they listen? No.

But perhaps they should, because a mad alien has thawed out, there is hell and horror all around and thousands are fleeing in terror. And there is every likelihood of there being a bloody big explosion at the end. Will Porrig manage to do anything about it at all?" -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

While this rather strange and quirky book made me chuckle at times, I felt that it could have used some trimming here and there. In particular, some types of jokes, while funny, were overused from time to time. Still, I liked the story of the put-upon Porrig learning about other worlds and creatures and finding the courage to save this world.

Date read: 6/18/2008
Book #: 37
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0552145890
ISBN-13: 9780552145893
Publisher: Transworld Publishers
Year: 1999
# of Pages: 364
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill

First sentence:

"On a crystalline, perfectly blue morning in June, after a day of angry pewter skies and of sheeting, driving rain, we enter our story."


"A dangerous rescue attempt in Michigan has captured the attention of the entire country. A two-year-old girl has fallen down a mine shaft. Ursula Wong is from a poor family and referred to by one member of the TV audience as 'half-breed trailer trash', not worth all the expense.

But Ursula is the last of her family line, and her story explodes into a gorgeous saga of culture, history and heredity. Ursula's forebears include a second-century-BC Chinese alchemist; an orphaned consort to a Swedish queen; and her great-great-grandfather, Jake Maki, a miner who died in a cave-in aged twenty-nine.

Ursula's fate echoes those of her ancestors, many of whom so narrowly escaped not being born that any individual's life comes to seem a miracle." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I still think about this book from time to time, as that's how good it was. Ingrid Hill skillfully weaves together the stories of Ursula's very disparate ancestors who faced difficulties and challenges with courage, humor and sometimes sheer luck.

Date read: 6/17/2008
Book #: 36
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0099479869
ISBN-13: 9780099479864
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 476
Binding: Trade Paperback
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The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

First sentence:

"The driver refused to take him any further."


Not even the icy temperatures of a typical New England winter can match the bone-chilling scene of carnage discovered in the early morning hours at the chapel of Our Lady of Divine Light. Within the sanctuary walls of the cloistered convent, now stained with blood, lie two nuns-one dead, one critically injured-victims of an unspeakably savage attacker. The brutal crime appears to be without motive, but medical examiner Maura Isles's autopsy of the dead woman yields a shocking surprise: Twenty-year-old Sister Camille, the order's sole novice, gave birth before she was murdered. Then another body is found mutilated beyond recognition. Together, Isles and homicide detective Jane Rizzoli uncover an ancient horror that connects these terrible slaughters. As long-buried secrets come to light, Maura Isles finds herself drawn inexorably toward the heart of an investigation that strikes close to home-and toward a dawning revelation about the killer's identity too shattering to consider."

My thoughts:

This was a good mystery featuring detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles. I liked how they teamed together to solve the murders as well as learning more about their personal lives.

Date read: 6/17/2008
Book #: 35
Challenge: Celebrate the Author Challenge
Series: Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles #3
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: mystery

ISBN-10: 0345458923
ISBN-13: 9780345458926
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 2004
# of Pages: 355
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page