Tuesday, May 01, 2012

2012 Continued

Legends of Shannara: The Measure of the Magic- The Valley where the last humans have survived after the final days was protected by magic, but now the barriers have crumbled, and their peaceful ways will have to end at last. Sider Ament, last bearer of the Black Staff and Knight of the Word, passed on his burden to the Tracker Panterra Qu. Meanwhile, the Elven Princess of Aborlon stands accused of her father's murder, and her mother is the one pointing the finger. But the one pulling the strings and setting up a troll invasion of the human lands is the last remaining Demon in the world, and it might be up to Panterra Qu to defeat it. But first, he will have to deal with the man Skeal Eile, a man who has always hated Panterra and who is stirring up those who should beliieve him to call him a liar and deciever and have nothing to do with him. But can Panterra survive attacks by his enemies and those who should be his allies as well? Or will the two forces completely annihilate him at the Demon's behest? This book sure gave me a tense feeling, but its well done. We are beginning to see how the bearers of the Black Staff became the Druids of the later Shannara books. And the way he writes the demon allies smearing the reputations of the heroes while maintaining a "butter wouldn't melt in my mouth" sort of innocence was chilling and disgusting to read. Recommended.

Murder on the London Bridge and The Body in the Thames by Susannah Gregory- When the body of a Dutch merchant is found murdered in London,Thomas Chaloner is sent to investigate by his master, who believes the Dutch have stolen important government documents from his office. Chaloner finds that he knows many of the delegates, and the wife of the dead man was the sister of his own late wife. But as hatred against the Dutch ramps up in London, Chaloner must find who really purloined the Documents as well as who murdered the merchant- and who now wants to kill Chaloner as well. There is also the matter of a pair of thieves at court who Thomas uncovers, and is then accused by them of being the true thief. They accuse him so long and loudly that people even begin to believe them. But do they have something to do with the mystery? The Second book has a man being murdered during Chaloner's marriage to his lady-love and his feeling that, since the man died at his wedding,he should be responsible for finding the murderer. At the same time, a relative of one of the men Chaloner works with comes to London while unrest is stirring in the streets, and Chaloner must discover who is behind the unrest and why a bunch of men were mixing gunpowder in a small house on the London Bridge. I am not really enjoying this series as much as I did Susannah Gregory's other series, the Matthew Bartholemew series. Chaloner is all right, but so many of the people around him are shallow as puddles, both intellectually and personally, that I find it hard to get into. Avoid the Chaloner series, and seek out the Matthew Bartholemew books, which are a hundred times better. There is also a betrayal at the end that took me by surprise, but it was sort of a "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone"-type twist.

Black Jack, Volume Seventeen by Osamu Tezuka compiles the last eleven Black Jack stories and has a list of all the stories in every volume in the back. The stories end on a sad note, with Black Jack's house destroyed by a hurricane as he struggles to save the life of a supposedly innocent young idol with an ectopic pregnancy. But He and Pinoko are alive, while his request to be paid is refused by her manager, angry that with the truth having come out, her career is over. A wonderful collection of stories, as always, with Black Jack being by turns helpful and nasty- a bit like Dr. House without the drug addiction issues or limp. I liked these stories and was sad and upset that there isn't going to be any more of them. Highly recommended series, and the stories in this one bring a lot of past pigeons home to roost.

Fate's Edge by Ilona Andrews- Audrey Callahan is from the Edge, but her family is composed solely of grifters, and her bad memories of her childhood make her want to be respectable. But when her father comes to her with one request, to pull off one job so her brother can go into treatment for his drug addiction, Audrey feels she can't say no, despite the fact she despises her brother for selling her to his dealer so he could get more drugs when they both were younger. She tells her father to make a decision- this last job, or a continued relationship with her. He chooses the job, letting her know she is worthless to her family except for what she can do. But the job she helps them pull gets her in really bad trouble, and the man sent after her to bring her in, Kaldar Mar, gives her another choice- help him out or be imprisoned or killed, gives her little choice but to comply. Unfortunately, two teenage tag-alongs and her brother selling her out to the thugs searching for Kaldar means that the job, to get the artifact, she stole back to its true owner, will take much longer than she expected. And with Kaldar appealing to all her instincts, female as well as grifter, can she back out and regain a "normal" life afterwards, or by the time their mission is over, will that be the last thing she wants? Another story in the Edge series, one quite removed from the other books, but brimming with action and some romance. The return of George and Jack from the first book (as well as Rose and Declan) was fun and gave added interest to the book. I hope this isn't the end of the series, as the Edge and the Outer are charmingly different in new and interesting ways. Highly recommended.

Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter- When a small orange kitten turned up in the bookdrop on the coldest night of the year in Spencer, Iowa, nobody knew that he would become the library mascot. But his larger than life personality, and the genuine love and attention he brought to the library patrons, and the librarian, Vicki Myron, a single mother who had just been hired as the town's librarian. Though not universally loved, Dewey, whose full name was Dewey Readmore Books, became the glue that kept many in the town together through tough times. Sadly, as he grew older, Dewey's declining health meant many saw him as a liability rather than an asset, and Vicki Myron became sick as well. Dewey accompanied her on her fight with cancer, and she saw him through his fight with UTIs and failing kidneys- a fight which eventually claimed his life. This book is a three-hanky cry fest, and I dare you not to be moved to tears by the ending. The library I work in has never had a cat, but a nearby town had a town deer from a fawn when its mother was hit by a car. Reading Dewey's story, especially the ending, made me want to hug my own cat in the worst way, and I did- more than a few times. Nevertheless, it's a good story very well told, and makes you feel the love Vicki had for Dewey, and why the town of Spencer loved him so much. Highly recommended.

God, NO!: Signs you may already be an Atheist and other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette- Penn is one half of the comedy Duo Penn and Teller, and he's the taller, louder, more talkative one of the bunch. He is also an atheist and tells why, along with some of his history as both a magician and an atheist. The book is divided into ten chapters, each headed with a Biblical commandment and then the Atheist suggestion below it, to make it better suited for real life. In it, he discusses why religion is so bad to so many people and why it is all such BS. Along the way, he relates experiences from his life, like the Zero-Gee flight he took and stripped naked on, and the death of his father, and the way he remembered him after he died in lieu of a religious funeral (he set a balloon free). It's a raucously funny heartening book for atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers alike, but if you are a Christian, you might end up being seriously offended. I'd recommend it to anyone who has ever thought that religious thought is over the top and often overrated. Highly recommended if you are in this group, not so much to anyone else.

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay- This graphic novel is set in an isolated village on the islands of May. The daughter of the village herbalist discovers Dragonsbane growing in the forest, she is worried, because it is only supposed to grow where Dragons live. But her father reassures her- Dragons were long ago slain and banished from the islands. But when people and livestock, her father included, start to go missing, Rue is sure that there is a Dragon on the islands. Three village boys head to the mainland to find a Dragonslayer, but the man who they find and claims to be one, is really only a con-man whose sole ability is to make kites. But can a kite-making conman become a hero? Maybe if he has the help of a really courageous woman... like Rue, to help him. I loved this book for its lyrical story, beautiful art, and heartwarming ending. It feels like an authentic fairytale and is highly recommended.

Bullet to the Head by Matz and Colin Wilson tells two simultaneous stories. Two killers kill a senator and his underage prostitute lover, and two cops begin to track down the killers. But when one of each of the teams loses their partner to a doublecross, they must team up with a journalist whose partner and lover has also been killed to track down who is behind the conspiracy and take them down- to avenge their partners as well as save their own lives. But will all of them live to see it through? I didn't like this at all. This graphic novel is "adult", which just means heavy amounts of sex and violence, and the story left me cold. I didn't care about the characters or the conspiracy. Sex and boobs and blood don't impress me- I've read Hentai manga. Not recommended.

FireFly Guide to Stars and Planets by Sir Patrick Moore is exactly that. The opening chapters cover the closer planets, the sun and the stars, while the back of the book has chapters with the constellations, eclipses, and space telescopes. An excellent book full of great pictures and information. Highly recommended.

And I re-read the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Companions:Astronomy book by Ian Ridpath that I read back in 2008.

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