Black on Black by K. D. Wentworth

Published: 1999

Genre: science fiction

Length: 352 pages

Setting: the planet Anktan, far future

Interest: It was a random book picked off my Kindle while I was in the hospital

Summary: Heyoka is a hrinn, stolen off his world as a child and raised on Earth. He’s back at his home planet, hoping to reconnect with his past and learn why he was taken. Heyoka is joined on Anktan by his partner, Mitsu. He’s hampered by a lack of knowledge of hrinn culture where he’s seen as a Messiah figure because of his fur coloration. Mitsu is injured in an early encounter with the hrinn and then healed by the Restoreres. When she returns to the Field Station, the Director is convinced she’s there to spy on him. Turns out, he’s working for a secret flek base. The flek are another alien race whose goal is to wipe out all other life forms. Heyoka leads a hrinn attack on the flek base in order to save the planet.

Final thoughts: A fun little romp through an alien world. We got to see Heyoka try to fit himslef into his native culture, but ultimately realize he’ll never be completely hrinn or completely human. The flek were unmitigated evil (no shades of grey there) and served to draw the hrinn together for a common goal around the reluctant leadership of Heyoka. Nothing too mentally taxing, but enjoyable nonetheless. If you’re interested in the book, you’re better off ordering from Baen than Amazon.

Title comes from: Heyoka was the mythical black-on-black coloration that has super hrinn powers (they have an overcoat and an undercoat of fur).

Reading challenges fulfilled: 72/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

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Boomsday by Christopher Buckley

Published: 2007

Genre: fiction

Length: 318 pages

Setting: U.S., near-present in an election year

Interest: I put it on my “To Read” list so long ago, I can’t remember why. I picked it up this week because the library had it on the shelf.

Summary: It’s a U.S. where the baby boomers are just about to retire and bankrupt Social Security, which the government is funding by taxing workers. Cass isn’t having any of it and she uses her blog to rally the younger generation. She goes so far as to propose the elderly should “voluntarily transition” (for benefits, of course) to balance the budget. She gets a Senator to sponsor a bill. He even runs for President with that as his platform.

Final thoughts: A very entertaining book that was even more relevant considering I read it in an election year. The book was a bit more farcical than reality, but sometimes reality seems pretty crazy. The writing style was highly enjoyable. The only downside is the book will feel dated in about ten years because of all the technology included in the story, but for now it was amusing.

Title comes from: Boomsday was the nickname of the event when all the baby boomers retired and crashed Social Security.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this is a review of a book from a previous year

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Redliners by David Drake

Published: 1997

Genre: military science fiction

Length: 384 pages

Setting: far future, other planets

Interest: It was a random book picked off my Kindle.

Summary: Strike Force company C41 is sent as the advance troops on a Spook base. The brass decides the base is too hot to bring in the rest of the attack force, and the members of C41 are forced to retreat without support. There’s more, but I stopped reading at this point.

Final thoughts: Too much fighting for me. The first 50 pages at least are all fighting and weapons and people and aliens getting blown up, and I’m just not interested in that much battle. It’s quality military science fiction, but not what I’m looking for in a book.

Title comes from: Apparently (from the Amazon description) the whole company is deemed psychologically unfit (“redlined”) after the opening mission.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none since I didn’t finish the book

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Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Published: 2006

Genre: urban fantasy

Length: 424 pages

Setting: Chicago, present day

Interest: It’s a Dresden Files book

Summary: Mavra, the Queen of the Red Court, blackmails Harry into finding the recently discovered Word of Hemmler. Hemmler was a brilliantly mad necromancer, destroyed by the While Council. Three of Hemmler’s disciples descend on Chicago, bent on finding the book and completing a rite on Halloween night to turn themself into a God with necromatic power. Harry takes it upon himself to stop them, even if he isn’t as powerful as these other wizards. He succeeds, but only by getting help from Lasciel, a Fallen Angel who’s coin he touched in a previous book. Harry brings in help in the form of Wardens, whose numbers are sadly depleted after a major offensive by vampires. Harry’s even recruited to become a Warden.

Final thoughts: A bit slow to start, but once it did, Harry was off and running, getting horribly beat up as he tries to do the right thing and keep Chicago safe. My favorite part was when Harry reanimated Sue, the T. rex skeleton, and rode it through Chicago. It again demonstrated Harry’s ability to think outside the box to get what he needed done without breaking the letter of the law (you can’t reanimate people, and animals aren’t usually worth it, but old things are more powerful). Murphy wasn’t in this story, which was a little disappointing. Instead, we had Butters, Harry’s forensic pathologist friend who played polka and was afraid of everything. Butters managed to overcome his fears, and help Harry defeat the evil wizards.

Title comes from: The evil wizards were necromancers raising the dead. You have to keep a steady beat going in order to control the zombies.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 71/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

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What I Will Be Reading #14

It’s been a while, but I’ve got some new books on my reading list, and I thought I’d share them with you:

First off is The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth. I love learning about where words come from, and this book promises to feed my obsession with word and phrase origins. I saw the book mentioned by Laura Grace Weldon as she was ranting about hecklers, and explaining where the word originally came from.

Next on my reading list is Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic by Irene Gammel. One of my friends posted about this book on Facebook, and I was immediately intrigued. I read (and loved) the Anne of Green Gables series as a child, and I’m working my way through the books with Miss Adventure. It sounds like Anne was fairly autobiographical, so I’d be fascinated to learn more about Montgomery’s life.

Finally, there’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield. (What’s with the really long titles on nonfiction books? Seriously long!) The book was discussed on a Brain Pickings post, but I mostly put it on my list because Chris Hadfield is awesome. I’ve heard him interviewed and seen his TED talk and I haven’t been disappointed by anything he’s done yet. I don’t expect to be disappointed by the book, either.

Any other books I should add to my already too long reading list?

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The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski

Published: 1998

Genre: science fiction

Length: 335 pages

Setting: far future in the Fold, mostly Prokaryon

Interest: It was a Phoenix Pick book some months ago. I had read the book the first time it was offered, but it was so long ago I wasn’t even writing book reviews at that time. I loved the book (and subsequently read more of Slonczewski’s work) and decided to read it again so I could review the book. It’s also the third book in the Elysium Cycle series.

Summary: Brother Rod is a member of the Spirit Brethren. He’s been Called to find orphan babies (the younger the individual, the faster they take to life-shaping) to bring to their new colony on Prokaryon. Because the environment is toxic to humans, only life-shaped individuals can survive. Nibur, a wealthy and powerful Elysium, wants to cleanse the entire planet and terraform it, which would destroy all the native flora and fauna. The terraforming plans are put on hold when it is discovered the microzooids (kind of like bacteria) that inhabit all the lifeforms on Prokaryon are actually sentient, but they need a living host in order to survive. There is fear the microzooids would cause a plague throughout the Fold and start controlling humanity, but a compromise is reached and the planet is saved.

Final thoughts: A very enjoyable book. It takes a chapter or so to get your head wrapped around the alien worlds and technology, but once you do the story is quite satisfying. Not a lot of action, but lots of politics and moral quandaries and what is the right thing to do in a tough situation. One of the reasons I enjoyed the book was because of the details of the biology the author provides – alien but plausible in the way the author presented it. I don’t read a lot of hard biological science fiction. You also get a taste of many of the worlds in the Fold, even if most of the story takes place on Prokaryon. Everyone’s supposed to be equal, but they’re not and there’s tension between the different races and worlds.

Also, I have to comment on how awful the artwork for the cover is. I’m glad I didn’t have to pick out the book from a bookstore, because the cover would do nothing to attract me. While the images are representative of the story, they certainly aren’t what I pictured in my head.

Title comes from: It’s what one of the main characters (‘jum) calls Prokaryon, based on a story her mother told her about a bright star in the sky which was where all the children were taken when they died.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 70/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

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Weekly Wrap-Up: WWI

This week was our first American History Club meeting for the month. We’re starting with WWI, mainly because we didn’t make it to WWI last year, and Mr. Curiosity and his friend were highly disappointed. We’ll be doing some earlier history as well, but we didn’t want to leave WWI and WWII to the end of the year and not make it again. So, let’s just start with WWI.

The two boys and I read War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. I already reviewed the book, but the quick summary is this: Joey is a horse that’s sent to war as a cavalry horse, and ends up pulling ambulances and a cannon instead. You get a sense of the horror of the bombardments and being in trenches, but no graphic details. Definitely a good introduction to the war for a younger/more sensitive crowd.

Miss Adventure and her friends read Meet Rebecca by Jacqueline Green. It’s your typical American Girl story, although in this one, Rebecca’s family is Jewish.

I had forgotten most of the details of WWI, so if I was going to talk about why the war started in the first place and how it changed Europe, I needed to do some research. The library is the first place to turn for research and I discovered a curious fact. There’s many, many books written about WWII, and very few about WWI. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but it was true both for adult and children’s nonfiction, and I had a hard time finding an appropriate book to suggest in the first place.

In the end, I did pull out two children’s nonfiction books (they’ve got the information written out more concisely and I didn’t have a lot of time). For the best information, World War I by John Conway was very useful. It went into lots of details on the political climate of Europe as well as some of the aftermath of the war. Just the overview I was looking for before I had to talk to kids about the war. It even had a map of Europe before and after the war. I had forgotten how many countries were created after the war – not all of which lasted.

Weekly-Wrap-Up

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