Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What I'm reading

I'm sort of reading a few things...

The Circle Opens: Shatterglass
by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce is a favorite author of mine, but The Circle Opens quartet isn't quite the same as her other books. They're more like mystery novels, and has this particular book contains coincidences that seem a little too unlikely to me. Regardless, it's a good read, and I'm enjoying it.

by James Clavell
Historical fiction

I watched The Last Samurai with some friends over the weekend, and when I told my mom all about it she suggested that I read Shogun. Shogun is a book that I've been interested in before, so I went to Library2Go (an online library) and am listening to it now. It's quite interesting. I suspect that I might get bogged down in it if I were actually reading it instead of listening to it, though.

by Jeff Smith
Fantasy, graphic novel

A friend introduced me to the prequel to these books, Rose, and I liked it so much that I had to read the Bone series. I've read books one through four, and am currently waiting to get ahold of book number five from the library.

These books are hilarious, and because they're meant to be read as one big story rather than being separated into nine books the ending of each book is a gigantic cliff hanger.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"The Circle Opens"

I've been reading Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens quartet. I'm enjoying these books, but in one of them I'm distracted from the story (which is excellent) by the writing itself being slightly below the standard I expect when I read books by Pierce.

Here are my brief comments, book by book:

Magic Steps, book one -- No complaints here. The story didn't draw me in as much as some of Pierce's other books, but that's ok.

Street Magic, book two -- Good story, lots of character development and it raises questions that make you think. I was distracted from the story though because I found several grammatical errors throughout the book. I'm not talking about grammatical errors in the character's dialog (Pierce likes to have her characters speak in different accents and dialects), but in the description of scenes and things like that.

Cold Fire, book three -- Again, good story. No grammatical mistakes. It's funny, when I sit down to write this post I was going to complain about a side plot never being resolved in this book, but I just remembered that there was a resolution to it. So never mind.

My guess is that there were multiple deadlines when Pierce was writing Street Magic (after all, she also released Protector of the Small: Squire that year) and that she didn't get to spend as much time editing Street Magic as she would have liked. Based on my memory, Squire didn't suffer at all from being just one of two books released in 2001. And just to be fair, I want to note that two books were also released in 2002 (Cold Fire and Protector of the Small: Lady Knight) and both of them were well edited.

These are fun books, and maybe I'm just getting nit picky about grammatical errors in one book because I'm an English major. They're fairly minor and I could count them on just one hand. That's more than I could say of some authors.

I plan to pick up the final book in this quartet tomorrow, and I look forward to reading it. :)

What are you reading this summer?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Star Trek

Libraries also have movies, so I can talk about movies on here, right?

I've seen Star Trek 2009 a few times before, and I watched it again this week. I don't usually do movies, but I like this one. I have a few random comments about it which include SPOILERS. You might not follow my comments if you haven't seen it already.

1 -- Captain Pike is HOT!!! Yeah, I know he's old enough to be my grandfather, but every time I see the movie I go all ga-ga over him.

2 -- The opening scene is so heart wrenching. Does everyone else here cry when they watch it?

3 -- Has anyone noticed that the older Spock is more expressive than most Vulcans? It seems Spock embraced his human heritage more as he aged.

4 -- I kept wanting to giggle due to my memories of how certain scenes went in the gag reel.

5 -- I like the following ending better than how it was in the movie. After all, it's not like getting rid of things will make a space ship lighter in space. And even if it did, it wouldn't help you escape a black hole.

6 -- If ships go through black holes, then why not planets? Hey, the entire planets of Vulcans could have been transported back several trillion years! Or maybe to the future! Why not? It'd make a good story: a planet suddenly appearing out of nowhere.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thoughts on "Weedflower"

Weedflower, by Cynthia Kadohata, is about how the Japanese Americans were treated after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Told through the eyes of a young girl who doesn't fully understand what is happening around her, the reader watches as the Japanese Americans are rounded up. Those born in Japan were arrested, and all the others that the girl knows are eventually put in a camp where the government can keep an eye on them. Numerous such camps existed, but the particular camp that the author chose to send this fictional family to was on a Native American reservation.

I find it interesting that Kadohata chose to place her characters in this particular camp. In my mind I had been comparing the treatment of the Japanese Americans to how Native Americans have often been treated historically: dehumanized, and tucked away in a corner when possible. So you can imagine my surprise when the girl in this book found herself on a Native American reservation. In short, it seems to me like Kadohata was also finding parallels between how the Japanese Americans and the Native Americans have been treated by our government, and placed her characters in a reservation to compare the two.

I think that an entire essay could be written on this subject, but I don't want to dig that deep at the moment.

I do want to note that this particular internment camp isn't fictional. To make sure of that I looked online and found some info about it here. Also, I wrote a review of this book here.


Last, there's something in the end of the book that I find interesting. The Japanese American girl, Sumiko, doesn't want to leave the internment camp: it has somehow become her home, and she doesn't want to be uprooted and uncertain of her future yet again. She argues about it with her aunt, who has managed to receive permission from the USA government and plans to leave, taking Sumiko with her.

Sumiko tells a Native American boy, Frank, that she wants to stay. But as a friend, he tells her
"The more people who are free in the world, the better it is for Indians. It's better for everyone. You should leave. You shouldn't live here. [...] My future is here, yours is somewhere else."
I had to wonder, what does Frank mean when he says that his future is on the reservation, but that hers is elsewhere?

To me it seems that he's saying his place is with his people, but that as someone whose homeland is far away Sumiko needs to simply look for freedom. And in her case, freedom means getting away from the internment camp and off of the reservation.

Another interpretation also occurred to me, however. What if Frank means that his own future is hopeless, but that he still has hope for her? I don't think that this is what he meant, but I can't prove otherwise, so it's a possibility that dangles in front of me even as I try to focus on the other one.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Themes in Pierce's books

Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite authors, and I've read five of her books in the last several months. I got to thinking about common themes in her books, and decided to list them here.

1) People are people. In other words, there's less difference between the working class and the ruling class than you might think.

2) Sometimes mages don't even realize that they have magic to begin with -- they just know that they have a talent for gardening or dancing or something else. And when they're first told that they have magic, they don't really believe it. (There's also a case where a young mage tries to pretend that her magic doesn't exist, which is different but sort of along these lines.)

3) Sometimes magic shows itself in very ordinary things. For example there's one mage who dances his magic, and another whose magic is in working with animals.

4) Fighting for what's right (whether you're a lone knight who's traveling or law enforcement in town) isn't all glorious and exciting. It's generally dull and boring, and when things do get exciting you want the dull and boring times to come back.

These are the themes that come to mind when I think about Tamora Pierce.

Does anyone else here read Tamora Pierce? Can you think of any other major themes in her books?

Friday, July 9, 2010

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

Listening to a book is the same as reading it. So I'm wondering, does it also count as reading a book if you listen to the BBC radio production of it?

I got to wondering about this because when my family travels we like to listen to audio books. This time, however, we've been listening to BBC's radio version of Tolkien's "The Hobbit." I want to say that it's the same as reading the book, but I remember one scene being slightly different when I read the book years ago. I want to check that scene, but of course my hard copy of "The Hobbit" is at home, where I'm not. So I'll have to look at that when I get home, and maybe report back here.

Either way...

In this radio show a whole cast is used. There is also music and sound effects which aren't generally found in audio books. It is really good and really fun. :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"A Room with a View"

I finished reading A Room with a View by E. M. Forster the other day.

I found it to be one of those books that I can't seem to quite grasp. It seemed like there were either details missing, or too much detail, and like things weren't connected. But even as I write this, I can't think of an example.

That's the annoying thing: I can't even exactly put my finger on what I don't like about the book! Which means it might be worth rereading...

And I want to clarify that I do like the story. It's just the way it's told that's got me confused about what I think of the book.

My mom read it and liked it. Maybe if I discussed the book in depth with a group I could understand it and appreciate it more.

Have any of you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? Did you like it or dislike it? Why?

Monday, July 5, 2010


I'm looking around Goodreads and they have various lists, including lists of some of the best books and the worst books ever. Guess which book is on both lists? Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

It's interesting how one book can be viewed so differently by various people, and this is just one illustration of that.

What I read today

I have sort of a bit of time on my hands, and I read two books today. I was sort of wandering through the library (yes, on two different occasions today) wondering "Hmm, what will I read?" I happened to see the first book on display, and had been wanting to read it anyways. I actually hunted down the second one because I was bored.

by Cynthia Kadohata

In this book we meet an Japanese American girl, Sumiko. She lives with her aunt and uncle (and brother, cousins, and grandfather) on a flower farm, and they make a living by selling flowers. The flowers are the center of her life, and her dream is to open a flower shop when she's an adult.

Over the course of the book Sumiko's dreams are dashed by
circumstances she doesn't fully understand. Or to put it less poetically, she learns a few lessons about how the world works.

In the beginning of the book she is mostly carefree and happy, and her only concern is the well being of her flowers. She doesn't have any friends at school and is the only Japanese girl in her class, but that's ok because she has her family and her plants. Sumiko is also aware of WWII, and that there is some tension between the USA and Japan, but she doesn't pay much attention to it. To her it is a distant matter, and even if trouble were to come to her home she trusted that her uncle could protect her.

But her world quickly begins to fall apart, beginning with a birthday party. The party is on December 6th, in 1941. Her whole class has been invited to the party, but when Sumiko shows up the mother of the birthday girl uninvites her because she is Japanese. It is Sumiko's first experience with racism.

The next day, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.

After Pearl Harbor she learns that despite her assumptions that her uncle could protect her, he cannot prevent the US government from taking away the only home she has ever known. Less than six months after Pearl Harbor Sumiko's family is split up and she is put in a camp with other Japanese Americans. Sumiko doesn't want to be in the camp. And the Native Americans whose reservation the camp is in don't want her there either.

Despite the content of Weedflower, I don't think I would call it a heart breaking novel. It is definitely very sad, but somehow there is still hope even when Sumiko cannot imagine what will happen to her family next, or what to expect from her government next.

I really liked this book and would recommend it. In an endnote the author says that the particular camp Sumiko was sent to did really exist on a reservation.

FoxTrot Sundaes

by Bill Amend

Really fun, especially since the last time I'd read any FoxTrot was a while ago. If you're bored and want some laughs, I recommend it. I recommend any of the FoxTrot books, actually. :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How I developed my taste in literature

I listened to Dungeon of Doom by John R. Erickson today. It's another Hank the Cowdog book, in which Hank goes to obedience school. Quite funny. And only about three hours long, which makes it great if you're doing a craft project, like I was. :)

Anyways, I wanted to share how I developed my good taste in literature. It all started when I was a baby, and got ahold of my mom's special edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I decided that I rather liked the book, and sunk my teeth into it. What teeth I had, anyways.

My mom still has that copy of The Hobbit, and you can still see where I chewed it up.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Moonlight Madness"

What happens when an orphaned baby 'coon gets adopted by a ranch hand? And while I'm asking questions, here's another one: what happens if you give a 'coon a cookie?

To answer these questions briefly...interesting stuff happens. Very interesting stuff, that will have you laughing.

Yes, the ranch hand Slim Chance (gotta love that name) comes across a raccoon who has become roadkill. So of course when he finds a baby 'coon just minutes later he figures that the baby needs some help.

Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security, thinks that Slim is making a big mistake. But does anyone ever listen to the Head of Ranch Security? No. No one ever does. So despite Hank's disapproval, Slim takes the baby 'coon to the house and fixes up a cage to keep him in. He even names the thing. Eddie. Eddie the rac.

Hank is bound and determined to dislike Eddie. And yet...when he does start talking to the orphan, he finds himself liking the 'coon despite himself. In fact, Eddie seems pretty smart, and has some good ideas...

...and here are some lessons that Hank learns (sometimes more than once) from Eddie.

1) Under no circumstances should you trust a raccoon. Even a baby 'coon.

2) Never give a 'coon a cookie.

3) Never crawl into a small confined space that has a door, at least not when there's a 'coon nearby. And certainly don't do it if it was the 'coon's idea.

Instead of reading this book I listened to it. If you're going to check out this book, I highly recommend that you get the audio book version. You get sound effects, different voices, and music. John R. Erickson, the author of the book, tells the story himself. There are also two songs in the book (one of which concerns cookies) that are so much better listened to than read. So I say again, check out the audio book! :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I'm reading

I used to never read more than one book at a time. Sometimes I think I'm crazy for reading multiple books at once, but oh well.

The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I've got this one on my Kindle for iPhone and am slowly working my way through it. It's actually pretty neat, and nowhere as dry as I expected it to be. I think I'll have to read it a second time, in order to figure everything out. I mean, I already know who the father of the child is. I figured that out the first time we met him. But it seems like there are so many nuances to it that I can almost grasp but they escape me just before I really begin to understand them.

by Andre Norton
and Mercedes Lackey

I've been curious about this book for a few years, but I've had bad experiences with Mercedes Lackey. Usually I find that she has a great story, but that her books need editing big time. I'd hoped that this book would be better since she's working with someone else on it.

In this book they seem to take too much time setting it up, so they've sort of lost me. I hate to say this, but I think I'm going to return the book to the library tomorrow, without finishing it.

The Dragon Book
edited by Jack Dann
and Gardner Dozois

This book is a collection of short stories about dragons, and I reviewed one of the short stories here. I've been sort of jumping around in the book so I can't say for sure how far I am through it, but I think I'm about halfway.

I've read some amazing stories in it, some stories that are ok, and no story that I've actually disliked. So it seems like a pretty good book. And it seems to be rekindling me obsession with dragons.

"Briar's Book"

I finished Briar's Book, which is the final novel in Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic quartet. And no, I won't share any spoilers about previous books in the quartet.

When we first meet Briar in the beginning of the quartet, he's a thief who has lived his life on the streets. Throughout the first three books he slowly changes, but we barely even notice it. Until this book.

In this book Briar is questioning who he is. He's come to the realization that he's not the person he used to be, and he's not sure who he is anymore.

In the midst of questioning who he is -- something that any preteen or teen should relate to, I think -- he finds his home under attack from a plague. One of his friends is the first victim of the plague, and he is afraid of his other friends also catching it.

Isn't one problem at a time enough? Does he have to deal with figuring out who he is and a plague at the same time? Then again, maybe how he handles the plague will help him discover the new person he is becoming.

This is a great book, and I recommend reading the quartet. I read the first book in it a few years ago but then didn't read any of the other books, which I now regret. They're so great that I wish I'd read them before. And trust me, the first two are great, but the last two books of the quartet are the best.


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