Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Review: The Human Division by John Scalzi

The Human Division
Author: John Scalzi
Series: Old Man's War (Book 5)
Publication: Tor Books; 1 edition (May 14, 2013)

Description: Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU's secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance―an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they've invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won't be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant "B Team," centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you're struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man's War universe, plus―for the first time in print―the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn't part of the digital serialization.

My Thoughts: This was an entertaining space opera that was written as thirteen separate episodes that needed to work together as a novel when finished. Earth has learned that the Colonial Union had been keeping them isolated and mining them for soldiers and settlers. Naturally, this didn't go over well on Earth and now the Colonial Union is trying to find a way to survive in a galaxy in which humans are in a definite minority and in a galaxy where they aren't liked very much.

Many of these stories focus on Lieutenant Harry Wilson of the Colonial Defense Force and the Diplomatic team he is assigned to. This team is the B team which doesn't usually get sent in for important missions. And they are often expected to fail.

Other stories focus on the Conclave - a group of 400 alien species - and on one of its diplomats Hafte Sorvalh.

The big problem is that someone is trying to keep the Colonial Union and the Conclave at odds. Each side believes that it is the other that is responsible for ship losses and other activities. Both are also rivals for Earth. The Colonial Union needs Earth for its survival. The Conclave is also courting Earth though they wouldn't be accepted as a member until they had one unified Earth government which they do not.

I enjoyed all the stories and like how they ranged in tone from serious to humorous. I enjoyed the characters especially Harry Wilson. I liked that all of them were trying to do their best for peace no matter how large or small a role they play. The ending is unresolved but not a cliffhanger. Luckily, I have the next book in the Old Man's War series so that I can find out what happens next.

Favorite Quote:
"Hold your breath!" the groundskeeper said.

"Why?" Wilson wanted to know.

"It couldn't hurt!" the groundskeeper said. Wilson was going to make a sarcastic reply to this but then realized that, in fact, it couldn't hurt. He took a deep breath.

The plant sucked him under.

"This is the best day ever," said the groundskeeper to Schmidt.
I bought this one May 15, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Memes: The Human Division by John Scalzi

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Ambassador Sara Bair knew that when the captain of the Polk had invited her to the bridge to view the skip to the Danavar system, protocol strongly suggested that she turn down the invitation.
Friday 56:
What the hell? Wilson thought. On his shuttle's forward monitor, on which he had pumped up light-source collection to see star patterns over the glare of his instrument panel, another star had become occluded. That was two in the last thirty seconds. There was some object in the path between him and the black box.
This week I am reading The Human Division by John Scalzi. This is the 5th book in the Old Man's War series. It has been on my TBR mountain since May 15, 2013. Here is the description from Amazon:
Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU's secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance―an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they've invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won't be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant "B Team," centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you're struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Author: Shannon Hale
Series: Austenland (Book 1)
Publication: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (June 8, 2008)

Description: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

My Thoughts: Jane Hayes is a thirty-something who is disillusioned with romance. None of her thirteen boyfriends have been at all like Collin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. He is her romantic ideal. When her great aunt leaves her a three week vacation at Austenland, she looks at it as a time to get over her obsession with Mr. Darcy and prepare to live the rest of her life more realistically - alone with no romance, but more realistically.

Arriving at Austenland, Jane become immersed in the Regency time period but can't help wondering how much of what happens around her is real. One of her fellow guests is an American named Miss Elizabeth Charming who is determined to find her romance but who is often an object of fun as she develops her own interpretation of the Regency period. The other guest is Miss Heartwright who is a return visitor. The gentlemen are Colonel Andrews, Mr. Nobley and Captain East. While these gentlemen are interesting, Jane meets gardener Martin who seems more real to her.

I liked that the story was told from Jane's point of view and included her witty observations. I think that I was somewhat handicapped because I have never read anything by Jane Austen nor have I seen any of the movies. I enjoyed this story about a young woman who is trying to find her happily ever after.

Favorite Quote:
"Just do your part, please, Miss Erstwhile."

"Oh, yes, of course, forgive me. I can't imagine why I'm taking so long, it's just that there's something so appealing about you there on the ground, at my feet--"

He tackled her. He actually leapt up, grabber her around the waist, and puller her to the ground. She screeched as she thudded down on top of him.

His hands stiffened. "Whoops," he said.
I bought this one March 24, 2014. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: The Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff

The Truth of Valor
Author: Tanya Huff
Series: Valor Novel (Book 5)
Publication: DAW; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)

Description: Former Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is attempting to build a new life with salvage operator Craig Ryder on his ship, the Promise. Turns out civilian life is a lot rougher than she'd imagined-salvage operators are losing both cargo and lives to pirates. And when they attack the Promise, Craig is taken prisoner and Torin is left for dead.

When Torin finds out why the pirates needed Craig, she calls in the Marines to get him back-and to stop the pirates from changing the balance of power in known space.

My Thoughts: Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has mustered out of the Marines and is becoming a salvage operator along with her boyfriend Craig Ryder. They have met both the families and Torin is making big adjustments. When a couple of Craig's fellow salvage operators are discovered spaced with their cargoes missing, Torin is surprised to hear that pirates are making a resurgence. The pirates have stolen an armory and need a salvage operator's codes to get in.

The pirates attack Craig and Torin's ship, kidnap Craig and leave Torin for dead. But Craig knows that, if Torin survives, she will be coming for him and leaves him determined to survive himself until she shows up. After trying to get help from Craig's family with no success, she calls in some old friends who are also former Marines to help her rescue him.

This story was an exciting adventure. I liked that it was told from multiple viewpoints and that the world includes a variety of different alien species. References to the sentient plastic who had manipulated the various Elder and Younger Races into a war made me want to go back and read earlier books in the series again.

I like Torin's character. She is one kick-ass heroine with an iron-clad sense of justice.

Favorite Quote:
Individually, they were smart, touch, and adaptable. Working together, as a unit...

Would they work together as a unit, though; that was the question? Would they? Could they? What would it take?

Torin was just as glad to be leaving them behind. Individuality at the expense of the group went against everything she'd believed her entire adult life.
I bought this one Sept. 7, 2010. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

FP/TT: Heartstone by Elle Katherine White

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of a book she is reading or planning to read. She provides a linky for others to post theirs.

Here's mine:
I'd never seen an angry hobgoblin before.

If this one wasn't my friend, it might've been funny. Tobble was red in the face before I noticed him in the grass by the garden wall, and since hobgoblins have green skin, that in itself was quite a feat.

Link up here. It is very easy to play along:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.
Here's mine:
"Oh dear. Anything I can do to help?"

"Yes! Can you  translate for me?"

"You speak perfectly good Arlean."

"Well, yes, but he doesn't need to know that. And those wyverns are much less likely to eat me if you're there." He scrambled up my bent knee ans swung onto my shoulder. "Please?"
Both of these are from a book that has been on my TBR mountain since Feb. 28, 2017 making it a relative newcomer. Here is the description from Amazon for Heartstone by Elle Katherine White:
A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.

    Monday, November 13, 2017

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Nov. 13, 2017)

    It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

    It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

    I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup. YA and middle grade reviews will still be posted on  Ms. Martin Teaches Media - my other blog.

    Other Than Reading...

    This was a quiet week. I brought my new car back up to the dealer for a follow-up visit where someone answered any questions I might have about it. It was nice to get a refresher because there were so many things to remember when the salesman went through it all when I picked the car up. I also got a $50 gas card for doing the visit which made it well worth an hour of my time. I have a total of 92 miles on my car so I laughed when the helper on my return visit asked if I knew where to fill the gas tank. I drive so little that I may only have to fill it once a month.

    We had a little more snow bringing our season total to 19.5 inches but not all of it is on the ground. We have had some warmer, sunny days that melted some of the accumulation. Of course, we also set a new low temperature record when it was -5 on Thursday morning. It is supposed to warm up some this week. In fact, they are predicting a rain-snow mix for next Friday when Duluth holds its annual Christmas City of the North parade. I've never attended given that I was working in southern Minnesota previous years but I hear nasty weather of some kind is the norm for that parade.

    On the homefront, I've been trying a number of new recipes lately when it is my turn to cook. Actually I found the recipe and my brother cooked it for one of them - a Thai chicken and noodles dish. It was really good and we've added it to our keeper file. I cooked a PF Chang's copycat recipe for Zucchini-Mushroom Chicken that also got added to the keeper file. My brother's crazy work schedule means we take turns cooking depending on who is home. He still does most of the cooking because he likes to cook but I have been doing more lately. Speaking of crazy - he works from 5:30 until midnight on Thanksgiving and then works Black Friday from 6 AM to 1 PM. You'd think less than six hours between shifts would be against the law.

    Read Last Week
    Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel by Michaela MacColl has been on my TBR mountain since Oct. 25, 2010. This was an entertaining fictionalized account of the year before Victoria became queen. My review will be posted on Nov. 24.

    The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress was a fun middle grade adventure with footnotes. Great characters, fast-paced action, and lots of humor were found. I just bought this one because I wanted to add the sequel to my review stack and hate starting a series anywhere but with book 1. My review will be posted on Nov. 22.

    Charles Darwin by Kathleen Krull has been on TBR mountain since April of 2013. I used to do a research project with fifth graders about scientists and added quite a few of Krull's biographies to my stack for my own research. I liked the way the author personalized the scientist as well as discussing his scientific discoveries. My review will be posted on Dec. 1.
    Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull has also been on TBR mountain since April 2013. Even with a kid's book, I still don't understand what Einstein discovered but still enjoyed this account of his life and accomplishments. My review will be posted on Nov. 29.

    No Place Like You by Emma Douglas was a review book from NetGalley. It was a traditional romance about a traveling musician and the girl he left behind (for a while). My review will be posted on Dec. 2.

    A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra is also from my review stack. This cozy features a main character I wanted to throttle. She didn't follow good advice and constantly found herself in danger as she investigated. She was a prime example of TSTL (Too Stupid to Live). Despite the annoying main character, the mystery was entertaining. My review will be posted on Dec. 6.
    Bury the Past by James L'Etoile was also from my review stack. This was a fast-paced police procedural about a detective being framed by one of the dirty cops she exposed and sent to prison. My review will be posted on Dec. 7.

    A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert was the final one I grabbed from my review stack this week. I liked that the main character was a librarian who played to her strengths as a researcher when she was confronted with a mystery. I liked the romance in this one too. My review will be posted on Dec. 9.

    Almost to Die For by Tate Hallaway has been on TBR mountain since August 11, 2012. This is a YA urban fantasy about a girl who has been raised as a True Witch finding out that her father is a vampire king and that her mother hates her father. High school drama, urban fantasy, and a St. Paul, Minnesota, setting made this a fun story. My review will be posted on Dec. 6.

    Almost Final Curtain by Tate Hallaway is the second book in the Vampire Princess of St. Paul series.

    Next Week
    I have three more review books to finish out my December calendar and lots of openings for adult and YA books from TBR mountain. I'm not sure what I'll choose yet.

    Reviews Posted

    On Ms. Martin Teaches Media:
    On Inside of a Dog:
    Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

    • Going Underground by Michael Leese - Kindle daily deal. I was intrigued by the idea of an autistic detective
    • The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly - Kindle daily deal. I've read my print copy shabby and was glad to get a convenient Kindle copy of this book.
    For Review:
    What was your week like?

    Saturday, November 11, 2017

    Book Review: Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

    Breath of Fire
    Author: Amanda Bouchet
    Series: Kingmaker Chronicles (Book 2)
    Publication: Sourcebooks Casablanca (January 3, 2017)


    "Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a warrior queen to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

    Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world—for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin risk sacrificing everything they've fought for. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or die trying.

    My Thoughts: Cat has mostly given up running from her destiny since she has fallen in love with Griffin, Beta Sinta. She is reluctant to tell him that prophecy says she is the Harbinger who will bring about destruction or the world. When she does, he isn't dismayed. After all, it is his goal to dismantle the current political structure of the world and make it better for everyone.

    Before things can be better, she and Griffin need to defeat the rulers of Tarvan and Fisa. They travel to the Ice Plains to gain magical help and Cat goes through all sorts of hardships. They also travel to Tarvan and take part in a to-the-death tournament. The action was fast-paced. Cat learns a lot more about her magical abilities and how much the gods are supporting her efforts.

    I like the world building in this series. The magic and the magical creatures add all sorts of interest to the story. I also like the relationship between Griffin and Cat.

    Favorite Quote:
    For what is Hope if not unbreakable? And what is Hope if not the natural extension of suffering, that which eventually overcomes?
    I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.