Monday, June 28, 2010

"The Dragon's Tale"

The Dragon Book is a collection of short stories, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. I got ahold of it because it has stories by three of my favorite authors, and this post is about just one of their stories.

The Dragon's Tale
by Tamora Pierce

Placed in the world of Tortall, this short story features the young dragon Skysong as the central character. People who have read Pierce's quartet The Immortals will already be well acquainted with Skysong and her human foster parents, Daine and Numair.

Skysong is traveling with her foster parents, and is bored. And when Skysong gets bored, she either shrieks her frustration or finds something to end her boredom. Since shrieking her frustration would freak people out (even in the world of Tortall, people don't usually encounter dragons -- and a shrieking one might be rather terrifying) she decides that she'll go exploring instead.

During her exploration she finds some injustice. She knows that she could bring it to her foster parents attention, but she doesn't. She's been bored, and righting this wrong is something for her to do. But before she knows it, strange things that she doesn't understand are happening around her.

Told from Skysong's point of view, this story is a way to see how the young dragon views the world. It shows more of Skysong's character to those of us who have read about her in other books and already love her. A person who is unfamiliar with Pierce's novels in which Skysong appears can follow this story, but in truth I think prior knowledge of the characters would make this story more enjoyable.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A "Part-Time Indian"

Have you ever read a book that was totally amazing, but despite being in love with it you couldn't quite figure out what to make of it? If you have, then you know how I feel about Sherman Alexie's book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

It's an easy and quick read. I read it in several hours. But despite that, it's intense. And it's the type of book that will break your heart even as it makes you laugh. Inspired by the author's own experiences as a youngster, this book tells the story of fourteen year old Junior.

Junior has had numerous medical problems, and wasn't even expected to survive until his first birthday. In the first few pages of the book he tells the reader about the seizures he used to suffer and about his brain damage, and laughs at it. It's not that he fails to understand what the seizures and brain damage mean, but that he'd rather laugh than cry.

Perhaps because of this attitude -- choosing to laugh rather than cry, when possible -- he accepts advice from a teacher and chooses to transfer from his school on the rez (reservation) to a school outside of the rez. This means a better education, but it also means that many of his fellow Native Americans see him as a traitor. Some of them call him apple, saying that he's red on the outside but white on the inside.

Throughout the book Junior must face challenges that arise from having a foot in both worlds; that is, the world of the white man and the world of his own people. At school he's the Indian, but at home he's the kid who's going to the white people's school. This can be confusing for Junior, especially when his school basketball team (which he plays for) competes against the basket ball teams from the rez's high school.

Also confusing is that the two worlds operate differently. For example, on the rez everyone knows everybody else, but among the whites it's normal to not know your friends parents. Also, Junior knows too many people on the rez who have died violent deaths (mostly due to booze), whereas his white friends have been to maybe one or two funerals. And I haven't even mentioned the most confusing difference.

Junior deals with his troubles by drawing cartoons and sketching. These are scattered throughout the novel, and help to tell the story. Through them you can see how Junior views the world, how he laughs at the world when everything is falling apart, and how he sometimes fails to laugh and sinks into depression when something particularly tragic happens.

As I said, this book will break your heart even as it makes you laugh. I'm still not sure what to make of it, but I love it and highly recommend it.

I also want to note that despite its title, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, this book is found in the fiction section of my library.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Circle of Magic"

Tamora Pierce is one of my all time favorite authors. She has this way of writing that totally draws you into the story and if you're not careful, you might get lost there.

Daja's Book is the third of the Circle of Magic quartet. (Most writers write trilogies, Pierce writes quartets.) The first two were pretty good, and I really enjoyed them. But so far, Daja's Book is the strongest of the quartet. And please note that I say "so far," because I haven't read the last book yet.

In this quartet four children are thrown together. They are from all different walks of life, and are vastly different. You wouldn't expect them to become friends, but somehow they do.

Sandry -- Sandry is noble born, and has lost both of her parents to a plague that she was lucky to survive herself. She breaks social boundaries because she traveled a lot with her parents, and usually the nobles of the places they visited didn't want to expose their own children to her. This led her to play with common children a lot, and to not particularly care about rank. That's not to say that she can't act like a high born noble woman when she wants or needs to, though.

Tris -- Tris comes from a merchant family, and she will always be the daughter of merchants at heart. But for years she was shuffled from one relative to another: strange things kept happening around her and they thought she might be possessed. Tris herself doesn't understand why the winds blow and lightning strike when she became angry. And she was angry a lot, because no one wanted her. Eventually cast out by her own family, Tris may as well be an orphan.

Daja -- Daja is from a family of traders, and her own mother captained a trading ship. The traders in this world have their own culture and language. They separate people into two broad categories: traders, and non-traders, and the non-traders are inferior. But Daja's life changes abruptly when her ship goes down and she is the only survivor. As though it is not bad enough that she has lost her family, she is now shunned by other traders because they are afraid of catching her bad luck. Daja is forced to live among non-traders, and carry a staff which identifies her to all traders as one who carries the disease of bad luck.

Briar -- Briar doesn't know who his father is, and barely remembers his mother. He grew up on the streets, and shares the company of thieves. We don't learn much of his childhood, and only meet him when he is about to be sentenced to work on the docks because he has been found guilty of theft for the third -- and last -- time. At the last minute he is rescued by a man who thinks that he will be a good addition to Winding Circle Temple. Briar isn't sure what to make of this stranger, but is happy to go along if it gets him away from the docks.

Each of these children find their way to Winding Circle Temple, thanks to Niklaren Goldeye (Niko for short). Niko is a great mage, and his latest project has been to find youngsters who have magic so unusual that the youngsters themselves don't realize that it is magic. Over the course of this quest he has rescued Sandry from a plague stricken land, Tris from yet more people who don't want her, Daja when the traders cast her out, and of course Briar from hard labor on the docks.

At Winding Circle Temple the four children meet, and the fun begins.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Midnight Magic"

Today I finished reading Midnight Magic by Avi. I have to say, I really wish that I'd picked up this book before now.

...and it seems like I'm pretty much unable to write anything this evening. I tired writing a post for my main blog, then gave up. And now I've spent nearly ten minutes trying to write a review for this book, but have gotten nowhere.

Let's just say that it's a darned good book, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"How to be Popular"

Steph Landry has been the laughing stock of her school forever. Well, for five years anyways, ever since she spilled a drink all over the skirt of Lauren, who was (and still is) the most popular girl in school. In spite of the fact that Steph apologized profusely and her father bought Lauren a new skirt when the stain wouldn't come out, Lauren still made Steph's life hell at school.

But that's about to change.

During summer break Steph discovered a book which has given her all the secrets to being popular. She has studied it closely, and thanks to the wisdom in its pages she manages to get noticed by the popular kids on her very first day back to school. And, most importantly, she gets the attention of Mark Finley.

Mark Finley, the hottest guy at school, who is the "senior class president, team captain and quarterback, last year's Most Valuable Player, and all-around great guy." It's true that he's also the boyfriend of Lauren, the girl who's been tormenting Steph for years, but Steph is sure that Mark will see how much better she is than Lauren once he gets to know her.

Fast forward a few days and things are looking great. Steph is being accepted by (most of) the popular kids, even though Lauren is still nasty to her when no one is looking. And people have finally stopped laughing at her name.

And yet...things aren't all smiles and sunshine for Steph.

Her two close friends have no idea what is going on with her, or why she's suddenly straightening her naturally curly hair and is cozying up to the popular kids. They're weirded out, and are pulling away from her. She had never intended to give up their friendship, but will eventually have to accept the fact that by changing herself she has changed her relationship with the two people who never cared what the rest of the school thought of her.

Then she also has to face the fact that Mark Finley isn't quite the perfect guy she'd always thought he was.

Could it be that being popular really isn't all it's cracked up to be?

This novel isn't the best of Meg Cabot's, but it is still an excellent story and well worth reading. I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"A Writer's Reference"

I just finished up a (late) essay, and I wanted to say how much I love this book. It answers pretty much any question I might have about MLA format. Plus, I bought it for a writing class at my community college, then when I transferred to my university I discovered that it is also the recommended guide for writing there.

I don't often need this book, but when I do, it's handy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goodreads

A coworker recently introduced me to Goodreads. It's a website that is special for people who are nuts about books, and who want to keep track of everything we've read.

I've got my own account on it, where I've listed 313 books that I have already read and 93 books that I want to read.

Is anyone else on Goodreads? I'd be happy to add you as a friend. :)


Sarita Rucker's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

"The Case of the Halloween Ghost"

"It's me again, Hank the Cowdog."

So begins the ninth installment of John R. Erickson's Hank the Cowdog series. And I'd like to note right at the beginning of this review that the series does not have to be read in order -- any and every book in this series is a good stand alone story.

Hank the Cowdog is Head of Ranch Security in ranch in Texas. As the Head of Ranch Security he ensures the safety of the ranch and deals with any trespassers, whether they be human, animal, or ghost. Except, he doesn't believe in ghosts. Or does he?

In this book you will meet Drover, Hank's loyal if somewhat cowardly side kick, who does seem to have slightly more sense than Hank. You'll also meet a ranch hand named Slim Chance, a couple of lost buzzards, five trick or treaters, and a ghost who doesn't care that Hank doesn't believe in it.

All these characters, added to the fact that Hank can never keep his nose out of trouble (and is always wondering why he keeps getting in trouble) makes for a great read. I would like to recommend, however, that you either read it aloud or get the audio book version of it. It seems to me that this particular book is just better when it's no longer just words on a page.

Happy reading! :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Wytches' Brew"

Here's a really cool song based on a particular scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Thoughts on "Hamlet"

You probably won't follow this post unless you have already read Shakespeare's Hamlet.

In the beginning Hamlet says that his mother has married his uncle just two months after his father's death. Then throughout the play he keeps shortening the time, and in the end he has them marrying within a week of his father's death (I think).

I'd assumed that it was two months before the couple married, but then I suddenly realized: what if Hamlet was shortening the time between the death and marriage even at the beginning of the play? Might his uncle and mother have waited a decent amount of time before marrying? Or at least, longer than two months?

What do you think? I haven't gone back to look through the text so there may be something to blow this idea out of the water, but I wanted to put it out there.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shakespeare stuff

I absolutely love Twelfth Night, and especially the 1996 film of it. In particular, I would like to share two things.

First, I have had this song stuck in my head!




Next, I absolutely LOVE Viola's face here when the camera finally turns to her, which it does about a minute in. Her expression is one of my favorite parts of the movie.



My other favorite part is Malvolio forcing himself to smile after reading the letter that he thinks is from Viola.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pagan fiction

June is Pagan Values Month. It's a time for us Pagan bloggers to talk about Pagan stuff.

I won't really be talking about Pagans stuff here, because it's my book blog and not my main blog, but I wanted to share my first post of Pagan Values Month with you because it is a list of Pagan fiction.

This list is in no way exhaustive. It's just taking my favorite fiction authors whose books I consider to be Pagan and sharing a little about their writing, and then listing some of their books. These books are excellent whether you are looking for Pagan friendly books, or just a good read.


Juliet Marillier
Marillier was raised on legends and fairy tales, and it shows in her works. She is also a Druid, and this too comes through in her writing. Marillier writes historical fantasy, and she is the only writer I know of who fills this genre.
This author catches the heart of Paganism, while at the same time adding in fantasy elements to it. People in her books celebrate the turning of the seasons like Pagans usually do, and do other Pagan stuff, but Druids also occasionally perform grand magic that I am fairly certain modern day Druids do not.
Something I find particularly interesting about Marillier’s books is her handling of Christianity. Rather than taking the stance that Christians are either good or bad, you see a variety. Some of them are good people and don’t care if their friends worship a different deity, while others have no respect for their Pagan neighbors. Ultimately what it comes down to is that people are people. Some are good and some are bad, regardless of what religion they profess to follow.
I don’t think of all of Marillier’s books Pagan, so below I will list those books that I consider to be Pagan works. I do recommend all of her books as excellent reads, however.
The books I list below are written for adults, but I read them in my teens (those that were released in my teens, that is).
Sevenwaters trilogy:
Daughter of the Forest
Son of the Shadows
Child of the Prophecy
Sequel to the Sevenwaters trilogy:
Heir to Sevenwaters
The Bridei Chronicles:

Dark Mirror
Blade of Fortriu
Well of Shades
The Light Isles books:
Wolfskin
Foxmask
Tamora Pierce
I’m not sure what Pierce would think about being on a list of Pagan authors, but the fact is that her characters follow a well thought out pantheon and celebrate the changing of the seasons. Religion is not usually a forefront topic in her books, but it is not entirely in the background either. Her characters frequently pray to the gods for help, and as some titles (such as In the Hand of the Goddess and The Realms of the Gods) suggest, divine interaction does sometimes play an important part in the novels.
It should be remembered that these are fantasy books. In addition to showing traditional Pagan activities, some of her characters practice magic that I am sure any modern day witch would be jealous of.
I have not read all of Pierce’s books, but I have read each of her books which take place in her made up realm of Tortall. I list each of them, in chronological order, below. They are all young adult books.
Song of the Lioness quartet:
The First Adventure
In the Hand of the Goddess
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Lioness Rampant
The Immortals quartet:
Wild Magic
Wolf-Speaker
Emperor Mage
The Realms of the Gods
Protector of the Small quartet:
First test
Page
Squire
Lady Knight
Trickster’s books:
Trickster’s Choice
Trickster’s Queen
Beka Cooper books:
Terrier
Bloodhound
Note: The Beka Cooper novels actually take place two hundred years before the other books, but they were written after the others and I think they are more interesting if you are already familiar with the other books.
Rick Riordan
Again, I am not sure what this particular author would think of being called a Pagan writer. But the fact is that his series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the gods have followed western civilization and Mount Olympus now hovers above New York.
I’m not entirely sure what the gods must think of how they are portrayed in this series, but they are a wonderful way to learn about Greek mythology. The young hero, whose father is a god and whose mother is human, faces monsters out of Greek legend and myth on a regular basis. As he does so the reader learns about the gods, what their stories are, and about Greek mythological creatures such as the Harpies.
I have not read any of Riordan’s other books, so I cannot say how Pagan they might be. All I can tell you is that his Percy Jackson and the Olympians books are page turners filled with excitement, which just so happen to teach Greek mythology. They are young adult books.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series:
The Lightning Thief
The Sea of Monsters
The Titan’s Curse
The Battle of the Labyrinth
The Last Olympian

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