Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

First sentence:

"On Monday the thirteenth day of May in the years 1876, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon on a day that combined the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer, numerous individuals in Moscow's Alexander Gardens unexpectedly found themselves eyewitnesses to the perpetration of an outrage that flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency."


"Set in 1870s Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London, The Winter Queen introduces to American readers Boris Akunin's internationally celebrated sleuth, Erast Fandorin, who investigates the suicide of a wealthy student in Moscow's Alexander Gardens and discovers that it is not an open-and-shut case but evidence of a vast conspiracy with the deadliest of implications." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this first book in the Erast Fandorin series. I liked how Fandorin noticed inconsistencies and how he interacted with his boss and with the suspects. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Turkish Gambit.

Date read: 2/26/2010
Book #: 14
Series: Boris Akunin, #1
Challenges: What's in a Name 3 Challenge; A-Z Challenge 2010; 1st in a Series Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0812968778
ISBN-13: 9780812968774
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2004
# of pages: 242
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill

First sentence:

"Right before my twelfth birthday, my dad, Jules, and I moved into a two-room apartment in a building that we called the Ostrich Hotel."


"12-year-old Baby is used to turmoil in her life. Her mother is long dead, her father is a junkie and they shuttle between rotting apartments and decrepit downtown hotels.

As your father's addiction and paranoia grow worse, she begins a journey that will lead her in and out of several foster homes, a detention centre and eventually onto the streets as a prostitute.

Throughout the chaos and hardship of her life, Baby's remarkable strength of spirit enables her to survive. Smart, funny and determined to life herself off the city's dirty streets, she knows that the only person she can truly rely upon is herself." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a very good book about finding one's way in the world and the need to be important to someone. I liked how Baby learned about herself and her father.

Date read: 2/23/2010
Book #: 13
Challenge: A-Z Challenge 2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 184724393
ISBN-13: 9781847243935
Publisher: Quercus Fiction
Year: 2006
# of pages: 358
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Words Reading Challenge

Winter Words Reading Challenge
December 31, 2008 - March 19, 2010

For this challenge, participants chooses the number of books they plan to read (3 to 8). Then they pick one of two words which have the corresponding number. For instance, if I want to read four books, I choose between the words snow and sled. The word I picked is an acronym, and I have to read books that have a title word starting with one of the letters or the author's first or last name starts with one of the letters in the word.

I will read five books, and my word is frost:

F: Iris Johansen. Final Target -- finished 1/26/2010

R: Vernor Vinge. Marooned in Realtime -- finished 2/13/2010

O: Béa Gonzalez. The Mapmaker's Opera -- finished 1/17/2010

S: Kelly Link. Stranger Things Happen -- finished 2/11/2010

T: Larry Niven. Tales of Known Space -- finished 2/22/2010

Tales of Known Space by Larry Niven

First sentence:

"In the coldest place in the solar system, I hesitated outside the ship for a moment."


"Ranging from the 20th Century to the 31st, these interconnected stories trace man's expansion and colonization throughout the galaxy...completing an epic creation that stands beside Asimov's Foundation trilogy and Heinlein's popular Future History series.

A colossal vision of the future. . .by a super writer!

Becalmed in hell
Howie's spaceship had a malfunction...but it might be only psychosomatic!

Wait it out
He was trapped on Pluto...and all his assets were frozen!

The borderland of Sol
Forward possessed the ultimate weapon...but no one would ever see it!

The jigsaw man
The organ banks want!

Cloak of anarchy
They were free to be anything but violent...but that wasn't enough!

-- plus eight other great stories in Niven's spectacular cycle of the future...and, special for this volume, a complete Niven bibliography and a detailed chronology of all his Known Space stories!" -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this anthology of Known Space stories. I especially liked the stories "Wait it out," (set on Pluto), "At the Bottom of a Hole," (Muller discovers the truth behind the failure of a human settlement on Mars) and "The Borderland of Sol" (Julius Forward has a very dangerous weapon). I also like the timeline at the beginning of the book which sets the stories in context and the bibliography at the end.

Readers who like Niven's work may like Shaun Farrell's October 2007 interview with Larry Niven at the Conjecture convention. It aired on Farrell's podcast Adventures in SciFi Publishing:

Date read: 2/22/2010
Book #: 12
Challenges: Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge, A-Z Reading Challenge 2010, Winter Words Reading Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0345245636
ISBN-13: 9780345245632
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 1975
# of pages: 220
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing page

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

First sentence:

"When Sultan Khan thought the time had come to find himself a new wife, no one wanted to help him."


"This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. The Bookseller of Kabul is startling in its intimacy and its details - a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was an interesting look at the lives of people in Afghanistan during and after the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the Taliban rule in the 1990s. One scene that has stayed with me is when the women in the burqas have to know what shoes each is wearing so they don't lose each other.

Date read: 2/16/2010
Book #: 11
Challenges: What's in a Name 3 Challenge, A-Z Challenge 2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 0316159417
ISBN-13: 9780316159418
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Year: 2003
# of pages:
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Marooned in Real Time by Vernor Vinge

First sentence:

"On the day of the big rescue, Wil Brierson took a walk on the beach."


"Fifty million years in the future, all the time in the world might not be enough to save mankind. . .

The Extinction happened at some point in the 23rd century. Beyond that point, all that remained of humankind survived locked in timeless limbo inside spherical force fields known as 'bobbles'.

The rebuilding of civilisation and the rescue of survivors fell to the 'high-techs', themselves survivors of the technologically advanced decades just before The Extinction.

When they reached the 'bobble' where the last members of the Peace Authority lived on in stasis, one of the 'high-techs' was murdered, cruelly abandoned in real time.

Wil Brierson, the last detective in the world, was called in to handle the case. Seeking the murderer through a complex web of mysteries, he stumbled on a plan for a new -- and final -- Extinction . . ." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This book had a good mix of mystery and science fiction. I liked how Wil and Della Lu learn who abandoned Marta Korolev in the past and who was still a danger to them in the present.

Date read: 2/13/2010
Book #: 10
Challenges: A-Z Challenge 2010, Winter Words Reading Challenge, Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge 2010
Series: Across Realtime, #2
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0330299603
ISBN-13: 9780330299602
Publisher: Pan Books
Year: 1987
# of pages: 269
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing page

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

First sentence:

"Dear Mary (if that is your name), I bet you'll be pretty surprised to hear from me."


"This first collection by award-winning author Kelly Link, takes fairy tales and cautionary tales, dictators and extraterrestrials, amnesiacs and honeymooners, revenants and readers alike, on a voyage into new, strange, and wonderful territory. The girl detective must go to the underworld to solve the case of the tap-dancing bank robbers. A librarian falls in love with a girl whose father collects artificial noses. A dead man posts letters home to his estranged wife. Two women named Louise begin a series of consecutive love affairs with a string of cellists. A newly married couple become participants in an apocalyptic beauty pageant. Sexy blond aliens invade New York City. A young girl learns how to make herself disappear.

These eleven extraordinary stories are quirky, spooky, and smart. They all have happy endings. Each story contains a secret prize. Each story was written for you." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a very good collection of fantasy stories with a twist. I especially liked the stories "Travels with the Snow Queen," "Flying Lessons," and "Shoe and Marriage."

Date read: 2/11/2010
Book #: 9
Challenges: A-Z Challenge 2010, Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 1931520003
ISBN-13: 9781931520003
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Year: 2001
# of Pages: 266
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Unbound by Julie Kaewert

First sentence:

"When I entered Armand Beasley's library that night for what would be the first and last time, it inspired the awe I always felt in the presence of a great mass of books."


“Plumtree Press is about to launch a bombshell of a book - a fact-based novel about one of Britain’s most revered authors, Marcus Stonecypher, a member of Virgina Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group. Angela Mayfield’s shocking book reveals a series of explosive secret messages in Stonecypher’s own novels published at the turn of the century, messages that implicate him in secrets of publishers past, and a treacherous plot to topple the monarchy.

It soon becomes clear to publisher Alex Plumtree that someone will go to any length to keep Angela’s revelations from seeing print - but why, decades after the fact, should anyone care?

First come anonymous warnings, then, on the eve of publication, Alex’s library of precious first editions is vandalised. When deadly warnings and industrial sabotage imperil the book’s publication, Alex realizes he and his author have made some very powerful enemies. Then the Titles of Stonecypher’s books become actual events, and Alex finds himself threatened with censorship of the most permanent kind…” -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book selling mystery featuring Alex Plumtree. I especially liked how he discovers who is after him and the writer Angela Mayfield and why. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Unprintable.

Date read: 2/5/2010
Book #: 8
Challenges: A-Z Challenge 2010, 2nd Reading Challenge
Series: Booklover's Mystery, #2
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0553577158
ISBN-13: 9780553577150
Publisher: Crimeline
Year: 1997
# of pages: 415
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing page