A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers, Book 4)

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Dragon of a Different Color (Heartstrikers, Book 4)
Rachel Aaron, 2017

Premise: Julius finally has some pull in his clan and an alliance with the Three Sisters. Of course, that was before his favorite brother killed his favorite sister, the girl he loved apparently died, and the entire clan of Chinese dragons set forth to conquer the American clan, ostensibly to protect them all from the rage of a powerful lake spirit. Follows No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished

After I was somewhat disappointed with Book 3, I'm happy to report that I loved this installment. I think there's only one more book in the series, but this managed to raise the stakes in a way that felt organic, set up for a grand finale, and deal with all the fallout of the last book at a breakneck pace that kept me reading.

In case it's at all possible that the premise above wasn't clear enough, this would not be a good jumping-on point. The networks of character relationships are key to this one. We find out where Ghost took Marci, why magic went away from the world, what Amelia's plan is, why Chelsie was her mother's enforcer, and more.

The characters are still charming, and the world is getting more interesting. I really liked how much more exploration there was of the spirit realm and how spirits work in this one. More dragon clans is also always a good thing.

There were so many awesome or sweet moments in this that my heart got all gushy. It's great fun, and the series as a whole is strong.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Blueprint for Revolution

Monday, September 11, 2017

Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Non-Violent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World
Srdja Popovic, Matthew Miller, 2015

Premise: The principles of nonviolent resistance, illustrated by practical examples of every scale from all over the world.

I have been frustrated trying to read books about the current moment in politics. Popular politicians' hottest takes on how we should react to the darkening timeline we seem to find ourselves in leave me cold.

But this. This is the book I needed. Maybe it is the book you need as well?

It's not about dealing with today specifically. It's about changing the world. It's about overthrowing dictators, resisting oppression, fighting corporate policies, improving societies, and building social movements.

It's also incredibly friendly and readable and has Tolkien references.

The book lays out the principles that the people from the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) have seen work around the world in conflicts and issues of all sizes. Each principle is explained with examples of successful and unsuccessful applications and supported with cited research when possible.

The history alone (recent and less so) is fascinating enough to make this a great read. The examples are fascinating, and the commentary is great. Working with CANVAS, Popovic has acted as an advisor or consultant to many recent movements, and his perspective is really down-to-earth and practical.

The book is funny and encouraging and inspirational, and I really do encourage everyone to check it out.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

The Girl with All the Gifts

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts
M. R. Carey, 2014

Premise: Melanie goes to class with a group of other kids. She likes their teachers, one in particular. She learns a lot in class, but she doesn't learn why she and her classmates live in cells on the base, or why no one is allowed to touch them, or why they only eat once a week...

This book suffered a little for me from expectations that were one hundred percent not the book's fault. I had heard a lot of hype about this book, but on reflection, I only knew two things about it - it's about a little girl who is a zombie, but she doesn't know it, and it was really popular.

I extrapolated from there that it would be a psychological book, full of unreliable narration, twists, and theories. I thought it would be entirely or mostly from her perspective, that the adults around the character might not know what was going on, that there would be a slow-burn reveal, and maybe she was the beginning of an outbreak.

It's not that book. Instead, it's a perfectly fine thriller with a decent theme.

It takes place some time after a zombie outbreak, and although the children in the compound are a mystery of sorts, everyone but the kids themselves knows that they are zombies. You read plenty of the perspective of the teacher, the scientist, the military leader and his men.

I liked it well enough, it was well written and clipped along at a good pace. The mythological parallel is a little forced at times, but works overall. However, by the time I got to the end, I thought that it might be a better movie than it was a book. The emphasis on action set pieces and occasional awkward expository dialogue meant that it felt like a movie pitch first and a novel second.

And it turned out that not only is it a movie, but the screenplay was being written concurrently with the novel! (I haven't tracked the movie down.) So, I guess, that's good.

3 Stars - A Good Book