Monday, November 28, 2016

Kaitlyn Dunnett, 2014

Christmas crossposting!

(Note: Many of the Christmas books I am reading this year have one notable thing in common -- they were all cheap or free on Kindle some time in the last few years. No other qualifications.)

Premise: When Liss’ old friend Gina blows into town with a request concerning an inherited Christmas tree farm, Liss thinks it’s a good opportunity for a casual vacation. It’s been years since she stumbled into a murder investigation, after all.

This is a perfectly serviceable mystery novel. The characters are fine, the writing is good, the plot is interesting even though the villains are too obvious.

The best part is the fact that it is set on a Christmas tree farm.

It actually takes place in late November, and Liss and her husband are tasked with figuring out whether Gina can turn a profit that year, and eventually with figuring out what happened to the previous owner and an unknown man killed on the property years ago. Some of the minutia of growing and selling trees is addressed. I enjoyed the minor character Andy, a young woman who used to work there as a teenager, who has been caring for the farm while no one lived there.

Everything else is just another cozy mystery - people who dislike the main character are villains, quirky small town characters are mostly who they appear to be, and the main characters all espouse the modern middle-class values of the author.

Liss’ husband even is modeled after the author’s husband, to the point of building the same kind of custom jigsaw puzzle tables. From the book, I thought these were inlaid with puzzle patterns, but they are actually tables specifically for doing puzzles on. Okay, I guess there’s a market for almost everything.

It’s an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, but not much more.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga)

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga)
Lois McMaster Bujold, 1990

Hugo Winner - 1991

Premise: Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Imperial Service Academy and gets his first assignment: Weather Officer at a remote, unhappy base. Later, foiling plots and surviving the complex intrigue of interplanetary warfare should be easy.

In the internal chronology of the series, this book follows The Warrior’s Apprentice (and the Hugo-winning novella The Mountains of Mourning). However, it was written after several additional novellas and a novel which take place later.

This isn’t one that I re-read as frequently as some others in this series, but reading it again now, perhaps I should revise that habit. The story mainly concerns a series of adventures and misadventures in the Hegen Hub, a crossroads in space held between four planetary powers, each jockeying for position, spying on each other, and nervous about increased tensions.

The beginning isn’t the strongest part. Miles is shipped off to his ill-fated meteorological assignment, and while it’s a great little interlude, important in the formation of Miles’ character and his career, it’s sort of stressful to re-read. The second half is more fast-paced and frankly more fun.

But the heart of this book is motivation, service, and what you fight for. The various characters, heroes and villains, are pulled in many directions by personal, professional, and moral convictions. Miles is trying to find a way to serve his planet, despite a predilection for insubordination and a mania for control. General Metzov from the arctic base says a lot about honor and service, but his moral compass is a bit… askew. Cavilo fights only for herself; Tung wants his command back but has firm moral codes; Oser’s morality tends toward pragmatism. Elena and Baz are struggling with their duties to the mercenary fleet and their duties to themselves and each other.

I think this is one of the first times, but not the last, that it is stated in this series - the idea that to be Vor (of the military aristocracy of Barrayar) is to serve. The Vor Game pokes at all the nuances of that service, from Miles’ nascent career to Emperor Gregor’s dissatisfaction with his own role.

That’s on top of memorable characters, action, escapes, emotional turmoil, and grand schemes. Bujold packs a lot into a book.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I have two reviews in queue, but I don't feel right posting anything yet.

I'll just leave some old links here, shall I?

The Handmaid's Tale

Bitch Planet: Extraordinary Machine (Volume One)

The Feminine Mystique