Sunday, August 19, 2012

Connie Willis' Doomsday Book

I just finished Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I absolutely loved it! It's one of those books that must have been hard to shelve, it definitely does some genre crossing. It was published in 1992. It won a Hugo award and a Nebula award, both given for Science Fiction novels. After reading it I can definitely see why.

This book is part historical fiction, part science fiction, and part medical mystery. Kivrin is excited to go to the year 1320. In 2054, time travel has become another way to study as an historian. Dunworthy, her mentor is not excited about her trip. He is helping her to prepare the best he can, but he would still rather she not go at all. Kivrin gets her way, and she does go. Immediately after she leaves, there are signs of trouble, on both sides of the net.

This book was so hard to put down, which is a problem when the book is 592 pages, and can't be read in a couple hours. I had a couple of very late nights. This was also one of those rare books that when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, or talking my husband's ear off about it.

I am definitely going to read more of Connie Willis' work.

I'm going to give Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, 5 Stars.

Error correction: I was misled somewhere, Connie Willis won a Nebula award in 2010 for her novel: Blackout/All Clear, not for Doomsday Book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some Like it Hawk and Ill Wind

I've been reading and knitting a lot lately. I read the newest Donna Andrews book, Some Like it Hawk, the latest in her Meg Langslow series. This series follows the adventures of amateur sleuth, control freak, and decorative blacksmith, Meg and her quirky family. I know it makes it seem like Caerphilly VA is a dangerous town to visit, or to live in. This one centers around the towns legal troubles following the takeover of all city buildings by the "evil lender," who had foreclosed on defaulted loans. The loans defaulted because the former mayor took off with the town's money. One citizen, the person in charge of the archives, has barricaded himself in the basement of the county courthouse and the lender is ready to get him out. The machinations result in a murder investigation, and a little amateur sleuthing by Meg and company to prove the hermit in the basement is innocent.

I really like this series, and this may not have been my favorite book in the series, but I did enjoy it and look forward to more of Meg's adventures!

The other book I read was Rachel Caine's Ill Wind, the first book in the Weather Warden series. I read this one as part of the Vaginal Fantasy book group that I learned about from following Felicia Day. The theme of this group for August was djinn, and this book definitely has them! Joanne, the main character is a weather warden. Basically a human with power over the elements, Jo has control over wind and water. In this universe, left to it's own devices the earth would wipe humans, and possibly all life from the face of the planet. The wardens hold fires, earthquakes and weather phenomena at bay and allow mundane humans to go about their lives. Mundane's aren't aware of the existence of the wardens, or the djinn that they keep as a kind of familiar to help augment their powers. The story in Ill Wind is told a lot through flashbacks. Jo is on the run, and as the book progresses the reader learns why she is on the run, and what she hopes to do about it.

Ill Wind was really hard for me to put down once I got about halfway through. I look forward to reading more of this series, and maybe more by Rachel Caine.

I am still working on a second sock to a pair that I've been knitting since April. But, in the meantime I took a class on fair isle knitting and finished the hat that I started. I really like fair isle!

So my ratings for the books:
Some Like it Hawk  by Donna Andrews, 3 Stars.
Ill Wind by Rachel Caine 5 Stars.

Up next in my TBR list is The Doomsday Book by Conne Willis, part of my female Sci-fi/Fantasy author list.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Carsland at California Adventure

I don't have a new book to post about yet, so instead I thought I would do a quick write up of our trip to Disneyland, and especially California Adventure's new Carsland.

We spent four days at the park. Normally I wouldn't think we would need to spend that long at Disneyland, but this time it did take us those days to get through everything we wanted to do.

Carsland is amazing! It feels like you're walking into the movie. It only opened in June 2012, so it had only been opened about a month and a half when we went. The lines for the rides were long, but that was to be expected.

We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel so we could get in an hour early to improve our chances of going on Radiator Springs Racers without a 2 hour + wait. It worked, we only waited about 90 minutes. The ride was really amazing though. It takes you through several scenes featuring characters from the movie. I think there is a split where you either go to Luigi's Tires or Ramone's paint shop. We went to Luigi's tires, it was really cute. Then you do a race with another car on the outside part of the track. It goes fast enough to feel like you're racing, but my boys, who aren't the biggest fans of roller coasters still really liked it.

I didn't ride Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, but my husband and youngest son said it was fun. Xander said it was better than the teacups, which is high praise from him.

I did ride Luigi's Flying Tires. I was probably the most excited about that ride. I have been going to Disneyland for 20 years, but my first trip was long after the Flying Saucers were removed. I have always wished I could have ridden that hover car ride. Now I was able to! Luigi's tires are each a little hover car that can seat two or three people (maybe four if three of them are small). You steer just by leaning in the direction you want to go. The more larger kids or adults you have in the car, the more difficult it is to steer effectively. They have giant beach balls out on the field with you, although I have to wonder how long they'll keep those. We had a good time throwing beach balls at each other and then trying in vain to catch another one.

One of the best and the worst things about Carsland is the lines. The length of the lines and wait times was the worst, but to be expected for a new part of the park and new rides in the middle of the summer. But, the queues themselves were some of the best parts. Luigi's Tires was probably my favorite, walking through the showroom, and then back where you can peek into Luigi's office. The Radiator Springs Racers line was also fun, you get to see the Radiator Spring that Stanley discovered and built the town around, and you walk through some old buildings that have a lot of things on the walls to look at. The lines were long, but they move pretty well. Luigi's is a little slower since they have a fixed number of cars, and then the line has to basically wait while the ride runs. Kind of like Dumbo. In fact, they apply a similar system of handing out boarding passes to the on deck group to make sure they don't have more people than vehicles.

Let's see, there were 3 shops and 3 food service places in Carsland.

The shops are Sarge's Surplus hut, Ramone's and Lizzie's curiosity shop. Sarge's has the Cars toys and other Carsland themed stuff, a lot of stuff for kids. Lizzie's has vinylmations and pins and other gifty items like mugs, keychains, and Route 66 themed shirts. Ramone's has a lot of clothing, a lot for adults. Ramone's was also the only place that I saw the Carsland soundtrack.

The food service places are Flo's V8 cafe, Cozy Cone, and Filmore's. Flo's is an order at the counter and then take your food to the table kind of place. They serve breakfast (Cars waffles!), lunch and dinner. There is some indoor and outdoor seating. They have tables out by the antique gas pumps and some nice inside seating with great views of Radiator Springs Racers. Cozy Cone has four different food offerings, I think. I know they had pop cone, ice cream cones, and some special cone sandwiches, and churros. They had the special Cozy Cone cups from the picture. Filmore's looked really cool, especially at night, and had fresh fruit and bottled drinks.

Carsland at night, is awesome. As cool as it is during the day, it's even better at night.

Oh, Mater and Lightning McQueen take turns doing photo ops at the Cozy Cone. The best part is when they switch, they actually drive down the street. Red the Firetruck also does some meet and greets. Then there's DJ, who plays music and does a little street performing, and he looks especially great at night too.

I guess the bottom line is, don't miss Carsland! I would try to go when school's in or something so the lines aren't so long, but definitely go.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Octavia Butler's Lilith's Brood Trilogy

For author Octavia Butler, I chose to read her Lilith's Brood trilogy. It is composed of three books: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. This trilogy is also known as the Xenogenesis series.

The Earth has been destroyed by nuclear war. Lilith Iyapo is awoken 250 years after this destruction. The earth is able to support life again, and the Oankali have preserved and learned about humans in preparation for this day. Some humans have been awake on the Oankali's ship, but Lilith is supposed to help prepare other humans to return to Earth.

Of course, there is a catch. The Oankali are all about trade. They didn't just preserve human life out of the goodness of their (two!) hearts. Humans will no longer be able to reproduce without being part of an Oankali family. The Oankali's technology is all organic, which makes for a large learning curve for the humans. They also believe that humans have a fatal flaw that would never allow them to live without destroying each other.

Dawn, the first book, mostly covers humans learning to accept the Oankali's existence and their expectations for humans.

Adulthood Rites covers more of the political-type implications of this new partnership between Oankali and humans. It focuses a lot on humans who, once returned to Earth refuse to live in Oankali societies, even if it means not having children.

Imago is further in the future and deals with the maturing Oankali/human society and the hybrids it produces.

I really loved these books, and I look forward to reading more of Octavia Butler's work.
Even if books with aliens are normally your thing, I would recommend these, because they're ultimately about being human.

I'm going to give Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler, 5 Stars.

Next up: Some Like it Hawk by Donna Andrews, the latest in the Meg Langslow series
Next Sci-fi/Fantasy author: Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Mists of Avalon.