Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Craig & Fred

By Craig Grossi

Craig was a Marine stationed in Afghanistan. He met Fred at a remote outpost. Fred was a goofy young dog who became a vital part of their small outpost, endearing himself to all the men stationed there, except for the Afghanis, who were abusive to poor Fred.
Anyway, when it was time to leave, Craig decided to take Fred back to the USA, even though it was pretty much against regulations. With the help of his riends, his family and a group of kind-hearted shippers, Fred found a himself living in the USA, waiting with relatives until Craig finished his tour of duty and came home.
Once home, things were a bit rocky. Craig kind of drifted. He went back to school and became friends with a fellow vet, Josh, a man who lost a leg when the vehicle he was riding in was blown up by an IED (improvised explosive device). They decided to take a long camping trip together with Fred, of course. It would be a chance for Josh to test the limits of himself and his artificial limb. Craig tells the story of the camping trip interspersed with the story of his time in Afghanistan and the story of Fred, the dog.

I enjoyed this book. But I didn't read it in the order in which it was printed. When I realized how it was set up, I read the chapters dealing with his time in Afghanistan first. Then went back and read the story of the road trip and of his time back home with Fred.

Review by The Washington Post.

Natural Disaster

By Ginger Zee

Ever since she was a little kid, Ginger Zee wanted to be a meteorologist. She set her sights on the Today show.
Being smart and attractive, reaching her dream wasn't an impossible goal. But Ginger's biggest hurdle was probably herself. It wasn't her professional life that was the problem. It was her bouts of depression and her poor choice in men.
In this book, Zee tells the story of how she realized she needed help with her mental illness and how she rose through the ranks to become a meteorologist on national television.

This was a pretty good read. I only had one problem with the book. She is telling the story of when she was first on TV and told the viewers how her dog had tangled with a skunk and that no matter what she washed the dog in, it still smelled of skunk. She was totally surprised at the number of people who contacted her with sure-fire recipes for curing skunk smell. But in the story, she doesn't share the winning recipe!
So I enjoyed the book, even though I didn't know who she was, never having seen her on TV.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ancillary Sword

By Ann Leckie

A continuation of the first novel, Ancillary Justice, this finds Breq, now with the surname Mianaai, appointed by the Lord of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, to the position of Fleet Captain and off to guard the Athoek system from Anaander's split personality as the two sides (and possibly more) struggle for control.
This suits Breq just fine, as the sister of the person Breq loved and murdered lives in the Athoek station and Breq wants to talk to her. Also present at Athoek is the warship, Sword of Atagaris, commanded by Captain Hetnys. Unlike most of the Lord of the Radch's fleet, Sword of Atagaris is crewed by ancillaries, a humans reprogrammed to be similar to robots, which is what Breq is too.
Also on the station is a human, Dlique, raised by the Presger to serve as a translator between the Presger and humankind. The insectoid Presger are the enemy, although currently at peace due to a treaty. The war with the Presger was the beginning of the deterioration of Anaander's personality as it became clear that the Presger were an unbeatable foe.
One of Captain Hetnys' ancillaries shoots and kills Dlique, which could cause a breakdown in Radch/Presger relations. Breq and Hetnys stand in for Dlique's family and give Dlique all the funeral honors they would for any important personage, hoping to placate the Presger. Part of the funeral rites involve two weeks of mourning in which the mourners go into seclusion. A wealthy grower invites them to spend the mourning period on the grower's planet-side plantation.
While there, Breq discovers the plantation workers are virtual slaves, given starvation wages. Breq also begins to suspect that someone is selling the frozen bodies of future ancillaries to some unknown agent on the other side of the Ghost Gate. The Ghost Gate is supposed to lead to a dead system where no one lives. So who is buying these frozen bodies?

This was an OK read. Not a lot happens though. Dlique gets killed, a bomb goes off, and Breq gets in a gun battle at the end. But other than that, it is pretty tame. I would say that the book does little to further the Anaander plot line. Nor does it expand our knowledge about the implacable Presger. Nor does it say why, if the Presger are so unbeatable, they agreed to sign a treaty with the Radch.
Also, the whole using only the female gender to describe people is still quite annoying. Reading creates mind pictures but how can you picture a person if you can't tell if they are male or female?

Review by Kirkus Reviews.

Friday, July 20, 2018

PEANUTS A Golden Celebration

By Charles M. Schulz

A collection of Peanuts comic strips from the 1950s to the 1990s. Includes commentary by Schulz, a reminiscence of his life as a cartoonist. Simply fascinating and well worth a read for fans of Peanuts.

A couple of strips from the book, one from the 1970s and one from the 1980s:


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Terminal Alliance

By Jim C. Hines

Something terrible happened to humankind. People lost their higher intellectual abilities and became like wild beasts. Millions died. Only a few thousand survived, degraded and vicious. Then came the Krakau. 
The Krakau gave humankind back its humanity. Now humans serve the Krakau as soldiers and workers in gratitude for being lifted out of mindlessness and brutality.
"Mops" and her small crew of humans work as janitors on the Krakau spaceship Pufferfish. She and her people are content in their positions, happy to be lifted up and restored to self-awareness and intelligence. 
They are not the only humans on the ship. There are several hundred human members of the crew. On a routine rescue mission, something causes all the humans to revert back to their "feral" state. The Krakau officers on board all die. But Mops and her crew are safe as they were wearing hazmat suits while dealing with a messy and dangerous cleaning problem. 
As the only senior officer on board the ship who hasn't reverted to unreasoning savageness, Mops is now in charge. And with the help of her small cleaning crew, she will figure out what went wrong with the rescue mission and expose the lies behind the disaster that afflicted humankind,

This was an OK story. The revelation that the Krakau were behind humanity's downfall was pretty apparent from the very beginning of the story, so no big surprise there. There are a lot of battle scenes, which I find tremendously boring to read. Towards the end of the book, I got tired of wading through the battle scenes and just started skipping those parts.
I enjoyed the story, for the most part. I do like stories with weird aliens and this book has plenty of those! But I would like this one better if it had a lot less combat and battle descriptions.

Review by Publishers Weekly.