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Hoard of the Dragon Queen (D&D Adventure)
Wizards RPG Team
The Power of Everyday Missionaries
Clayton M. Christensen
Art of Thank You
Connie Leas
Lectures on Faith
Joseph Fielding Smith
The Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1
Jack Kirby, Stan Lee
John Adams
David McCullough
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
Neil Gaiman
The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
Barry Schwartz

More Than Honor

More Than Honor - David Weber, David Drake, S.M. Stirling As is often the case with collections of short fiction, I enjoyed some parts of this book better than others.

A Beautiful Friendship (David Weber)
I really liked this story, which chronicles the first meeting between humans and treecats. David Weber later expanded this story into a YA novel with the same title, and as soon as I finished reading this version I went onto the Baen website to purchase and download the novel so I could read it too. I liked seeing more of the treecats as full-fledged characters.

A Grand Tour (David Drake)
This was my least favourite portion of the anthology. It wasn't badly written, but it seemed only tangentially connected to the rest of the Honor Harrington universe. It really seemed like it could have easily been dropped into another science fiction universe simply by changing the names of a few places and groups of people.

A Whiff of Grapeshot (S.M. Stirling)
This short story fills in background for an event that was mentioned more or less in passing in the book In Enemy Hands. I liked this one a lot, and the events it covered really work best in short story format rather than as part of a novel as a whole.

The Universe of Honor Harrington (David Weber)
And this one read like a history book. Which, to be fair, is more or less what it is, so it fulfils its purpose in that regard. I enjoyed it for the background information it provides, but it isn't really a story. It was a slow read, and probably not strictly necessary, but for people who will read through all the appendix information and footnotes in various books because they find them fascinating this is an excellent addition. I do like how well everything hangs together.

Out of the collection as a whole, my favourite part was definitely A Beautiful Friendship.

Fifties Chix: Travel to Tomorrow (Book 1)

Fifties Chix: Travel to Tomorrow (Book 1) - Angela Sage Larsen Travel to Tomorrow is the first book in the Fifties Chix series, and it is a time-travel (or at least dimension-hopping/alternate reality) themed story. This was definitely a book devoted heavily to setting up the premise and introducing the characters, but that is fairly typical for first books in series like this. A lot of questions were raised, but very few of them were actually answered.

A glossary of terms and people is included at the back of the book, which was helpful, but the tone of the entries often felt like the author was trying too hard to use modern slang to define the 50s slang, and the result was less than successful, at least from my perspective. Of course, I am also not precisely in the target audience for the book, so it is entirely possible that I am out of touch. I'll have to show it to my sister and see what she thinks.

Girl Genius Omnibus Volume One: Agatha Awakens

Girl Genius Omnibus Volume One: Agatha Awakens - 'Phil Foglio',  'Kaja Foglio' Girl Genius is one of my favourite comic series, and this omnibus release of the first three volumes is absolutely gorgeous. It's a bit smaller (dimensions-wise) than the individual volumes released by Studio Foglio, but I prefer the hardcover format overall. It is sturdier, and you can open it fully without breaking the spine.

I really hope Tor continues releasing the series in these omnibus editions. I will cheerfully go out and buy them all.

Friends with Boys

Friends with Boys - Faith Erin Hicks I discovered Friends With Boys online one day, shortly after Faith Erin Hicks started posting the pages to her website in webcomic form as a promotion for the upcoming print release. It quickly became one of my favourite comics, and I made sure to pre-order the print copy, knowing I wanted to have it in my personal library (particularly since after the end of February 2012 only the first sixteen pages of the book will be available for viewing online).

The print version is lovely. It is more or less trade paper size, so it sits very nicely in hand, and I love the cover flap detailing that creates the sense of it having a dust jacket. My only real complaint is a minor one: as with many, many other graphic novels, Friends With Boys has a few points where the edges of some of the panels get a bit lost in the spine of the book. It comes with the nature of the print medium, and there really is not any way to "fix" it and maintain the integrity of the art.

Bottom line: If you enjoy fun characters and slice-of-life type stories (with or without supernatural twists) definitely check this comic out.

Eight Cousins

Eight Cousins - Louisa May Alcott This is only the second Louisa May Alcott book I've read, but I enjoyed it quite a bit more than Little Women. I definitely want to read the sequel.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures - Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino Overall I enjoyed this collection of short comics following around the cast and characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, the broad range of art styles made for a somewhat disconnected feel. I most enjoyed the stories where the art closely mimicked the original animation, or where the art was a bit more realistic. Thankfully, those entries made up most of the volume.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part 1

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part 1 - Gene Luen Yang, Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru I am pretty much always up for more Avatar, so getting this graphic novel was a welcome treat. This serves as a bridge (or the start of one, at any rate) between the first series and the upcoming Legend of Korra series.

My only real complaint is the length of the book, or lack thereof. The second volume doesn't come out until May, which is a frustrating wait.

The Non-Designer's Design Book

The Non-Designer's Design Book - Robin P. Williams This is an excellent reference work for those who want or need to design something, but who do not have the luxury of going to design school. The information is presented clearly and concisely, and there are many examples of the principles being discussed found throughout the book.

I first got this book for one of my college editing courses, and I still reference it regularly. It's helped to give me more tools to use in explaining why something does or doesn't work from a design standpoint.

Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle - Jessica Day George Tuesdays at the Castle struck just the right note with me as I was reading it. Celie is an intelligent, spunky, delightful eleven-year-old, and is a delight to follow around. The writing is smart and crisp, and the pacing is excellent.

The Dreamer Volume 2

The Dreamer Volume 2 - Lora Innes The Dreamer is one of my favourite webcomics and one of my favourite works of historical fiction. It has really sparked my interest in the history of the Revolutionary War, and Lora Innes really brings the individual people to life. I was so glad when IDW released this second volume because, as much as I love being able to read the story online, everything about the story is better in print format. This volume picks up right where the first one left off, and Bea is struggling to balance herself across two worlds: her present-day life and her life in 1776, accessed through her dreams.

I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next volume, though I have a feeling it will probably be awhile before it comes out.

Little Women (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Little Women (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) - Louisa May Alcott This is another one of those "childhood classics" that I managed to miss reading when I was actually a child. I'm still trying to decide whether or not this is a good thing. I think that, had I tried reading it as a child, I would have been just a bit bored by the story overall. But as an adult reader, I find I am probably less forgiving of things I perceive as flaws in the writing.

Coming to it as an adult reader, I can see why it is viewed as a classic, and I enjoyed reading it, but I also don't think it would really be publishable today. The pacing is somewhat uneven--it seemed that just when things would start to pick up a good pace we would be treated to another "now gentle reader" moment, highlighting the moral lessons we should be learning from the story, and also bringing the forward momentum of the story to a halt.

I had problems with Beth as a character, mostly because I don't feel she really was a character. Of the main characters, she is the only one whose viewpoint we don't really see. We are told she is sweet and perfect and wonderful and beloved, but the only real evidence we have of these things is circumstantial at best: Beth is wonderful because we are told she is wonderful. Consequently, the major plot points that hinge on Beth all struck me as a little bit fake, which was rather unfortunate.

I liked John and Laurie and Professor Bhaer, and I enjoyed the romances that came with them (though again, it seemed like we got an awful lot of preaching and moralising whenever something interesting was about to happen).

I'm glad I read it, and I may very well read it again at some point, but probably not for several years.

Some edition-specific notes:

The Barnes & Noble Classics ebook edition is, for the most part, quite good. It comes with quite a bit of supplementary material in the form of a biography of the author; historical background of both when the book was written and the time period in which it was set; and approximately twenty pages of endnotes and footnotes, all hyper-linked within the book itself.

I would have preferred to see the information about the author and her history placed at the end of the text rather than the beginning. Ditto with the introduction, which, like most such introductions, assumes the reader is already familiar with the text.

The proofreading of the ebook text is...spotty. As far as I can tell it was typeset by scanning an existing print copy of the book, using OCR technology to render the text. On the whole, this works perfectly well, but there are a number of places where words are split oddly (e.g. "beg inning" instead of "beginning"), or specific letters were not translated correctly, leading to spelling errors (e.g. "tor" instead of "for").

Hatter M: Volume 1 - Far From Wonder

Hatter M: Volume 1 - Far From Wonder - Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier, Ben Templesmith, Sami Makkonen An interesting companion work to Beddor's Looking Glass Wars which does not necessarily stand so well on its own merits. The art is sketchy and atmospheric in nature, and this can make following the story confusing at times.

Beekeeping: A Primer on Starting and Keeping a Hive

Beekeeping: A Primer on Starting and Keeping a Hive - Dominique De Vito This book provides an overview and introduction to beekeeping without delving too deeply into technical specifics. In tone and design it seems intended for people who are curious about or have a casual interest in the subject of beekeeping. Since that is the category into which I fall, it was an excellent choice for me.

One design element I particularly appreciated was that all images in the book were line drawings. It helped to maintain a cohesive aspect to the book's design that a mixture of line drawings and photographs would not have accomplished.

A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles - Greg Call, Gail Carson Levine Were I younger--say about ten or twelve years old--I think I would have adored this book. However, it lacks the polish I've seen in Gail Carson Levine's earlier work, particularly Ella Enchanted. In particular, I had a hard time following event causation (things happened for no discernible reason, and often were not explained at all), many of the descriptions seemed aimed at showing off the world-building/culture rather than furthering the story, and the characterisation of the side characters seemed based largely on quirks in their speech (repeated words or phrases, particular sounds, etc). The net result, for me, was an overall inability to connect with the story in any meaningful way. Instead of being immersed in the story, I was removed from the action as I read.


Greywalker - Kat Richardson The concept and premise of this book are both of interest to me, and overall I enjoyed the story. But it definitely feels like a "set up the series" novel, which led to a few pacing issues, and there were times when word choices threw me out of the story.

Agatha H. and the Airship City

Agatha H. and the Airship City - Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio I was very excited to find this book on the shelf at my local bookstore (it took them a while to get it in). I have been reading the Girl Genius comic for several years, so a novelisation was of interest to me.

The writing is solid, though some stylistic elements may take getting used to, particularly if you are unfamiliar with steampunk and/or Girl Genius. Content-wise this novel covers the same time period and story elements as the first three volumes of the Girl Genius comic. There are some minor differences between the two, and the novel expands on several background story elements that aren't really covered predominantly in the comic.

Unfortunately, reading the novel doesn't let you see all the intricate background details that are shoved into the art in the comic. Including said details would be impractical; if nothing else it would completely bog down and derail the story. So as an example, in the novel we have to be content with knowing Gil's personal library has bookcases crammed with books, and some of the broad categories those books fall under. In the comic we can read the titles of many of those books (things like Who's Who, What's What, Cultivate a Maniacal Laugh, and Oops!) and get some chuckles.

All in all I would say this is a good companion work to the comic, not a replacement or substitute. They work best together. Reading the novel had me jumping back in to reread the comic, because I was craving all the little humorous details that just didn't translate over to the written word.