Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nine Layers of Sky

Nine Layers of Sky —by Liz Williams 

Fiction / Fantasy (Urban)
427 pages
5 Stars

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Elena went from being an astrophysicist at Baikonur to being a janitor in her hometown of Almaty, who makes extra money buying and selling clothes on the black market. On her last trip, she picks up a small spherical object that is heavy, and oddly warm. As a scientist, she becomes curious and keeps it to study.

Ilya is 800 years old, a warrior of myth and legend, not quite human, but not sure of what he really is, who has one goal in life — to be able to die. Every time he is close to death, the rusalka come and heal him, against his will.

Ilya is hired to find the small, round object, and not only does he find it, he finds Elena, and together they discover the object can open gateways into an alternate Soviet Union, on another planet. Together, they must decide who gets the "key" and where they will live. Elena, the scientist does not know all the players. Ilya, the legend, does, and has spent 800 years hating and fearing some of them. But, are they who and what he has believed all this time?

I had a hard time putting this book down. I loved the characters, and the travel down the Silk Road in both universes. The ending came at just the right time, and was both satisfactory and conclusive. There are a few loose ends flying in the breeze here and there, but nothing serious, and perhaps, eventually, there will be a sequel?

I look forward to reading more books by Liz Williams.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Crocodiles: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos

Crocodiles: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos of Animals in Nauture —Emma Child


26 pages / 696 KB
5 Stars

I have a soft spot in my heart for Crocs n Gators. Don't ask me why, perhaps it's their constant smile? At any rate, I was delighted when notified that Ms. Child has written another one of her marvelous books, and this time on Crocodiles.

If you haven't read her other books, you're in for a treat. She has a relaxed way of writing that will appeal to any child, regardless of their age. She researches her subjects, and uses professional photographs.

As in all of her books, there is a section of fun facts to learn and wow your friends with. Like their 80 teeth are replaceable, and scientists think they can be replaced up to at least 50 times in a lifetime. That crocs can live up to 75 years of age (wow! something older than me) and that saltwater crocs are bigger than alligators, and can grow up to 23 feet or so.

One question I have that was not answered—is crocodile meat as good to eat as alligator meat?

This is a great book for children to read on their own, and also one that the adults can read to them, as often as asked for. If you're giving a Kindle to a kinder, load it up with the books by Ms. Child!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Heart of the Trail

Heart of The Trail: The Stories of Eight Wagon Train Women —by Mary Barmeyer O'Brien

History / Women's Studies
81 pages
3 Stars

Being a short book, I knew none of the stories would be in depth; however, because they were about women I knew nothing about, they were mildly interesting. The writing is good, the subject matter terrific, but due to the shortness of the stories, not overly informative; more gravy, less meat.

I think this would be a good introduction to anyone not at all familiar with this part of our history, and would hopefully pique their interest to go on and read more in depth accounts, including the actual diaries of the women.

There was nothing here about how they coped with emergencies, or daily lives on a personal level, except as a high level gloss. Personal things, such as how they dealt with babies and diapers would probably not have been mentioned in their actual diaries and or letters home. That would have been considered women's work, and of no importance to record, as all the women would have known. And the men wouldn't have cared what they thought, let alone read the diaries.

I really wish the author had written longer stories with more usable information, given the women 50-60 pages each, and used more quotes from their diaries and letters. Unfortunately, the lack of information in this book make me hesitate to buy any of her other books, though I see she has several out about the same era and subject.

Bridge of Birds

Bridge of Birds —by Barry Hughart

Fiction / Ancient China that never was
288 pages
3 Stars

First off, I love stories of Ancient China, especially about Qin Shi Huandi, the first emperor. I love the histories I've read, and the fiction I've read, and the fantasies of Ancient China whether or not it ever was. So it was with great excitement I began this book. I was not as excited by the end of the book as I was at the beginning.

The writing is consistent, and while I enjoyed some of the characters, I really didn't bond with any of them. I never saw them as anything but paper cut outs. And there were a few times when I was thrown completely out of the story.

The story has its amusing moments, as Li Kao and Lu Yu (aka Number Ten Ox) go about their adventures finding the treasured ginseng root to save the children of Lu's village from a mysterious illness. However, I thought it a tad too long. By the time we were on the third, and final, adventure, I found myself wondering if I cared enough to finish the book. I was, at best, only mildly curious at the whole outcome (saving of the children was a foregone conclusion).

I believe this is Mr. Hughart's debut novel, and long as it was (psychologically, not literally) I will give his next book a read. He has a good story, I think, just too much fluff and not enough busting (editing). I want to care about his characters. I want to identify with at least one of them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer --by Dorothy Gilman

Fiction / Mystery (Cozy)
218 pages
4 Stars

This is my introduction to Mrs. Pollifax, so I have no idea how it compares to the rest of the series. I found it moderately entertaining, enough that I finished it. Mysteries are not my normal reading genre, and when I read them, I try not to figure out who the bad guy is so the ending won't be ruined when I get there.

This is a book I would be delighted to find on the hospital book cart, should I find myself confined to such a place. Mrs. P and the Lion Killer is easy to read, easy to put down, and easy to pick up again later.

The title is somewhat misleading; it is not about a person who goes to Africa to kill lions, but about the man who kills others like a lion might.

If you are a fan of the Miss Jane Marple books by Agatha Christie, I think you will enjoy the Mrs. Pollifax books.  While there is violence, it is neither gratuitous, nor graphic, and there is a great deal of humor. And, true to the "cozy" format, it ends well for everyone but the antagonist.