Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sunday Post #80 The Sun Is Out

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

This was a good week, I didn't do a lot of reading but I did get a few reviews up. Going into February my reading is wide open- I have a few in mind but nothing set in stone yet. Vintage Science Fiction Month is wrapping up and has been a lot of fun You can check out the reviews at #VintageSciFi. 

This morning the sun is out and it looks like  nice day. We've actually had a few days now with sunshine, it hasn't been a bad week. I hope everyone out east who got blasted is staying warm and comfortable. 


Angela's Anxious Life spotlights Find Momo. You have to check this out- how fun. 

If you're curious about Mr. Penumbra's you can check out a prequel of sorts here... for $2.99. It's Mr. Penumbra 1969... set during the summer of love. Groovy baby. 

Little Red Reviewer has a roundup of the Vintage Science Fiction Month reviews here. Handy dandy. 

Snap Happy Gal has some nice shots

No Winds of Winter this year- are you surprised? The publisher has said it won't be this year- so this seals the deal that we will get the end of this story on TV. The good news, however, is that we will get a new edition of the hedge Knight stories later this year. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore was an interesting read. I had heard a lot of good things about this one, and it seemed a little mysterious- a story about a bookstore and a group that meets there. It seemed like a rather eclectic mix, to be honest. I was in a bit of a lull in reading recently, and thought I'd finally give it a try. I'm glad I did.

Clay Jannon has been laid off and is looking for work- and he finds it at Mr. Penumbra's, a little old bookstore next to a strip club. This is no ordinary bookstore however- there are very few customers, and the customers that do come in are rather odd. The back of the bookstore is full of volumes that are not cataloged, and they are mysterious books- full of strange codes and puzzles. It's almost like a library- mysterious people come in, check out some of these strange volumes, and bring them back later. Clay soon finds that the bookstore is part of a society that has a very mysterious purpose -and before long he is part of that group, seeking the answers to one of life's greatest questions.

Clay also meets Kat, a Google employee who has her own reasons for wanting the answer to that question as well. Clay and Kat soon find themselves together, and as Kat is an up-and-comer at Google they marshal the resources of the tech company to help them solve the mystery. The relationship between Clay and Kat is a lot of fun- they just have a neat connection, and it's fun to see their relationship grow, and to see them navigate the ups and downs. Along with some other friends Clay and Kat find themselves drawn into a world of secrets, cryptography and questions about the meaning of life.

Set in San Francisco, this book was a lot of fun and very readable. I blew through it in no time. Sloan has a very easygoing style, and the tone is wry and quite funny, but it also has serious things to say about friendship and what's truly important. One thing I liked was how this book spotlighted friendships, and how some friendships exist because of books. What a great point, and I'm not sure I've ever really thought about it that closely- but my close friendships are, in many cases, directly affected by the books we share. This story is in many ways a celebration of that.  The only thing I didn't like was that the end didn't live up to the premise for me. I realize this is a book set in a real world, and I understand the message being sent and applaud it, but I would have liked more mysteriousness to go along with the setup. Still, it's a fine novel, with great characters and a lot of heart.

Oh, and I think I'd like to read The Dragon Song Chronicles.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: Secret of the Caves

The Secret of the Caves (Hardy Boys, #7)

The Secret of the Caves is the seventh Hardy boys book. This is part of an occasional revisit where I'll be going back and looking at these to see how they stack up today. The Hardy boys and their friend Chet Morton are discussing Chet's metal detector when their dad, a famous private investigator, tells them he is working on a new case. A radar station is being built nearby and there are concerns about sabotage, as there have been unexplained accidents at the site. The boys are only too eager to help when another mystery presents itself- a young woman arrives and asks for their father's help finding her missing brother. It turns out her brother, Morgan Todd, is a college professor who studied abroad and suffered a head injury- his sister suspects he has lost hie memory and wandered off. Mr. Hardy agrees to help, and it is decided that the boys will begin investigating the disappearance while Mr. Hardy works on the radar situation. He leads the boys over to the site and while they are there an intruder is spotted, but they are not able to catch him.

The boys then travel to the college where Morgan Todd taught, and find a clue that leads them to Rockaway, a town not far from where they live. Rockaway is also where the Honeycomb Caves are- fancy that! The caves are where their friends Chet and Biff were going to camp and explore with the metal detector. After being jumped by some frat guys in what is apparently a hazing incident gone wrong, the bous head to Rockaway and do some nosing around. Joined by Chet and Biff, they camp in one of the caves and promptly get into trouble. Someone steals their supplies, and Biff gets injured- and they also meet a suspicious old man who lives in a cave. He appears to be harmless, but maybe not. Later the boys are nearly killed when someone plants a bomb and Chet is injured. The boys uncover a connection between the caves and a restaurant/ antique store in Rockaway, and decide it is time to pay a return visit to the Honeycomb Caves.

Someone clearly anticipates they may do so however, as there continue to be threats against them. After their boathouse is set on fire, the boys travel to the caves, where they are startled by a searchlight coming from the old man's cave. They spy men moving boxes into the cave, and that night see a submarine off shore. They then swim out to sub (seriously?) and after men come ashore they investigate the cave themselves. Pretty foolhardy, and it gets a little tense at the end until Mr. Hardy and the state police show up. Turns out a foreign country was sabotaging the radar tower, and Morgan Todd was their prisoner. Wht would a foreign country be so concerned about a coastal radar station? Alas we never find out.

This was a good read, in spite of the unrealistic elements. I enjoyed the wholesome nature of it, and it's clean storytelling for kids. There are some eye rolling moments, naturally, such as when Mr. Hardy lets the boys, even encourages them, to continue their sleuthing in spite of the danger- even after their car is blown up! Also they camp out in a cave that shows signs of being occupied, but they go to sleep? And Frank and Joe are teenagers but the police chief gives them info, as does a college dean. Overlooking all that, I enjoyed this and it was a quick, easy read. I will continue revisiting these and I think it will be fun to do so.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sunday Post #79

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

January is humming right along. It's been a quiet week, not much going on. I'm looking out as I write this Saturday morning, and it looks like another day just like we've had all week- not much sun. We're supposed to get snow tomorrow, just a bit. I'm still looking for just the right book to read. Maybe this week the right one will come along. 

This week I reviewed Star Man's Son and another Leigh Brackett for Vintage Science Fiction Month. This not-a-challenge will be wrapping up at the end of the month, but there have been a lot of good reviews and posts. 


Dreams and Dragons celebrated Dragon Appreciation Day with this list of favorite dragon stories. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Reavers of Skaith

The Reavers of Skaith (The Book of Skaith, Vol. 3)

The Reavers of Skaith by Leigh Brackett is the conclusion of the Eric John Stark trilogy. Stark has been betrayed by the starship captain he was counting on to get him offworld. Stark had come to the world of the ginger star to rescue his friend Simon Ashton from the Lords Protector, the overlords of that world. Thus began a journey across half a world, from the only starport to the Citadel of the Lords Protector, in the far north. Stark succeeded in freeing Ashton, and in the process gained the allegiance of the Northhounds, great telepathic guardians of the Citadel- until Stark came and wrenched their loyalties away through sheer force of will.

As the third book opens the starship captain they negotiated with has ransomed back the people he was going to take to the Galactic Union and has taken Stark in the bargain. He now intends, with two other ships, to pillage this world and make a tidy profit. Stark and Ashton escape, of course, but with all roads closed to them, they must venture into the humid south of the planet, to seek new allies and try to find a new way offworld.

Gerrith the wise woman, meanwhile, leads a company south to meet Stark and save him from the doom she sees in her visions. Gerrith foresees that Stark yet lives, and their fates are intertwined. The two parties soon meet, and continue their journey across a dying world, hoping to win back to the starships and the stars beyond. Complicating matters is the rapid decay of climate conditions- the cold is returning, more quickly than anticipated, and this is causing great upheaval. THe situation gets desperate as Stark and his companions must once more face the Lords Protector, for the fate of a world- and themselves.

This was a satisfying and compelling conclusion to a fine saga. Brackett's prose is tight and focused- the story is always moving, something is always happening. The dialogue and characterization are solid as well, although Gerrith could use a larger role. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and this is a fascinating world- the nights are illuminated not by a moon, of which there is none, but by three milky white star clusters that rise and set at different times. I enjoyed this book a great deal, although I did think things fell into place a little too easily, and everything wrapped up a bit too tidily. Also Stark is a bit of an antihero- he is only too willing to kill to achieve his ends, and by uprooting a society his actions cause a lot of death, although one can argue that this would have occurred anyway. And I understand his motivation- he is trying to survive, and save his friend, and get offworld- but still, the odds do make it difficult to take this too seriously. In spite of that, this is a fun read, and a great planetary adventure, and is compellingly readable.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sunday Post #78

This week has been good, for the most part. I got some reading done and I have a few reviews planned for the Vintage Science Fiction challenge. It's a bit windy as I write this, but otherwise not much is going on.We still have a fair bit of snow but the temperatures have been warming, so it's melting a bit. It looks be a quiet weekend so hopefully I can get ahead on some of my reviews.

Little red Reviewer has a rundown of the Vintage reviews so far.

Tales Between The Pages has a Page to screen on Mockingjay. 

Love the X- Men? Just curious? This is a good podcast

Read Me Away has a new installment of ReadPlayBlog.

Marni Bates has thoughts on the Stacey Jay kickstarter controversy, and I think she sums it up well.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

20 000 Leagues Under the Sea and other Classic Novels

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is a book I've always wanted to read. I grew up fascinated with the Nautilus, the great submarine with a library and windows that look out upon the undersea world. The idea of Captain Nemo, a man who forsook the surface world with its petty jealousies and endless conflicts to pursue solitude and peace was a romantic one as well. I have several versions and enjoy seeing it on my bookshelf, but I had never actually read the book.

20,000 Leagues is the story of Professor Arronax and his companions who find themselves captured by Captain Nemo and taken aboard the Nautilus. Thus begins a journey around the world and through a fabulous undersea realm, a journey that will take the Nautilus and its crew to the lost continent of Atlantis and even the south polar icecap. Throughout all this Arronax tries to understand his host, to glean what motivates him

This book is a classic early work of science fiction. The Nautilus is fascinating, and more so for the fact that submarine technology was in its infancy at this time. However I have to say that I was not enthralled by this novel. The pace and the story  just didn't grab me, and Arronax is largely a passive spectator. There are pages of descriptions of marine life, and I found myself necessarily skimming these to stay in the story. The descriptions are more scientific classification than anything else, so that was a bit tedious, at least for me. Nemo also disappears for days at a time, but in a submarine, it's never clear where exactly he goes. The crew is not often seen, either. There were some minor details like this that affected my enjoyment of the story, unfortunately. I thought I would like this more than I did.

In spite of these flaws I'm glad I finally read it. So even though I didn't love the book I still enjoy the story, and the Nautilus remains as fascinating to me now as it ever has.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sunday Post #77

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

The big news this week is the snow! It's been like a blizzard the last two days and the roads are terrible. The temperatures have been very cold and wind chill have hit -20. Looks like it will be a good weekend for staying indoors and drinking lots of hot beverages.

Last week my first review went up for Vintage Science Fiction Month. I read The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett. You can check out the reviews at #VintageSciFi.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Ginger Star

The Ginger Star (The Book of Skaith, #1)

The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett is the first in her Eric Stark books. Brackett is perhaps best known for being an early contributor to The Empire Strikes Back screenplay, but she was also a prolific early science fiction writer. The Ginger Star is the story of Stark, a man who finds out that his good friend has gone missing on Skaith,  a newly opened world in the Orion Spur. Ashton was like a father to Stark, so he resolves to go to Skaith and find him- whatever the cost.

Stark arrives on Skaith and finds a dying world- the sun is slowly fading and life has taken on a decadent tone. The starport of Skeg is the only place where offworlders are welcome, and visitors are not allowed to leave the city under any circumstances. Stark of course doesn't let this stop him, and after making some inquiries soon finds himself the object of the Wandsmen's ire- the Wandsmen being the enforcement arm of the Lords Protector, the rulers of Skaith. Stark finds himself on the run and alone in his quest to find Ashton- but he doesn't stay alone long. He meets Gerrith, a wise woman and seer of that city who has the gift of prophecy and has visions of Stark's future. Together they venture north, towards the mysterious Citadel of the Lords Protector, where Ashton has apparently been taken.

Stark and Gerrith are drawn to each other on the long road north, and face all manner of dangers as they make a few allies and many more enemies. Stark's companions are all native and have a vested interest in their own goals, whereas Stark just wants to survive and get his friend off planet again. The odds are against him, but Stark is unique in that his offworld mindset and experiences will help him to survive- especially when he faces the Northhounds who guard the Lords Protector.

Skaith is a dying world, with ruined cities and mutants who live in the seas and underground. Brackett explores what it would be like for a low tech world to suddenly be visited by starships from other worlds, and how that revelation could overturn the entire established social order. This theme is a large part of the story, and Stark often wonders about turning a planet upside down for one man- but Ashton is his friend and he will stop at nothing to find him. But if he does find him, can they survive the long journey southward again, and win their way back to the starships?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Ginger Star. It's fast moving, brisk and something is always happening. Stark is confident and capable but not a superman, and he gets captured a lot in this story- there are so many factions and groups that he runs into, each with its own agenda- after a while I was wondering how many times he would change hands as a captive- but the narrative pace is brisk and I appreciated that. Nowadays books are longer and it takes forever sometimes to get anything done- here, as in many older science fiction novels, the story moves and is done in less than two hundred pages, but you still get a story, and in this case a good one. If you want a story about a man, driven to fight against impossible odds to save his only friend, against a dying and decadent world, this is a great choice.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sunday Post #76 Happy New Year!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a happy and relaxing holiday.  It's good to be home, and thinking about books again. I did a bit of reading over the break and with Vintage Science Fiction Month underway I've been reading in preparation for that. 

 It's flurrying a little as I write this on New Year's. 

As mentioned above Vintage Science Fiction Month is underway- you can check out the details here. I've been reading several older science fiction novels and planning my reviews for the month- I hope to have at least one a week going forward, in addition to my regular reads. 

Vintage SF Month

Tales Between The Pages has an end of the year book roundup. I got a few ideas for new reads from her list. And she mentioned my blog too (shameless plug). :)    

Book Journey reviews Good Night June by Sarah Jio.  

The Hardcover Lover reviews Vivian Apple At The End Of The World. 

Snow on the Amalfi coast- and a cute cat video, courtesy of Ciao Amalfi

 The Bronze Age Babies are on vacation- all month it's up to the readers to carry the conversation. They've done this the last few January's and it's always fun to see what the commenters come up with. 

Lynn's Book Blog reviews A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs for Vintage Science fiction Month.