Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Manifold Trilogy/Stephen Baxter/ 3 Novels 1,361 pages total (Science Fiction)

   Stephen Baxter’s Manifold trilogy takes place from our present day (2010) Earth until five billion years into the future (yes, that’s 5 + nine zeros!). A book trilogy of one of his “Future History” series. This space opera deals basically with the question of the Fermi paradox*: why, with so many planets in the universe, have we not seen signs of extraterrestrial life yet? Each of these books in his “multiverse” answer that query in an alternative fashion. One constant is the main protagonist Reid Malenfant, who happens to be a crusty and antagonistic NASA astronaut who does everything his way. Because these novels are set in manifold timelines, they do not necessarily have to be read in any particular order. One interesting facet I found was that in two of the novels, Earth has basically lost pretty much all interest in space travel, so Reid is forced to improvise using old space programme parts and retired NASA folks to achieve his goals.
                This threesome is of the genre ‘hard sci-fi’; one can expect to encounter abundant scientific jargon which becomes a bit perplexing (and informative) at times. The majority of science being grounded in present day science,  I understood enough to appreciate the visionary speculation of these books. Stephen Baxter writes in the style of Larry Niven and Arthur C. Clark.

TimeManifold Time   pub. 1999, 456 pages. (Arthur C. Clark Award nominee 2000)

Here, Baxter takes the stance that there is no other intelligent life in the universe. Reid Malenfant realizes that mankind will burn itself out in around 200 years**. His college, Cornelius Taine, convinces Reid that the future is sending clues to the present on how to avoid our certain demise. To this end, Reid decides to send an intelligence enhanced squid (Sheena) to investigate a mysterious asteroid. Sounds ludicrous, but Baxter’s reasoning makes it seem even more practical than sending humans on long range space flight.

SpaceManifold Space   pub. 2000 464 pages.

This scenario proposes that life is abundant in the Universe, we’ve just not seen it for ominous reasons.
A mysterious, self-replicating life form called Gaijin (Japanese for “foreigner”) is discovered mining our solar system. What transpires is what happens to the Human Race when it is confronted by an advanced civilization. What is fascinating here is the saga of Reid Malenfant’s evolution as he travels the cosmos using “lightspeed-restricted teleport gates” ˣ. Soon others follow whilst Mankind attempts to ascend the ‘Kardashev scale’ ˣˣ and conquer the galaxy.

OriginManifold Origin   pub. 2001   441 pages.

The third novel involves a multiverse that combines the assertions of the first two: that both are correct. Reid Malenfant finds himself on a journey to rescue his wife who has been teleported to a red planet that has replaced our moon, which happens to be filled with humanoids from different evolutionary scales.

There is an additional book of short stories that involve this multiverse called Phase Space 2003

*   (seehttps://en.
** (see “Carter catastrophe” https://en.
ˣˣ   Method of measuring a civilization’s level of technological advancement

The Seekers/Heather Graham/284 pages (Paranormal Romance)

The Seekers (Krewe of Hunters Book 28)
     Kerri Wolfe is a historical researcher that specializes in historical cold cases.  She has been asked to join a group of "ghost hunters" that is investigating a newly purchased historical inn in Philadelphia.  No sooner does the entire crew set up and an FBI agent is discovered murdered in the basement.  Kerri is one of the first on the scene and sees a woman in white that quickly disappears.  Joe Dunhill (new to the FBI) has been assigned to the case along with others on his team that are particularly well suited for the investigation because they also have been know to see and communicate with the dead.  The story revolves around the current day investigation but it seems you can't solve this murder without solving the old murder associated with the inn.
     This is an exceptional paranormal suspense story with a light romance.  You will enjoy getting to know all of the characters and watching them interact with each other.  For my taste, there was a little too much history mixed in with the story but others who have read it claim the history is needed to put the story in context.
     Heather Graham has written a total of 58 books in this "Krewe of Hunters" series; if you enjoy this book there are lots more like it in the series!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Touched by Magic: Dragon Series, Part 2 Smoke and Magic / Ashley Meira / 316 pages

Second book in the Touched By Magic: Dragon series.  Sophia is used to always hiding her magic but now she is practicing her abilities with Adam Pierce, the most dangerous person she could be involved with because of his family’s Council connections.  He doesn’t know that Sophia is a Fireborn and if he or anyone else found out Sophia would be executed. Adam has been training her to control her magic but now the monster who took her as a child is back and hiding who she is, is the least of her problems.  Two women connected to people who are important to Sophia are murdered and figuring out the murders and learning more about her and her sister’s past are more important than keeping everyone she cares about at a distance. Narrated by Beth Nicholls 8h 47m.

Touched by Magic: Dragon Series, Part 1 Hidden Magic / Ashley Meira / 316 pages

Sophia Sinclair wakes up hanging by her bound wrists and the first thing she notices, beside the prison cell she’s in, is the dark magic she can sense all around her and the brand on her leg. The next is that she has no memories of why she is here, how she got here and worst of all who she is besides her name.  As she escapes with one of the other prisoners who has the same brand, a fairy named Fiona (now her sister in all but blood) that has the same memory problems, they learn that Sophia is a Fireborn someone with the ability to steal others’ magic and use it for themselves. Fireborn are supposed to be power hungry abominations, they are supposed to be addicted to the euphoria and strength gained when other magical beings directed their magic at them, only to have it absorbed with no damage to the Fireborn and the Council of Magic and their Council Inquisitors hunt her kind.  She knows that she isn’t a monster like the Council of Magic would have people believe. Eight years later Sophia and Fiona are living in the magical city of Santa Fae now employees of the Mercenary Guild, they usually move around to keep from notice because of Sophia’s status as a Fireborn but they've become attached to the people and the place. Then Sophia’s boss gives her a job from the most powerfully equipped family representative from the Council, Adam Pierce, to recover a missing magical artifact and Pierce is determined to stick to her like glue as she works. Sophia has to keep him from finding out what she is when he can already sense what almost all other mages can’t, her magic. Narrated by Beth Nicholls 8h 25m.

The Hex Files: Wicked Never Sleeps / Gina LaManna / 292 pages

First Book in the Mysteries from the Sixth Borough Series. Dani Demarco used to be a detective in the paranormal sixth borough of New York City but now she’s retired and runs her family’s pizza parlor.  But on the night of the grand opening her detective brother and her ex-boyfriend the lethal vampire in charge of the NYPD's supernatural branch, Captain Matthew King come knocking on her door asking for her help on a double homicide case when the person she helped train as her replacement goes missing. I felt like I was missing information when reading this it reads more like a second book than the first book of a series.  I learned that you get a glimpse into the six borough in another of her series called Magic and Mixology book 4. I suggest reading that series or at least the fourth book of that series before reading this one. Narrated by Allyson Ryan 9h 12m.

The One / John Marrs / 412 pgs / Missouri Book Challenge Wildcard / Double Letter

I am so impressed by this book. It was a thrilling ride and each chapter left you hanging and waiting until the story came back to that character. The book is set up so each chapter is from the POV of a different character. The characters are Mandy, Christopher, Jade, Nick, and Ellie, and they have all been matched on a website called Match Your DNA, which purports to find your one, true love based on you and your match's DNA. In each story, you learn about the character and who he/she has been matched with, and how that works. 

There are lots of twists and turns. One character is a serial killer. One is the person who discovered the DNA and is now the CEO of the company. One moves to another country to be with her match. One is a divorcee. And one is engaged to be married. I highly recommend if you like a little speculative fiction in your big thriller/suspense books.

Legacy of Flames Series, Book 1 Alight / Emma L. Adams / 326 pages

Ember and her sister are two of the last are dragon shifters living in London.  Two years ago the supernatural world kept to the shadows, afraid that normal people would discover them or worse that hunters would find them but then the faeries attacked the mortal realm and the supernaturals were all dragged into the open.  And while being supernatural isn’t a crime due to help they gave to stop the faeries from taking over, they are still hunted down by the supernatural-hunting Orion League. Ember and her band of rogue shifters take odd jobs hunting down criminal faeries while trying to keep a low profile.  But then her sister is taken by the Orion League and Ember is willing to do anything to get her back. Narrated by Henrietta Meire 6h 42m.

A Gentleman in Moscow / Amor Towles / 496 pgs

This is one of those books that I wouldn't have picked up if it wasn't my book club's selection for September. That said, I ended up really liking it. The book is a fictional account of an aristocrat in his late 20s who is imprisoned during the Bolshevik Revolution in a swanky hotel in Moscow. He stays there for over three decades and sees a lot of the changes in Soviet Russia from his hotel room.

That sounds a bit boring, doesn't it? However, the story of Count Rostov ended up being far more interesting that I would have thought. Throughout the book, he forms friendships with all sorts, young and old, learns a lot about himself and others, and ends up finding a way towards having a fulfilling life while unable to ever leave the confines of the hotel. The ending of the book really made reading the whole thing worthwhile, so please stick with it even if you think it's not your cup of tea.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Institute / Stephen King / 557 pages

This is Stephen King's latest novel.  His story telling has evolved over the years.  I have read all his novels except for the Dark Tower series.  Although King's books are still suspenseful, they are no longer "scary".  This book centers around an organization that kidnaps children with telepathy or telekinesis abilities and uses the children to kill people around the world that threaten the beliefs and values of those in power.  This is definitely a good versus evil story.  It did get more exciting in the last half.

Wunderland / Jennifer Cody Epstein / 367 pages

This is a story of three women, Renate Baur, Ilse von Fisher, and Ilse's daughter Ava.  The story is told from Germany in the 1930s and 1940s to the United States in the 1970s to 1989.  Ilse and Renate are close childhood friends growing up in Germany in the 1930s when thew Nazis were coming into power.  Their friendship is split when it is revealed that Renate's father is Jewish.  The girls grow apart as their lives take different paths.  The reader follows Ilse as she becomes part of the Nazi youth movement and Renate as she and her family are forced to change how they live with the continuous rules for the Jews from the Nazi party.  Ilse and Renate continue to cross paths and there are consequences to each of their lives.  Renate is the only member of her family able to get out of Germany when her uncle in the United States sponsors her to immigrate.  Fast forward to the end of the war and Ilse is picking up her daughter, Ava, from a German orphanage.  The story is told from the perspective of each of the women jumping around in the different time periods.  The lives of these three women are intertwined to the very end of the story.  For me it was a fascinating book that told a World War II story from different perspectives.

What I HATE from A to Z/Roz Chast/57 pages

What I Hate: From A to Z
     I'll admit it--it was the cover of this book that drew my attention!
     Starting with Alien Abduction, Balloons and Carnivals the author makes a good case  for each of her selections.  Most people would not like Quicksand, Rabies or Spontaneous Combustion.  Straight through to X-rays, Yellow and Zero each page has a winning argument as to why everyone should hate these things and is illustrated with the author's signature style often seen in the New Yorker magazine.  This type of book is a good conversation starter if you leave it out on your coffee table when you are having guests.

Friday, September 13, 2019

After Dark/Jayne Castle/317 pages (Paranormal Romance)

After Dark (Ghost Hunters, Book 1) (Harmony)
     Lydia Smith lives in a futuristic world called Harmony where there are ancient ruins and underground tunnels, illusion traps and ghost hunters.  She was working for the university until she had a bad experience in the tunnels and escaped with no memory of what happened to her for a couple of days.  Now no one wants to hire her, she is about to be evicted from her apartment, and one of her few friends turns up dead!  Enter Emmett London--ex Guild boss, ex-ghost hunter--and offers Lydia a contract to help him find a lost family artifact.
     Things get complicated fast but Lydia is determined to prove that she is not "delicate" because of her tunnel blackout.  It turns out Lydia and Emmett make a good team.  Romantic and paranormal sparks are both flying as things get more dangerous and its hard to know if there is anyone they can trust.
     Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) does a great job of creating a believable world.  It is a good story with great characters (loved the dust bunny!) and good escapism reading.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Lazy Girl's Guide to Magic, Book 1: Slouch Witch / Helen Harper / 343 pages

Ivy Wilde is a lazy witch and proud of it.  Ever since being expelled from the Order when she was framed for stealing another witches work and then attacking them (can you blame her? it was her work that was stolen by her boyfriend at the time) she has been content do the bare minimum at work as a taxi driver always home in time to laze on her couch and eat junk food as she watches her favorite TV show.  But when her neighbor Eve, who is a hard working Order member has to go away for work, she asks Ivy to feed her familiar and Ivy accidentally gets mistaken for her and now she is magically bound to Raphael Winter who was supposed to be Eve’s new mentor. Now her lazy days seem to be coming to an end because of the bond they have to be within 5 miles of each other and she has to work in tandem with him. Narrated by Tanya Eby, 8h 9m.

Bridal Jitters / Jayne Castle / 115 pages

Para Archaeologist Virginia Burch, gets an amazing offer from Sam Gage, a ghost hunter and he owns some amazing real estate in the Old Quarter of Cadence, above the Dead City. He offers her his home to live and start up her business in. And then he offers her a proposal-to become his wife. For professional reasons only, of course. Their marriage of convenience would lead to the merging of their two businesses into the very lucrative business partnership, Gage & Burch Consulting. Except they’re both in love with each other, want more in their relationship than business, but don’t think that the other does.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wonder/ RJ Palacio/ 315 pgs

Somehow I missed reading this one with my kids when it came out a few years ago. Needing a feel-good story, I decided to give it a try. August Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity. In fact he apparently suffers from a number of different issues, all of which lead his doctors to call him a "medical wonder." While physically he looks very different from other kids his age--fifth grade--he's actually just a normal, ordinary smart boy on the inside. After years of homeschooling, his parents decide it's time he goes to school. This is the story of August's first year. It's challenging, sad, and angering but also wonderful and uplifting. I liked that the story was told from a number of different points of view. Auggie gets the most time and he's a delightful narrator. But it's nice to see things from the point of view of his best friend, his sister (very emotional), and others.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Winter Wayne Series, Book 3: Bone Magic / D.N. Hoxa / 303 pages

Third in the Winter Wayne installment.  Winter thought she would never see Julian Walker again after she helped him open a portal to get back home to the fairy world and she thought that people were finally able to look past her fairy features and begin to trust her after killing the Hedge witches that were wreaking havoc for decades among the covens, but she was wrong and she finds Julian half dead on her doorstep.  Julian needs Winters help, there’s a fairy who has destroyed the fairy realm and the fairy courts and his next target is Earth. Julian and Winter must now open a portal back to the fairy world and kill the fairy there before he comes to Earth and destroys it too. Narrated by Elise Arsenault, 9h 43m.

Winter Wayne Series, Book 2: Bone Coven / D.N. Hoxa / 276 pages

Second book in the Winter Wayne series.  Winter opens her own detective agency and has a difficult time coming to terms with being half witch and half fairy when no one in the supernatural community wants to do business with a fairy. But the Green coven is being attacked, children from its’ members are going missing, and the coven is on the brink of collapse. One of the leaders hires Winter to find the missing children and prevent his own daughter from becoming the next victim.  But Winter can’t help but think it's strange that the same thing happened to the bone coven a decade ago, which caused it's collapse, this couldn't be a coincidence. Narrated by Elise Arsenault 8h 55m.

Winter Wayne Series Book 1: Bone Witch / D.N. Hoxa / 258 pages

Winter Wayne is a bone witch with no magic and used to work for a fix-it company that does everything from bounties, deliveries, finding lost items, etc no job is too small, until a job gone wrong causes her boss to fire her.  With no prospects she takes a delivery job that was supposed to be easy and clean. Now there’s a bounty on her head and her old coworkers and other supernaturals are hunting her down and her fighting skills alone won’t get her through this alive. She needs to dig up her mother’s bones and complete the ritual...that she promised her mother she would never do but she prepared her for if worse would ever happen and she would need to, that would ignite her magic. Narrated by Elise Arsenault, 8h 39m.

Rainy Day Friends / Jill Shalvis / 384 p.

Rainy Day Friends (Wildstone, #2) This is the second book in the Wildstone series, however, it can easily be read as a stand alone. Lainie Jacobs is newly widowed and floundering. After her husband (Luke) died Lanie discovered he had other wives.  She decides to leave home and try something new to get her life back on track.  Her arrival at the Capriotti Wildstone Winery is not quite what she bargained for - a loud, nosy, loving Capriotti family brings her on as their web/tech designer for their winery. After feeling so betrayed by the man she thought she knew and loved, the Capriotti family shows each other and Lanie the humor, love, trust and loyalty that Lanie so desperately needs, but can't bring herself to believe. Lanie's journey to healing is the story. Mama Cora Capriotti is full of guiding wisdom, kindness and patience along the way.  An enjoyable story of family love like we hope it would be for all of us.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Statewide Bonus Points

The organizers of the Missouri Book Challenge announced the yearlong bonus point categories today:
1. Authors whose last names have a double letter. For examples Mooney or Lloyd. Same letter, 2 in a row.
2. Titles that include a "?" or "!".
If you enter a book that includes one of these, you can use the label double leter or punctuation on your post.

Keep reading!