Friday, January 28, 2011

Among Others, by Jo Walton--Book Review

Tom Doherty Associates, Format: NOOKBook, 220pp., ISBN 9781429991520, January 2011

This is a stunningly wonderful book.

I have never read anything that so perfectly captures the experience of being fifteen, a science fiction reader just discovering some of the greats of the field (not to mention fandom!), the new kid in school who doesn't quite fit in, the young woman just starting to reach for adulthood, and not sure where she fits in a family where no one except her imperfectly known father seems to share her interests and concerns.

Of course, Morwenna's problems are in a whole different league from my own at her age. Morwenna's twin sister was killed in a car accident that left Morwenna crippled. That accident was their witch mother's retaliation for their successful thwarting of her spell intended to make her a Dark Queen. Now Morwenna is dependent on the father she's never met.

On the one hand, Morwenna and her father Daniel bond over their love of science fiction. On the other hand, her aunts, his three sisters, decide that she belongs at Arlinghurst, the same boarding school they attended, so that's where she goes. It's a tough transition for her, a crippled girl among enthusiastic athletes, a Welsh girl amongst mostly upper middle class English girls, an enthusiastic reader amongst students who think reading is only for studying. But she's smart, and determined, and doesn't really see any better alternatives, so she finds ways to cope.

And as she struggles to find her own place, and her own friends, and her own path, she discovers that the threat from her mother is not over. Together with all the normal adolescent challenges, Morwenna also does battle with her mother's hostility and ambitions, the ethics of magic, and the desire and opportunity to be reunited with her sister.

This is a beautifully written book, lovingly and convincingly depicting both adolescent angst and the joys of discovering science fiction and the community of science fiction fandom.

Highly recommended.

I purchased this book and have received no compensation from the publisher or anyone else for reading and reviewing it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

For the Love of Dogs, by Allison Weiss Entrekin, illustrated by Mark Anderson, foreword by Victoria Stilwell--Review

Triumph Books, ISBN 9781600783715, 48pp., February 2011

This is an alphabet book, using dogs, with cute little rhymes and charming illustrations. Along with the alphabet, it includes information about dogs--popular breeds, basic care, and behavior. It's bite-sized information for kids, with more information for older readers in smaller (but not small) print below the rhyme.

It's a lovely book, to read to your kids, or to leave out on the coffee table to enjoy the art.

I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages, by Tom Holt--Book Review

Orbit Books, ISBN 9780316080026, Publication Date 2/2/2011

If you're familiar with Tom Holt, all I have to say is, Have fun! If not, I should say a bit more than that. For those who are new to Holt's work, be prepared for a wild ride.

Something odd is happening in the offices of Blue Remembered Hills Development, and Polly Mayer doesn't like it. Someone is drinking her coffee. She's getting phone calls complaining about her failure to follow up on conversations she knows didn't happen. She's finding notes in her work diary that she didn't write, and work done in her files that she didn't do. Polly is not amused--and that's before she discovers that the dry cleaners where she dropped off her dress has disappeared. Not gone out of business--vanished as if it had never been there.

Something odd is happening at BRHD. Mr. Huos has lost his brass ring. And ever since the loss of the ring, clients and customers are starting to complain. Something about the land they bought being missing. Mr. Huos is also missing his past: He has no memory before he woke up on a mountainside in eastern Europe ten years ago, with the brass ring, steel earrings, and $100,000 in US currency. Oh, and the ability to understand any spoke language instantly. And to make deals that are not far off from turning sows' ears into silk purses.

Something odd is happening outside BRHD. Don Mayer, Polly's brother, found a brass pencil sharpener in the pocket of a suit he picked up from the dry cleaners' shortly before Polly discovered that that shop not only  didn't exist anymore, it never had. Suddenly he can Make Things Happen, including the return of his sister's dress, and the disappearance of his annoying neighbor--whom he only wanted to go away, not cease existing.

Meanwhile, there are the hens who used to be lawyers, and Mr. and Mrs. Williams, the dry cleaners whose shop has been moving to new locations every couple of days for the last ten years.

And all of that is before things start getting weird.

If you're a Tom Holt fan, definitely pick up this one. If you've never heard of Tom Holt before, be adventurous and pick it up anyway! It's weird and wonderful and a lot of fun.

I received a free electronic galley of this book via NetGalley.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity by Cristina Eisenberg--Book Review

Island Press, ISBN 9781597263979, 248pp., May 2010

This is a useful and interesting overview of the state of ecosystem management science, its history, complexities, and uncertainties. Eisenberg interlaces accounts of her own research on wolves, elks, aspens, and songbirds in Colorado, Wyoming, and elsewhere, with accounts of what others are doing or have done in similar settings and in very different ones. These include the  Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch in Montana, a working ranch that operates as a demonstration of how conservation and ranching can work in harmony, making a productive ranch in a wild landscape that includes bears, wolves, cougars, elk, mule deer, and other wildlife normal absent or barely hanging on in ranching territory.

The main point here is to explain the current state and history of ecological science. Eisenberg lays out the evidence of the importance of keystone predators, such as wolves in North America and sharks in the oceans, in maintaining a healthy level of biodiversity. One example: In the absence of wolves, elk overbrowse aspen saplings, leading to a lack of aspen in the middle age ranges, leading to a lack of the songbirds for whom a healthy density of mature and near-mature aspens are the preferred habitat. Over the last couple of decades, field research has strongly reinforced the importance of these keystone predators in maintaining the diversity that we need in order to continue to live comfortably on this planet.

But the top-down effects of keystone predators aren't the whole story. Food supply, disease, climate change, and other "bottom up" effects are also important, and interact with the top-down effects of keystone predators. In some circumstances one is more important, in other circumstances the other is more important--and the same ecosystem can flip from one to the other as its major force due to disruptions such as fires, volcanic eruptions, or human habitat destruction.

At times this is a bit dry, but other parts are lively and interesting, and overall this is very useful background for understanding environmental issues that make the news and affect our daily lives.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blog-Opening Giveaway at The Reading Fever

Penelope at The Reading Fever is having a giveaway to celebrate the start of her blog. Stop by and check out what looks like a great blog for readers, and enter the giveaway.

Good luck, Penelope!

Monday, January 17, 2011

E-Bay is allowing sales of live animals in its Classifieds section

Here is what E-Bay has to say about why they allow the Live Animal Classified Ads:

Free online classified ads have made it easier for animal lovers to find their perfect pet from local households, rescue shelters, and breeders.
The fact that Craigslist and assorted other online venues doesn't make it a good idea. Online ads are a natural outlet for puppy millers, puppy brokers, and the worst sort of backyard breeders to market their wares with no safeguards for the animals themselves. They may find well-intentioned buyers who don't realize the risks of buying from these sources, or they may find careless buyers who could not pass the screening required by a responsible breeder or animal rescue group. E-Bay claims to have safeguards in place, but there's no way that they are checking out every seller, OR every buyer; they can't. Even if they wanted to, it would be completely impractical for them.

E-Bay stopped the sales of live animals through their auctions due to the objections of their users who care about animal welfare. Maybe they thought their animal-loving users wouldn't noticed the live animal sales in the classifieds sections, because those ads don't come up when you're searching the auctions for leashes, dog clothing, and toys. I don't know. But they have been found out, and they need to realize that this is not acceptable.

Help me get the point across to E-Bay to shut down the sale of live animals on their site.

Write a blog post and link up to show we have a strong voice and we will not allow it.
Write a tweet to tell E-Bay it is not ok.
Dedicate your Facebook status to pass along the message to your friends.

If you don't have a blog, here is the mailing address for E-Bay:
E-Bay, Inc.
2145 Hamilton Ave.
San Jose, CA 95125

Link up your post to show how loud we can be!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's the Snowpocalypse

Or at least my dog thinks it is:

We had about eighteen inches of snow, and Addy is not quite fourteen inches tall. And she hates being wet, and hates being cold. As soon as she had finished her business outside, she headed for the door.

Winter is not kind to small, fluffy dogs who don't like to be wet or cold. I've told her some dogs enjoy it, like my sister's dog Stella. She replied that Stella is a Lab, and Labs just don't know any better.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Vitriol might be free speech, but it's not without consequences. - Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik
     Not a book review this time.
     Yesterday, this country experienced a terrible tragedy, a mass shooting in Tucson.
     But this wasn't a random shooting, and Jared Lee Loughner may (or may not) be a lone nut, but he wasn't operating in a vacuum. We've been "treated" to three years of increasingly amped-up, over-heated, violent rhetoric, defining one party as unAmerican, unpatriotic terrorists, and using explicitly violent terms and images to describe the proper behavior towards those people.
     Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Blue Dog Democrat representing a district the Republicans expected to take back in November, was shot in the head at point-blank range. Against all reasonable expectation, she's alive, out of surgery, and reported to be doing remarkably well.
     We're all grateful for that--including the people who saw nothing wrong, and apparently still see nothing wrong, with putting out a map of "targeted" districts for the last election, with gunsights used to indicate those "targets." Despite the frantic back-peddling now, claiming that the graphic is a surveyor's sight, not a gunsight, at the time, Sarah Palin followed up the map with a tweet to her followers, urging them to "don't retreat, RELOAD!" In an interview that's chilling in hindsight, Gabrielle Giffords talked about the death threats and harassment she'd received after the gunsight map went public. Rep. Giffords' opponent in that race also held a rally and fundraiser in which the bait was that supporters would get to fire an M16, to "help take out Giffords."
     Judge John Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona, lived in the neighborhood and walked over to say hello. He was a Republican, appointed in 2006 by George H. W. Bush. Last year he ruled that a civil rights lawsuit by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher could go forward. After that ruling, he received death threats and was under high security protection by the Federal Marshals Service for a month. He was killed on Saturday.
     Christina Taylor Greene was nine years old. She was very interested in politics, and attended the Giffords event to learn more about the political process. Christina was born 9/11/2001. She was shot and killed Saturday.
     Gabriel Zimmerman was Giffords' director of community outreach. He was thirty years old. He was shot and killed Saturday.
     Dorwin Stoddard was a pastor at Mountain Ave. Church of Christ. He tried to shield his wife by laying on top of her when the shooting started. She was injured; he was killed. He was 76.
     Dorothy Morris was 76.
     Phyllis Scheck was 79.
     Thirteen other people were injured. Not all names have been released, but Ron Barber was Giffords' deputy director, and Pam Simon was a Giffords staffer. They are both expected to be all right.
     This was a great tragedy, and a terrible shock. Is it enough of a shock to quiet some of the extremist rhetoric?