Book Review – Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead as a Doornail

Author: Christine Harris

Format: Hardback

Published: 2005

 

When I pick up a Sookie Stackhouse novel, many time I feel like I’m putting on warm fuzzy bunny slippers.  There is a familiar comfort to the cadence and the flow of these books that I simply enjoy.  When I read Charlaine’s books I simply just sit back, enjoy the ride and maybe live a little vicariously through Sookie seeing as she gets to be around the types of beings I only get to dream of, vampires and werewolves and the like.

 

While I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books and they all have that familiar comfort this book felt a little outside of the norm.  I enjoyed the read and it was just as cozy as I described above but it was lacking at the same time.  In picking up one of these novels I’ve come to expect a good bit of mystery and intrigue, Sookie’s life to be in danger on more than one occasion and for there to be some rather sexy moments between Sookie and a supernatural male of choice.  Sadly this was not the case with the book. It had promise it had intrigue – Sookie’s life was in danger but not in such thrilling ways where I was on the edge of my seat.

 

Sookie also spent most of her time swinging from one even to the next trying to keep her head afloat and not really digging into any mysterious events or deaths even though there was a serial killer roaming around trying to kill shifters.  It was kind of clear at least to me who did the shooting long before Sookie even pieced any of it together and honestly the discovery of who did it was merely by chance.  Additionally the only sexy moment was when Sookie was getting her leg licked by a newly introduced shifter.  It sounds kinky and weird I admit but given the situation it was less kinky and more logical and a bit sexual.

 

Honestly this book in the series was akin to the second movie in a trilogy, lot of important information and filler but a bit lacking in the action.  I will admit it made a lot of sense for Sookie as a character to not get too romantically involved with anyone given everything that had happened in her life.  She had recently been through a lot of drama in the previous books and most people like Sookie would need a break and would sort of swing from event to event as it played in the book – so I can credit Charlene Harris for her use of character development in this book but it was still highly disappointing when you are expecting something a little more both romantically and mystery wise.  I am hoping the next book will pick back up with the romantic interludes and mysterious intrigue.  With that said I’ll have to give this book a 3 out of 5 pages – it is not worth skipping but you don’t want to expect to get much out of this book.

Book Review – Redshirts by John Scalzi

Title: Redshirts

Author: John Scalzi

Format: Hardback

Published: 2012

 

This book came to me as a recommendation of a co-worker and friend of mine.  He told me that if I liked the TV series Star Trek I would like this book.  I was told that it is a comedic take on the classic trope of red shirts always dying.  If you know anything about Star Trek it was always true in the original series that if there was a random person in a red shirt that was part of an away team mission, they were going to die.  The book tells the story of a ship where this fact is known and no one wants to avoid away missions as they might be that person destined to die.

 

I will admit that when I started the book it felt a bit flat, the story progressed slowly as the main characters who were all ‘red shirts’ were introduced.  It also bothered me for a long while that there were two similarly named characters Duvall and Dahl.  There were times it was hard to keep them straight even though Dahl is the main protagonist, a pacifist and male while Duvall is one of the supporting main characters who is female and a bit of a partier.  Still, when first learning names it is hard to keep track particularly when they are speaking to one another.

 

However, when the characters get on the ship and Dahl starts experiencing first-hand the oddness that is the spaceship Intrepid things grow to be interesting.  One minute, Dahl can be speaking with his fellow officers and the next minute they are rushing off to get coffee or have vanished to do inventory yet again.  When this happens a senior officer walks in and recruits him for an important and impossible mission, speaking about science that makes very little sense yet must be accomplished.   Given task Dahl is supplied with a box that works much like a microwave and will give the solution to the problem at the last minute.   In addition to this oddity there is a strange yeti man who seems to know that there is more going on than meets the eye.

 

While there is so much that can be said about this book a lot of it would blow the surprises contained within.  So without blowing the story I’ll say that the story is worth the read and the effort to get past the slow start.  The story picks up with good comedy, classic tropes of science fiction and a nice sense of adventure and impending doom.   You really aren’t left lacking or wanting in the story and it satisfies you in the end giving you a story that is well worth the read.  Over all I’d give the book 4 pages.  It isn’t a book I’ll go running out to buy a copy and tell all my friends about but for the right person looking for the right book?  You-betcha, I’ll tell them about Redshirts.

Book Review – From a High Tower

Title: From a High Tower

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Format: eBook

Year Published: 2015

From a High Tower is the tenth book in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. As with most of the books, it’s based upon fairy tales/folklore – in this case, Rapunzel. Or well, it starts out with Rapunzel, but then it takes a hard left into Germanic tellings of the Wild West, based upon the books of Karl May, an author I’ve never heard of (not unexpected, as Lackey includes a foreword in the front of the book to give an overview of May’s books).

The novel begins with a heavy focus on the Rapunzel story-line: a husband with a heavily-pregnant wife, who steals food – specifically rampion – from an old, run-down, apparently abandoned house. He is caught, but in return for the food, the child his wife is carrying is demanded in return.

Unlike most versions of the story, Rapunzel – also known as Giselle – is not freed from the evil witch by a handsome prince, or cast out once it is discovered that she has been consorting with him. Instead, the evil witch is an Earth Master – kind and caring (though I spent the *entire* book waiting for something bad to come out about her) and the handsome prince – a rapist who wants Giselle’s power as an Air Master.

The story-proper begins as Giselle is traveling from town to town, entering and winning shooting contests to support herself. Done in the guise of a man, this plan goes awry when she is forced to kill an army officer – eventually resulting her joining a traveling Wild West Show as one of the stars. Not only does the show need her ability to shoot, her magical abilities are not out of place either.

They are joined by Rosamund, a Hunt Master of the Bruderschaft, a local organization that handles magical problems and creatures (and, had I read the series in order, I would have ‘met’ Rosamund in Blood Red) and together they travel with the show.

They have several adventures on the road, and end up wintering at Giselle’s tower, where the ‘handsome prince’ who had previously attacked her attempts to get her and her power again, this time with the help of his family. They are defeated with the combined power of Giselle, Rosamund, and the other two magicians with the show.

I’m… lukewarm on this book. I enjoy the series, for the most part (though honestly, the earlier books are my favorites), but felt that this one relied heavily upon the knowledge of Karl May’s books and therefore, I didn’t connect to it. I also dislike the recent trend in the books where the main character has a person who ends up being a romantic interest for them, but they barely interact or seem to connect.

I like the learning of magic that happens in the book, but there is very little of it, in total, and most of the magic Giselle performs is little, and things she already knows. I also felt that Giselle stayed naïve for far too long in the story, and could have done with far more seasoning earlier on.

Still, once I got going on the book it went fast, so I’ll rate this one 3/5 stars.

Book Review: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel

TITLE: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel

AUTHOR: James Luceno

PUBLISHED: 2016

FORMAT: E-Book

I’m just going to warn right now for potential spoilers for Rogue One, even though it’s been out over a month.  Also, yes, I am a huge Star Wars fan if you hadn’t guessed from my name.

Catalyst is a prequel novel to Rogue One, the latest movie in the Star Wars universe.  It starts near the end of the Clone Wars, and introduces us to Galen and Lyra Erso, their newborn daughter Jyn, and the complicated interaction between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, the men behind the construction of the Death Star and it’s weaponry – whether they worked on it willingly or not.

The novel is an interesting bridge between the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire.  It mainly focuses on the two men, but we also get a look at Lyra Erso and her view of the war and how it affects the galaxy – and her family.  And how the players get from where they are at the end of the war, to where they are at the start of Rogue One.

This is not a book that can be read without any knowledge of the Star Wars universe, for certain.  At least familiarity with the prequel movies (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) is needed as events in those movies are heavily referenced – and it actually answers a few questions I know I had about certain things seen at the end of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  And the author’s writing keeps the story flowing well from start to finish.

For those who are fans of the Star Wars universe, this book is a good addition to the canon.  I give it 4 of 5 pages.

Book Review – Hidden Figures

TITLE: Hidden Figures

AUTHOR: Margot Lee Shetterly

PUBLISHED: 2016

FORMAT: Paperback

Hidden Figures bills itself on the cover as “The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”  That is a perfect description of the book, which has already inspired a (somewhat fictionalized) movie about the  events in the book.   (Full disclosure, I have seen the movie, but I’m one of those people that likes to read the books that movies are based on as well).

This is a non-fiction recounting of the history of many of the women who are often overlooked in history but without whom, World War II and the Space Race would not have gone the way it did.  The book gives you the history of several of the women involved, including Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson and Katherine Goble Johnson. But Hidden Figures is not just about the work the women did, but also the environment they did it in – mainly the segregated south of the 1940s/1950s/1960s, as well as the atmosphere of the Cold War that surrounded the Space Race.  The book doesn’t stint on the history and how it impacted the many women involved.

In fact, there could have been a lot more history in the book – the main chapters end at Apollo 11 (the moon landing for those who aren’t as much of a NASA nerd as I am), but the Epilogue continues with more history on some of the women, up to 2015.  Understandably, the lack of ‘more’ is subjective, and the book makes it clear how much things changed at NASA, from its pre-NASA days as the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) to the 1980s at least.  Granted, it also shows how much hasn’t changed.

The narrative is definitely helped by the author’s personal familiarity with the subject (she knew some of the women personally growing up in Virginia), as well as the years of research she conducted.  She also has a good writing style that kept me interested in the book as a whole.  This wasn’t a dry history of facts and dates.  She helped you view the players not only as professionals in history, but as individual persons.  That’s not always the case in some non-fiction historical narratives I’ve read.

All in all, I found Hidden Figures pretty compelling.  This is an area of history I’m not as familiar with, though I’ve read a lot about the early days of NASA (I may have NASA nerd tendencies).  However, information about these women who were integral to the program was not in a lot of the histories I read, mostly written by the white men who worked at NASA, or were the astronauts themselves.  And, admittedly, there are times when it is a hard read given the societal issues and the language that was prevalent at the time (the author chose to use the language of the times to stay true to her subject).  While I don’t feel that is a reason not to read this book, I know that not everyone feels the same way.

I give it 4 out of 5 pages.

Book Review – Go To Sleep, Little Farm

TITLE: Go To Sleep, Little Farm
AUTHOR: Mary Lyn Ray
ILLUSTRATOR: Christopher Silas Neal
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2014

Go to Sleep, Little Farm is an adorable fat board book about the farm going to sleep at the end of the night.

The color scheme is a mostly muted blue/grey with occasional pops of muted reds (like the barn, or the little girl’s pajamas), and it’s absolutely beautiful. Serene and peaceful like it was undoubtedly intended.

The book starts “Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose…”  and goes on from there.  Not your normal “the cow goes to sleep, the donkey goes to sleep” type stuff here.  Not-so common animals (even an earthworm!), illustrations and text that show where and how they sleep, and it’s just so precious.  As all the animals settle down, we see the little girl reading under her covers with a flashlight.  The farm settles in, dad turns off the light, and mom and dad tuck the little girl in so she can dream about all the animals that are sleeping.  The author even included the “slippers, asleep on the rug” and holy cow.  Since the toddler is currently in his “What’s your shoes doin’?” phase, that line was like the most perfect thing ever.

This is so much better than *gasp* Goodnight, Moon – and I love that book.

5/5 very sleepy pages.

BITB – Best of 2016

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Another trip around the sun and another few million pages read by those of us at Book in the Bag. [Note: I didn’t actually count pages, but it stands to reason, since we read so much.]

I know that 2016 was a rocky year for BITB – every blogger here either moved or had major health issues, among other things – but there were ups along the way, including lots of good books.  As always, our tastes varied, and this list represents decades of writing in multiple genres, fiction and non. In short, the books on this list are as varied as the bloggers reading them.

In order to make this list, the book had to receive a 5/5 review from one blogger and appear on this website. Not all of us may agree. (In fact, we usually don’t.)

Books appear in no particular order.

  • The Body Lovers – Mickey Spillane
  • Mildred Pierced – Stuart M. Kaminsky
  • Seventh Night – Iscah
  • Vengeance is Mine – Mickey Spillane
  • Dawn of Wonder – Jonathan Renshaw
  • The Bat Strikes Again and Again – Johnston McCulley
  • Bogart ’48 – John Stanley & Kenn Davis
  • Fantasy Encyclopedia: A Guide To Fabulous Beasts and Magical Beings, From Elves and Dragons to Vampires and Wizards – Judy Allen
  • Shadow of a Broken Man – George C Chesbro
  • 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
  • Horton Halfpott -or- The Fiendish Mystery of Smudgepott Manor -or- The Loosening of M’lady Luggertuck’s Corset – Tom Angleburger
  • Hungry Planet – What the World Eats – Peter Menzel & Faith D’Aluisio
  • The Monster at the End of This Book – Jon Stone
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama – Anna Dewdney
  • Welcome to the Symphony – Carolyn Sloane
  • The Complete Casebook of Cardigan vol 1 – Frederick Nebel
  • The Complete Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man – Daniel Stashower

 

 

Also, a note.  We love doing Writer Wednesday features.  If you’re an author who would like to be featured, comment on our Noteworthy page with your email address and I will reply as soon as possible. (Not all authors meet our criteria, but most do)  😀

12/13  CHECK

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