Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hominids by Robert J Sawyer

Hominids won the Hugo Award in 2003, which led me to pick it up to bring me a smidgen closer to completing my 999 Challenge. (My book list for the challenge is here.) I think that I have liked this one the best of the Hugo Award winners that I have read so far. I even wanted to continue reading the series that this book begins, but due to some unfortunate circumstances, neither of the two copies of the second book in my library system are available. But I suppose it will stay on my reading list, and maybe one day I'll finish the series.
Hominids is an excellent example of speculative science fiction. What if parallel worlds exist? What if there was some way to bridge the gap between worlds? What might we find? In Hominids, it is not the human race on the world as we know it that manages to bridge this gap. We are simply the recipients. It is a Neanderthal named Ponter Bodditt, a quantum physicist in his own world, who comes to our dimension. In his world Neanderthals were the surviving species, while Homo Sapiens died out. While in our world, Ponter must figure out how to communicate and survive (he is helped tremendously by an advanced piece of A-I technology that learns languages and can communicate for him), while the people he meets have to figure out what this means for our world. And back in Ponter's world, his best friend and business partner must fight off unexpected accusations of murder, stemming from Ponter's disappearence.
This really was an incredibly fascinating, enjoyable read. I loved reading about the Neanderthal's world, as created by Sawyer. He does an excellent job of giving the reader a glimpse of that world through the trial against Ponter's partner, Adikor. And reexamining the human race through the eyes of someone close to us, but not the same, brings up some really interesting questions. The story itself is fast-moving and very satisfying, all leading me to want to continue the series! Ah well, I'll just have to keep this one in mind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by MT Anderson

**Once again I must apologize - I have had an internet issue on my computer for the past few days - I have many books to review, now I just need to get the reviews up!!
Well that title certainly is a mouthful. I do enjoy the fact that Anderson is not afraid to give his book a long title, if that's the title it deserves. And Octavian certainly has an astonishing life. In this book, the story is mostly told through "testimony" that is written in first-person by Octavian himself. But there is a great middle section where the story is told in letters, and we see what happens to Octavian during that time period through someone else's eyes. Octavian was raised, along with his very young mother, by a group of scientist/philosophers who refer to themselves as the Novanglian College of Lucidity. All of the men there are known by numbers, rather than their names, whereas Octavian, and his mother, Cassiopeia, are not. It takes Octavian (and the reader) some time to realize that he and his mother are actually parts of some of the experiments that the men of the college are studying. He also eventually learns that they are slaves, and are owned by 03-01, or Mr. Gitney, the man who runs the place.
This book takes place right before the Revolutionary War, in Boston. War actually breaks out during the course of the book, and Octavian learns that freedom means different things depending on who you are talking to and where you come from.
This was a fascinating, very quick read, and I am looking forward to reading the second book. Anderson's descriptions, and his storytelling, both through Octavian and through the letters, are intriguing, and even more so often because he is one of those authors that leaves a lot for the reader to fill in for themselves. It's more immersive than I would have thought, and I wonder how it will end for Octavian.
I picked up this book because it was a winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I am reading award winners for my 999 Challenge - you can see my whole list here. This book was also reviewed by Dewey, qualifying it for the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge. She pointed out that the language sometimes did not seem like something a teen would be interested in reading, and I think I would agree, at least for younger teens. But I think many older teens would find it interesting, and a challenge, something different than most other books out there. While we're at it, this book also qualifies for the New Author Challenge (I will definitely be reading more MT Anderson after this) and the A-Z Reading Challenge ("A" author).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lemonade Award - my first award ever!

So sweet! This is the first award I have received - thanks so much Tutu!
I started this blog in order to keep track of my reading, and that's still the main purpose, but it has been so much fun getting connected with the book blogger community. I love all the comments I receive.
So, here are the rules for this award:
If you are nominated....
here are the rules for passing on the award to your favorite blogs:

1. Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
3. Link to your nominees within your post. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
4. Link to the person who gave you your award.

Now, I had a difficult time choosing, as I read a couple dozen book blogs regularly. And I may not leave comments, but if I have nominated you, I do read your blog, and enjoy it! A few blogs that I wanted to nominate are not on this list, as I saw that they already had this one. So here are my nominees (in no particular order):
And there we are! Thanks again for the award Tutu, I appreciate it!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth, and it follows a year or so of her life when she was in her twenties. Worth trained as a midwife with a convent of nuns who served London's poor East End in the 1950's. This book chronicles her time with the nuns.
The stories that Worth tells alternate between uplifting, heartbreaking, charming, and hilarious, and her descriptions of the characters that she meets and interacts with are fascinating. As I am currently planning a family, and thinking quite a lot about pregnancy, I found this book even more compelling. Worth gives some interesting history about midwifery and obstetrics, and I found it illuminating that, at least for East End women, the midwife was the only medical attendant they expected to have at the birth. Going to the hospital meant bad, bad news, and a doctor's presence meant only slightly less danger. Yet the nuns provided excellent prenatal care, and obviously excellent service, so no woman wanted anything else. In addition to the stories of the births she attended, Worth tells us stories about the various people she meets in her day-to-day work. From the disturbed, elderly Mrs. Jenkins, to the family of Len and Conchita Warren, this book is full of fascinating people.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I don't think it was just because of the connection I currently feel to all pregnant women and stories of birth. Worth is a great story-teller, although at times the chapters did not flow very well from one to another. And the end of the book came on me rather abruptly. But I guess when you are telling stories about real life, that is what happens. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in stories about real people, and is not afraid of the descriptions of birth that of course come along with a book like this.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hunter's Death by Michelle West

Hunter's Death is the sequel to Hunter's Oath, and concludes the story. In Hunter's Death, the two main characters from the first book, Hunter Lord Gilliam and his huntbrother Stephen, travel to the city of Averalaan, where they must accomplish their task and still be able to return home in time for the Sacred Hunt. But what they are supposed to accomplish there is something they are unsure of, and they know that it is likely that they will not make it back in time for the Hunt, which is something that no Hunter Lord would ever dream of doing. But they have been convinced by the seer Evayne, who they met in the first book, that this is something they must do, for the fate not only of their kingdom, but of the world.
This book is more difficult to describe than the first one. Many new characters are added, and they become just as critical to the story as Stephen and Gilliam. The story basically expands to encompass the larger world surrounding the kingdom of the Breodani, and even involves the gods to a greater degree than the first book did. I really liked the new characters that were added, and learning their stories made this book very interesting to read. Adding a Hunter Lord into the city of Averalaan, and the Kings' Court, was also very entertaining. This series, although only two books, really felt like epic fantasy to me, and it had a satisfying conclusion. I will have to add Michelle West to my list of authors to read in the future.
I picked up this series for the Reading My Name Challenge. For this one, we read authors that share our name - first or last. I went with last name, as that was easier to find. I only needed to read two books for this one, so it worked out perfectly, in terms of reading both by the same author, from a series. I'll do a wrap-up post about this one as soon as I get caught-up on reviews.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lords of Corruption by Kyle Mills

Josh Hagarty has done everything he knows how to do to try and get out of his crappy life in Kentucky. But now that he has his MBA, his criminal past is still keeping him from getting a job, meaning his hopes of getting himself and his teenage sister out of their trailer home are for nothing. Then a charity called NewAfrica offers him a job. It seems too good to be true - not only do they offer to pay off his college debt, but they also promise to help him pay for his sister's upcoming college tuition as well. And he will be helping people, in Africa. Maybe this is the new beginning he needs.
But of course it is too good to be true. When Josh arrives at his first work location, it appears that no one knows what to do with him, and he has no tools or outside help to make the situation work. And his contacts back in America just keep reassuring him that things will be fine. As the tribal violence in the area gets worse, Josh realizes that his African contacts may not be interested in helping this venture at all. And soon he becomes aware that his predecessor in this position did not quit - he was brutally murdered. As Josh discovers more about NewAfrica that they don't want him to know, he must protect himself and the people he loves in order to get the truth out, before he becomes another casualty.
This was a fast-paced page-turner, for sure, although it's not really my kind of book. I do have to say that I had a hard time putting it down anyway. It really draws you in, the action is pretty much nonstop. As is the violence, but that is to be expected from such a book. The two main problems I had with the book were the characters and the setting. I honestly really did not like or care about any of the characters. At one point in the story, when it seemed like the entire cast might end up dead, I wasn't really that worried. I just did not care. But I kept reading. The other thing that really bothered me about the book was the picture it paints of Africa. There is not one redeeming factor shown about Africa here - it is all just tribal warfare, petty violence, environmental degradation, and lots of "the Africans need to help themselves". It was just depressing, and while it may be an accurate picture of some areas of the country, I felt that it was very one-sided. Overall, while this book wasn't really my type, it would be enjoyed by anyone who likes fast-paced political dramas and action thrillers.
This is the second book that I have read for the Suspense & Thriller Reading Challenge. This book falls within the genre of a Conspiracy thriller - "In which the hero/heroine confronts a large, powerful group of enemies whose true extent only he/she recognizes". This book also qualifies for the New Author Challenge, The Pub 2009 Challenge, and RYOB 2009.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

**An apology for not blogging for so long - I've been sick, and it's difficult to sit at the computer when you don't feel well! At least I managed to finished several books, so I have something to blog about!**
The Ten Year Nap follows several months in the lives of a handful of women. What these women have in common is the fact that they are mothers. For the few that are central to the story, they are mothers that quit their jobs when they had children, and have not gone back to work even though it has been ten years. They each contemplate going back to work, for various reasons, but so far they never have. For Amy, the reasons are not fully formed - she's thought about it, but deep down she's afraid that she won't be able to keep up with the changes that have happened in the legal field since she left. Her mother is a strong feminist who worked as a novelist while raising her children, and she is constantly pushing Amy to go back to work. For the other central characters, life is just as complicated, and offers no easy answers about whether or not you can be a good mother and have a career.
This was a very interesting read, and meaningful to me, as I plan on quitting my job once I am pregnant - and I do not plan on going back once my child is born. Most women have an opinion on this subject, but that sometimes changes once they have children of their own. For the women of this book, many of them thought they would go back to work, and then just never did. There are some characters that act as foils for these women - mothers who work, whose children go to school with theirs. They work because they love their jobs, their career is important to them. But what kind of mothers are they? Are Amy and Jill better mothers because they do not work? The book does not answer this question, leaving it up to the reader to ponder.
One of the things that I really liked about the way this book was written is the way it went from character to character, telling us details about these women's lives. Then there would be a chapter about the mother of the woman of the preceding chapter, giving us a glimpse into her world. It made the characterization very deep and interesting. This book is an excellent look at the modern family woman, and was a very intriguing read.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Warriors: The Rise of Scourge by Dan Jolley, Bettina M Kurkoski, created by Erin Hunter

I have been taking a break from reading the new Warriors series by Erin Hunter, and have been instead checking out the graphic novels. These are not written by Erin Hunter, but they are authorized by her, and she writes an introduction to each one to explain why she felt this particular story needed to be told. This is the second Warriors graphic novel that I've read, but I haven't reviewed the first one yet because it is part of a series.
The Rise of Scourge tells the story of how a kitten named Tiny became the leader of Bloodclan, known as Scourge. Scourge comes into the Warriors timeline towards the end of the first series, when Tigerstar attempts to take control of all four clans. But Scourge has other plans. He very violently kills Tigerstar, before being taken down himself eventually. This graphic novel tells how he became this seemingly evil, violent cat. It's not a pretty story. And as Hunter says in her introduction, she is not making excuses for him, just trying to tell his story.
I am sometimes surprised by how violent these books can be. I always say that I would have loved these if they'd been out when I was a kid, but really I think they probably would have been too violent for me. Especially this graphic novel version. Not that it really shows any blood, of course, but it is still a bit disturbing. Kurkoski's art is great though. She does a perfect job of capturing the way the cats move and look, while the other graphic novel I've read in this series (not illustrated by her) looked pretty much terrible. So it was at least nice to read something that wasn't hideous, and actually looked really good. This book would really only be enjoyed by those kids who are already involved in the Warriors series, but it may pick up some new fans as well.