Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

alisonwonderland's list

when i signed up for this challenge, it seemed a very long time before January 1 would roll around - but now it's knocking at the door. i guess it's time to make a plan for my participation. i think i'll start with a list of twelve books - basically one a month - but note that i will be cross-listing many, if not all of them to other challenges.
    books by Orson Scott Card:

    • Enchantment

    • Ender's Shadow

    • Invasive Procedures

    • Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

    books reviewed by Orson Scott Card:

    • Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

    • Flip by David Lubar

    • Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak

    • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

    • Interworld by Neil Gaiman

    • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

    • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

    • "T" is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Saturday, December 29, 2007

More OSC Recommended Books

This list is taken from a portion of OSC's column from 12/21/07. It originally appeared in the Rhinoceros Times of Greensboro, North Carolina.


BOOKS

Even people who never read books are flattered to think that you think they are readers. And kids who don't read books usually haven't been given the books they want to read!

Books for Kids

Age 3-5

Arnold Lobel's wonderful Frog and Toad books. Any of them. A set of them.

Age 6-8

It's disgusting but funny and kids love them. Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants.

Girls 9-14

Shannon Hale, Goose Girl. A terrific realistic spin on a fantasy story.

Mette Ivie Harrison, Mira, Mirror or The Princess and the Hound. Nobody else thinks or writes like Harrison.

Boys and Girls 9-14

It's just a fact of life -- girls will read boys' books, but boys won't read girls' books. Live with it.

Margaret Peterson Haddix, Among the Hidden or any of the other "Among the ..." books in the Shadow Children Sequence. A future in which it's illegal to have more than two children -- so third children are hidden away until the state finds them and takes them.

Lloyd Alexander, absolutely anything. He simply doesn't know how to write a book that isn't exciting and rich with character.

Gail Carson Levine, the Fairy Haven series, starting with Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg. A classic-to-be.

Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn. They've just come out with a new hardcover of this classic. A perfect gift -- for adults, too.

Jack Higgins with Justin Richards, Sure Fire. A thriller for kids, and it's a good one, way smarter and better than the Spy Kids movies.

Neal Shusterman, Unwind. The ultimate solution for unruly teenagers -- you just cut them up for spare parts. It's the law! The author of the brilliant Everlost with the ultimate paranoid thriller.

Mystery

For Women

Jacqueline Winspear, any of the Maisie Dobbs novels. Set in England after World War I, brilliant historical novels as well as mysteries.

M.C. Beaton, any of the Haimish Macbeth novels, which have titles that begin with "The Death of ...". Get to know village life in the Highlands -- along with good solid mysteries and an ongoing series of romances.

Margaret Maron, her Deborah Knott mysteries. The newest is Hard Row, still in hardcover for a very nice gift.

Sharyn McCrumb, the author of magical Appalachian mysteries like If Ever I Return Pretty Peggy-O, comes to us with a NASCAR novel that women can love: Once Around the Track.

For Men or Women

Robert Crais: Anything at all, but especially The Two Minute Rule and The Watchman

Michael Connelly: Again, anything, but especially The Overlook

John Mortimer: Any Rumpole of the Bailey book

Science Fiction

Come on, who do you think is writing this list? A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card is a perfect last-minute gift -- a thin hardcover with a compelling story that features the title character from Ender's Game. Or pick up the newly-released paperback of Empire, my novel about a civil war in present-day America and the need for us to return to civility in our public discussions. Or the hardcover Invasive Procedures, co-written with my brilliantly talented young friend Aaron Johnston, about a healer who'll make you "better" whether you're sick or not.

Fantasy

Lynn Flewelling: The Tamir Triad, starting with The Bone Doll's Twin and continuing with Hidden Warrior and The Oracle's Queen. Perhaps the deepest psychological novel I've ever read -- the fantasy makes the unconscious issues real. Gorgeous but dark.

Kate Elliott: The Crown of Stars series. Just pick up the first volume, King's Dragon. Not the book entitled Crown of Stars -- that's volume seven. You might worry that your fantasy-reader friend might not be glad to get volume one of seven -- but I promise you, they'll be grateful once they've read this extraordinarily powerful opening volume. But this, like Lynn Flewelling's, is not for the faint of heart.

David Gemmell: Anything. I recently discovered this British author and was dismayed to learn he died just a few years ago. I've read all of the beautiful and moving Rigante series, but so far I've picked up nothing of his that wasn't excellent and compulsively readable for the fantasy fan.

History

I spend my life reading history, and there's simply too much out there for me to try to recommend it all. But ... for last-minute shopping, pick up Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, a brutally accurate history of the CIA using all the available documents and interviews with many of the participants. The miracle is that the United States still exists. Or pick up Stefan Rudnicki's compelling reading of it in the book on CD. You can't make a serious evaluation of what the CIA tells the President -- and us -- unless you understand just what this organization was and is. It will break your heart. THICK HARDCOVER

Biography

Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the roots of the American Republic. It will also change your view of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams forever. Chernow is a gifted writer who makes the story clear and smooth to read, while still including all the facts and reasonable conclusions. Or pick up Scott Brick's sharply intelligent reading of it in the book on CD. THICK BOOK

Celebrity

There's only one celebrity memoir this year that's worth giving as a gift: Steve Martin's Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. It's a marvelous yet brief autobiography and a compendium of his best bits during the years that he erupted into a dominant position in American comedy. THIN HARDCOVER

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mythopoeic Award Challenge



Foxy writer is hosting the Mythopoeic Award Challenge in 2008. It lasts all twelve months. The goal is to read seven books that won the Mythopoeic Award. You can find the list of award winners here. And a list of finalists here.

Here are the rules:

  1. Choose seven books from the list of Mythopoeic Award Winners (or nominees, here for fantasy or here for scholarship).
  2. Anything on the list is fair game, fiction or non-fiction.
  3. Post a link to your list in the comments of this post (if you don’t have a website, post your list in the comments.)
  4. Somewhere in your post, link back to this challenge post. (permalink)
  5. Read the books between January 1st, 2008 and December 31st, 2008.
  6. You may start anytime in 2008, but you must finish by the end of December 31st, 2008.
  7. You may combine this challenge with other challenges.
I've done a quick scan of the award winners and nominees and noticed that some qualify for the Cardathon. 3 by Orson Scott Card himself. You may want to do a more intense search/scan yourself to see if I've missed any...but this is what I see so far...

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Trader by Charles de Lint
Someplace to Be Flying by Charles de Lint
Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint
Moonheart by Charles de Lint
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award & Nominees

  • 1971
    • * The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
    • The Marvellous Misadventures of Sebastian by Lloyd Alexander
    • Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz
    • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • 1972
    • * Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant
    • Grendel by John Gardner
    • The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders by Isidore Haiblum
    • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • The Corum Trilogy by Michael Moorcock
    • The Light Maze by Joan North
    • The Forest of Forever by Thomas Burnett Swann
    • The Children of Llyr by Evangeline Walton
  • 1973
    • * The Song of Rhiannon by Evangeline Walton
    • Dancer from Atlantis by Poul Anderson
    • Deryni Checkmate by Katherine Kurtz
    • The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Green Phoenix by Thomas Burnett Swann
    • The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny
  • 1974
    • * The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
    • Hrolf Kraki's Saga by Poul Anderson
    • The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
    • Excalibur by Sanders Anne Laubenthal
    • High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz
  • 1975
    • * A Midsummer Tempest by Poul Anderson
    • Watership Down by Richard Adams
    • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
    • Merlin's Ring by H. Warner Munn
    • How Are the Mighty Fallen by Thomas Burnett Swann
    • Prince of Annwn by Evangeline Walton
  • 1976-1980: awards discontinued
  • 1981
    • * Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • The Grey Mane of Morning by Joy Chant
    • The Wounded Land by Stephen R. Donaldson
    • The Beginning Place by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
  • 1982
    • * Little, Big by John Crowley
    • Delusion's Master by Tanith Lee
    • The Woman Who Loved the Moon by Elizabeth A. Lynn
    • The Many-colored Land by Julian May
    • The Sable Moon by Nancy Springer
    • Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
  • 1983
    • * The Firelings by Carol Kendall
    • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    • The One Tree by Stephen R. Donaldson
    • Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
    • God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell
    • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    • The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley
    • Lady of Light by Diana L. Paxson
    • The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce
  • 1984
    • * When Voiha Wakes by Joy Chant
    • other nominees not available
  • 1985
    • * Cards of Grief by Jane Yolen
    • Moonheart by Charles de Lint
    • The Damiano Trilogy by R.A. McAvoy
    • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
    • The Book of Lost Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • 1986
    • * Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
    • Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly
    • Dark of the Moon by P.C. Hodgell
    • Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
    • Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujica Lainez
  • 1987
    • * The Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle
    • The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
    • Tales from the Flat Earth by Tanith Lee
    • Merlin's Booke by Jane Yolen
  • 1988
    • * Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
    • War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
    • The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy
    • Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis
  • 1989
    • * Unicorn Mountain by Michael Bishop
    • The Last Coin by James P. Blaylock
    • Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card
    • The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey
    • The White Raven by Diana L. Paxson
    • Walkabout Woman by Michaela Roessner
  • 1990
    • * The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers
    • Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card
    • The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip
    • The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
    • Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff
  • 1991
    • * Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner
    • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
    • Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow
    • The Books of Great Alta by Jane Yolen
  • 1992
    (Adult)
    • * A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason
    • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
    • Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman
    • The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia A. McKillip
    • Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper
    (Children's)
    • * Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
    • Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
    • Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
    • Elsewhere by Will Shetterly
    • Song of the Gargoyle by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • 1993
    (Adult)
    • * Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
    • The Paper Grail by James P. Blaylock
    • Last Call by Tim Powers
    • The Grail of Hearts by Susan Shwartz
    • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
    (Children's)
    • * Knight's Wyrd by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
    • The Ancient One by T.A. Barron
    • Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville
    • Hobkin by Peni R. Griffin
    • Fish Soup by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • 1994
    (Adult)
    • * The Porcelain Dove by Delia Sherman
    • The Innkeeper's Song by Peter S. Beagle
    • The Cygnet and the Firebird by Patricia A. McKillip
    • Deerskin by Robin McKinley
    (Children's)
    • * The Kingdom of Kevin Malone by Suzy McKee Charnas
    • The Mystery of the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
    • The Giver by Lois Lowry
    • Nevernever by Will Shetterly
    • Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  • 1995
    (Adult)
    • * Something Rich and Strange by Patricia A. McKillip
    • The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean
    • The Hollowing by Robert Holdstock
    • Temporary Agency by Rachel Pollack
    (Children's)
    • * Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl
    • The Princess and the Lord of Night by Emma Bull
    • Switching Well by Peni R. Griffin
    • A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories by Robin McKinley
    • Good Griselle by Jane Yolen
  • 1996
    (Adult)
    • * Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand
    • Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop
    • All the Bells on Earth by James P. Blaylock
    • The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip
    • The Dragon Path by Kenneth Morris
    (Children's)
    • * The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones
    • The Boggart by Susan Cooper
    • Falcon's Egg by Luli Gray
    • Wren's War by Sherwood Smith
    • The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh
  • 1997 (Adult and Children's Awards combined)
    • * The Wood Wife by Terri Windling
    • One for the Morning Glory by John Barnes
    • Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip
    • Fair Peril by Nancy Springer
    • The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe
  • 1998
    (Adult)
    (Children's)
    • * Young Merlin trilogy (consisting of Passager, Hobby and Merlin) by Jane Yolen
    • The Boggart and the Monster by Susan Cooper
    • A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar
    • Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
  • 1999
    (Adult)
    • * Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess
    • Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint
    • The History of our World Beyond the Wave by R.E. Klein
    • Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip
    • The High House by James Stoddard
    (Children's)
    • * Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diane Wynne Jones
    • Heavenward Path by Kara Dalkey
    • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
    • The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • 2000
    (Adult)
    • * Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle
    • Elementals by A.S. Byatt
    • Dark Cities Underground by Lisa Goldstein
    • The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr
    • The Book of Knights by Yves Meynard
    (Children's)
    • * The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley
    • Skellig by David Almond
    • The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
    • Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt
  • 2001
    (Adult)
    • * The Innamorati by Midori Snyder
    • ravenShadow by Win Blevins
    • Forests of the Heart by Charles de Lint
    • The Sarantine Mosaic (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors) by Guy Gavriel Kay
    (Children's)
    • * Aria of the Sea by Dia Calhoun
    • Night Flying by Rita Murphy
    • Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
    • Growing Wings by Laurel Winter
    • Boots and the Seven Leaguers by Jane Yolen
  • 2002
    (Adult)
    • * The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    • Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt
    • The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • Declare by Tim Powers
    (Children's)
    • * The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson
    • The Wizard's Dilemma by Diane Duane
    • Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson
    • The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
  • 2003
    (Adult)
    (Children's)
  • 2004
    (Adult)
    • * Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Fudoki by Kij Johnson
    • Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip
    (Children's)
    • * The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
    • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
    • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
    • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
    • The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

  • 2005
    (Adult)
    • * Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
    • The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker
    • Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand
    • Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip
    • The Wizard Knight, consisting of The Knight and The Wizard, by Gene Wolfe

    (Children's)
    • * A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
    • Arthur Trilogy, consisting of The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing Places, and King of the Middle March, by Kevin Crossley-Holland
    • Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
    • Trilogy consisting of Wise Child, Juniper, and Colman by Monica Furlong
    • The Abhorsen Trilogy, consisting of Sabriel, Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr, and Abhorsen, by Garth Nix
  • 2006
    (Adult)
    • * Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
    • The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
    • The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Metallic Love by Tanith Lee
    • The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl by Tim Pratt

    (Children's)
    • * The Bartimaeus Trilogy, consisting of The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye, and Ptolemy's Gate, by Jonathan Stroud
    • Valiant by Holly Black
    • Wizards at War by Diane Duane
    • By These Ten Bones by Clare B. Dunkle
  • 2007
    (Adult)

    • * Patricia A. McKillip, Solstice Wood (Ace Books)
    • Peter S. Beagle, The Line Between (Tachyon Publications)
    • Susanna Clarke, The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Bloomsbury USA)
    • Keith Donohue, The Stolen Child (Nan A. Talese)
    • Susan Palwick, The Necessary Beggar (Tor)
    • Tim Powers, Three Days to Never (William Morrow)

    (Children's)
    • * Catherine Fisher, Corbenic (Greenwillow)
    • Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Spirits That Walk in Shadow (Viking)
    • Diana Wynne Jones, The Pinhoe Egg (Greenwillow)
    • Martine Leavitt, Keturah and Lord Death (Front Street)
    • Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith (HarperTeen)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sci-Fi Experience


Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting an experience this January and February. He clearly points out that it is not a challenge per se, more of an experience. There are no required number of books. The goal is to have fun and to read books. For those that are intimidated perhaps by reading challenges and feeling that there is a "have" or "must" about them--it's a good distinction. I read his description--although Carl might disagree--and think of it as taking a class without receiving a grade. For the record, I'm still planning on counting this one as a "challenge" in my reckoning. Because I belong to a group that keeps track of how many challenges per year you participate in and complete. It's all fun. I don't take the numbers too seriously, after all, but I like the challenge of being challenged. Read all about the sci-fi experience here. Read the sci-fi experience reviews here.

I plan on reading some Orson Scott Card. An obvious choice for me since not only do I love him, but the Cardathon challenge officially begins January 1rst. I may (may being the key word) read C.S. Lewis' sci-fi trilogy. I'd like to perhaps read some Asimov as well. But I may be too busy to squeeze that in. If you have suggestions, ideas for books--titles and/or authors--please suggest away. My familiarity with the genre really goes no further than OSC and a few H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.

The experience goes from January 1 to February 29th.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Becky's Review of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

While nothing can displace Ender's Game from being my favorite and best Orson Scott Card novel, I love, love, love Pastwatch. I'm not quite sure how I can convey that. But I'll do my best.

It's set in the future. I would guess several hundred years in the future. Humans on Earth have become technologically advanced, but they're still paying for the mistakes of the past--most notably the environmental mistakes of the past. One of the technologies available is the ability to watch past events fold out before your eyes on the big screen. In the early stages, this technology could only watch vast regions--note climate changes and social changes--the building of communities and sometimes their collapses. But as this technology is developed further, it becomes possible to watch history in greater detail, minute detail. Scientists, historians, researchers (whatever you want to call them) can do studies on communities, societies, or individuals.

What's the point of watching the past? To learn. To understand. To answer impossible questions.

Pastwatch has multiple narrators--each one with a special interest, a special research area, together they are trying to answer some BIG questions.

How is Christopher Columbus involved? Well, he's one of our narrators for one thing. But secondly, he becomes the subject of interest for most of our other narrators. It is HIS life that is being dissected and held up for study. What our researchers learn is that at some point in time, future scientists, interfered or manipulated the past that turned Christopher Columbus' interest to sailing west. Their quest to figure out how and why of this manipulation will lead them on a journey with massive consequences. For they're debating whether or not they should do something along the same lines...

Semi-Apocalyptic fiction. Alternate histories. Time Travel.

Pastwatch is exciting. While the characters are well developed, they aren't as memorable for me as those in the Ender books. But that could be because I've read Ender's Game about a dozen times and Pastwatch only twice. Overall, I say this is a must-read. Those with an interest in history will find it fascinating. As will those with a love for science fiction.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Eligible Book: Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence

Card's review:


I already reviewed -- and highly recommended -- the movie Becoming Jane Austen. But I couldn't help being suspicious that all the best bits in the movie were simply made up.

That's why I had to buy Jon Spence's biography Becoming Jane Austen, to see just where fact left off and fantasy began.

Spence's book is a remarkably well-written biography. Working with the same data that has led several previous writers to create completely dull biographies of this fascinating woman, Spence was able to spin a completely accurate story that clearly distinguished between known facts and plausible speculations that fit the available evidence.

The book is compulsively readable. It's a model for how popular biographies of long-dead people can and should be written. And yet it never leads you into falsely believing things that simply can't be proven, though they seem likely. Always we are given Spence's evidence so we can decide for ourselves what to believe.

As to the movie, the verdict is: The climactic nearly-running-away scene is completely unjustified but could have happened; everything else either certainly did happen or might well have happened or happened, but not at the time shown.

In other words, the movie is way above average in fidelity to real history. Much more accurate, for instance, than Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan or JFK or An Inconvenient Truth, all of which purported to tell the truth.

But good as the movie is, if you have to choose between seeing it and reading the book it was based on, read the book.

Interworld


Gaiman, Neil. 2007. Interworld.

It would have been hard for me not to enjoy Interworld by Neil Gaiman. It's science fiction. It's alternate realities. It's other dimensions. It's Neil Gaiman. Take any one of those, and there's a good chance I'll enjoy...but all of them...and it would be impossible for me not to.

Joey Harker is our teen hero. He's directionally challenged in the real world, but he's about to go where few have gone before--walking between worlds, walking between realities. And at this--directionally challenged or not--he excels. This "gift" makes him a valuable asset to both the good guys and the bad guys. And this "gift" may just cost him his life in a war he never expected to fight.

First line: Once I got lost in my own house.

When Joey and his classmates are turned loose on the streets in an experiment for his Social Studies class and told to find their way to a certain place by a certain time, Joey's sense of direction will be tested like never before. The class is paired up--maybe in twos or threes I don't remember the exact number--but Joey's partner, not so lucky. When Joey gets lost, he sets off on his own--telling his partner that he'll be back in a minute or two. He doesn't return...not for thirty-six hours. And when he does return he has amnesia. He has no idea of what happened while he was missing. Though, of course, the reader does.

Interworld is an exciting, action-packed adventure.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card


I've been waiting patiently for two years for this book to come out and I must say that it far surpassed my expectations. Many Orson Scott Card fans were disappointed that we weren't getting our "Christmas at Battle School" story last year for Christmas, but it was well worth the wait and Uncle Orson has given all of his readers a wonderful gift indeed with this new addition to the Ender saga.

A War of Gifts is much more than just the story of Christmas at battle school. It is a story of human connections, the spirit of a child, and a story of facing that moment where the spirit of a child begins to awaken into an adult. The story takes place at battle school during the events of Card's novel Ender's Game. A new child by the name of Zeck has been drafted into the army. Zeck is the child of a minister who claims to be somewhat of a vessel through which God speaks to his congregation. Zeck has been raised in a home where he has been brainwashed against any form of popular culture and is often beaten by his father as a way to cleanse his soul. Zeck's father preaches that Santa Claus is the creation of Satan and is nothing but a false idol paraded to children. Zeck also has a very special gift of being able to memorize anything he hears and is highly intelligent. He's recruited by battle school and is taken against his will...for battle school does not allow the expression of religion for the sake of uniformity.

On Sinterklaas Eve, a young boy in battle school leaves his shoes out in the hope that Sinterklaas will leave him a present and another child soldier in battle school notices the gesture and tries to fulfill the boys wish. Zeck sees this and reports it to the commanders as expression of religion in the hopes that others will turn against him and he can be sent home where he can once again practice his religion. But what escalates is beyond what he had planned for.

This book was just perfect and fans of the Ender series will love it. If you've never read a single book in the Ender series, you'll love this book. You don't have to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one. It's a short one at just 126 pages and I'd recommend it to be on anyone's holiday list.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Becky Review's Quicker Than The Eye

Bradbury, Ray. Quicker Than The Eye

I've been reading a short story here and there since Thursday (and continuing through today) from Ray Bradbury's collection Quicker Than the Eye. I am not loving it like I did The Martian Chronicles.

The first story, "Unterderseaboat Doktor" was just weird. Weird without being good if you know what I mean. Pointlessly weird.

The second story, "Zaharoff/Richter Mark V" was better. It was oddly amusing. It is about an elite group of architects that routinely plot all the world's calamities just so they can rebuild cities.

"Remember Sascha" was okay for me. It is not gonna be one that I remember forever and ever. But it wasn't bad. Just okay. It's about a young couple madly in love and expecting a baby. It has its odd moments--they hear the baby talking to them--but again it was just okay.

"Another Fine Mess" was like a mediocre Twilight Zone. You know the sort. The kind that you might watch once, but you're not dying to see it in repeats. Slightly odd and nostalgic about old film stars and old Hollywood...but mostly just okay.

"The Electrocution" went way over my head. I admit. I read this one as clueless as can be. I just didn't get anything. It was like one of us (I don't know which) was from another planet. Either the language of the story really is that odd. OR what is most likely, my head wasn't quite functioning properly when I tried to absorb this one. Regardless, it is probably my least favorite of the bunch.

"Hopscotch" is one that I read and promptly forgot. Even reading the first paragraph or two doesn't jot my memory. I guess this means my impressions of this one are mediocre at best. At least I don't remember hating it or being confused.

"The Finnegan" is a weird story about a large creepy human-eating spider. It probably would have made a great radio broadcast with lots of effects and whatnot.

"That Woman on the Lawn" is a pleasantly strange story about a man who lives in a house with a haunted front yard. At some point, he realizes that it is the ghost of his mother--only the ghost is of a very young woman. A woman who hasn't loved and borne a child yet. It's a strange one, no doubt.

"The Very Gentle Murders" is a strange story of an old couple NOT in love with each other. The husband is trying to kill the wife; the wife is trying to kill the husband. They're trying to outwit each other, yet everyone around them seems clueless as to what is going on. It's a slightly irreverant, often humorous, very weird story. But one that unlike "Hopscotch" will apparently stick with me for a while.

"Quicker Than The Eye" is a short story about a magic act. It's okay. Nothing special.

"Dorian In Excelsus" is probably the strongest story in my opinion. It seems creepier and weirder than the rest. And the action seems tighter. If I had to pick a favorite, this one would be a contender. See how it begins: "Good evening. Welcome. I see you have my invitation in your hands. Decided to be brave, did you? Fine. Here we are. Grab onto this." The tall, handsome stranger with the heavenly eyes and the impossibly blond hair handed me a wineglass. "Clean your palate," he said. I took the glass and read the label on the bottle he held in his left hand... Doesn't that opening just hook you?

"No News, Or What Killed the Dog?" is a short story about a family whose dog has died, and they have decided to have a funeral and bury their pet in a pet cemetary. It's okay. Nothing special.

"The Witch Door" is another good story. One of the better ones in my humble opinion. I can almost see it as a radio drama or acted out on a Twilight Zone type tv show.

"The Ghost In the Machine" was one that frankly I could have done without. I just didn't like it. It wasn't awful or anything. I just didn't get anything out of it. I wasn't confused by it. I just didn't care.

"At The End of the Ninth Year" is one that I liked. I can almost see this one acted out as well. As a great little sketch drama students do in class and such. It's about a married couple who love each other yet aren't quite in love with each other anymore. Anyway, it's a story about familiarity and love and commitment and knowing and being yourself.

"Bug" was okay. It's a short story about high school friends who drift apart through the decades. A man known as "Bug" loved to dance. When the narrator runs into him several decades (at least) later, they barely recognize each other. He no longer dances, and he's just ordinary again. Anyway, it's a story about the past and present colliding. And a story about regaining past glory in a way. It was okay for me.

"Once More, Legato" was an okay story for me. I didn't love it or hate it. It is about a "musician" who steals his melodies from the birds outside his house--his window. When the birds migrate, he panics and begins counting the days until their return.

"Exchange" was a clever little story about librarians and their patrons all these years later. About how books are friends. And librarians are great. What's not to love?

"Free Dirt" was okay, but ultimately forgettable.

"Last Rites" is another one I just can't remember. I know I read it, but my mind must have been miles away somewhere.

"The Other Highway" was a good story. I'm glad the book ended with a strong story. I can almost see this one dramatized as well. It's a family story. A man, his wife, and his kids are on a trip and they go off the highway and discover an old road, an old town, an old lifestyle. They contemplate trading their hectic, crazy lives for a more relaxed lifestyle. But ultimately, they head back to the crazy modern world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Becky Reviews The Martian Chronicles


Okay, I'm officially in love with a new author: Ray Bradbury. As if Something Wicked This Way Comes wasn't enough, I topped it off with reading The Martian Chronicles. It is such a great, great book. Okay, maybe the language--sentence structure and phrases--isn't as stylistic and magical as Something Wicked...but the ideas, messages, and premises in this book make for a great read. If you love Twilight-y Zone fiction, then you'll absolutely love The Martian Chronicles. It is this psychological examination of man--of humans--of our faults, strengths, weaknesses--that makes for a compelling read. The setting of The Martian Chronicles is Earth and Mars. (With most of the action occurring on Mars.) The time period for the novel is January 1999 to October 2026. The book is definitely a product of its time--a book written post world war II and in the midst of the cold war...where the threat of atomic war is so high it's almost overwhelming. The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories almost. Many were published separately. Most if not all can stand alone.

Some of my favorites include: "The Third Expedition" (dramatized as "Mars is Heaven"), "And the Moon Be Still As Bright" (also dramatized), "Usher II", and "The Million Year Picnic."

But one of the stories that made me think was "Way in the Middle of the Air." Imagine the racism and prejudice of the forties and fifties alive and well in 2003. Imagine that all the progress made between now and then is washed away. That most of the Civil Rights movement and integration never happened, or happened differently. This is a harsh little story--beware of the 'n' word. It made me so thankful to live in the here and now.

Be sure to visit my Reading With Becky post about X minus 1.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes (A Becky Review)


Bradbury, Ray. Something Wicked This Way Comes.

After reading Chris' review of Something Wicked This Way Comes, I really couldn't resist picking it up on my next library visit. (I ended up taking several Bradbury's home with me though this was the only one I got read this past week.) There is something so delicious about Bradbury's style. I still don't know if I'm actually in love with the style or the content. I guess a bit of both. But for me it's all about the style. It is how the story is told. The words, the phrases, the images. I think if this story had been written by another writer, it wouldn't have "grabbed" me as much as it did. This is a book that gets you at hello. Read the first few paragraphs and see what I mean:

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn't begun yet. July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.

But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you're riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett's porch, or the hairy-ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last nightof the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.

One year Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight.

At that time James Nightshade of 97 Oak Street was thirteen years, eleven months, twenty-three days old. Next door, William Halloway was thirteen years, eleven months and twenty-four days old. Both touched toward fourteen; it almost trembled in their hands.

And that was the October week when they grew up overnight, and were never so young any more...
(1-2)

I really can't say much more about it. Two friends. One big adventure. A Carnival with the wrong sorts of people. It is one thrilling ride of a book.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A challenge that might be compatible...

Speculative Fiction Challenge is hosted by The Book Ninja. The challenge runs from October through April 1, 2008. You may not sign up for the challenge after December 1, 2007. (So, dear readers, we've got a month and a week or so to decide if we want to commit.) This was taken directly from HER site.

Speculative Fiction the action of the story can take place in a culture that never existed, a world we know nothing of, or an earth that might have been or might be, to name a few. … This distinctiveness is best illustrated in the primary question asked by the writers of Speculative Fiction, “What if?” … this genre has a special capacity to deal with the human equation. (source)
In organizing, I decided to focus on four genres within the speculative fiction umbrella.

Challenge Requirements
For this challenge, you read six books. It’s up to you which areas of speculative fiction you read in; these categories exist only because I wanted to use these ridiculous titles that are only hilarious to me:

Skinning Schrödinger’s Cat With Occam’s Razor: read six science fiction books.
Herding Unicorns and Dragons With An Untested Magical Staff: read six fantasy books.
Points of Divergence, or Oh Shit We’re All Speaking French!: read six alternate history books.
Decoder Rings Never Looked So Good: read six magic realism books.
A Theoretical Handbook For the Unseasoned Speculator: otherwise known as the speculative fiction buffet. Here’s how it might look:
Science fiction (3), Fantasy (1), Magic Realism (2)
Science fiction (1), Fantasy (1), Alternate History (1), Magic Realism (3)
Fantasy (4), Alternate History (2)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Empire (A Becky Review)


Empire by Orson Scott Card, 2006.

I read this book for the Cardathon challenge and the R.I.P. II challenge. I have mixed views on this one. It's not that I disliked it, I didn't. But I didn't love it. The characters, well, I liked them. But this was more about premise than action or characters. (There was plenty of action, believe me, but you never forgot that it was action based on a certain premise.) Politics. Media. Scary subjects for those liking to remain neutral observers of the world around them. The novel is about the polarization of America into red and blue. Conservative and liberals. Republicans and Democrats. Radical views. Strict dogmas. Plenty of rhetoric and media coverage. No middle ground. The situation in this future-America is bleak. The country is divided--strongly divided. There are people--hundreds of thousands if not millions--that hate the President and his particular party. Congress is divided as well. These two parties are always at ends with one another. Can't see eye to eye on anything. Determined to disagree on even the smallest issue. Compromise is never an option. They fight and bicker over everything. In this charged environment, a few men in the military are working on a secret secret project. A project that leads to a destructive climax. Well, not a climax so much as an opening premise. Reuben Malich--Major Malich--is working on a top-secret project that supposedly came directly from the White House. He's supposed to write up a plan on how to assassinate the President, so that they can then work on ways to prevent such an attack. He's playing devil's advocate if you will. He's supposed to think like a criminal and find the weaknesses in the system. The problem? He's being used--set up--by the bad guys. His plans become the plan that actually works at crippling the nation as we know it. The president, vice president, and secretary of defense (as well as a lot of other people) are killed--murdered. Now it is up to Reuben and his few friends--including his new assistant Captain Coleman to find out just who these "bad guys" are and uncover the whole plot. The plot is complex, not difficult to dissect afterwards, but a mystery while you're reading it. I can't really go into it here. The characters were okay for me. But none of them were developed that well. None of them were particularly strong or outstanding. The action was fast-paced. But again, it was driven by the premise of "what if????" And while the premise is arguably interesting in and of itself, I don't know that it was enough to carry the novel alone. This one had no tidy ending either. So it's one of those where you have to try to guess what would happen next. So instead of having a rather boring but satisfactory "Ah, America will be okay and everything is back to normal and just as it should be" feeling, you're left with a bit of angst. Am I glad I read it? Definitely. Did it make me think? Sure. Is it my least favorite Card novel? No. But it doesn't come close to my top ten.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two Mini-Challenges

These two mini-challenges are compatible--very compatible--with the Cardathon Challenge. But you don't have to be a participant in the Cardathon to join one of the mini-challenges. These "mini-challenges" are not as open-ended as most challenges. But they're not strict either.

One would be to read and/or watch at least two Jane Austen novels/movies in 2008. Masterpiece Theatre is showing all 6 movies in the 2008 season. I am going to be aiming for all 6. But if you want to just watch two movies and blog about them, that is fine too. It would still be participating. For those that may not get PBS, rent (or buy) two Austen movies--any version--and you'll still qualify as a participant. Want to read an Austen biography as a substitute for one of the novels, go for it. Or watch Becoming Jane as a substitute for one of the movies. I'll allow it. Just read two Austen-related books. OR watch two Austen-related movies. You can always read more or watch more. What about audio books? Sure. Listening would count as well. Whatever you want. It's supposed to be fun.

The second challenge would be an Inkling-related challenge. One would commit to reading at least two books by C.S. Lewis (I suggest the Chronicles of Narnia, a seven book series) and reading two books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Movies once again are acceptable. If you want to watch the somewhat new and forthcoming movies The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian that would be fine. A biography of Lewis or Tolkien can be substituted for one of the books. You can watch a mix of Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies. Or you can stick to the books. Whatever you want. I'll be wanting to read all seven of the Narnia books. The Hobbit. And the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

If you're interested in either please leave a comment. (But be specific as to which one you're considering.) These challenges *officially* start in January 2008. The Masterpiece season begins then. But you could begin whenever you want. But I'm not planning on starting until the new year.

Booklogged's List

So, what will I be reading for this challenge? I haven't whittled my choices down to the final selections, but this is the 'long list'.

Books by Card
An Open Book
Hart's Hope
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Invasive Procedures
Treasure Box
Cruel Miracles

Books Reviewed by Card on his Website
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke (an Irene Kelly mystery)
Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint
The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz
TheMessenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear


I can highly recommend Enchantment and Ender's Game, both by Card.