Friday, April 29, 2016

The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1)The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, I know this has all the trappings of a "nerd" book...fictional dynasties, named swords, women warriors, gods helping/hindering the humans, some of whom have mythical and mystical powers. But I loved it. It was just so well told. It didn't get carried away in its own mythology. The only characters I got confused were the gods, and they play a minor part anyway. The story was epic, and I felt like I was around a campfire each night anxiously awaiting what would happen next. the ending was supremely satisfying but I was pleasantly surprised that this is only book 1 in a series. I will definitely read the next one.


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" I admire the dandelion the most.  It is hardy and determined, adaptable and practical.  The flower looks like a small chrysanthemum, but it's much more resourceful and far less delicate.  Poets may compose odes about the chrysanthemum, but the dandelion's leaves and flowers can fill your belly, its sap cure your warts, its roots calm your fevers.  Dandelion tea makes you alert, while chewingits root can steady a nervous hand."

"There was now an invisible wall between them, they both saw.  They had felt closer to each other in their dreams and yearnings than they did now in person.  When they had been apart, each had striven to fulfill an idealized vision they thought the other had of them.  But the truth was that they had both changed."


"'But I've always found that true happiness must take into account our imperfections.  Faith is stronger when it acknowledges and embraces doubt.'"


"I have seen how the lowly dandelion, with time and patience, can crack the strongest paving stone."

"'To know the future is to have no choice...to be words fixed on a page by someone else.  We can only do w\hat we think is best, trusting it will all somehow work out.'"

The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I realize this book has a lot of flaws including some pretty long stretches of plausibility that have nothing to do with the mystical aspects of the book, but I couldn't help loving it anyway. I felt like a cat licking its paws to get every last drop of that cream. Maybe it was the unreliable narrators, one in a juvenile detention center, one a ballet dancer (Suma won me over right away with details about ballet that are actually true). Maybe it was the fact that Amber in the detention center used the first person plural , present tense point of view (loved, loved that! Because institutions in general take away any personal identity). Maybe it was the mystical elements, or the hinted at incidents that kept you wondering, or the smart narration with beautiful imagery. Yes, the ending was a little abrupt and left more than a few questions, but the ride was worth it for sure.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nexus

Nexus (Nexus, #1)Nexus by Ramez Naam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great science fiction read about the near future when a drug can link your mind with another's. Kade and his friends have learned how to have Nexus in their brains all the time, as well as program it. But their illegal experimentation gets discovered and Kade has to decide what to do...turn it over to the government to be kept from the population at large for their own protection, , hand it over to a genius to create a new generation of super humans, or release it to the general population for them to use for good or for ill. There is a lot of action...Kade and his genetically altered handler get beat up half a dozen times, and lots of people die gruesome deaths. This is interlaced with a lot of soul searching so that the whole book becomes a little redundant...beat up, soul search, beat up, soul search, beat up while soul searching...but the epilogue where Naam related how his book could be less fiction than you think, was the clincher for me. Makes the soul searching a bit more relevant.


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The White Cascade

The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest AvalancheThe White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche by Gary Krist
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title pretty much says it all. It is well researched and the narrative is well paced. I think I had a hard time getting into it knowing what the ending would be from the title.


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Beautiful ruins

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a satisfying beach read. It is all about how things look on the outside, and the beauty or rot that lies underneath.


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Epitaph

EpitaphEpitaph by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of the build up to the shoot out at the OK corral. Russell does a good job of putting the pieces together for the readers, the shoot out a result of months of grudges, politics, weather, inflammatory journalism, jealousy, loyalty, and frustration. Even the death of Garfield plays a part. Then, what happens afterward. It is fiction, but Russell includes what seem to be primary sources so it seems like embellished nonfiction. Since so many of the primary witnesses either couldn't read or write, or were killed, probably anything written about that gunfight would have to be labeled as fiction. I enjoyed the story of the loyalty of the Earp brothers and Doc and their wives. They would kill and die for each other. And when necessary, stop the killing. Russell warns you about 85% of the way through to quit reading, if you like happy endings. Of course I kept reading, and I kind of wish I hadn't. The book drags from that point on, and no one likes to see the heroes grow old and become human ....


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