Saturday, January 3, 2009

About the Cardathon Challenge

How long does the challenge last? A year to whenever. I'm planning on keeping the site for quite a while. And once you join, you can contribute for as long as you want. So this could be as 'ongoing' as you want to make it.

When does the challenge begin? Officially, January 1, 2008. Unofficially, whenever you want to start reading and reviewing!

What books are eligible? To qualify for the Cardathon Challenge a book needs to meet one of the following criteria:

1) a book written by Orson Scott Card
2) a book edited/compiled by Orson Scott Card
3) a book with an introduction by Orson Scott Card
4) a book reviewed by Orson Scott Card on his official website.

How many books are we talking about? I'd suggest choosing 6-12 books to read. Along with alternates, of course. Always feel free to list more alternates than 'official' choices. Essentially, you could read as many or as few as you wanted. Although, I hope that given a year, you would read at least six books. If you should read all the books on your list, feel free to add more.

How many books must be written by Card? I'd hope that you would choose at least one or two books for your list. But you can choose many other authors as long as they've been mentioned and/or recommended by Card. This leaves the selection process very open-ended, and gives you many, many options.

Do I have to be a sci-fi fan? No. You can be a newbie to the field. (Or a devoted fan.) Prior experience is not required. If you're a fan of realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, young adult fiction, mysteries, horror, etc. I really truly believe there is something for everyone to enjoy! Card has reviewed lots of adult books, many young adult books, a few picture books, and even a few board books. So there is truly something for everyone.

Do I have to be an Orson Scott Card fan? No. Not necessarily. You can be a newbie and be trying Orson Scott Card for the first time.

But how will I know which books are eligible? I have listed the books meeting the first three criteria in the sidebar. I will be sorting through his review columns in the days and weeks leading up to the official start date. I will be making individual posts about those books. So looking in archives will give you a list of those. Feel free to go to his site and search for yourself if you like. And feel free to choose books that fulfill other challenges you're already participating in!

Once I make my list, can I change my mind? Yes. You can change your mind at any point. Card will keep reviewing books in his weekly column as the months go by (now-December 2008) and you can always change your list to incorporate new titles. Also, always feel free to abort a book. If you've started a book and it's not just working for you, by all means abandon it in favor of something else! No use suffering through a book because you feel it's 'required' because it's on your list.

What do I do to 'officially' join this challenge? Leave a comment with your name and email address. I'll send you an email inviting you to contribute to the site. You can post your reviews on this site and/or your own site. (I will be posting mine here and on my other site, Becky's Book Reviews). Your reviews can be as long or as short as you want. You can be rambling or concise. It's all up to you! I would also suggest that you post about the challenge on your own blog, if you have one, to let as many people know about the challenge as possible!

Don't want to contribute to the site? Prefer to Mr. Linky? Click to add your post with a list of books. Just be sure to come back to the site regularly and let us know when you've got a new review up!

Don't feel comfortable posting your email address for all the world to see? You can email me privately to join. Just be sure to mention the words Cardathon or Challenge in the subject line!

Is there a button or banner? Yes. Foxy Writer has made one for us. It's at the top of the post now. And there are two smaller ones below! Isn't it great?! Thank you very much :)

Are there prizes involved? Not at this stage. I don't have any to offer at this point. Nor the money to ship them, but the 'rewards' will be in the reading and community-building. I have always found that reading is its own reward.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Finding those Card-Recommended Titles

I have tried to be as helpful as possible. But this is very exhausting work. So be kind. Be patient. Be understanding. And especially be forgiving if I've misspelled an author's name.

Practically all 'eligible' books (98.5%) can be found by browsing the list below AND by browsing the August archives. There will be some overlap. But there are some in the archives that I was just too tired to retype and alphabetize. There were some titles on OSC's site I didn't bother with. For example, I didn't think "History of Locusts" would top anyone's challenge list. But if you want to scan his site yourself, you may.

Authors A-to-Z for Cardathon Challenge

Alcott, Louisa M. Little Women.
***New*** Alexander, Lloyd. All of his books.
Alpert, Michael. London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story.
Alterman, Eric, It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen
Ambrose, Stephen. To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian
Asimov, Isaac. All.
Austen, Jane. All of her books.
Avi. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Midnight Magic.
Babbit, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting.
Barber, Richard. King Arthur: Hero and Legend.
Barnard, Robert. Death of a Mystery Writer.
Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan.
Barry, Dave and Ridley Pearson. Peter and the Starcatchers. Peter and the Shadow Thieves.
***New*** Beagle, Peter S. The Last Unicorn.
***New***Beaton, M.C. any of the Haimish Macbeth novels.
***New***Beckett, Galen. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent.
Bell, Hilari. The Wizard Test. The Goblin Wood.
Birzer, Bradley J. J.R.R. Tolien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle Earth.
Block, Lawrence. All of his books.
Boyce, Frank Cottrell. Millions.
Bradbury, Ray. All.
Brennan, Herbie. Faerie Wars.
Bronte sisters. All.
Brooks, Terry. Sword of Shannara. New
Burke, James Lee. All.
Burke, Jan. All.
Burridge, Kate. Blooming English.
Chandler, Raymond. All.
Channing, Carol. Just Lucky I Guess
Churchill, Winston. History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
Christie, Agatha. All.
Clark, Mary Higgins. Daddy's Little Girl. Kitchen Privileges.
Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
Coben, Harlan. Tell No One. No Second Chance.
Cohen, Eliot A. Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime.
Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander.
Colón, Raúl. Orson Blasts Off!
Connelly, Michael. All of his books.
Coville, Bruce. William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.
Crais, Robert. All.
Crichton, Michael. State of Fear.
Crystal, David. The Stories of English.
Cussler, Clive. Sahara.
de Lint, Charles. All.
de Vries, Hilary. So Five Minutes Ago.
diCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn Dixie.
Dickens, Charles. All.
Dickinson, Peter and Robin McKinley. Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits.
***New*** Dickinson, Peter. Some Deaths Before Dying.
Dodge, David. Plunder of the Sun.
***New*** Donaldson, Stephen R. Thomas Covenant books.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. All.
***New*** Downie, Ruth. Medicus. Terra Incognita.
Elliot, Kate. All.
Ellison, Harlan. (ed?) Dangerous Visions.
Evanovich, Janet. All.
Everitt, Anthony. Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician.
Farland, David. All. [Especially Runelords series]
Fatsis, Stefan. Word Freak.
Ferrnandez-Armesto, Felipe. Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food
Flewelling, Lynn. The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior, The Oracle's Queen.
Flynn, Michael F. Eifelheim.
Fonda, Jane. My Life So Far.
Gaiman, Neil. All of his works.
Gemmell, David. All. But especially: Sword in the Storm; Midnight Falcon; Ravenheart; Stormrider
Grafton, Sue. All of her works.
Graves, Robert. I, Claudius. Claudius the God.
Grisham, John. All.
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. All. (His review of the Found.)
Hale, Shannon. Goose Girl. Enna Burning. Princess Academy.
Hammett, Dashiell. All.
Harrison, Mette Ivie. Mira, Mirror. The Princess and the Hound.
Heinlein, Robert A. All.
Herbert, Frank. All. But Especially Dune.
Herman, Arthur. How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything In It
Hiaasen, Carl. Nature Girl.
Heinlein, Robert. All.
***New*** Higgins, Jack. Sure Fire.
Hillerman, Tony. All.
Hobb, Robin. All.
Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner.
Jones, Diana Wynne. All.
Keizer, Gregg. The Longest Night
Kellerman, Jonathan. All.
Kent, Cameron. When the Ravens Die.
***New*** Konigsburg, E.L. The Mysterious Edge of The Heroic World.
Koontz, Dean. All.
Lee, Tanith. Wolf Tower series. (Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, ???)
Leonard, Elmore. All.
Levine, Gail Carson. All of her books.
Lewis, C.S. All of his books.
Leiber, Fritz. All of his books. New
Linden, Eugene. The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, intelligence, and Ingenuity.
Lindskold, Jane. The Buried Pyramid.
Liss, David. A Conspiracy of Paper.
***New*** Lobel, Arnold. Any of the Frog and Toad books.
Long, Melinda and David Shannon. How I Became A Pirate. (picture book)
Lubar, David. All.
McBride, James. Miracle at St. Anna
McCaffrey, Anne. All.
McCarthy, Susan. Becoming A Tiger: How Baby Animals Learn to Live in the Wild.
McCammon, Robert. Gone South. Speaks the Nightbird.
McCrumb, Sharyn. All.
MacDonald, Ross. All.
Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932-1940. and The Arms of Krupp.
Maron, Margaret. All.
Martin, George R.R. All.
Maxey, James. Bitterwood. Dragonforge. New!!!!
Meyer, Stephenie. The Host. New!!!!
Michener, James. The source.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With The Wind.
Mortimer, John. All.
Mosley, Walter. All.
Mull, Brandon. Fablehaven.
Muller, Marcia. All.
Nichols, Lee. Hand-me-down.
Niven, Larry. All.
Paradi, Valerie. Clever Maids: The Secret History of Grimm Fairy Tales
***NEW*** Park, Paul. A Princess of Roumania.
Parker, Robert. All of his books.
Parker, T. Jefferson. Silent Joe.
Pearson, Ridley. Cut and Run.
Peck, Richard. Invitations to the World.
Pierce, Tamora. All.
***New*** Pilkey, Dav. Captain Underpants series.
Pratchett, Terry. The Eyre Affair.
Prerau, David. Seize the daylight.
Rankin, Ian. Resurrection Men.
Ravitch, Diane. Left Back: A Centure of Battles Over School Reform.
Rehak, Melanie. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. For the record, ANY Nancy Drew would also qualify.
Roberts, John Maddox. All ***New***
Rowling, J.K. All of the Harry Potter series.
Russell, Sean. the One Kingdom. The Isle of Battle. the Shadow Roads.
Sachar, Louis. Holes. Someday Angeline. Dogs Don't Tell Jokes. Sixth Grade Secrets. Marvin Redpost, Kidnapped At Birth.
Sanderson, Brandon. Elantris.
Saylor, Steven. All of his books.
Schama, Simon. A History of Britain. three volumes.
Schnakenberg, Robert. Ed., Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults.
Schwartz, Jonathan. All in Good Time.
Setterfield, Diane. Thirteenth Tale.
Severgnini, Beppe. Ciao, America!
Shusterman, Neal. Everlost. ***NEW*** Also Unwind. Also Antsy Does Time.. .
Siegel, Jan. Prospero's Children.
Slater, David Michael. The Ring Bear.
Sleater, William. All.
Smith, Alexander McCall. All.
Smith, Sherwood. Inda. Fox.
***NEW*** Spence, Jon. Becoming Jane Austen.
***New***Sonnenblick, Jordan. Zen and the Art of Faking It.
Stauffacher, Sue. Donuthead. Donutheart.
Stewart, Mary. The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and the Last Enchantment
Stout, Rex. All of his books.
Thane, Elswyth. Williamsburg series. (Dawn's Early Light, Yankee Stranger, etc.)
NEW*** Thompson, Colin. The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley.
Tolkien, J.R.R. All of his books.
Tolkien, Simon. Final Witness.
Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina.
Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
Turner, Megan Whalen. Attolia Series. (The Thief, Queen of Attolia, King of Attolia)
Twain, Mark. All.
Tyler, Anne. All.
Underhill, Paco. the Call of the Mall.
Van Allsburg, Chris. Polar Express.
Verne, Jules. ARound the World in 80 Days.
Vidal, Gore. Julian.
Vinton, Victoria. The Jungle Law
Walker, Gabrielle. Snowball Earth.
Weir, Alison. The Children of Henry Viii. The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Weller, Sam. The Bradbury Chronicles.
Wells, H.G. All.
White, Kate. If Looks Could Kill. 'Til Death Do Us Part.
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web.
White, T.H. The Once and Future King.
Whyte, Jack. Camulod Chronicles.
Wiesner, David. Flotsam.
Wilhelm, Kate. The Price of Silence.
New!!!!! Willems, Mo. All. (Especially Elephant and Piggie early readers and Pigeon picture books)
Winspear, Jacqueline. All.
Wolff, Tobias. All.
Wolfe, Thomas. All.
Yolen, Jane. Sword of the Rightful King.

Miscellaneous Notes:
For that you need Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, now back in print. This anthology and its sequel redefined science fiction when they first came out in the 1960s.

If you combine them with Isaac Asimov's series of anthologies of the Hugo winners -- and maybe my own anthologies, Future on Fire and Future on Ice (with stories from the 1980s) and Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century -- then you'll get an idea of the breadth and scope of science fiction, as shown by the short stories, which have always led the way into new literary terrain.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ender in Exile

Yes I know, I'm not the first or only one to post a review of ENDER IN EXILE, but I've been a member of this blog for a long time and have never posted. So, here goes:

If you know me at all, it’s no secret that my favorite author is Orson Scott Card and my favorite series is Ender’s Game. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to read ENDER IN EXILE.

First of all, it goes without saying that if you like any of the Ender books, you must read this one. The neat thing is, you could really read it anytime. If you just read ENDER’S GAME, this would be a great sequel. But it sort of continues the SHADOW OF THE GIANT timeline too. Or if you’ve already read them all, this is a wonderful way to get to visit the Enderverse again. (I’ve already read the series a few times, so a new book was a welcome gift to me).

Now I’ll get to the review. This picks up right after the war. Most of the children are going back home. But Ender, savior of the world, could end up being a pawn to anyone who gets their hands on him, so rather than be in danger on Earth, he’s sent to govern a new colony in space. Valentine knows she’ll never see him again on Earth, so she decides to join him. Peter had originally wanted him home, so he could use him for his own purposes, but realizes that he’ll be better off without Ender overshadowing him.

This novel tells the story of Ender at that first colony then follows him to another colony where his life is seriously threatened. But it’s really about a boy of thirteen figuring out how to live with the guilt of what he’s done. Several good people try to convince him along the way to forgive himself and move on (Graff, Valentine). However, he is the only one who can do that. It doesn’t matter how many people tell him to do it, he must find a way that works for him.

He finally does find a way. Or at least something that gives him great relief. I was hoping this would be the book where he found the Hive Queen.I loved hearing the story behind the writing of The Hive Queen & The Hegemon. I also enjoyed immensely seeing the interactions and relationship build between Ender & Valentine. I always loved the two of them together (almost as much as Ender & Jane).

One event that I wanted to know more about was how Ender went from "Ender - Savior of the World" to "Ender the Xenocide." It was mentioned in other books, but here we see step-by-step how the public opinion was manipulated. It’s actually pretty scary how easily that type of thing can happen.

This was an enjoyable trip, indeed. In fact, I feel like I want to go back and read more from the series.

If you’re a fan, you won’t need my prompting to read this one. If you’re not yet a fan, begin the journey with ENDER’S GAME and you’ll quickly become one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cardathon Completed! (3M)

Thanks so much for hosting this challenge, Becky! I enjoyed all of the books I read, but my favorite was probably The Graveyard Book. I love Neil Gaiman!

The books I read (10 total and 2 by Card):

Card, Orson Scott

  • Ender's Game (review to come)

  • Ender in Exile (review to come)

Gaiman, Neil

Rowling, J.K.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ender In Exile

Card, Orson Scott. 2008. Ender in Exile.

Ender in Exile is the "new direct sequel" to Ender's Game. And in a way, that's true enough. The novel begins with Ender on Eros. His brother, Peter, and sister, Valentine, are on Earth. One lobbying for his return, the other arguing that he should not be allowed to come home. At all. Ever. If Ender was sent home, so the argument goes, he'd be a pawn for governments and militaries to fight over. He'd be targeted by power-hungry individuals for the rest of his life. Right? Those that have read the Shadow books (Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant) know that is exactly what happened to other Battle School children--including Petra, Bean, and Alai--when they returned. With the return of the children come wars and rumors of wars. Valentine--a.k.a. Demosthenes--wants better than that for her brother. Valentine loves her brother. If he can't come to her, she'll go to him. She decides to join her brother in space in his exile.

Admiral Ender will soon become Governor Wiggin when he's sent (along with Valentine) with one of the first (I think it is the very first) colonization vessels. At thirteen, he doesn't feel ready for the job no matter what anyone on Eros or Earth has to say about his legendary hero status. And there is at least one man on board--a fellow Admiral--who is captain of the ship--Quincy Morgan--who feels that Ender is a sham of a man. He glories himself to be the better man for the job. And he plans accordingly.

This journey will take a little over forty years give or take a month or two. But for Ender--and for the others that remain awake for this flight--it will be just two years. Who would choose to stay awake when they had the option of sleeping and not aging? You might be surprised at how many. Ender chooses because he wants those two years desperately to make him "mature" into a man that a colony of strangers would respect. Valentine chooses because it will give her time with Ender...and it will give her time to write. She's got plans for writing about Battle School and the Formic Wars. The reader is also introduced to two others that choose to remain awake: Dorabella and Alessandra Toscano. Dorabella is a strange woman living in a fantasy world and dreaming big dreams. Here is a feisty woman with ambition. Alessandra is the much shyer, much quieter, mostly-obedient daughter who's afraid to stand up to her mother.

Where are they going? Colony 1. But this colony is soon given a name: Shakespeare. And Ender begins communicating with the governor even before they've left Eros. He wants to know everything about the planet, everything about the people, he wants to make these vital connections, and it's not because he has to. The reader is introduced to some of these colonists throughout. (None will be familiar except Abra.)

A lot can happen in forty or fifty years. And Andrew and Valentine are not cut off completely from Earth. Not exactly. So we do hear about Peter becoming Hegemon. About the wars on Earth. About Bean and Petra and the others whose adventures we followed in the Shadow books.

At some point in the book, Andrew learns about another colony-in-the-making that will be governed by a Battle School graduate named Virlomi. And on that ship is a child that Graff feels is the missing ninth child of Bean and Petra. He wants Andrew--if he's able--to go to this new Colony if he gets the chance to find out for sure. The colony in question is Ganges. On this ship and on this colony are several people whom the reader first met in one or more of the Shadow books.

So Ender in Exile is also the direct sequel to Shadow of the Giant. It follows a handful of the characters into space. And we also follow in a limited capacity those left behind--Peter, Petra, Graff, etc.

Almost everything that happens (but not all of what happens) was hinted at in the final chapter of Ender's Game. There aren't any BIG surprises along the way. The Ender of Ender in Exile is a boy in transition. He's not yet a man. He's not the wise-beyond-his-years Speaker For the Dead. He's a guilt-ridden boy who is burdened by what he's done--the deaths of those two boys, the annihilation of the Buggers--and he is anxious to make amends. He's a good-natured, boy who is seeking answers, always seeking.

How does Ender in Exile compare to others in the series? I enjoyed it. While it could never take the place in my heart for Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, it certainly belongs there with the others. We've got a good mix of old characters and new characters. The characterization--like always--is great. The plot was as exciting (in a way) and well paced as others. This one wasn't as bogged down with politics and strategies. Nor was it bogged down with philosophy. I'm not picking on the other sequels--I happen to enjoy them all--but I also acknowledge that some fans of Ender's Game are turned off by the sequels.

I've never been sure how to order these books. I read them Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant, Ender in Exile. But chronologically, they're all over the place. All of Ender in Exile occurs within the final chapter of Ender's Game and before Speaker of the Dead opens. But there are events discussed or mentioned in Ender in Exile from the Shadow books. There are characters introduced in the Shadow books that are a part of the action in Ender In Exile. So I'm not sure what order to recommend them anymore. I think they can be enjoyed in any order perhaps.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Revisiting Ender

In celebration of the release of Ender in Exile, I decided to reread Ender's Game. Though I admit it doesn't take much for me to find a good reason to revisit an old friend like Ender. There are times I wonder why I keep going back again and again and again. What is it about Ender and his friends that I just can't get enough of? I don't have the answer to that. But I do know that each time with Ender is just as magical as the previous times. I never get tired of reading Ender's Game no matter how many times I reread it. And there aren't that many books I can say that about.

First sentence: "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."

Ender's Game is a story about children who don't act like children. Set several hundred years in the future after the first and second wars with the Buggers (or formics), the military-powers-that-be take the most promising children and send them into space to attend Battle School. There they are raised to be soldiers and officers and commanders. No kindness or compassion allowed. Our hero, Andrew Wiggin, is just six when he's taken to Battle School. His nickname is Ender, and he's one-of-a-kind almost from the very beginning. He's the child that shows the most potential, the most promise. But to get him to commander-stage, he'll have to be treated harshly. Even more harshly than his fellow launchies. Do the end results justify the means? You'll have to read and see for yourself.

For my more extensive review of Ender's Game, see this review.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Card, Orson Scott. 1991. Xenocide.

Xenocide is the sequel to Speaker for the Dead. (Speaker for the Dead is the sequel to Ender's Game. Ender's Game is my favorite, favorite book.) Xenocide is an intricately complex plot following the saga of characters (mainly) introduced in Speaker for the Dead. Speaker for the Dead concludes with the threat of the destruction of the planet of Lusitania. Which would mean the destruction of the pequeninos (piggies), the human colonists (including Andrew Wiggin, his wife, his stepchildren, etc.) and the Hive Queen (the Buggers). The Lusitania Fleet has been launched, and the order to destroy the planet using the M.D. Device (Little Doctor) has been given. If it wasn't for Jane, the life-force residing in the ansibles and computers, the impending doom would be absolutely, completely certain. As it is, it is only mostly certain that xenocide will occur once again. (Xenocide being genocide of an entire species. While the human colonists would lose their lives, the human race would go on in the other hundreds of worlds colonized. But xenocide is a very real threat to two alien species: the Hive Queen (and her workers, etc) and the Pequeninos.)

There are so very many characters to keep track of in Xenocide. As I mentioned, most were introduced in Speaker for the Dead. Andrew and Valentine. Andrew's wife, Novinha. Andrew's step-children: Miro, Ela, Quim, Olhado, Quaro, Grego. The piggies of utmost importance are Planter and Glass. (Not counting the fathertrees Human and Rooter, etc.) The Hive Queen of course. Jane, the character that pulls most of the book together. But there are three characters that are brand new to the story. Three people from the Chinese colony of Path: Han Fei-tzu, Han Qing-jao, and Si Wang-mu.

The plot is too intricate and complex to go into all the details. The book is all about life-and-death matters. The colonists are trying to figure out a way to kill the descolada before it destroys them. They hope that if they can destroy it, then perhaps they'll be saved as well. The Hive Queen is busy building star ships. She wants some for herself. But she's also building some for the Pequeninos. She doesn't want another alien species destroyed by human stupidity. But the humans know that while the Hive Queen may be intelligent enough to find a way to kill the descolada from tainting them and their DNA--the Piggies aren't nearly advanced enough to do so. (The descolada is essential for the Pequeninos to survive. It is linked to their DNA. It is how they procreate and continue on in the third life.)

Xenocide is an interesting novel. But one that doesn't stand on its own. It begins in the middle of things, and ends with no resolution. (Or very little resolution.) It's the middle book of a trilogy (in a way) and while it's important...crucial for the progression of the isn't as satisfying in some ways as the others in the series.

That being said, I do like it. I made the mistake, this time round, of not having read it close enough to Speaker for the Dead. It's been about fifteen or sixteen months since I read Speaker for the Dead. And some books are just better read in close proximity.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Margaret Peterson Haddix's Found

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 2008. The Missing Book 1: Found.

I may be a bit biased--slightly--since I love, love, love Margaret Peterson Haddix. My expectations were high with this her first book in a new series. And I was NOT disappointed. I was WOWed. I'm not foolish enough to think that this one will WOW every single kid, teen, or adult out there. But for those that love science fiction and mysteries...this one is for you.

Here's the opening of the prologue: "It wasn't there. Then it was. Later, that was how Angela DuPre would describe the airplane--over and over, to one investigator after another--until she was told never to speak of it again. But when she first saw the plane that night, she wasn't thinking about mysteries or secrets."

What Angela DuPre witnessed on her first day of the job was indescribably unbelievable. Perplexing. A plane that appeared and disappeared on the runway. A plane that she found minus the pilot and flight attendants. A flight were all thirty-six passengers were babies. Sounds crazy, right? How could an unscheduled plane--a plane that did not show up on any of their radars--land on their runway to begin with? How could it have gotten there without a pilot on board? Why babies? But even more strange was the fact that once the babies were unloaded, and the proper authorities called...the plane vanished into thin air. Angela DuPre witnessed the unbelievable alright. But she wasn't crazy.

The Found opens thirteen years later. Our hero is a boy named Jonah. He's got a best friend, Chip, and a slightly younger sister, Katherine. Our book opens with the arrival of several mystery letters. Two letters. Thirteen words. Lives are going to change.

"You are one of the missing."
"Beware! They're coming back to get you."

Found is a suspenseful, mysterious action-and-adventure novel that will thrill those that love science fiction. Of course I can't promise that it will "thrill" every reader. But I know it kept me reading. I couldn't put it down. And I was loving every minute of it. The pacing was just right. The characters were nicely developed--and are sure to improve upon with each novel that is published in the series. The only problem with the book is that it left me wanting more...wanting more now! I don't want to have to wait for the next novel to come out. I want to know what happens to Jonah and Katherine and Chip NOW! There's this intensity and immediacy that I just don't find in many other books.

Other reviews, Semicolon, The Reading Zone,, Mrs. Hill,

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just so you know

I do routinely go in and update the listing of Card-Recommended Titles. I scan his "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" columns so religiously that if it's mentioned, I update it immediately :)
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Last Battle

Lewis, C.S. 1956. The Last Battle.

In the last days of Narnia, far up to the west beyond Lantern Waste and close beside the great waterfall, there lived an Ape. He was so old that no one could remember when he had first come to live in those parts, and he was the cleverest, ugliest, most wrinkled Ape you can imagine. He had a little house, built of wood and thatched with leaves, up in the fork of a great tree, and his name was Shift. There were very few Talking Beasts or Men or Dwarfs, or people of any sort, in that part of the wood, but Shift had one friend and neighbour who was a donkey called Puzzle. At least they both said they were friends, but from the way things went on you might have thought Puzzle was more like Shift's servant than his friend.

The beginning of the end starts with one donkey, one ape, and one lion skin that floats downstream. From that skin an evil plot is born, and from that plot much blood is shed and much harm is done for every living thing (man, animal, tree, etc.) in Narnia. Shift's plot? To have Puzzle wear the lion skin and "be" Aslan for curious persons to gaze upon from a distance. Shift's real plot? To use the name of Aslan to get exactly what he wants.

It has been many generations since King Rilian ruled. Now his descendant, a king named Tirian, reigns. Though his luck seems to change overnight. One day a king, the next a prisoner. And all because "Aslan" has arrived back in Narnia.

Using the famed line "He's not a tame lion" people reason away all the signs that this is NOT Aslan. He commands the destruction of trees with spirits? Not a tame lion. He demands talking beasts to become his slaves? Not a tame lion. Demands servitude and exile from dwarfs? Not a tame lion. It's easy to say from our perspective that these animals, these individuals are a bit too gullible. But when you stop and think about it, the reader knows more, has experienced more. There haven't been any Aslan spottings in hundreds perhaps a thousand years. What the average Narnian knows is just stories passed down generation by generation by generation. Is it really so hard to see that perhaps their faith has more doubt than certainty? The truth is the average Narnian has not had any "use" for Aslan and his stories in their practical lives. So their faith isn't as "active" as it could be, should be perhaps.

King Tirian won't be fooled for long. He starts off highly suspicious and remains so for the most part. Once he's been captured, imprisoned, Tirian starts to think, to really think about Narnia, about Narnian history, about what he knows to be true, to be right. He realizes that humans from another world have always always been a part of the action. That the arrival of humans almost always accompanies these Aslan sightings. There is always a link. So he delivers a heartfelt prayer that these human saviors will come once again and fight for Narnia, to fight for freedom, to fight for right.

His prayer is answered in a way, but not in the way he hoped. I hope this isn't too much of a spoiler for readers. But it is called The Last Battle for a reason. Narnia is coming to an end. The world, the country, is dying. Tirian and the humans who arrive--Jill, Eustace, Lucy, Edmund, Peter, Digory, and Polly--are there to witness the end of Narnia and the beginning of their after lives.

As a child, I enjoyed this one. I would have put it above many of the other books in the series--including Horse and His Boy and Silver Chair--but as an adult I have a new perspective altogether. While some of the aspects of this one work for me, there were quite a few significant problems.

I'm not sure if other readers will share my quibbles or not. They may have different issues than I do. Among one of the reasons why people may find the last one disappointing is that...


all the humans die. Jill. Eustace. Peter. Edmund. Lucy. Digory. Polly. Most of them (I think most of them) die as a result of a train accident. (The Pevensie parents die as well but we still don't see them in the book.) I'm not sure if killing off all your characters will leave readers satisfied. Yes, the characters themselves are happy. But the deaths of so many seem tragic to me. Not that death itself is tragic. (Death can be a good thing. It can be a blessing.)

Second. Susan is missing. She's no longer a "friend" of Narnia. This is 'tragic' for several reasons. One is that technically speaking she will have lost her mother, father, two brothers, and a sister. She'll be all alone in the world. Two is the not-so-subtle theme that you can lose your salvation. If being a friend of Narnia translates directly into being a Christian, then Lewis' message seems to be that Susan represents Christians that have fallen from grace and lost their salvation, lost their way. Of course there are some believers who do in fact believe that this is the case. That Christians can un-Christian themselves, un-save themselves, re-damn themselves. I for one am not one of them. Of course, there is the potential that this fictional Susan could regain her friend status later on in life. That she could have another opportunity to believe. But Susan as allegory just doesn't work for me.

For those readers who are not approaching these seven novels as a Christian believer, for those that are reading them because they are fantasy--pure and simple and fun fantasy--then The Last Battle is a fitting conclusion.

Edited: I did edit out a theological rant simply because I feel that this may not be the best forum for such a theological can of worms :)