"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

30 June 2010

Hidden Empire

Card, Orson Scott. Hidden Empire. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2009.

This sequel to Card's Empire is simply excellent. Colonel Coleman is still working with the remnants of Reuben Malich's jeesh, and they are training on a new exoskeleton that the military is using. The exoskeleton, nicknamed "bones" by the group, magnifies the user's movements so he can literally leap buildings in a single bound or run tirelessly for miles and miles at top speeds.
Meanwhile, a small boy in Nigeria is helping his family catch monkeys. One of the monkeys spits on him, and soon he and his entire village become ill with what is called the sneezing sickness. This plague begins to spread through Africa, killing 30-50% of its victims and leaving the others too weak to move.
The president of the United States places a quarantine on the continent of Africa and dispenses Coleman's jeesh to help keep order there. Soon, Malich's eldest son Mark thinks it's his duty to go to Africa and help the sick and dying people.
The United States is still recovering from its second civil war, and everyone is grateful that a good man is in the White House. But Coleman and his jeesh have their doubts. Is it possible that the president of the United States could plan for a plague just so he could redraw the map of Africa?
This book is well worth reading. I finished it in two days, and would have finished sooner if I didn't have to take time out for sleeping. If you haven't read Empire, read that one first, and then this one. You'll thank me later.

24 June 2010

Look Again

Scottoline, Lisa. Look Again. New York: St. Martin's, 2009.

Ellen, a newspaper reporter, fell in love with a baby boy she saw at the hospital while she was working on a story. Will's mother did not want him, and Ellen was able to adopt him and pay for his medical bills.

Now, two years later, Ellen looks at the flyer she receives in the mail and sees a missing child who looks disturbingly like Will. Her lawyer assures her that her adoption is perfectly legal and that she is not obligated to locate Will's birth parents, but she can't let it rest. Ellen begins a search for Will's biological parents, a search that crosses state lines and becomes more complicated and twisted as the pages turn. Was Will the victim of a kidnapping? Does he need to be returned to his biological parents? Or is all of this just a strange coincidence?

I loved this book, as evidenced by the fact that I finished it less than a day after I started it. It is a page turner, the characters are believable, and the ending is satisfying. It is well worth reading.

23 June 2010

Lead Like Ike

Loftus, Geoff. Lead Like Ike: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

This book was definitely an interesting read, even though it is out of my normal range of genres. Lead Like Ike takes the history of D-Day, specifically the history of Eisenhower's actions leading up to and following D-Day, and examines them as if D-Day were a corporation and Eisenhower the CEO. Eisenhower used many strategies throughout the war which are useful for CEOs and managers of corporations today.

The ten lessons in the book are fairly simple: determine your mission, plan for success, stay focused, prioritize, plan to implement, communicate, motivate your people, manage your people, avoid project creep, and be honest. The lessons are each explained and described using Eisenhower's actions in D-Day as well as more modern examples from corporations such as General Motors and AOL.

I enjoyed learning more details about D-Day, and it was interesting to see the way in which the author tied the information to lessons to use in business. I appreciated the take-away points listed at the end of each chapter, as well as the sidebars in each chapter with examples from modern corporations. The writing is clear and easy to read. It was easy to get bogged down in the details of the war itself instead of focusing on the lesson to be learned, but I enjoyed learning more about the war and Eisenhower's role in it.

I would recommend this book for people in management positions - the information is invaluable. I would not necessarily recommend that history buffs read this book for information, as the focus is more on the business side than the historical facts, but it is, nonetheless, a good read and worth the time spent on it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.

15 June 2010

Ender in Exile

Card, Orson Scott. Ender in Exile. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. 2008.

Ah, another Ender book. I was introduced to the Ender series when I was in high school, and I quickly gobbled up every book in the series as it was introduced. I was sad when the final Shadow book was published; was this the end of Ender?

I am glad to see that Card has written another book in the Ender saga, and one that explains a section of Ender's life that we have not yet seen. It may be difficult to write a prequel; it must be even harder to write a between-quel. This story takes place after the end of Ender's Game, after the end of the Shadow series about Bean, but before the original Ender trilogy of Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. Ender has defeated the Formics and is not returning to Earth, but rather is being sent to govern a colony on a planet formerly inhabited by the Formics.

I have been savoring this book. It's almost a sad thing to finish such a well-written story. I turn the last page and think, is that it? Surely there's another one. I especially enjoyed the treatment of Ender's parents in this book. After reading Ender's Game, it's easy to assume that the children in the story - specifically Ender and his sister and brother - are far more intelligent than their clueless parents. This book was a good reminder that Ender and his siblings received their intelligence from their parents, and their parents are far from clueless. In fact, Ender's parents are just as intelligent and conniving as their children, and they are able to shape their actions to save Ender from certain destruction on Earth.

If you have read the Ender books, I highly recommend this one. If you haven't read them, start with Ender's Game. You'll thank me later.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls

Hockensmith, Steve. Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2010.

This book is a prequel to Quirk's remade classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and recommended it to the students in my class who read Austen's original. I like the idea of taking classic works and adding a humorous or entertaining element, and I can definitely see how these works appeal to students (and adults).

I was not as impressed with Dreadfuls, however. I think the biggest problem stems from not having a classic work to base this novel on. Aside from the inherent difficulties in creating a prequel - and thus answering any questions brought up from the original novel - the style and language in this work just was not on par with Zombies. It was an entertaining read, and I could see my students enjoying it, but I was not impressed. Sadly, I was glad when this novel was over, and I hope that, unlike the zombies themselves, no one chooses to resurrect this series.

You Can Write Children's Books

Dils, Tracey E. You Can Write Children's Books. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2009.

As I am currently working on a young adult novel, I found this book to be very helpful and insightful. If you have ever considered writing a children's book - from a picture book for young children to a novel for teenagers - I recommend this book. The book contains tips for writing to each age group as well as advice for getting your work published.

Roadside Crosses

Deaver, Jeffery. Roadside Crosses. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc. 2009.

Roadside crosses begin appearing, not as memorials for someone who has died, but rather as a sort of pre-memorial for someone who will die, and it is up to the detectives to discover who is responsible. The detectives must enter the world of the internet, blogs, and cyberbullying to find the answer, and the solution is not one you would expect.

I found this book especially interesting in light of the current cyberbullying trend. The story was interesting and had a surprising and satisfying ending.

Nine Dragons

Connelly, Michael. Nine Dragons. New York: Hatchett Book Group, 2009.

I have truly enjoyed reading Connelly's stories of the detective Harry Bosch. I wasn't able to complete the series in Guam, as the one bookstore did not usually carry all of the older titles, but this most recent addition to the story is a good one. Bosch is trying to solve the mystery of the murder of a store owner when his daughter is kidnapped in Hong Kong. Now Bosch must try to solve two mysteries on opposite ends of the earth ... before it's too late.

If you enjoy crime fiction, this is a good story and well worth the read.