mythicalgirl: (OMG Corpse Bride)
There are too many things (work and life) going on to do a decent post so you get link salad and a mini-review.

The religion debate continues over on Jay Lake's LJ.  Be sure to read the comments as some of the most spirited debate can be found there.

The situation in Haiti is dire and getting worse by the minute.  The pictures of the devastation nearly had me in tears.  And I'm still trying to figure out why some of our troops and relief (like the hospital ship) won't be there until next week. 

Pat Robertson's comments go beyond stupid.  The man is truly an ass.  If there's truly a backlash against Christians in this country this man would be the reason why. 

My local radio station gets involved.  My company is raising money and matching contributions as well. 

If I'm counting correct I have 20 days to vacation, 14 of them are work days.  Maybe I'll have this stupid program done before I go!  I'm loving the learning part of it (yes, .NET is cool!).  Not liking to fact that it won't do what I want it to do though.  Sigh.  Guess I have homework this weekend. 

Now for the mini-review.  I've meant to put together some sort of full-length review of Jay Lake's Trial of Flowers.  Which I read two weeks ago.  And haven't gotten around to because life keeps kicking my ass.  So here is a mini review instead. 

Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake. 
Remember a few weeks ago when I reviewed Mainspring and said I liked it but wasn't sure I would recommend it?  Well I loved, Loved, LOVED this book but I'm still not sure on the recommendation part.  The City Imperishable is under attack from foreign invaders without and terrifying creatures within.  It is up to three men - Bijaz the dwarf, Jason the factor, and Imago or Lockwood - to save the city.  But first they'll have to determine who their enemies really are.  To do so each will take a journey into the dark heart of the City Imperishable, a decadent, decaying city built on a foundation of blood and fear. 

This book is just flat out amazing.  It is fantasy but definitely in the post-modern or New Weird categories of the genre.  A little Lovecraft, a little Vandermeer (including some possible shout-outs to City Of Saints And Madmen, maybe?) and totally Lake, the City Imperishable is not a place I would want to live but I find myself fascinated with it just the same.  Make no mistake, the city is a character in it's own right here and quite possible the most interesting one in the book.  Our three heroes are deeply flawed (as most heroes seem to be these days) but I found myself liking them and rooting for them despite some of their less desirable characteristics.  Thank goodness there is a second book out because this is a world I want to revisit again soon. 

So why am I unsure about recommending this book?  Well, it mostly has to do with some of the subject matter.  There is blood, violence, rape and other, um, less savory incidents happening here.  If you can handle fiction with such topics - especially fiction that presents them unapologetically as just another part of life - then this is the book for you.  The squeamish and prudish might wish to look elsewhere. 
mythicalgirl: (shut yer hole)
I am a terrible blogger. No really, it's been weeks and I still don't have anything to say. I don't know how some people manage to do a new (and interesting) entry every day. I'm lucky if I get in two or three a month these days. I just don't think my life is all that exciting.

The latest is that I'm still wrapped up in work. The project that would not end finally ended and now I'm on another one, which needs to be done yesterday it seems, and my piece is in C# .NET. Which I do not know. So I'm learning how to code in C#. The learning something new part I like. The pressure from the project manager to get it done NOW I do not.
 
The rest of my life is going well. I've been hitting the gym semi-regularly and eating well most of the time. I am not doing as well at either as I would like but I've still managed to lose 8 pounds so I must be doing something right. I worked out here at home earlier while my computer was installing upgrades so I can safely say that I managed to get in 3 days this week. YAY!

I'm currently reading City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandemeer. So far all I can say is good writing but very weird.  I've only read the first story though.  I'll stick with it and we'll see what I think.  Recent reading and mini-reviews include Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge and Mainspring by Jay Lake.  

Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge
I've been very anit-Urban Fantasy lately so I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to give this book a fair shake.  I really shouldn't have worried though because Kittredge managed to pull me into her world of Black London pretty much from the first chapter.  I liked Pete well enough and loved Jack, of course.  He very much reminded me of a Billy Idol / Spike hybrid in how he was described.  The story itself was interesting and entertaining.  The only real flaw was that the bad guy and how things were resolved was kind of a let down.  By that point I wanted the big bad to be really Big and really Bad and he, well, wasn't.  Still, not a bad start to a new series, the world Kittredge has created is amazing, I like the characters, and I will definitely read Demon Bound.   

Mainspring by Jay Lake
I will start off by saying that this book is not for everyone.  Just check out the Amazon reviews to see why.  Now, I personally liked it although I am well aware that I have an extremely flexible suspension on my disbelief and it takes a lot for me to put a book down.  The first two-thirds of the book are amazing.  I wasn't impressed with the main character, Hethor, but he didn't make me want to throw the book at the wall so nothing I couldn't accept.  Sometimes he's TSTL but I think that may have been the point.  This is very much a coming of age / divine quest story.  The worldbuilding is great, the sense of impending doom, the quest story - all work in the first two-thirds of the book.  My problem came once Hethor went over the Wall into the Southern Earth.  Things here become a little trippy and while I was never fully yanked out of the story I did find myself having to retune my suspension of disbelief quite often.  I had a big problem with the deus ex machina nature of the last several chapters of the book.  When I first read it my initial response was "cop out".  After thinking about it I can see where divine intervention makes sense in a way but I never felt like Lake set that up as a possibility so it came out of left field.  So, overall I liked it but this is not one I would necessarily recommend to others.  I am pleased to see that the next book brings back a couple of characters I really liked from this book and that it has multiple points of view - things that can only help. 

OK, enough reviews and blabbering.  I think it is time to take a shower and find some lunch.  We are getting spits of snow here but nothing is sticking yet.  So long as I don't have to go outside it can snow all it wants! 
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)
I have been a reading fool lately (in what little spare time I've had from work).  No time for long reviews but I thought I'd post some minis as a public service...or something. So here goes. 

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
I am a big fan of Weir's historical biographies and this one is no exception.  It starts with the death of Henry VIII and ends with Elizabeth taking the throne.  The years in between are full of religious strife, sibling rivalry, attempted coups - all good stuff.  While not a complete as a full length, in-depth biography might be it is a great look at Edward, Jane, Elizabeth and Mary during these tumultuous years.  Definitely worth the read!

Anne Boleyn: A New Life Of England's Tragic Queen by Joanna Denny
Biased much?  Denny claims that all other biographies of Anne Boleyn are pro-Catholic, biased, and paint Anne as a demon or witch.  She in turns tries to paint Anne as a Protestant martyr, a wronged woman, a veritable saint.  From what I've read by other historians the truth is likely somewhere in between.  I couldn't get past the first few chapters of this sorry excuse for an historical biography.  I prefer my historians to be professional and unbiased.  This reads more like the blog of some hack, not a professional work.  Skip it. 

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
I gave it 200 pages, which is far more than the normal 50 I have to read before giving up on a book.  It isn't that it is a bad book.  It just couldn't hold my attention.  Even 200 pages in, once I put it down I had no desire to pick it up again.  Out of sight, out of mind.  After two weeks sitting untouched on the coffee table I removed the bookmark and put it in the To Be Sold pile.  I've heard people rave about this one so YMMV.

Threshold by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Dark fantasy with some horror elements thrown in.  This was a much faster read for me than Silk and I enjoyed it more.  Kiernan's writing is at times lyrical, at others abrupt, and it definitely takes some getting used to as do the characters.  This is my second Kiernan novel (I've read several of her short stories) and as with Silk I didn't really like any of the characters.  They were all a little too damaged for me to relate.  Still, the book was a great read and it stayed with me, making me think, long after I finished.  If you like dark fantasy and psychological horror you might want to give this one a try.   

In the Woods by Tana French
Police procedural, murder mystery, in Dublin.  The first third or so of this book had me hooked and on the edge of my seat.  A murder of a child.  Echoes of the disappearance of two kids from the same woods 20 years ago.  The cop that is also the boy that survived.  Is there a connection between the two crimes?  And how will Detective Ryan keep it together as memories buried for 20 years suddenly start coming to the surface?  Unfortunately the second two-thirds of the book didn't live up to the promise of the first third.  Ryan ends up being a whiny prick.  His partner, Cassie, is too, too perfect.  And I figured out who did it the minute hesheit came on stage.  I read the whole book because I wanted to know if I was right about who did it and why (I was).  Still, this one left me disappointed.  Too much potential left unrealized as the author went for standard tropes and stereotypical characters.  If you like that kind of thing then go for it, otherwise there are better books. 

Desolation Road by Ian McDonald
This starts out more as character vignettes than a cohesive story with plot and everything.  But the characters are quirky and interesting enough that I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.  There is a plot here, eventually, and there is a climax to the story of a sort.  But really this isn't a story about any particular person or event...it is the story of a town from it's birth to it's death.  That the story takes place on Mars and is rife with both technology and fantastical elements just adds to the fun.  There are typos galore in this edition but none that took me out of the story (maybe being SciFi I didn't really notice them?).  I really liked this one and if you are a fan of science fiction or of McDonald I say give it a chance. 

OK, that's it!  Later. 
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)

Archangel Protocol, Fallen Host, Messiah Node and Apocalypse Array

 

In the future nearly every government on the planet is a theocracy and secularism is either strongly discouraged or outright illegal. The LINK, a cybernetic information super-highway, connects people all over the world via a node under the user’s skin. All commerce, currency, communication – pretty much anything you can think of – takes place on the LINK. Access to the link is restricted to those who can prove they are dues paying members in good standing of a recognized religion. No Religion, No LINK. And no LINK means being disenfranchised, living on the outskirts of society. 

 

Angels are on the LINK, possible messiahs are on every corner, several of the world’s major theocracies are on the brink of war, and the Devil is looking for his antichrist. It seems definite that the end times have come. But all hope is not lost. While Morningstar prepares for his ultimate battle with Heaven a host of angels and mortals are working to prevent the apocalypse. Will they succeed?

***

 

Not the greatest recap of books I’ve ever done but I am seriously having trouble coming up with anything that is not spoiler city. What I can say is that these books are heavy on the cyberpunk but one doesn’t have to be a diehard techie to understand them. The LINK is like the Internet on steroids taken to the nth power but accessible to the non-SF reader. And while religion plays a very major role in these novels these are not “religious” books. Or at least I didn’t feel like I was being preached to in any way. In fact there are many of the worlds major religions represented including Buddhism and Shinto along with the biggies of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  

Morehouse has built an amazing world here and is telling an even more amazing story. The world, with its blend theocracy and tech, may be a fantasy world but it resonates so much with what is going on in the real world right now that one can see it becoming a possible reality. And while the story takes a fairly heady subject, the end of the world, as its premise it is at its core really a story about love, redemption and the meaning of humanity. Not that those aren’t heady subjects in and of themselves.  

I finished the last book Saturday night and despite already starting a new book I keep finding myself thinking about these four, especially Fallen Host and Messiah Node. IMHO these are the best books of the series, full of action that really propels the plot forward. That is not to say that the other two books are not good – they are! I will admit that when I first read book one, Archangel Protocol, I liked it but it didn’t really WOW me, you know? It was good enough that I wanted to read the rest of the series but it lacked that something that made me start the next book immediately. After much thought I’ve determined that while I fell in loved the world and some of the characters the POV character in book one didn’t do much for me. YMMV. The rest of the books definitely hit the WOW button for me though. As soon as I finished Fallen Host I had to start Messiah Node, despite needing to go to bed since I had to work the next day. Any chance I got, I was reading because I just had to know what happened next! At the same time I kept trying to slow myself down because I didn’t want these books to end. That, my friends, is always the sign of a great read.   

And Morehouse has created some amazing characters. I want to sit down with Page to discuss philosophy over a cup of tea; join the Dragon on a stroll through the LINK and just breathe in every new experience; thrown back some beers and shoot the shit with Morningstar. And can I admit that I’m just a little bit in love with Mouse? 

So, my recommendation is to give these books a shot even if you aren’t normally a fan of the genre. 

Now I know these books are out of print but Morehouse has informed me that you can get them at http://www.dreamhavenbooks.com/ and http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/ so no excuses! 

 

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that Lyda Morehouse is on my f-list and has commented on my blog. That is not why I’m giving these books a read recommendation. One, we just added each other Friday after I’d already mentioned her books something like three times. Two, I give my recommendation (or not) based on my reading experience not based on who is on my f-list. 

 

mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)
It was a big fat -1 degree F this morning when I got up for work.  It is now -5F.  That is the actual temperature - no wind chill there.  With the wind chill it is actually something like 12 below.   This is the kind of weather where you have to breathe through your mouth so you don't get snot-sicles in your sinuses.  Brrrrr.

I was thinking about Whitechapel Gods on the way home last night and again while I was shoveling snow off my driveway.  I think I know what I want to say so here, finally, is my review.  If you don't know what the book is about here is the blurb from amazon:

TWO GODS-ONE CHANCE FOR MANKIND

In Victorian London, the Whitechapel section is a mechanized, steam-driven hell, cut off and ruled by two mysterious, mechanical gods-Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock. Some years have passed since the Great Uprising, when humans rose up to fight against the machines, but a few brave veterans of the Uprising have formed their own Resistance-and are gathering for another attack. For now they have a secret weapon that may finally free them-or kill them all...

The Resistance is having a hard time.  The key to defeating the Gods has been lost.  Their engineer is dead.  They are being hunted by the Cloaks, who are taking them out one by one.  The dreaded Boiler Men are on the move. There's a new, terrifying presence in Whitechapel that may or may not be on their side.  And the defacto leader of the rebellion doesn't believe in Queen and Country - he just wants to save his friends.

There are a lot of good things about this book but it has some serious flaws as well.  I found the Whitechapel of the gods to be amazingly well written - with strangely angled buildings, twisting alleys and an almost organic feel to the beams and concrete spawned by the gods.  I could picture the grimy streets and ash-laden sky while reading.  The city is a character in its own right.  And possibly the most fully realized one.  The majority of the characters here are fairly two-dimensional.  I only felt there were two, possibly three, that were presented as more than caricatures and only a few that experienced any kind of growth.  The majority of the characters had no depth, possibly because hardly any of them are presented with any kind of backstory, so I had no emotional involvement with them.    

I was absorbed in the novel while reading despite the obvious flaws (I think I just ignored them as I read).  I like that fact that it is a stand-alone book (because I'm tired of never-ending series that seems to just rehash the same things over and over again).  Plus I'm an old hand at reading fantasy, which isn't always the best genre for character development.  But this book only works if one doesn't question things too closely.  And believe me, I had a lot of questions.  Like the gods - how did they come to Baron Hume in the first place?  And what about the Baron?  He was the first to embrace the gods and it's because of him that Whitechapel is as it is now.  But we learn NOTHING about his past and what little we see of him in the present only shows his madness.  I found myself wanting to know more about the Baron, more about the gods (who or what are they exactly?), more about the city's organic growth (how do the steel beams grow?).  I wanted to know more about the clacks, the disease that is turning men into machines.  We find out where it came from but I was left feeling like I was still missing something. 

And the ending!  This has got to be the single-most flawed part of the book.  The author does a good job of ratcheting up the tension as the climax builds.  And then - deus ex machina (literally, in this case).  I'm not totally against the use of deus ex machina.  If it was good enough for the Ancient Greeks its good enough for me.  But at least follow it up with a denouement!  There is an epilogue, a whopping two pages worth, and it doesn't address any of the threads left hanging from the climax.  I won't recount the threads as that would give away too much of the plot.  Suffice it to say the ending left me cold and with a lot of unanswered questions.  

So, to wrap it up, I didn't think this was a bad book.  It was fun to read, a decent introduction to steampunk, and worked well overall.  (Let's face it - I've rarely met a book I didn't enjoy reading) But it is very obvious this is a first novel and it has some serious issues.  Any reader unable to ignore the problems and let go of their questions probably wont' find this a very good read.       
mythicalgirl: (hai)
I've been eating soup lately.  I have no idea why since I normally don't really like soups.  But after a fateful trip to the mega mart with a hungry tummy and a sale I came home with 10 cans of soup! 

So I've decided to not only eat them but post what I think about each one as well. 

The first is Campbell's Harvest Select Italian Wedding Soup.  
The broth was greasy and the meatballs were dry and bland.  How do you have dry meat in a soup?  The spinach and the pasta were good though and plentiful, which helped save this rather boring culinary concoction from an even poorer showing. 
On a scale of 1 to 10 I give this one a 4.5.  I might get it again if the price is really good. 

The second one I tried is Progresso Light Italian Style Vegetable. 
The smell from the can when I opened it was not promising - an overly sweet tomato-basil smell.  Once warmed it smelled a little better but there was no mistaking the overabundance of spice used to make a "light" soup more palatable.  The veggies and penne were decent if a little sparse.  Overall I felt more like I was having tomato soup with some veggie garnish rather than a hearty vegetable soup.
On a scale of 1 to 10 I give this one a 3.  I don't think I'll be getting this one again. 

The third one I tried is the one I'm eating now for lunch - Campbell's Harvest Select Tequila Lime Chicken with  Rice. 
If my first taste of the Harvest Select soups was a disappointment this one has certainly redeemed the brand.  The chicken is a wee bit dry but the rice, corn, tomatoes and black beans are faboo!  There is a nice balance between soup and the chunky goodness of the veggies.  Not too much chicken, which is a plus for me.  And the spice on this one is just right - flavorful without being overpowering. Maybe because it's not a "light" soup? 
On a scale of 1 to 10 I give this one an 8.5.  I will definitely be getting this one again. 

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to eat! 

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September 2013

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