Book: Alphabet of Thorn

Alphabet of Thorn
Patricia A. McKillip
2004

This is a very elaborate fantasy book that was a lot of fun to read! The narrative skips around between various characters and time periods. I never would have expected a book where the central event is an ancient book being translated to have been so good! The plot follows a young orphan translator in the royal library obsessively translating an old book with an alphabet that resembles thorns, the young queen and her royal mage trying to find out what is going wrong in the kingdom, and an ancient king and his mage striving to conquer every land possible. The stories all intertwine beautifully by the end of the book and the characters are interesting and three-dimensional.

The cover art is beautiful. It was drawn by K. Y. Craft and she seems to have actually read the book before doing the cover art! The beautiful cover art is a wonderful parallel to the flowing, beautiful writing in the book. The writing is different for the “modern” characters and the “historical” part of the story. Each style fits really well with the part of the story it tells. It was wonderful to read.

I loved this book. I highly recommend it to anyone!

New Contest Entry – Famous Couples

There is a new entry for the Famous Couples contest. It’s the first one! Go check it out!

More Book Questions

One of the blogs I read fairly regularly – The Mumpsimus – posted a book meme that I thought was interesting. So I decided to answer the questions myself.

The Number of Books I Own
Not a clue. Too many to count. Not nearly enough! One can never have too many books. That is one of the things I learned from my grandfather before he died. He collected books. I hope to have as many books as he had someday.

The Book I’m Currently Reading
I’m always reading more than one book. Right now I’m reading Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which is a sort of prequel to Peter Pan, only it contradicts Barrie’s version a lot, so it has to be based on Disney’s version like they claim. I’m also reading The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey, which is about the USA hockey team in the 1980 Olympics (the “miracle” team). Both are fun to read, but Peter gets on my nerves a lot, which detracts from it’s funness. I’ll write a review of it when I’m done.

Last Book I Bought
I think the last two books I bought were Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer by J. T. Petty and Quiver by Stephanie Spinner.

Last Book I Read
The last book I finished was Wedding Goddess by Laurie Sue Brockway. I really enjoyed it. I’ll write a review of it soon.

Five Books that Have Meant a Lot to Me
1. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. It’s a wonderful autobiography by a British nurse during World War I. It’s a great book. It meant so much to me and was really inspirational.
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s very unique in children’s literature for a variety of reasons and it’s just so much fun to read!
3. Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie. I adore this book so much! It’s got a magic that I’ve never found in any other book. Peter is a great character and Neverland is one of the most wonderful and unique fantasy worlds ever created.
4. The Winnie-the-Pooh Books by A. A. Milne. I love these books. My grandfather read them to me when I was a little kid and he gave me my set, which is leather bound and gold embossed. I recently read them to Michael and he adores them now too.
5. The Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander. This is just such a fun series with such great characters and an incredibly rich world. The series has been among my favorite books for a long time.

And I’d love to see everybody answer this one. I’d love to hear people’s answers!

A Quote I Liked

I’ve started reading the book The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey about the 1980 Olympic team. My dad gave me my copy of it, signed by the author, because he was so proud of it. He helped Mr. Coffey a lot throughout the process of writing the book and, while I know he is probably exaggerating, the author’s note in the front of the book reads (in part) “If your father had helped me any more with this, I would’ve had to put his name on the cover.” I know exactly why Dad helped so much – because this is exactly the type of project he gets excited about, and if you can get my dad excited about your project, he’s just about the best ally you could ever get. He will practically bend over backwards to help you any way he can without ever asking for anything but a “thank you” in return (and he won’t bring it up if you forget the “thank you” unless you are one of his kids). I can see why this book sparked his interest. It’s a fun book to read, and I’m only a little way into it. For me, having not lived through the 1980 Winter Games but hearing about it my whole life, this is a really interesting book. I grew up totally surrounded by hockey. I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, but in the long run it has given me a great love for a game that I have never been any good at playing and made me a great cheerleader! I wasn’t always appreciative when I was dragged off to random small towns in Wisconsin to sit in unheated ice rinks (assuming there was a building around the rink at all) with my mom squeezing the blood out of my hand every time a puck flew too close to my brother’s head watching my brother and his oftening irritating (to me) friends play their hearts out, but I have some great memories from it. My father plays and my brother played and a large number of family friends play, so hockey is a game I definately came to appreciate. I don’t know how I couldn’t have grown to appreciate it in that atmosphere. I always have to smile when I see someone (especially a kid) lugging a hockey bag and sticks, or a mother with a worried look and warm scarf trailing along behind. There is something wonderful about hockey that I’ve never seen happen with any other sport (and my brother tried most of them at some point). Hockey teams and families and fans bond in a way none other do. They bond with friendships that last for years. It’s amazing to me how that works. But if you think about it, they almost have to. It’s a sport with a high risk of injury out in the cold that can last a very long time (hockey games can last forever, or fly by in a moment). I love that Mr. Coffey really understands this element of the game – an element I always understood better than any of the rules and remembered long after I forgot all the players names. I always envied that about hockey because none of the activities I ever did forged bonds as strong as I could see mite-level hockey forging in a single week. This is my favorite quote in the book so far because it really says what I just rambled about for longer than I intended.

“Hockey is a club that holds its members tightly, the bond forged by shared hardship and mutual passion, by every trip to the pond, where your feet hurt and your face is cold and you might get a stick in the ribs or a puck in the mouth, and you still can’t wait to get back out there because you are smitten with the sound of blades scraping against ice and pucks clacking off sticks, and with the game’s speed and ever-changing geometry. It has a way of becoming the center of your life even when you’re not on the ice.”

Book: The Riddles of Epsilon

The Riddles of Epsilon
Christine Morton-Shaw
2005

This was an interesting book. It promised to be a book about a teenager breaking a code and solving a mystery. It sort of lived up to that. The code was really interesting and well done. I’d love to see it used for messages and stuff beyond the book as well because it was extremely clever. Instead of having one symbol to each letter, it had “i” and “e” as small sub-symbols that appeared above or below another symbol depending on their placement in the word in relation to the other letter. This was very clever and rather unique. The clues were also very interesting and very clever, for the most part. The problem arose with the main character. She was incredibly dense and never managed to put things together without an undue amount of help from the adults around her who were in on the secret. It was incredibly frustrating at times, especially given the high quality of clues and mystery pieces.

My major problem with the book was not with the plot at all, but rather with the way the main character was written. She didn’t sound like a teenager. None of the teenagers in the book sounded like teenagers. They sounded like an adult trying to sound like a teenager. They spoke the way adults hear teenagers rather than the way teenagers actually speak. They wrote out “puh-leeze!”. Teenagers may say the word that way, but they don’t hear it that way or write it that way. Only adults do. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a teenager who said things like “bird on the wing” as a regular part of their vocabulary. The fact that the main character didn’t sound like a teenager was very frustrating to me. I know it’s an adult writing the book, but I don’t want the characters to all sound like adults unless they all are adults.

The characters generally had depth, although we didn’t always get to see it very much. I’m not sure if that was due to the author or the point of view of the teenager telling the story. The mythology of the island and the feeling of the community there were very well done. They were fun to read about, even when the main character was irritating.

I really enjoyed reading this book, but it was also very frustrating. Unless you really like clever codes and interesting mysteries involving unknown forces, there are probably lots of books you would enjoy more. I loved the code, but it wasn’t enough.

New Oz Book from HarperCollins

I was really happy to see today on the HarperCollins Children’s book site that they are publishing a new Oz book called The Emerald Wand of Oz by Sherwood Smith and illustrated by William G. Stout. It sounds interesting. In some ways the description of the plot reminds me way too much of Dorothy – Return to Oz by Thomas L. Tedrow for comfort. In other ways, it sounds like it could be enjoyable. I’m bothered a little by the fact that the author is obviously drawing from more than just The Wonderful Wizard of Oz since Ozma is in power and Dorothy is supposed to be there but isn’t, however somehow Dorothy (who never grew up and never would, according to the classic books) has two granddaughters. That seems kind of weird to me. Nonetheless, I’ll read it when it comes out! Hopefully it will be good!

Author Responds to Book Banning

Ok, I rail against book banning a lot. Yesterday I found this letter from young adult author Chris Crutcher. He wrote it in response the the banning of his book Whale Talk. He explains why he feels that the book should not be banned and why he wrote it. It’s a wonderful letter and I highly recommend reading it!

New Contest! Famous Couples

There is a new contest here at PixiePalace! This time I want dolls of famous couples (not just romantic couples, any couple is fair game). Go check it out!

Book: I Lost My Bear

I Lost My Bear
Jules Feiffer
1998

This is a really cute picture book. The story is adorable (and should be familiar to anyone who has ever had or babysat a little kid). A little girl who has lost her all-important teddy bear tells the story. Nobody will help her find the bear, so she goes looking for it by herself. Unfortunately for the bear, she keeps finding other things she thought she had lost and getting sidetracked into playing with them. Eventually, bedtime comes and the crisis comes to a head. Of course, at the end of the book, the bear is found. The story is so cute and the little girl sounds just like any little kid looking for a lost toy (“I couldn’t find her because you wouldn’t help me!”). Because of the realism of the writing and the absolutely adorable main character, this book is fun to read.

I loved the pictures in this book. They were watercolors and ink. There is a sketchy style to the illustrations that resembles those of Quentin Blake. This sketchiness was great because it matched the high level of emotion and energy that followed the narrator throughout the book. It also provided an exaggerated quality to the pictures that really felt right with the exaggeration inherent in the drama of the search for the bear. They really matched the book well. And the hand lettered text that sort of danced over the page haphazardly fit very well with both the illustrations and the plot as well. I was very pleased with the visuals in this book.

This is an adorable picture book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but especially to anyone with a young child in their life!

Book: 2XS

2XS
Nigel Findley
1992

This is Michael’s favorite Shadowrun novel, which is why I read it. Given that it was a gaming novel, and a Shadowrun novel to boot, I didn’t have terribly high expectations for it. That said, I enjoyed it more than I expected. The writing was good and enjoyable to read. My one complaint about the writing was the abundant amount of jargon that filled the book from cover to cover. I understand that jargon is a staple of Shadowrun novels, but it drove me crazy! It was painful to read at times because of the vast amount of stupid words that filled the text for no other reason than to show that the book took place in the Shadowrun world. I knew that, thank you very much. The giant logo on the cover was my first hint, followed closely by the narrator’s profession as a Shadowrunner! The people did feel pretty real, which was good. I did find myself liking some of the characters very much. Buddy, the decker, was a particularly fun character to read about. The quality of the writing was very good and that really showed in the characters. They sounded like distinct people.

The problems that I had with the book usually arose with the story. The plot was interesting and had enough depth, but often the main character’s leaps of logic felt totally random, which annoyed me. The random leaps of logic could have been written off as hunches, but they usually weren’t. The logic leaps were necessary for the plot to move forward, but it would have been nice for something to trigger those leaps rather than then seeming out of the blue. In many ways the plot was very fitting for a Shadowrun novel. I liked that there was more depth to it than “a bunch of scruffy Shadowrunners go on a run and wackiness happens”, which seems to be the plot of many Shadowrun novels. This book focused on just one character who was not part of a set team and it spent more time on what happened between runs than on the gritty details of the runs themselves. That was nice. I got to see the main character as a person rather than just as a rigger or a street sam or an adept. One thing that made it difficult to believe the story was the absence of anything not directly related to the conspiracy at the center of the plot. Every single person mentioned and every event talked about somehow tied back to that central plot. There were no red herrings or loose ends. Life doesn’t work that way, not even for a Shadowrunner. The plot kept me interested, but it was hard to believe (even in that way you believe things that are in fiction books).

I enjoyed reading this book, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was great. It was enjoyable if you have enough background in Shadowrun to understand it and enough patience to get through the jargon-heavy dialogue.

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