Thursday, December 28, 2006

1635: The Cannon Law by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis

It is always difficult to pigeon hole the genre of these types of works. Is it fiction, science fiction or an alternate history? Since the opening volume, 1632, I would say the answer to the question is all three. How is that for a definitive answer?

1635: The Cannon Law continues the saga of the Grantsville Americans thrown back in time by the Ring of Fire. For those who are students of history, this series and this book in particular are entertaining reads. Just imagine trying to overlay a modern American value system across Europe during the Spanish Inquisition. As one might assume, there are a variety of conflicts as our 20th/ 21st century heroes try to enact reforms several centuries before their time. While Pope Urban VIII sees value in some of the American's views, the nemesis, Spanish inquisitor, Cardinal Borja views the Pope as weak and unfit in light of Spain's supremacy in the world.

The Cardinal begins to ferment trouble throughout Rome with a number of paid malcontents sent out to create discontent in the Roman populace through a variety of rabble rousing endeavors. Of course the American embassy in Rome is a target of the Cardinal's plots as is the fledgling Committee of Correspondence run by Frank Stone and his Italian wife Giovanna. As the ambassador to Rome from the United States of Europe, Sharon Nichols must make some difficult decisions and play a few political games of her own to try and offset the Cardinal's plans. Her fiance, the strong, humorous and often deadly Castilian Ruy Sanchez supports the entire American entourage in Rome with his political and military savvy.

Ultimately Cardinal Borja attempts the military conquest of Rome, providing considerable concern for his Spanish monarch but endless possibilities for the political realist among the King's men. The work builds to an interesting end and to an intriguing continuation of the series as the "uptime" Americans continue in their efforts to thwart the Spanish Inquisition.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is not a book I expected to enjoy. However, it was the selection for December for the Not So Grown Up Bookclub, and because Neil Gaiman's name pops frequently, I decided to read it.

The premise is this: Richard Mayhew, an ordinary man with a good job and an overbearing, beautiful fiancee, lives in London. One day, on the brink of yet another screw-up with his fiancee, he rescues a girl who appears from nowhere and is hurt. The girl, Door, returns from whence she came, but Richard wakes up the next day to find that he has essentially ceased to exist in London Above. He makes his way unknowingly to London Below, which exists in the subways and sewers of London and is populated by those who have fallen through the cracks of society.

London Below is a land where rats are revered and is filled with murderers, Hunters, and angel, a Beast, people with magical powers, and a various assortment of other characters. The story details Richard's efforts to return in full to London Above and regain his life, and his conclusions when he does get his life back, even better than before.

Unlike other fantasy worlds which are close enough to our own but with no relation to anything that actually exists in the world we know now, Neverwhere exists half in our known world, and half below. There are frequent references to things we're all familiar with: the Thames, the Underground and it's various stations, St. Paul's Cathedral. The references to things known makes references to things unknown infinitely more possible.

The book is at times funny, and at times repulsive (vegetarians beware of the diet of Mr. Vandemar!), but always engaging. I feel the urge to re-read it to get all the allusions more clearly the second time around...and that's always a sign of a worthy read for me. Plus, I'll be looking out when I next ride the London Underground.

NonFiction - Strapped: Why America's 20 and 30 somethings can't get ahead

Strapped by Tamara Draut is a very interesting examination of the financial situation of young adults from their early 20s to their mid 30s. The author has done extensive research in comparing the situations currently faced by young adults with those of the baby boomers. Her research is supported by real life experiences of young adults who have struggled as they have tried to attain the same success in society as past generations. I initially thought that many of the young folks who have struggled to become adults were based largely upon poor decisions, lack of effort, etc. But I was surprised to find that was not the entire case. Draut focuses much of her blame on, rising college costs, student loan debt, unaffordable housing, lack of support of child rearing (including time away from work and child care), credit card debt, and paycheck paralysis. She spends a substantial amount of time on each of these topics making her arguments for each. However, it should be noted that while making her case she does dive into politics (which is probably unavoidable). Whether you agree with her arguments will ultimately depend upon your political point of view. The last two chapters are solutions that she thinks will help the situation. Her ideas are solidly researched and well thought out but call for a less capitalistic approach. Do these solutions have the ability to take root in this country? Maybe, but it will be a difficult sell to the American people.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Books for December 2006

A little late this month…due to that fact that I’ve got so many holiday projects going, I completely forgot!! Here are the new books coming in for December so take a break (like I plan to do) and read until the stress melts away…

December 5
The Bolelyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
From the "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Queen's Fool, The Virgin's Lover, The Constant Princess" and "The Other Boleyn Girl" comes a tempestuous Tudor tale about two queens, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr, and the woman who destroys them both.
Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
HE IS ONE OF THE MOST HAUNTING CHARACTERS IN ALL OF LITERATURE. AT LAST THE EVOLUTION OF HIS EVIL IS REVEALED. Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck.He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal’s uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle’s beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal. With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal’s demons visit him and torment him. When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death’s prodigy.

December 12
Mistral’s Kiss
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Time for Meredith Gentry to give up detective work and conceive an heir to the Faerie world's Unseelie Court. Too bad her magic is off, even as dark curses are starting to do their stuff.
True Evil by Greg Iles
"New York Times" bestselling author Greg Iles returns with this smart and atmospheric work. Dr. Chris Shepard, a busy young doctor in Natchez, Mississippi, has never seen his new patient Alex Morse before. But the attractive young woman with the scarred face has come to Dr. Shepard's office on a mission to rip his idyllic life inside out.

December 26
by Iris Johansen
Atlanta-based forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is lured to the Colombian compound of a notorious criminal to identify a skull he has found. Eve has agreed to a devil's bargain to save an innocent family, but also for another reason. The man in the jungle has promised to give Eve the key to unlocking the darkest and most painful mystery of her past in this latest thriller by "New York Times" bestselling author Johansen.
The Ravenscar Dynasty by Barbara Bradford
The first novel in a sweeping new epic series from Barbara Taylor Bradford, set in the early 20th century, features a powerful family whose lives are filled with drama, intrigue, and revenge.
More Twisted by Jeffrey Deaver
Diverse, provocative, eerie, and twisted, this collection of Jeffery Deaver's best stories exhibits amazing range and the signature plot twists that have made him a perennial bestseller.

December 28
The Perfect Fake by Barbara Parker
In "New York Times" bestselling author Barbara Parker's brilliant new stand-alone novel, the forgery of a rare 500-year-old map sparks a thrilling chase from Miami to London and the Italian Alps in a remarkable tale of international intrigue.
Find Me by Carol O’Connell
From one of the most acclaimed crime writers in America comes her most astonishing novel: a story of love, loss, death, and discovery. Kathy Mallory will find herself hunting a killer like none she has ever known, and will undergo a series of revelations not only of stunning intensity, but stunning effect.
Annotations from Baker & Taylor , Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million.