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Wednesday Book Review: The Trickster Series May 20, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Book Series, Children Books, Fantasy.
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Today’s review is Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce, one of my favorite authors. Tamora Pierce’s tales always feature a young heroine who needs to come into her own as an independant woman professionally and personally and the Trickster series is no different. Aly is the daughter and niece of famous and powerful people and needs to find her own way in the world and learn to respect those who gave her the tools to find it. The book masterfully shows the growth of the young character and serves as a good heroine for teens and pre-teens. One of the strengths of the entire set of Tortall books is the clever near-medieval world created in them, with Knights and spies, pirates, monsters and Mages. Her Wild Magic series is a favorite of mine and is tattered on my shelves from many re-readings. The characters are engaging, the plot is fascinating and the series reads well. My only disagreement with it are personal, I disliked Aly’s love choice for not being three dimensional. Fans of the series will appreciate the cameos from other beloved characters that came before Aly, as they are referred to both as teachers and assist in their own ways, without overshadowing the young protagonist.

Genre:  Fantasy

Age: Young Adult

Content: mild violence, mild romance

Overall:  Buy or borrow

Grade 7-10-Alianne, daughter of Alanna (Alanna: The First Adventure [Random, 1989]), is ready to create her own legend. As the book opens, Aly, 16, longs to follow in her father’s footsteps as a spy, but her parents refuse to allow it. Annoyed, she sails off in her boat, only to be captured by pirates and sold into slavery, fortunately to kindly Duke Balitang. She meets Kyprioth, the Trickster, and strikes a bargain: if Aly keeps the Duke and his family safe for the summer, Kyprioth will return her to her family and persuade her parents to let her be a spy. With magic, spells, winged horses that are part human and part metal, crows that take human form (and provide a romance for Aly), brutal fighting, treason, and attempted kidnapping, this fantasy has plenty to hold readers’ attention. It also offers an interesting examination of race, as well as a look at an adolescent’s finding her independence, an especially difficult task with such a powerful mother. Aly is a strong, intelligent, and resilient feminist who stretches this fantasy to a parable of girl-power. The book at times bogs down in the sheer number of characters and relationships, and in the author’s zealous attention to descriptive details, but Pierce’s fans will enjoy it.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday Book Review: Storm Born May 13, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Urban Fantasy.
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Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Age: Adult

Content: Sexuality, violence

Overall:  Buy or borrow

I’m more and more finding I’m a very picky Urban Fantasy reader. I don’t like the ‘genre’ in and of itself, so much as I like the vampires/wizards/werewolves element of the genre and the modern setting.  That said, I enjoyed Storm Born. The first 6 or 7 chapters were a little slow to get through, Eugenie didn’t really gel as a character for me until the book picked up more steam. Her instant bed-hopping with the character Kiyo also caused me to arch a brow. I prefer a slower build of the character relationships, I like to get to know the characters as individuals before they get pushed into couple-hood. Perhaps that’s why I see the relationships as a weakness of the book, I’m not really rooting for one or the other of the guys in her life. Another weakness I find is the very stereotyped “I’m the Heir of a Big Player” that comes up in this book, however it’s a minor enough part of the plot it doesn’t bother me too much beyond a slight, sigh.

  The strengths of the book are numerous. It has an intriguing plot with some good twists and turns, a unique take on wizardy using shamanism in an Arizona setting, and a great cast of supporting characters. I like the mix of Fae, shifters and ghosts that are added as well and the character of Volusian is laugh-out-loud funny (and sinister). I particularly liked some of the character twists near the end, I saw a few coming but they were a very clever addition. Overall I’ll read the next in the series, I think it has a lot of promise. I won’t say if it’s on the ‘must have’ list… yet, but I have hope.

To Boldly Go… May 12, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Critiquing, Movies.
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So I was one of the rabid fans who went to the preshowings of Star Trek on Thursday. I am not ashamed of this. We were the geeky couple who were second in line and even skipped dinner to make sure we were there early. This lead to mass popcorn consumption but that’s a post for another blog.

Anyway…in a phrase I loved the movie. From the sets, to casting, to special effects, to writing…I loooved this movie. It was a movie that paid homage to where it had come from, but still blazed paths into completely new territory and set things up so that the franchise is given new life.

As a writer I’m impressed by the message of Star Trek and the pacing. The pacing ran well between character moments, action, drama, romance and humor. It never let you go or had you glancing at your watch. The plot was kept simple so that the focus could be on this new crew and how they come together and why. Each of the lead characters had a moment to shine and to show why they are important to the crew and the beginnings of why they will become more and more important to each other. The message was one of hope, friendship, family and love and how people react to loss. For some they become the villains and others the heroes. Everyone has a reason for doing what they do.

Six days later I’m still pondering this film. The story, the fan service and the links to the past… I need to see it again, but if you haven’t gone I encourage it. Even if you aren’t a Trekker or a big fan of the original this is a show worth seeing and it’s not so seeped in its own mythology that you won’t be able to follow along.

It’s one heck of a ride.

Jana

Wednesday book Review: Necropath May 6, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Science Fiction.
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Necropath by Eric Brown seemed to be an interesting choice. A space port set in exotic india dealing with all the incoming races of the galaxy, Bengal Station employs psychics, humans and aliens (Eee Tees) to keep interstellar traffic going. Unfortunately I felt lost from the moment I picked up the book. Vaughn, the main character, is flat and emotionless which is explained away by his use of a special drug to inhibit his telepathic abilities, but the result is that it’s hard to connect with the character. Tiger and her sister Sukara are scrappy and gritty, but never really connect emotionally. You feel sorry for them, but the childlike mind set of both characters is difficult to accept in light of their work as prostitutes and beggars. I was somewhat interested in what happened with Sukara, which at least got me to skim the entire book to find out what happened. The environment never really gives a feeling of futuristic setting, the gritty world complete with the impoverished beggars, the prostitutes and the middle class policemen doesn’t stand out from the modern day. Brown throws in references to flying cars, different forms of communication and space ships, but it never comes together in a way that drew me in. The aliens that go to the strip bar, also, are difficult to really visualize. Finally the plot is full of vague hints to Vaughn’s past that end up being more annoying than intriguing, and don’t get resolved until the end of the book. The plot itself is decent, but it would require more character ties to keep me reading and intrigued in what happens. Because I couldn’t connect with the characters I only had a cursory interest in the results of the plot. In general I have to say I skimmed this book and won’t be reading any of the others.

Genre:  Science Fiction/Mystery

Age: Adult

Content: Sexuality, violence, alien-sexuality

Overall:  Scrap

From Publishers Weekly
Mystery, fantasy and science fiction create a backdrop for this far-flung story with an uneasy conclusion. Jeff Vaughan, telepath in hiding, uncovers a bizarre shipment being smuggled from colony planet Verkerk’s World: a young human girl, apparently an important cult figure, accompanying a mysterious shielded container. The colony is also the source of rhapsody, a potent drug, and when a friend overdoses under odd circumstances, Vaughan suspects a connection. He and cop Jimmy Chandra set off for Verkerk’s World and soon uncover a plot around a rhapsody-fueled religion. As the body count rises, Vaughan starts to wonder whether he’s battling a lethal alien force or blocking humanity from achieving transcendence. Brown (Kéthani) sketches a complex future world full of bitter idealists, strange aliens and fantastic landscapes where nothing is as it seems. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The best quotations: May 5, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Musings.
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Since I’ve been drowning in my end of the year work, it feels a little like this is the hardest semester I’ve ever had. I think some of that is the fact that very late midterms connected right onto finals, which left me studying for over a month when normally I try to get my papers done well before the due dates.

Anyway I was seeking a lot of citations and quotations to use in my scholarly papers, and it got me thinking about quotations, aphorisms and suchlike in general. Do you have favorite quotations, or lines from books and plays and movies? What make your list of  Top Ten quotes (you can make it movie quotes, general quotes, play, book… or anything in between)

Top 10 Favorite Famous Quotes according to http://www.famous-quotes-and-quotations.com/ :

  1. I want to know God’s thoughts… the rest are details. (Albert Einstein)
  2.  100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.  (Wayne Gretzky)
  3.  ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
    ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
    ‘I don’t much care where –‘ said Alice.
    ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
    ‘–so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.  (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
  4.  An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.  ( M.K. Gandhi)
  5.  Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.  (Dr. Napoleon Hill)
  6.  Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius. (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  7.   You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want.  (Zig Ziglar)
  8.  Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.  (Mark Twain)
  9.  Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance. (Samuel Johnson)
  10.  I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.  (Blaise Pascal)