Still Burning

Centralia (Images of America: Pennsylvania)Centralia by Deryl B. Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a single sitting book for me. Generally I really like that as an idea, but somehow for this book it didn’t work. I had difficulty with the pictures. I understand that many of the actual photos would not be easy to see – but having them reproduced in this volume somehow managed to make them even harder to see clearly.

I think I wanted more of a timeline based series of pictures. Some of the photos are doubled up in here and they don’t always progress chronologically. The author mentions at least 3 times the play that he wrote… once would have been enough, particularly given the brevity of the written word in here.

The story of Centralia is certainly an interesting one and for that I’m glad to have taken this quick peek back in time. IF it were anything more than a quick peek I would have been very disappointed. As it is, one sitting works for me and I’m moving along.

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Goodreads Technology

I shouldn’t be grumpy about the wonderful technological thing I’ve been able to do… but I am.

I have been posting personal reviews of books I’ve read to Goodreads since 2009. I’ve got hundreds of books up on there. I like being able to share my thoughts with friends both local and distant. I like being able to go back and look at the list of things I’ve read and be able to sort them into various categories or descriptions. Others have tried to tell me there are better systems out there, but I haven’t really felt the need to move.

Much like any other business that wants to remain relevant, Goodreads has an app. I can access my account from my phone to look things up while I am out and about. Excellent. I love having access to the data. They also have a little part of that app that allows users to scan books by the ISBN code on the cover of the book. I can basically let my phone look at a picture of a code and the book in question will come up on my phone. IF the code doesn’t work, I can just let the phone look at the cover of the book and it will likely find the book that way. Amazing.

I needed to clear up some space in the back room. I moved a recently acquired book shelf (thanks mom!) in there and needed to put a stack of books on it so that I could reclaim the various flat surfaces where they’d been living. It was a random collection of stuff. I went into Goodreads, made up new “shelves” so that when I scanned the books I could put them together as actual, physical copies that reside in the house rather than the Kindle variety.

Here’s where I get picky about this little app. Of the 40(ish) books I scanned, 5 of them didn’t work. Some were old and didn’t have the right code but a couple just failed. Not a big deal – I’ve got weird stuff in the collection (I think you’re only allowed to use eccentric if you’re rich…). The problem was the process. First, there are 3 base categories that ALL your collection falls into – want it or not – “want to read”, “currently reading” and “read”. That’s it. No matter what other virtual shelves you create your book automatically falls into one of those, you can’t change it or avoid it. I hear somebody out there saying, “well, yeah – why would you have a book if you don’t actually want to read it or have read it?”. What if it’s an additional version that’s part of a collection? Yes, it’s likely that it falls into the “read” category or why would you have it, but I found the lack of an option there to be really annoying.

I also didn’t really want those books to qualify under the “read” category for other reasons. I have specifically resisted putting all the books I read before I was a Goodreads member up on the site. It seemed disingenuous to post something without a review while claiming to have read it. As I re-read titles I go back and add them. If I’m not re-reading them, I’d like the option to qualify my listing in another way. I don’t want the 40 books I scanned today to be added to my “read” count for the year. That’s bad data. I want it to sort better than that.

Yes, in the end it’s great technology to be able to do what I have done. No, it is not perfect. Hopefully there will continue to be improvements as the site keeps moving forward. I also hope they make it possible to cross post to Amazon reviews – but that’s another post.

MHI Again!

The Monster Hunter Files (Monster Hunters International Book 7)The Monster Hunter Files by Larry Correia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun collection of short stories. I particularly liked the first two stories, even if the one by Jim Butcher was released ahead of the book itself (and I read it long before I actually bought the book). There was a lot of what I would consider “classic” monster hunter stuff in here. I was really amused by the story in the Enchanted Forest. One of my favorites.

Not all the stories were in that vein however. There were a couple of stories that felt like they were forced to fit the world building of the monster hunter universe. These were stories from popular authors that have series of their own that didn’t stretch out past the characters as they’re known in the other series. Those stories were easily the weakest to me.

All in all, I was really happy with this one. IF you like the monster hunter series I suggest you go and grab this book.

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Ink and Bone

I’m going to start my book review of Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine with the most important part. I finished this book then went and bought the second one and started reading. It has been pointed out to me that is a rare circumstance and speaks more to the quality of the story than anything I could have to say about it. So there’s that ~ there might be spoilery stuff below…

What if we didn’t lose all the works from the great library? What if indeed.

I really enjoyed the pace of this book. The story didn’t slow down for me. Even when the students were studying or working out how they were going to be tested next there were bits and pieces that tied in to the rest of the story. There was a lot more action than you might think for a bunch of librarians. The action was also believable – Jess ends up in the hospital more than once. None of that “I’ll just continue on because I’m so tough…” actually working out. He’s got the attitude for that, but more often than not he wipes himself out with that thought process.

Jess as a character was trying to do the right thing. He was not a whining anti-hero. I enjoy and appreciate that more and more these days. He was anxious, clever and dense in various turns, in love and certainly passionate about what he was doing. He really worked as a character for me. He played well off the others as well.

The rest of the cast of characters developed well. I consider it a well written character when I’m reading and think, “wow that guy is a douche. I wouldn’t get along with him…” and I got those visceral reactions more than once. Well done.

There is one thing that I would quibble with – and it is just a quibble really. The timeline. This book, even with the magic of obscurists, didn’t feel like a “modern” story. Despite having stated someplace in there that this was set in 2025 or something like that it absolutely felt like 1890. The technology, the locations and the general societal attitudes placed it there, but also the “technology” of the books hurts the concept if you move further forward. What I mean by that is this: you’ve got the ability to pass notes from one linked book to another all over the world. You have the ability to transport matter (if you can send books, you can send anything) and people across the planet without appreciable delay… even if it’s a limited ability. IF you take this time line as an “alternate history” those bits of technology change how major developments in our past happen during the 1900s. World War II CAN’T happen the way it did in our world if you have instant communication across distances like that. There’s no accident of timing. There’s no struggle to travel the distances necessary to fight others in a distant land… but why would you send soldiers at all? Just send the bomb and let that do the work for you with none of the danger.

I think there’s a lot of potential for this series and I am already enjoying the next book. I would recommend picking this one up and giving it a shot.

Divine?

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to give this one a weak 3 stars. I struggled with this book on a couple of fronts.

Third person current tense? I’m not sure, but it was like a nature show narrator during certain parts and it really bothered me.

I actually liked the characters quite a lot once I got past the author’s style. I think the indestructible secretary was a little much, but I understood why he was there. It’s useful to have that sort of “action” person around if you are not that action person. There were times when Shara didn’t look like a hugely experienced operative, but I was totally willing to roll with that. I also really liked Mulaghesh.

The world building perplexed me a bit. I wasn’t sure how certain parts of technology were or were not supposed to fit. There was no clear definition of what worked and what didn’t, what people were aware of and what they were not aware of. Eventually I put it into the same category as an 80s Batman movie.

There are lots of parts to this book that look like a thinly veiled condemnation of modern religion. I think there’s a lot of potential conversation stuff in here. For that alone, I would say pick it up and give it a shot.

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The West?

Straight Outta TombstoneStraight Outta Tombstone by David Boop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really excited about this collection. It has a story in the Monster Hunter universe and a story in the Dresden Files universe – IN THE SAME BOOK! How could that not be amazing?

Well, it could not be amazing because it’s westerns. Don’t get me wrong, I like them, they’re just not the top of my list. It is rare for me to be deeply impressed with a western – the western is very much my father’s genre.

I liked the Monster Hunter story. I liked the Dresden files story. I didn’t love either of them, but they helped fill that need to read in those universes. I liked the story by Phil Foglio even if I could see the end coming. There were a couple of stories that were MEH. My favorite story – far and away was actually “Chance Corrigan and The Lord of The Underworld” by Michael A. Stackpole. Western, steampunk, magic… definitely a worthy read.

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Do not rocket while impaired…

Space TrippingSpace Tripping by Patrick Edwards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars-ish.

IF you’re looking for distant planets, space battles, far ranging corporate plots and drunk aliens doing the equivalent of “hold my beer” then this book is for you. It was amusing and a very quick read. I think I actually knocked it out in a day.

The reason this suffers in my opinion is that I have other drunken adventures that I am much more partial to. Totally not a “fair” thing to this author, but it is how I feel.

If you like this book and you’re looking for something else, you will probably very much enjoy the works of the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in Scary Tales of Scariness (Fortress Publishing).

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Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I read this once a long time ago. I suspect it didn’t fit with the sort of fantasy I was expecting at the time so I didn’t particularly remember it, but I picked it up again since it was a book group choice.

This actually falls directly into the category of “matters when you read it”. The main character is NOT the typical fantasy hero. He’s already had a lot of life and success in his career. He’s middle aged, not the mystery secret sixteen year old prince who’s been in hiding all his life. At this time in my life I really appreciated the difference in character.

Yes, there are other fantasy tropes in there that were kind of expected. Yes, there are some small hints of anachronism since the book was written over 30 years ago. None of those things bothered me and I really enjoyed the story this time. This may very well move up to the top of the Terry Brooks list for me.

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Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the best science fiction works I’ve read in a very long time. I really enjoyed this book. I understand why it garnered the praise that it did.

Taking the point of view character away from being a human is never easy, but splitting that character apart into the many places an AI can inhabit would be particularly challenging and the author handles it wonderfully.

There is a lot of discussion worthy stuff in here. IF you’re a fan of science fiction this is very much worth the read.

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Fiction fan

I’ve written reviews of Linda Nagata’s work before over at MilSciFi.com. The Red series is not the only work by her that I’ve read. She is one of the writers whose work I look at and think, “Damn it, she’s good. It’s almost not fair…”

And then I want to go out and see what she’s done next.

This post allows her to tell you a little about her latest – and I’m really looking forward to checking out her “big idea”:

The Last Good Man