Thursday, January 31, 2008

Becky's Review of Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star

Mull, Brandon. 2007. Fablehaven: The Rise of the Evening Star.

It has now been a year since Kendra and Seth have visited their grandfather and grandmother (whom we first met as a chicken) on their Fablehaven estate (or preserve to be a bit more accurate). Our narrative opens with Kendra anticipating the last week of school--her last week at a middle school. It's an unusual time for a school--a class--to receive a new student--with only one week to go--but only Kendra knows quite how strange it is. The new student? Not human. A monster. A monster with foul breath. When Kendra's unable to reach her grandfather, she decides to trust the man who claims to be sent at her grandfather's request. A man called Errol. Kendra and Seth thus end their school year with a bit of adventure and danger and mystery. Soon summer will be here. The summer may just hold another action-packed, adventure-filled, mystery-solving, danger-ridden, journey for the two as they visit their grandparents once more. Full of action, suspense, mystery, and adventure...this second book is even better than the first.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Seventh Son: Tales of Alvin Maker

This was my second Card book, but my first for the challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed Seventh Son and I'm looking forward to moving on to Red Prophet. My full review is here.

I'm thinking that I'm definitely going to need to read Ender's Game. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Orson Scott Card calls Brandon Mull a "writer who is clearly going to be a major figure in popular fantasy." And I must admit that I agree with him after reading Fablehaven. Fablehaven is at its simplest the story of a pair of siblings--Kendra and Seth--who go to visit their grandfather for summer vacation. The two did not know their grandfather well. He's always seemed elusive, guarded, unsure. To put it quite simply, a strange man who doesn't act like a grandfather.

He puts his two grandchildren in the attic room. It serves as both bedroom and playroom. The two are given strict rules to obey. Rules that Kendra--for the most part--respects and obeys. Rules that Seth has no intention of following.

For the first sixty pages or so, Fablehaven doesn't seem that magical. It seems strange. Seth in his disobedience finds an unkempt, old woman in the woods living in a shack that he thinks might be "a real witch." And Seth and Kendra both briefly visit the woods and discover a park--a beautiful park--that looks like it came from a dream. Both of those events are weird, strange. But it doesn't get full-blown magical until the two decide to drink some milk.

Bet you didn't expect milk to play a big role in transforming the ordinary world into a magical one!

Seth and Kendra disobey another rule--one prohibiting them from drinking milk--and suddenly get turned on to the world of fairies. Their grandfather instead of being angry is well pleased with his clever grandchildren. For you see, their grandfather's secrets have been waiting and wanting to be discovered.

I don't want to spoil this one for anyone. So I won't tell you what kinds of adventures these kids have while visiting their grandparents. . . but it's exciting through and through. I don't think many will read it and be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

February Bookworms Carnival

It's time to start thinking about what you're going to read and submit for February's Bookworms Carnival entitled The Geography of Make-Believe. This time the carnival is being hosted by Renay at The Book Ninja. The theme is speculative fiction. You will need to read her guidelines to see if your submission will fit with the theme. Read all about it here. The deadline for submissions is February 8th!!!! (A little over two weeks away)

I'm extremely excited about this theme--this carnival. And I hope that some of my readers--hint, hint--will participate as well. The more the merrier. I would love to see this next carnival be the biggest yet!!! And with a theme this fun, what's not to love!!!

Interested in submitting? Email Renay directly at this address thebookninja AT gmail DOT com. Be sure to include "bookworms" and/or "carnival" in the subject line.

I love this carnival--if you remember I hosted it in January--and I hope to host it again soon. I just have to pick a fun theme :)

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis is the third novel in the seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. Earlier this month I reviewed The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. You can read my reviews here and here. I loved both of these books. Loved. Yet I'm at a loss of words when it comes to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe is the start of the magic. It is the first. It could arguably be the best. Prince Caspian has a charm all its own. It's consise; it's action-packed. It's thoroughly enjoyable. Yet The Voyage of the Dawn Treader--for me--has a certain magic all its own that I can't really explain. There are times when I feel it is my favorite. But at the same exact time I'm feeling that it's my favorite, I feel guilty for thinking that anything could be better than The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe. I guess I feel I need permission to love another just as much--however differently--as I do my first love.

This is a book that had me at hello. Say what you will about the first two books, neither have a first sentence that pops or sparks with magic. "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." This sentence has to be one of my favorite, favorites of all time.

It goes on to say, "His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how friends spoke to him for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother", but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and tee-totallers, and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open."

This is our first description of Eustace, "Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in modern schools."

Can you tell already that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is unique but uniquely wonderful? Eustace, as the reader soon learns, is the cousin of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. And The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the story of what happens when Lucy and Edmund go to visit their most unpleasant cousin. You'll find that magic follows the Pevensies wherever they go. This time the magic doesn't come from a wardrobe or the blowing of a magical horn. This time it's a painting--a portrait of a ship sailing the ocean that "calls" or "invites" the children to an unforgettable but dangerous thoroughly adventurous journey.

Edmund and Lucy--as you can imagine--are elated, thrilled, ever-so-happy to be back in Narnia. To be reunited with their good friend, Prince Caspian. But Eustace is miserable, cranky, mean, and downright unpleasant.

The dangers they face on their journey are unique. They're not like the dangers faced in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe or even the dangers faced in Prince Caspian. There are more dangers to be faced overall. But they're subtler. Quieter. The book has them sailing along on the seas, then occasionally stopping at various islands--some known, most unknown. Each chapter (though sometimes several chapters are related) has an adventure all its own. The novel is a handful of episodes, mini-adventures if you will. All of them unique. All of them memorable. Some episodes, I think I'll carry with me always. There's just something about this novel that just works for me.

Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth

Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov was originally the fourth in the Foundation series. The third novel, Second Foundation, was published in 1953. (The two stories that the novel consists of were published in 1948 and 1949.) Foundation's Edge was published in 1982. Unlike the previous Foundation novels, the remaining books in the series--Foundation's Edge, Foundation and Earth, Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation--were written AS novels. Does it make a difference? You bet! A great BIG difference as far as I'm concerned. Why? The novels seem sloppier, wordier, and sleep-inducing. Okay, maybe they won't really PUT you right to sleep. But in a word. Boring. No pizazz. No magic. Few WOW moments. And a whole lot of asides and tangents. Unless sociology, philosophy, science--all hypothetical studies of the three of course--lessons fascinate you and keep you turning pages, you'll find these novels lack the concise power of the original trilogy.

Foundation's Edge is the story of two men really. Golan Trevize and Janov Pelorat. Golan Trevize is a Councilman on Terminus. Janov Pelorat is a historian, a scholar, on Terminus. Trevize is exiled by the Mayor because he voiced doubts about the Seldon Plan. He voiced doubts about psychohistory. He voiced concern that the Second Foundation was still out there and still out to get them. Janov Pelorat is forced into exile as well. Not because he did anything wrong, but because Trevize is thought to need a companion, an excuse, a reason to make the journey. Pelorat's hopes and dreams revolve for a time around finding the OLDEST planet, the planet of origin, the place thought of as Earth. Trevize isn't concerned about Earth. He wants to try to find the Second Foundation--if it exists at all--and wants to destroy it. But the two are forced to live together, work together, travel together. They spend most of this book, and most of the next, together on a small spaceship. (A spaceship for 4.)

These characters aren't the only ones doing the narrating, however. There are plenty of minor roles. Plenty of plot twists. Some members of the Second Foundation contribute a large part to the story. But the heart of this one is the ongoing quest by Pelorat and Trevize. Trevize for one reason or another goes along with this search for Earth, and their search leads them somewhat indirectly to the planet Gaia. Oh how tired I am of hearing about Gaia.

Gaia is perhaps a nicer concept of the Borg. It is a planet of "we" and not "I." The air, the soil, the plants, the animals, the humans, the excrements, the food, the walls, the beds, the clothes, everything IS Gaia. Bliss, the woman they meet, is Gaia. She is a part of the planet. Everything she sees, everything she hears, everything she knows, is part of Gaia. There is just one collective memory, one collective consciousness.

Gaia--Bliss--has been drawing--manipulating--Trevize and Pelorat to the planet. And they're not the only ones. Gaia wants to have a big SHOWDOWN with the Second Foundation, the First Foundation, and Gaia. They want Trevize to decide the fate of the universe. Which of the three--Foundation, Second Foundation, Gaia--he wants to see rule the universe for the rest of eternity. Talk about pressure.


For some reason or other--he chooses Gaia's concept of Galaxia. A concept that will turn the entire universe--the entire galaxy--into a super-organism. Every part of the universe--the planet, the air, the humans, the animals, the bacteria, the plants, the curtains, etc. into one collective consciousness. It is the loss of individualism. Every person, every animal, every insect, every blade of grass, every amoeba will be Galaxia. He's told that it will be a time-consuming process that will take several hundred years--probably five or six hundred years. So he chooses it with the thought that he can always unchoose it. But is that really true?

Foundation and Earth picks up right where Foundation's Edge ended. Essentially. But there is some inconsistency between Foundation's Edge and Second Foundation. I don't know how many readers notice this or how many readers care. I don't know if Asimov did this intentionally. But early in Foundation's Edge, one of the main characters, Janov Pelorat, is forced by the Mayor of Terminus into exile alongside Golan Trevize. They make a point of mentioning that Pelorat is leaving behind his wife. Not only is she just his wife--she's his pregnant wife. They refer to her only a handful of times, but apparently, by the end of the novel Pelorat has completely forgotten about his wife. Completely. Forgotten he was married. Forgotten that he was going to be a father. In the last chapter or so, he takes up with a new woman of sorts, Bliss, and for the rest of Foundation's Edge and all of Foundation and Earth not another word is spoken about Pelorat's poor, pregnant, abandoned wife back on Terminus. I believe at one point Bliss even asks if Pelorat is married and he says that he hasn't been married for years. A blatant lie on his part OR a forgetful Asimov at work.

Foundation and Earth is the story of Pelorat, Bliss, and Trevize. These three are out exploring the galaxy doing everything in their power to find Earth. Trevize is convinced that Earth holds all the answers, all the secrets of the universe. It's a quest he's willing to risk his life--and the lives of his friends--time after time after time. They visit a handful of planets. Each one scarier--either physically or psychologically--than the one that came before. Some are truly horrifying places. And of course at the MOST horrifying one of all they pick up a passenger. Travize doesn't want to. He fights it then and almost every chapter after that. But it does no good. No one will listen to him. The passenger is a young child. A child that they were told would be killed. But by saving this child, did they doom the universe?

I'm not going to have any more spoilers. These four and their quest to find Earth....and what they found and what they did....well, you'll just have to read for yourself.

These two had their brief moments of glory where the writing was good and the plot twists intriguing. However, for the most part, they lacked a lot in storytelling power. I think Asimov's problem with these novels is that sometime between 1953 and 1982, he decided, he determined that the world of Foundation had to be combined with the world he created in his Robot series. I haven't read the Robot series myself. But if these latter novels are any indication, I don't know that I want too. Perhaps, the earlier Robot novels are good. Perhaps not. Maybe fans of the Robot series were let down by these latter books too. Maybe they wish Foundation and Robots had not been combined. Who knows. I only know that Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth had way too many awkward conversations about humans and robots having sexual relationships.

Here is how the series is supposedly supposed to go these days.

The Complete Robot (collection of short stories)
The Caves of Steel (1954)
The Naked Sun (1957)
The Robots of Dawn (1983)
Robots and Empire (1985)
The Stars, Like Dust (1951)
The Currents of Space (1952)
Pebble in the Sky (1950)
Prelude to Foundation (1988)
Forward the Foundation (1993)
Foundation (1951)
Foundation and Empire (1952)
Second Foundation (1953)
Foundation's Edge (1982)
Foundation and Earth (1986)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell

Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell is book one in the Rigante series. It's also one of the reasons I started the Cardathon. Let me explain. Yes, I started the Cardathon to introduce others to the glory-that-is Orson Scott Card. But it was also selfish. I wanted the chance to read some books that were Card-recommended. I would read Card's essays/articles about the books he was reading and be intrigued, curious. Card's thoughts on Gemmell intrigued me. Here is an author--Gemmell--that I've never heard of. And Card is praising him enthusiastically. You can read his review of David Gemmell's Rigante series here. I knew immediately that I would want to read some to experience it for myself--to see if it was really as good as Card claimed.

Sword in the Storm is 439 pages of pure pleasure. It's historical fantasy. But--and this is purely my take on it--it is fantasy that is done in such a way that it doesn't feel like fantasy. It feels real. The world is so well-crafted, so well-grounded. The characters so human, so life-like. It just feels real. Yes, there are some magical powers going on. (The Seidh) (Especially crucial is the Morrigan. Though I think the spelling may be altered in the novel.) But they feel real. They don't feel like make believe. It was a world, a time and place, that I thoroughly bought into.

The first book--the only book I've read so far--follows the life of a tribe--the Rigantes--based on the Celts of Britain. They never say the word "Britain." And the closest you get to "celt" is "Keltoi" but when you read it there is little doubt where it is set. Similarly, the threat--the people, the soldiers, of "Stone" are never called "Romans." But the reader knows who the soon-to-be enemies/conquerors are.

Never has a book been so rich, so fully immersed in culture WHILE at the same time being so full of action and intensity. The characters are well-developed. It doesn't matter if they're major or minor. All the characters have a life, a spark of their own. Each plays a role in the drama. Each is important. The whole community--the whole tribe--is given life. His characters are so human, so believable. They're full of flaws, but they're still--for the most part--so likable. You understand them. If they do good. If they do bad. You feel you know why. You understand why. The action? Intense. Whether plotting a romance or preparing for great battle scenes, the pacing is unbelievable. All of it is so good. It really keeps the pages turning.

I think I will take a hint from Card and not talk too much about the characters themselves. This is one you need to read for yourself.

I have actually said nothing about the characters themselves. For good reason: I don't want to mar them by trying to summarize who they are.

For Gemmell has done something that is rarely attempted outside the fantasy genre and rarely done well within it. He has created characters of nobility and honor, and has done it so well that instead of seeming larger than life, they never lose their humanity.

Anyway, I can't recommend this one highly enough!!!! Read this book!

Important Announcement to All Participants!

The Cardathon Challenge now has a widget you can display on your own blog!!! It can be found here. There are three to choose from, and you can customize it as well. So please consider posting the widget on your blog if you're a participant!

Becky's Thoughts on Northanger Abbey

If I'm being honest, Northanger Abbey has never been one of my favorites. The book, well, the book just seemed to lack that magic spark, that sizzle, those ahhh life-is-good moments that Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion seem to encompass. It's not that I don't think the novel has its moments of charm. I do. The first sentence (or so) is magnificent: "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her." In the first few pages, there are just some stand-out phrases that are pure wit (or satire or sarcasm). For example, "But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives." And I love this bit, "She had reached the age of seventeen without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility; without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. This was strange indeed! But strange things may be generally accounted for if their cause be fairly searched out. There was not one lord in the neighborhood; no, not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintances who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door; not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father had no ward, the the squire of the parish no children. But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way." I love that...."something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way." Perfect tongue-in-cheek beginning to a rather ordinary trip to Bath.

Our heroine--our want-to-be-heroine--Catherine is seventeen. She has been invited to go to Bath to be a companion to Mr. and Mrs. Allen, the Morland's friendly (and childless) neighbors. At first, their trip is boring. The Allens don't know anyone in Bath. They can't very well go about introducing themselves to strangers. Catherine who longs to dance and soar in popularity can't go about conversing with strange young men. All seems rather dreary until they are introduced to a Mr. Henry Tilney. Suddenly, Catherine's eyes begin to sparkle and her heart begins to pound. (And if Austen's imagined character resembles JJ Feild, no wonder, Catherine is so swept up! Anyone's imagination would be prone to getting carried away all of a sudden. (Pictures of the cast can be found here and here and of course the Masterpiece Theatre site.) Soon after, the Allens meet the Thorpes. Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen having been school chums several decades before. Isabella Thorpe. Soon to be Catherine's instant new best friend. and (Perhaps we should all learn a lesson about people that are that clingy and chummy from the second you meet them.) A further coincidence occurs a bit later on when Mr. James Morland--Catherine's older brother--and Mr. John Thorpe suddenly appear on the scene. James is smitten with Isabella. And John is smitten with Catherine. (Catherine, however, remains smitten with Henry. Which girl wouldn't stay true, I tell you. Especially if the competition is John Thorpe. A man who was giving off creepy vibes almost from the very beginning. So the ThorpesMorlands are all chummy in a way. When the Tilneys reenter the scene. Mr. Henry Tilney is now accompanied by his father, General Tilney, a genuinely spooky and temperamental fellow, and his sweet and gentle sister, Eleanor. Miss Eleanor Tilney and Catherine while getting off to a bit of a bumpy start, soon become friends. Is Isabella happy? No. Just the first sign of trouble from her. So we've got Catherine being pursued by both John and Henry. Isabella being pursued by James and the noticeably arrogant Captain Tilney. (Henry's older brother who just happens to drop by and takes a noted interest in wooing Isabella away from her intended and straight into his bed.) All this drama and we haven't even heard mention of Northanger Abbey!

Well, I don't want to spoil this for anyone. Drama--some real, some imagined--is what you'll find in Austen's Northanger Abbey.

I read the book on Saturday afternoon/night. I liked it. It was okay. But on the screen it sizzled. It just worked. It was practically perfect in every way. Henry Tilney was the perfect hero. He was so thoroughly charming and witty. So adorably there for the girl. Always knowing just what to do, just what to say. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. But my appreciation for the movie goes beyond the chemistry of Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland. Everything just worked. The mood. The tone. The music--the score. The dialogue. They truly captured the essence of this book. And in my opinion--and it is just my opinion--improved on it. Maybe it just works better--the plot, the characters, the dialogue--acted out instead of read. I am no expert on Northanger Abbey by any means, but to my reckoning it was true enough to the book that if it did in fact deviate at some point it wasn't glaringly, obviously, punch-you-in-the-gut contrary. That being said, it SPED things up considerably. Instead of showing the Allen's out of their element and bored and wondering what to do about it for a week or maybe two weeks, they meet Mr. Tilney at the first social gathering they attend. That wasn't in the book. And it happened several times. The book shows things happening gradually--slowly. There is more detailed action and characterization. (For example, the movie doesn't show James wooing Isabella at all. Or hardly at all. They just don't focus on that aspect of the book.) But do we lose the heart and soul of the story by watching things develop so quickly? Yes and no. Quite honestly, I would have LOVED this one to be two or three hours long. I wouldn't have been bored with more story, more details, more of everything really. I would have been happy. But still, there aren't any complaints from me. They got it right this time. It is just fun and delightful and enjoyable and happy-making. I think it says something when my mom and I both wear the same silly ear-to-ear grins at the end of a movie. I would imagine, I would hope, we're not the only ones out there who loved that oh-so-magical ending.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Second Foundation

So I finished the third book in the original Foundation trilogy. (The other two being Foundation and Foundation and Empire.) Of the three, I must admit a strong preference for the middle novel. There is something magical that just works about Foundation and Empire. But that's not to say that Foundation and Second Foundation weren't enjoyable enough reads.

What can I say about Second Foundation? Well, it was originally published in novel form in 1953. It had previously been published as two separate short stories in 1948 and 1949. If memory serves me, around four hundred years have elapsed since the opening of Foundation. (It *might* be three hundred or five hundred. But my gut is saying four.) The stories share a theme--a strong theme. While all of the novels--the stories--have shared the theme of preservation and ambition, Second Foundation expands on that theme. This novel is all about the quest.

In the first story, those doing the questing are The Mule and the Mule's men. Han Pritcher, a character first introduced in Foundation and Empire, is one of the main characters. Bail Channis is a new character. He plays a rather large role in the story. These two have been paired together by The Mule to go on a quest--a search--for the Second Foundation. Their goal? To find out where it is so The Mule can finish his conquest of the Galaxy and rule supreme over all. Ambitious? Definitely! Doomed to fail? Probably. But the two have been given the mission without the option of saying no.

In the second story, those doing the questing are the descendants of Bayta and Toran Darell. Their son, Toran, and granddaughter, Arcadia, unknowingly hold the fate of the Second Foundation in their hands. Arcadia (or Arkady as she likes to be called) is only a teen--14 to be exact--but she is determined to have her chance for glory--her chance to be a hero. Her idol? Her grandmother who helped take down The Mule. Arcadia's quest? To be the one to find the Second Foundation. Her goal to help the Foundation destroy the Second Foundation. She's definitely an original, spunky kind of heroine. Very opinionated. Very determined. But can it be down? Can one person single-handedly do the seemingly impossible?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Persuasion by Jane Austen

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways....

Persuasion by Jane Austen has to be--without a doubt--my favorite, favorite Austen novel. I've only read it twice, but each time was oh-so-magical. Though I will *admit* that it perhaps isn't a book that will "grab" you from page one. It might take some patience and effort, but give it a chapter or two (or three) and you might just find yourself swept up in the story of Anne Elliot.

Sir Walter Eliott, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Barnetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt, as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century--and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed--this was the page at which the favorite volume always opened: Elliot of Kellynch-Hall.

See what I mean about NOT being an opening that will hook you? Long story short...or three reasons why you should read Persuasion despite its verbose, pompous opening....

1) It is the story of Anne Elliot. A middle child, a daughter obviously, born into a pompous and atrocious family muddles through the best she can while waiting for her Prince to come. (Okay, she's not really waiting for her Prince to come and rescue her. She's all but given up on love since she's also, at age 27, an "old maid.")

2) Despite coming from a ghastly, horribly obnoxious family, Anne herself is not only intelligent and genuine but she's also thoroughly enjoyable and likable. She has a wit and cleverness about her. She actually sees the world around her. She isn't blind to reality like so many of the other characters.

3) Persuasion is all about second chances. Anne Elliot, a girl who truly deserves good things because her family is so rotten, lost her one chance for love and happiness eight years before our narrative opens. Her heart belonged--then and now--to a young man, a sailor, Frederick Wentworth. But her family and friends deemed him unworthy and unacceptable. And forced into choosing between her family and her love, she chose her family. A decision she regretted from the moment she broke her lover's heart.

When Persuasion opens the reader learns that hard times have come to the Elliot family--a family mostly known for its arrogance and pride. The family is *forced* into renting their out their estate to an Admiral Croft and his wife. The Elliot family--all but Anne--will reside in Bath year round. Anne, poor Anne, only Anne, will be parceled out as need be between Bath and her father and older sister, Elizabeth, and her younger sister, Mary.

What can I say about Mary? Mary is interesting--and by interesting I mean obnoxious and annoying--in a completely different way than her father, Sir Walter, and her sister, Elizabeth. Mary is married to Charles. Charles Musgrove. Charles and Mary and their two children live on the estate--in a smaller house--as his parents and his sisters. They live in the "great house." Anne's time spent with her sister and her sister's in-laws is interesting to say the least. Mainly because someone has just arrived in the neighborhood. A Captain Wentworth. Captain Frederick Wentworth.

Just the sight of him makes her heart skip a beat--or two or three--she loves him like she's always loved him. But he's out of reach. He's now courting--of all people--one of the Musgrove sisters.

Love. Requited. Unrequited. Broken hearts. Regret. Jealousy. Disappointment. Frustration. It's all there with just a little more besides.

I do not want to spoil this one for anyone. Really. I don't want to. So please, please, please stop reading if you haven't read the novel. I mean it.


There are just a few scenes--one really big scene--that makes this novel oh-so-magical. That takes it from nice to really really great.

I love, love, love the conversation between Anne Elliot and Captain Harville. Their discussion on which sex--which gender--loves most, loves deepest, loves truer is one of the best dialogues ever. Seriously. Mostly because of the heart-felt letter that is the result of Captain Wentworth overhearing that conversation. That letter? The best, most romantic love letter of ALL TIME. Who could not love this guy?

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, week and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan.

The letter goes on, but I think you get the idea. Anyway, as much as I love Pride & Prejudice (and I do) I've just got to give the award to Anne and Captain Wentworth when it comes to love and romance. Okay, it only wins by a small margin--because Darcy is quite a letter-writer as well. And he is oh-so-dreamy in his own ways. But Anne, Anne is what makes this book so wonderful. She's a heroine that has nothing to recommend her but her self--her true self. A self that only a few recognize as a thing of beauty, a thing of great worth.

Let's compare Wentworths...first the 1995 Persuasion, then the 2008 Persuasion.

Now let's compare Anne Elliots...first the 1995 Persuasion, then the 2008 Persuasion

There is a cool character chart for the new movie.

As for the movies, I think I will *always* prefer the 1995 version. Even though none of the characters are glamorously beautiful, they're real and genuine. And that movie is *closer* to the book than this latest version. The real crime--in my opinion--is that they DID NOT HAVE the ultra-romantic scene with Captain Harville and Anne Elliot. They abbreviate that conversation down to a few lines, put it very nearly in the beginning, and have it taking place between Anne and a Captain Benwick. Therefore Wentworth can't overhear it, and doesn't have the *proper* motivation to write that beautiful, beautiful letter. Instead they invent a new excuse or else completely gloss over motivation entirely and have the letter showing up without provocation or reason. It's just suddenly there in the script. Silly, silly writers. Why mess with the majesty of the perfect scene???? If the new movie HAD bothered to get it right, perhaps there would be some competition between the two.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov was originally the second in a trilogy of novels. First published in 1952, the novel is in fact two stories or two novellas originally published (separately) in 1945.

Things you should know:

*Foundation was good. Really good. But Foundation and Empire was even better.
*Foundation and Empire is infinitely better than Prelude to Foundation.
*While I would certainly recommend reading Foundation, I think you could pick up Foundation and Empire without having read the other and still appreciate it for the great book that it is. It does in fact include a nice two page summary of the novel Foundation.
*Foundation and Empire has a certain something-special about it that makes it stand apart from Foundation. The writing seems wittier, funnier, more tongue-in-cheek. There's just something about it that makes it pop.

I am still operating under the philosophy of sometimes it is better not to know, BUT at the same time I don't want to be accused of not "reviewing" it properly.

Foundation and Empire roughly picks up about three hundred years after Foundation opens. In the first novella, "The General" the reader learns of the fourth (I believe it's fourth) Seldon crisis. One of the strongest generals of the Empire (what remains of the Empire) is out to destroy the Foundation. Bel Riose is the general's name. Ducem Barr, the son of a man we met briefly in Foundation, is a main character--a character that opposes the Empire even at great risk to his own life and his own family. Lathan Devers, a trader, is also of importance. The plot of "The General" is relatively simple, and this is the shorter of the two stories. In the second novella, "The Mule" the Foundation faces its GREATEST threat so far. It begins simply with the homecoming of a bride and groom. Bayta and Toran. They're visiting Toran's family on the planet of Haven. Haven is a "rat hole" of a planet where traders--mostly retired traders--go to hide out and evade paying taxes to the Foundation. The planet is technically a part of the Foundation. But they're more of a rebellious bunch on Haven. The reader soon learns that not everyone thinks Foundation is perfect when it comes to running the galaxy--or their small part of the galaxy. There is discontent among the ranks of citizens. But even the threat--the small threat--of civil war pales in comparison to the REAL threat of The Mule. I will say no more about the Mule or the rest of the story. I don't care how curious you are! Some things you can't pry out of me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov is a prequel to Foundation. (Foundation was originally published in 1951. Prelude to Foundation was published in 1988.) It is VERY different than the original novel. Foundation, if you recall, is composed of five segments. Each one separate, distinct. The story--the plot--is loosely woven together. The main theme could be construed to be one of ambition. Various individuals separated by time and often place are very thirsty and hungry for power. All use manipulative tactics to advance their cause--the cause to be #1 and to boss everyone around. But Prelude to Foundation is set on one planet, and follows primarily the life of one man for a handful of months. (If I had to guess, I'd say more than three but less than twelve.)

You might be thinking, BUT WHAT IS IT ABOUT???? Prelude to Foundation is the story of Hari Seldon. A young man who finds his world turned upside down after giving a speech--reading his research paper--at a mathematical convention. His topic? Psychohistory. Suddenly, Seldon finds himself a hot commodity. Power-hungry people seem determined to use him, to use his supposed theory as a propaganda machine for their own agendas. Seldon is convinced throughout seven-eighths of the novel that the theory of psychohistory is impossible. While it might theoretically be possible to to decipher the ins and outs of the philosophy, the science. It is just that a theory that hasn't been proven. And a theory that is unlikely to be proven since it is so complex, so headache-causing that even the supposed inventor of this theory can't understand or explain what exactly he means by the concept. Seldon doesn't want to deal with this "theory" in the practical. It boggles his mind that others are so determined to make him apply it politically, socially, economically. This one little research paper has him on the run for his life. Okay, life might be an exaggeration. No one is out to kill him--for the most part--they just want to trap him, use him, keep him under their control. (Which one could argue would seriously hinder his "living" life at all.) Of course, this isn't Hari Seldon's story alone. There are many, many characters. Many, many plot twists. Many things that make this novel complex.

If I had to compare the two novels, Foundation and Prelude to Foundation, this is what I would say. Foundation is like eating a wonderful, delicious meal. You leave the table feeling full and satisfied. You enjoyed every bite. It was an experience. Something to be savored. For me, Prelude to Foundation loses some of the magic. It wasn't like eating a wonderful meal. It is like you're held captive while someone describes to you the minute details of what it took to prepare that meal. The preparations. The recipes. The nutritional value of each dish. The reasonings behind exact serving sizes and garnishes. The how-to's of elaborate table settings. It is a thicker, heavier, weightier read. Very detailed. Prone to lessons and lectures in some places. It gets bogged down in the whys. In some ways it is a less satisfying read. Of course, this is all subjective.

Since it is a prelude, it is now listed as "first" in the series. I think this might just be a mistake. Of course, I can't unread Foundation to fairly evaluate Prelude to Foundation. But in all honesty, if I read Prelude to Foundation first, I'm not sure I'd bother to go on with the series. If I did, I certainly wouldn't be in any hurry or rush to do so. Prelude to Foundation was boring in places, while Foundation had me spellbound the whole way through.

Forward the Foundation is another prequel. It also goes "before" the original novel Foundation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Some books feel like friends from the very beginning. Such is the case with Isaac Asimov's novel, Foundation. This book was originally the first in a series of Foundation novels. (However, Prelude to Foundation has since been published.) The novel is composed of five sections. Four of these sections were originally published separately and appeared as short stories in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and 1944. They were later compiled together into one volume in 1951 alongside a newly written introduction section, and thus Foundation as we know now it was published. (Does any of that matter? Not really. I didn't read the details on the publishing history until after I read it. But as an after note, I was intrigued by it. So I thought I'd share it with you.)

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire had ruled supreme. Now it was dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, could see into the future--a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that would last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathered the best minds in the Empire--both scientists and scholars--and brought them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He called his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation found itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope was faced with an agonizing choice: Submit to the barbarians and be overrun--or fight them and be destroyed.

What can I say about Foundation without giving too much away? It is one of those rare books where it's best not to know. Best not to have preconceived notions of what it's all about. Best not to think too much about what it's saying and where it's going. It's best to just go along for the ride on this one.

The settings? Various planets. The characters? Too many to list. The plot? Complex but not difficult to follow. Each section of the book is separate from the whole. Most are divided by time. Between sections, thirty years, eighty years, fifty years, a hundred years could have passed. The reader picks up hints here and there about how much time has gone by. But this isn't a book where you follow characters around. This is more of a novel where ideas play the leading role.

If there is a cohesive theme to the novel it is manipulation. Whether passive or aggressive, Foundation is all about power struggles, manipulations, and getting others to do what you want when you want. It is all about ambition.

Do not look at this chart unless you want to confuse yourself. (Or you've read a good many of the books already.) For plot summary of the first novel, click here. For more information on the series as a whole, click here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Start Celebrating!!!!!!!

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Orson Scott Card is the recipient of the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his outstanding lifetime contribution to writing for teens for his novels Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. The press release can be found here. The following paragraphs come from this announcement:

Orson Scott Card is the recipient of the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his outstanding lifetime contribution to writing for teens for his novels Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. An accomplished storyteller, Card weaves the everyday experiences of adolescence into broader narratives, addressing universal questions about humanity and society. The award was announced January 14 at the 2008 Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in Philadelphia.

Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow both published by Tor Books, present a future where a global government trains gifted young children from around the world in the art of interstellar warfare, hoping to find a leader whose skills can prevent a second attack upon humanity by the insect-like aliens descriptively nicknamed "buggers." Young Andrew "Ender" Wiggin may be the savior they seek. He is not alone, as seen in the companion tale, Ender's Shadow, where orphaned Bean relates his own Battle School experiences. Just as the stories of Ender and Bean are paralleled in the novels, their experiences echo those of teens, beginning as children navigating in an adult world and growing into a state of greater awareness of themselves, their communities and the larger universe.

"Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow continually capture the imagination and interest of teens," said Edwards Committee Chair Brenna Shanks. "The conflicts of self and society, on a personal level and on a universal stage, never lose relevance."

Card, the author of numerous books, short stories and plays, lives in Greensboro, N.C.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Prince Caspian

Lewis, C.S. Prince Caspian.

Prince Caspian, the second of the novels in the Chronicles of Narnia series, takes place one year after the close of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are preparing to return to school when they're instantly, magically transported (or translated) to Narnia. What they find there shocks them. Shocks them for many reasons. You see, it hasn't been a year in Narnia time. It hasn't even been just a hundred years. Their castle, their lands, unrecognizable ruins. The adventures are about to begin. Again. Many surprises, many adventures await them, along with one old friend. A friend that takes a little more faith to recognize these days.

Prince Caspian centers on a new hero. Caspian. The son of Caspian the Ninth, king of Narnia. But it is Caspian's uncle, King Miraz, that rules the land, and rules it harshly. Gone are the days of talking animals and other fantastical creatures. No the "old Narnians" must hide if they are to survive at all. Caspian may have been raised by his aunt and uncle, but his upbringing was left to an old nurse who believed in the old ways. Now, Caspian is a young man who longs to restore the golden days of the past. Who longs to restore Narnia to its former glory. Who longs to create a peaceful age where old Narnians can live and live well. But he can't do it alone. What he needs is help. Divine help.

Can a horn of old bring much-needed help from afar?

I love Prince Caspian. I do. It is exciting. It is thrilling. Again, Lewis has created memorable characters and memorable scenes.

Here is the official Prince Caspian trailer.

Always Winter, Never Christmas

Becky's Review of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

My review of C.S. Lewis' classic children's book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is going to be chatty--quite chatty--and there's nothing I can do about it. I first encountered the magic of Narnia in fourth grade when my teacher read it aloud to us. My teacher, Mrs. Watts, was known for many things. She inspired much fear and trembling. Like Aslan, she was not tame, but good. While, other students may remember the discipline or the hard work...I'll always remember my magical introduction to Narnia. Soon after, I added book by book the series to my collection. Most of my copies were used. Most were ugly. But I devoured each one. I seem to remember my sister reading a few of the series at least.

But unlike Little House and Ramona and Anne, this series was more me and less her. Narnia belonged to me--the magic, the wonder, the glory of it all. I remember the pure pleasure I experienced each and every time I opened up a book. I remember the book covers, yes. And I definitely have strong opinions on which book covers through the years are 'the best' of the bunch. But more precisely, I fell in love with the proper order of the series. Few things irritate me more than someone who insists on that new-fangled order. Which is why, if you could see me, you'd know how frustrating it is to read my 7-in-1 novel. But some things must be preserved at all costs.

Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids. (p. 111 in the 7-in-1 edition)

The adventures in and out of the wardrobe that these four experience during the course of the novel are oh-so-magical. The characters--both major and minor--so memorable. The story, familiar yet resilient, even after having read it a dozen times. So many wonderful scenes. Scenes that resonate. In case you haven't read it, let me give you a teaser. Lucy, the youngest of the children, accidentally discovers a magical land of ice and snow while hiding in a wardrobe in the Professor's house. Her three siblings--Peter, Susan, and Edmund--at first don't believe her. They take her tale as a wild, silly, foolish story of a girl whose homesick and wanting attention. Edmund, the brother closest to her in age and thus her biggest tormentor, also wanders into Narnia unexpectedly. But who he meets there, will perhaps undo them all. Narnia is not a land at peace. Not at all. For the land is under a spell--an enchantment--the White Witch--the supposed Queen of the land--has made it always winter and never Christmas. And the lives of the children--all four children--are in grave danger when they're in Narnia. For there is a prophecy that four humans--two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve--will come to rule the land as Kings and Queens and restore peace and order to the kingdom.

The heart and soul of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the revelation of Aslan, the King of the land, a lion.

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning--either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. (141 of 7-in-1 edition)

The children's journey to Narnia, their quest to meet Aslan at the Stone Table, and their battle to save Narnia and their brother from the grasp of the evil and wicked witch....are unforgettable adventures that deserve to be experienced again and again by readers of all ages. You're never too old to experience the magic of Narnia.

Here's the super-trailer for the movie:

The Diaries of Adam & Eve

The Diaries of Adam & Eve Translated by Mark Twain. Illustrated by Michael Mojher.

This compilation combines several writings by Mark Twain. It weaves together the texts of both Adam and Eve's diaries. You can see snippets of both here and here. (Adam first, then Eve.)

One of the reviews I read notes that, "The Diaries of Adam and Eve contains a good sample of Twain's wry humor and his observations on the human condition. He portrays Adam as a man who would as soon sit around and do nothing, but whose curiosity eventually gets the better of him once it is sparked by Eve. Eve is seen as a curious woman who wants to understand everything around her and has the need to share it with any person who will listen, limited, at first, to Adam, who is passably indifferent to Eve and her passions." Another calls it a "spoof" of the creation story in Genesis. While it's true that it is slightly irreverent, I see it as capturing the bewilderment and awe of life as it might have been. It's not like there was an instruction manual. And their confusion, curiosity, and naive wonder at things we take for granted make for an enjoyable, funny, lighthearted read. At its simplest it is a funny look at how humans learned to be human. One of the more humorous section is on how they became parents. Eve seems to "get" the baby thing more than Adam ever does. Anyway, I don't want to give too much away. But it is a short, simple, sweet book that I'd consider a must-read at some point in your life. I agree with the Amazon reviewer who wrote, "If there is a shorter, funnier, more delightful book on the planet, I have yet to find it. The genius that was Twain's is in abundant evidence here."

The Monkey's Raincoat

All Robert Crais books are recommended by Orson Scott Card, so this one qualifies!

The Elvis Cole Detective Agency consists of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike with the office located in Los Angeles. A married woman enters the office and wants to hire them to find her missing husband and nine-year-old son. The investigation includes some hit or miss strategies, but then they get on the right path and find themselves immersed in the world of drugs and murder. Lots of murder.

I believe this makes my 7th Crais book. I have read 4 in the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series and several standalones. This one happens to be the first in the series. Being that I headed back to the beginning, my hope was to gain some insight on Elvis and Joe, but that didn't happen. I guess the later books give enough background that the earlier books aren't required reading to understand the characters.

I did find that this one was not quite as good as others, but I still enjoyed it. There were a few things I didn't care for, but if my memory serves me right, I think further into the series some of those wrinkles are ironed out. This was not bad writing by any means, but I can see and feel the difference in his writing today versus 1987.

Friday, January 11, 2008

War of Gifts

Card, Orson Scott. 2007. War of Gifts: An Ender Story.

Short and sweet. At only 126 pages, War of Gifts is light reading featuring some new (Zeck) and some old characters (Dink, Ender, Peter), from Ender's Universe. This is essentially "Christmas at Battle School." The events occurring predate Ender having his own army if memory serves me. (And it has only been two days since I read it. So hopefully I'm not confused in my facts yet. But you never know.) Zeck is a young boy raised by a very strict, very religious, very stringent father. (His mother is slightly more relaxed.) Raised with the belief that he needs to be "made pure" by regular beatings and tormentings, Zeck is horrified to learn that he's been chosen to go to Battle School and trained to be a soldier. Rescuing? He doesn't need rescuing! His father, the one who beats him black and blue, the one who preaches Satan day in and day out is his hero, isn't he? Zeck has a hard time fitting in with his peers. It could be because he's a tattler. He's always on the look out for kids bending rules. With the mindset of "they can't make me" he's determined to have his own way no matter what. Determined to be miserable. But some boys are determined not to be miserable. To have as much fun as they can during their training. Dink and his friends think that having a little Christmas would be a good thing. It's not that they can go all out. But a kind word written or spoken, extra help with the homework, an extra treat at meal time, all of these become gifts from Santa as the generosity and kindness of the season spread. Only one person isn't happy...Zeck. Santa is vicious lie, isn't he? A tool of Satan? Zeck is determined in true-Scrooge and Grinch-like fashion to ruin Christmas for his mates. Something has to give...but will that something be Zeck. Can anyone melt his heart and show him the true meaning of the season?

War of Gifts is an enjoyable, light read.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Goodnight, Irene

by Jan Burke

I read book five in the Irene Kelly mystery series earlier this year and really liked it. So when Joy mentioned reading a second book by an author we'd only read one of, Jan Burke was an obvious choice.

In Goodnight, Irene the reader is introduced to Irene Kelly and several of her friends. The book starts out with one of her closest friend's murder. As a reporter, Irene picks up on the stories her friend was working on in hopes of finding clues that will lead to the murderer.

This type of book is like comfort food to me. Perfect for when I don't want to thing too hard, but want to escape for a few hours and be totally wrapped up in the story. I look forward to reading book two in the series soon.

I read this for the Cardathon Challenge because Orson Scott Card recommends ALL of Jan Burke's books. Ohhhhh, so lucky for me!

Ender's Game (Booklogged's Review)

The story is set in the future, approximately the year 2070. An alien race known as the Formics (often called the Buggers by children) has attacked Earth twice. Humans were very nearly destroyed the second time around, and would have been annihilated were it not for the work of Mazer Rackham. Now the government is preparing for the next invasion, gathering all of Earth's brightest children and sending them to Battle School, where they will learn to use their military genius to win the next Formic War.

The story centers around a child named Andrew Wiggin (given the nickname "Ender" by his sister's mispronunciation of his name). At the beginning of the book, Ender is only six. He is recruited into the IF (the International Fleet) and taken to Battle School, where he endures six years of intensive training. But Ender is not just another one of the children at Battle School; he is the one on whom all the government's hopes are pinned. For Ender is the best of the best, the genius among genius, and he is to be the next commander of the human fleet.

I wonder if J.K. Rowling ever read Ender's Game. As I read it I often thought of Harry Potter. Maybe it was because both books focused on young children or that the training games in Ender reminded me of Quiditch. Also, the young heroes of the books have to grow up so fast and face so much responsibility - They both hold the lives of so many in their hands. Even though I can't quite identify the similarities, in my mind at least, there was a similar feel.

Ender's Game was first conceived of when Card was only 16 years old. It was many years later that it was first published in a Science Fiction magazine as a short story. Even later Card developed it into a book that was awarded the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. Ender's Game is used by the Marine Corps University at Quantico as a textbook on the psychology of leadership.

Thanks to Chris I own Speaker for the Dead which is a follow-up to Ender's Game. Card has said that Ender's Game was written specifically to establish the character of Ender for his role of the Speaker in Speaker for the Dead, the outline for which he had written before novelizing Ender's Game. I'm excitedly looking for to reading Speaker for the Dead.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sharing your story...

I thought it would be fun--though it's not required by any means--to share our stories of how we came to find out about Orson Scott Card. To tell about our first reading experiences with him. And to share our reactions. What was your first Card book, etc. If anyone wants to participate, they can leave comments below, OR they can post their own story/reflection entry. If you're a big fan, you probably have a story to share. If you're a newbie, that's okay. This challenge is for everyone, and we hope you'll join us and create your own story through this challenge.

I did this in my review of Ender's Game on my Becky's Book Review site.

It is time to talk about an old friend. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. A novel that has become without a doubt my most favorite book in the entire world. Okay, so you might think I'm a bit overly dramatic at times. (I've been told this countless times.) But this time, I really, really mean it. (You still don't believe me, do you?) To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born. No, I wasn't born loving Ender's Game, but sometimes it feels like it. (Yes, it was that life-changing.) It was seven years ago. The fall of 2000. I was taking a Master's level class in Children's Literature. The professor was Dr. Betty Carter. Ender's Game was a required book for the class. Up until that point, I had never read a science fiction book. Never heard of Orson Scott Card. Never even heard of the Nebula and Hugo awards. I was in for quite a surprise. I liked it, I really liked it. Melodramatic as it sounds, this book opened up a new world for me. I began to devour anything and everything Orson Scott Card. I began to spend my weekends searching used bookstores for copies of his works. And I began to obsessively check his official website maybe not every day but more than three times a week. I especially fell in love with his "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" columns. And as my whole family--even extended family--can tell you, I began centering whole conversations around Orson Scott Card. Did you know that he.....Guess what OSC thinks about this....If OSC likes a movie, then I'll see it. (Although I don't always always agree with him on everything.) If he recommends a book, I try to read it. (I especially read it if it's a kid or YA book since that's my passion.) So maybe it's not normal to know what your favorite author likes to watch on tv...but if he chooses to write about it...then I might as well read it and remember it like trivia. Why is Ender's Game such a life-changing book? Yes, it is wonderful. Yes, it is practically perfect in every way. Yes, I could read it a hundred times and never get bored with it. But it did much more than that. Now, when you ask me to list my top ten books...or my top twenty's hard for me not to make the majority of my list Orson Scott Card.

Ender's Game is the novel that started it all. It remains my favorite and my best. My second favorite would probably be Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

What makes Ender's Game so perfect? The characters. Yes, there is action. Yes, there is a war. But it is the characters that draw you in. It is Ender and Valentine and Peter that make you keep turning the pages. I think OSC gets characters in a way that few other authors do. He creates thoroughly human characters.

Andrew Wiggin "Ender" shows readers that it is not easy to be a hero. That 'saving the world' demands great sacrifice and selflessness. A hero's life is not a happy life. Yet a hero is what the world needs when the story opens. Set hundreds of years in the future, Ender's Game shows an Earth that has survived two alien invasions. The "Buggers" (an insect-like alien race) have been defeated twice. But the war--though over--carries on. As long as this alien race is out there somewhere, the Earth could still be in danger. Therefore, the world has united as one to fight their common enemy. The brightest and best children are taken from countries all over the world to Battle School. This school is a space station. The children--ranging in age from six to sixteen--are trained from the very beginning by the military. Everything has a purpose--from the "video games" that psychoanalyze each student to the battle games the children play in zero gravity. The military--the powers that be--believe Ender to be the savior that the world has been looking for all these years. And they will devote their lives to ensuring that he becomes exactly the kind of hero they need for the final battle that is to come. The problem? Such training is not healthy psychologically. These children aren't really children. They're being raised to kill and destroy the enemy as defined by the powers that be. They're being taught to hate. They're being taught to love love love competition. They don't know about love. They don't know about kindness. They don't know about mercy and compassion. Most forget what life was like on Earth altogether. They've forgotten about their families, their homes, their customs. In other words, they've forgotten just why Earth is worth defending and protecting. The war has become a game to them almost. A fight for the sake of fighting.

To read a more in-depth review (also written by me) click here. Although I'll warn you now, there are spoilers. It was written for a class. And in writing assignments like those, it is all about summary and analysis. And you can't analyze a book without discussing the ending!

My Author Study Paper on Orson Scott Card

Happy New Year

I just wanted to take a minute and wish you all a very happy New Year! I hope 2008 is good to you all. And I'm so excited to *officially* get this challenge started! Some of you began in the fall, including me, but others haven't started yet! So welcome, welcome, welcome. If you like you can introduce yourself if you haven't done so yet. You can post your challenge list--the books you hope to read, or post your list of recommendations. Have you read a few books that qualify that you'd like to *encourage* others to seek out and read this year? Then do it! I love getting book recommendations. And I'm sure that most of us feel the same way. There's nothing like a personal testimony to add another book to the old tbr pile. :)

If you have read Orson Scott Card before (and it's not a requirement by any means), you may want to write a post describing your experiences with Card's fiction. I know a *few* of us are big fans, and will take any excuse to gush about OSC!

Also feel free to ask questions, to ask for recommendations, to ask if anyone has read a particular author or book.

Also would anyone be interested in joining a google group for the challenge? I haven't created one. And I honestly don't know if they'd be much interest. Some people are all about the community and having shared discussions, some just want to read and prefer to keep things more private. If there's an interest, I'll create one. Otherwise, I'll pass. A discussion email group is only *fun* if there are active members. And I know people are busy enough as it is. So just let me know what you think.