June 28, 2005

Sims Blog Created

Ok, Michael and Viv have been encouraging me to start a blog to journal the lives of my sims. I started it here at LiveJournal. It's actually a community so other people can join and post. Joining requires approval, but anyone from the table who wants to won't have to worry about being approved or anything. My sims are nuts, but I hope people enjoy hearing about their crazy lives anyway! :D

Posted by Katie at 07:04 PM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2005

Book Journal

Ok, I've had a LiveJournal account sitting around and couldn't decide what to do with it. I'm turning it into sort of a book group for myself. I'm going to post about what books I'm reading and what I think of them as I read them and stuff. I'd like to hear other people's thoughts and stuff too. And if no one ever comments, that's just fine! It can be me talking to myself! Yay! Anyway, if you are interested, it's Here.

Posted by Katie at 08:22 PM | Comments (1)

Madison Law

How depressing this is! I had hoped Madison was a little better than this. Lately I've really been frustrated with being female in this country. I am really starting to feel like second class citizen. What's next? Voting? Running for public office? Working outside the home? Owning property? And if a law has been deemed illigal by an attorney general, shouldn't they not be able to pass it? I'm confused. And sad. :(

Posted by Katie at 02:14 PM | Comments (2)

June 25, 2005

Book: Kitten's First Full Moon

Kitten’s First Full Moon
Kevin Henkes
2004

This was last year’s Caldecott Medal winner. It is a wonderful picture book about a kitten trying to get to the moon, which she thinks is a bowl of milk. She has no luck and everything she tries backfires, but eventually she finds some luck and gets her bowl of milk.

The story is simple, but cute. What really makes this book are the wonderful illustrations. They are black and white and incredibly simple. Even so, Kitten is amazingly expressive and one cannot help but sympathise with her throughout her adventure. The pictures have a simple, childlike elegance that really stands out. I can’t help but smile when I see this book (even the cover is wonderful).

I highly recommend this book. It is wonderful and has a special childlike magic that is rare in picture book. This one is something special and deserves all of the awards and attention it has recieved.

Posted by Katie at 01:57 AM | Comments (0)

Book: Bears

Bears
Ruth Krauss
ill. by Maurice Sendak
2005

This is a very simple book. The poem that makes up the text is very uncomplicated. It is a series of rhyming lines describing bears doing different things. There are maybe 40 words in the whole book. The pictures illustrate each line and to tie them together is a little boy chasing a dog who has stolen a teddy bear. The boy should be familiar to most people as the kid in the wolf suit from Where the Wild Things Are.

The book is cute, and I did enjoy it, but there isn’t enough to it. The plot with the boy and the dog is amusing, but the actual text feels like it is getting in the way of that story. And the story ends oddly, with the teddy bear on the floor and the dog in bed with the boy. I just wasn’t terribly impressed with this picture book. The pictures are nice, they have a crayon feel to them and tend to be complicated and funny. They just weren’t enough.

This is a cute book, but it isn’t worth buying. You can read it in about two minutes. If you want to read it, go to a library. It’s very cute, but Sendak’s other stuff is far better.

Posted by Katie at 01:42 AM | Comments (0)

Book: Seen Art?

Seen Art?
Jon Sciezka
ill. by Lane Smith
2005

This is a very cute picture book about a boy looking for his friend, Art. He is supposed to meet Art and cannot find him, so he asks someone. He is directed to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (near where he was supposed to meet his friend). In the MoMA he asks various people where Art is. Each one takes him to a different area of the museum to show him what they consider art. The plot is funny and cute and the child discovering art is charming.

This book is designed wonderfully. The drawings have photographs of various works of art on display in the MoMA integrated in them, so the reader gets to see the museum as the boy in the story does. Some wonderful pieces of art, as well as some unusual ones are included in the book (my favourite was “Starry Night” by Van Gogh). The story is simple, but very cute.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It was a fun read. I particularly enjoyed seeing the art chosen for the book and being reminded that everyone has a different idea of what true art is. I would recommend this book, although one read is probably enough.

Posted by Katie at 01:18 AM | Comments (0)

Book: While Mama Has a Quick Little Chat

While Mama Has a Quick Little Chat
Amy Reichert
ill. by Alexandra Boiger
2005

This book starts with the telephone ringing. Mama answers it and tells her daughter she is going to have a “quick little chat” and that the little girl should get ready for bed. As any small child knows, a “quick little chat” is never quick or little. This chat is so long that while her mother talks the little girls manages to host an impromptu party with a magician, a band, waiters and everything. And manages to get it all cleaned up and no trace left by the time her mother gets off the telephone. The book is very cute.

The text of this picture book is wonderful. It portrays wonderfully the exasperation and frustration of the little girl as she keeps being told that her mother will be off the telephone soon. The language is simple, but it doesn’t feel dumbed down. The language feels perfectly appropriate for reflecting the feelings of the little girl, which is what it should do. The flow is perfect as well, always matching the pace of the plot.

The pictures were what really made this book special. As wonderful as the text is, the pictures take it that extra step to make it great. They are bright and colourful, but not incredibly detailed. Instead, they have all of the energy of the child and as the party grows, the energy in the illustrations grows as well. The mood is completely set by the wonderful colours and simple but striking layouts of the pictures. Details like the telephone cord getting wrapped around the mother’s foot as she talks reinforce perfectly the irritation that the little girl (and by extension, the readers) feel with her. The pictures match the text wonderfully and really take the book that extra step to make it memorable.

I loved this book. I would most definitely recommend it and intend to add it to my collection when I get the chance!

Posted by Katie at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

Birthday Gift!

I got a birthday gift from Tamay at Eden Enchanted! Isn't it adorable! Thanks Tamay!

Posted by Katie at 02:00 AM | Comments (0)

Book: Summit Avenue

Summit Avenue
Mary Sharratt
2000

This was a rather ponderous novel about the experiences of a rather unusual young German immigrant girl living in Minneapolis during World War I. The girl becomes a translator for a wealthy lady working a book about fairy tales. Throughout this time, she becomes friends with the wealthy lady and stuff happens, just not a whole lot of stuff. The writing isn’t bad, but the book only really has enough plot for 75 pages (the book is actually 252 pages long). The characters are rather archetypal (the narrator is painted as hopelessly naive until she is “shocked” out of it, and even then is still ridiculously naive).

The writing flows well and is easy to read, but the book feels long. Part of that is because of the lack of actual plot happening, but a large part of it was due to it being difficult to really care about what happened to the character telling the story. The book is also frustrating to read because the main character’s life gets a little better at the beginning, and then goes progressively downhill from there with no hope of it ever getting better again (we know how she ends up at the beginning). Even worse than the progressive worsening of the character’s life is the fact that the end of the book provides no resolution to the story at all! It really feels like the author knew what was going to happen next, but was too bored of the story to finish. Resolution is important. Otherwise the book leaves me with a sour taste, even if the majority of the book was great!

The comments and attitudes concerning fairy tales in the book tended to irritate me. The very much followed modern “feminist” writings on fairy tales, which (besides being inappropriate for the time period) tend to rather miss the point and make me wonder why the character spouting the theories believes that they like fairy tales. They clearly don’t really like or respect them, so why do they think they do? The other thing that really irritated me was the main character’s repeated comments that “fairy tales are for children”. A young woman who grew up in a small town in southern Germany in the earliest years of the twentieth century would have absolutely no reason to say or think that way. For her, fairy tales would have been something that everyone in the village would have told and listened too. They would have been told for entertainment, comfort, the teaching of lessons and the reinforcement of community ties. No German peasant woman of the period would have any reason to feel that fairy tales are for children. Why does this woman think that then? It makes no sense.

Anyway, I’ve said very little good about this book but it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t good and I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you have a copy and need something to read, it could be amusing in a pinch (just don’t feel bad skimming over the long sections when nothing happens!). The writer is actually a pretty good writer; this just wasn’t a great book. I would be happy to read something else she wrote in the hopes of it being better.

Posted by Katie at 01:54 AM | Comments (0)

Weblog Survey

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Go take the survey. It's interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing the final results.

Posted by Katie at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

Fairy Tales in the News

I've been very irritated lately at the articles surfacing in the news and in the "blogosphere".

A recent study looked at a number of female victims of domestic violence and discovered that most of them identified with passive female fairy tale heroines and believed that, like the fairy tale heroines, they could change their partners if they only loved them enough. The article, of course, implies that this has more to do with the images in the fairy tales than anything else and that perhaps it is dangerous to read fairy tales to girls. I *hate* when I read this kind of thing. It is so backwards. It isn't the fairy tales' fault that women delude themselves like that. If girls are read classic fairy tales (a variety of them, not just twenty versions of Cinderella), the picture they get from them should be much more healthy and well-rounded. I think that if women are getting the wrong ideas from fairy tales than it has more to do with our attitudes and thinking about fairy tales than it does with the stories themselves. Read Bettelheim if you need further arguements about that, he is much more qualified to discuss it and eloquent about the subject than I will ever be.

Fairy tales are not the problem and studies that say they are need to dig deeper. It's more complicated - a lot more complicated.

This article reminded me of another article on fairy tales that also made me angry. This one has many of the same problems the domestic abuse study does, and made me just as angry when I first read it. It states that fairy tales mess up women's value systems when it comes to physical appearance. It also misses the point.

Fairy tales are not bad. Read your kids fairy tales. Read the articles, but think about them as well. They are not looking at the big picture, just a little thing they can track. Lesson 1 in fourth grade science is that just because when "A" happens, so does "B" it does not mean that "B" is caused by "A". These studies totally missed that day, it seems.

Posted by Katie at 11:27 PM | Comments (2)

Book: The Boys of Winter

The Boys of Winter
Wayne Coffey
2005

I had a blast reading this book. It has a really clever structure and the writing is excellent. Both combine to give the book a great flow. The book is about the men who coached, assisted and played on the 1980 Olympic hockey team (the “miracle” team). The book focuses on the game against the USSR, the game Team USA was never supposed to be able to win. It was a moment that made history, but even though I grew up knowing one of the players from that team (Mark Johnson), I never knew that much about the team itself.

The book is divided up like a hockey game: three periods, two intermissions and a post-game wrap up. The narrative is strung together with an account of the game, almost play by play. As important things (or not so important things) happen, Coffey breaks out of the narrative of the game to focus on one member of the team. For each man he tells us about his family, hometown, background, personality and ambitions. He seems to have interviewed nearly everyone ever connected to that team (including the Olympic Zamboni driver!). He uses illustrative stories, quotes from the men and from their teammates, friends and families, and facts from their backgrounds to give the reader of who each man was as a person. Each player, coach and important support staff member discussed only has five pages or so devoted to him, but each player becomes more of a real person in those five pages than they ever seemed to be from the videos of them playing that I (and many other people) have watched. I loved getting to hear about the players’ hopes and dreams, communities and lives after the Olympics.

My father met Coffey at some point in the writing of this book (presumably when he was here to meet Mark Johnson). The project really interested my dad and he ended up talking to Coffey a good deal and helping him track down tapes, interesting stories and whatever else he had access to that Coffey may not have. I totally understand why this book was so interesting to him. It was a wonderful read and I was excited about it as I read it! I read very few books that have to do with sports in any way because they usually kind of bore me, but this one was a gem. I had more fun reading this than I ever would have expected to! I laughed out loud and came close to tears a number of times while reading it. It didn’t feel like a sports book, it felt like a joint biography of about twenty-three people or so. It was great.

I loved this book. I definitely recommend it. Even if you normally don’t read sports books, this is a great read. It’s uplifting, optimistic, and fun. It takes a group of people that have become legendary and made them real. I would have no qualms about recommending this to everyone. So go read it!

Posted by Katie at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

My Birthday!

Yay! It's my twenty-fourth birthday today! I'm going to hang out with my friends this evening and it should be lots of fun! And I got totally awesome presents from my family and Michael and his mom! Yay! And the puppy is staying with us today! I'm very happy! :D

Posted by Katie at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

Book: Goose Chase

Goose Chase
Patrice Kindl
2001

This was a fun fairy tale inspired novel by a great author. Kindl wrote the book Owl in Love, which is amazing. Goose Chase didn’t live up to Owl, but it was a fun read anyway. I loved the clever way she wove together bits and pieces from various fairy tales (some lifted whole-cloth and other merely inspired). The main character was witty and fun to read, if a little dense sometimes.

The writing was as polished and fun to read as it was in any of her other books. The first-person narrative flowed quickly and smoothly and seemed very natural, even when the narrator was speaking formalized fairy tale language. I couldn’t help but like the characters and the interactions between them, they were so well painted. Even in slow parts of the story, it was always fun to read.

This was a fun book and I would certainly recommend it. It’s a fun, quick read and Kindl is a great author.

Posted by Katie at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

Books: Notebook for Fantastical Observations

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Notebook for Fantastical Observations
Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
2005

I liked this book, it was cute and unique. It is set up with a picture of a fairy creature, a short quote about them, a story from a child who encountered one written in their own handwriting, a comment from the authors about the creature, and a section of fill-in pages with interesting and amusing questions that may or may not have to do with the creature discussed. It’s a very cute set up and the questions are really funny. They are such cute questions that I may start making up answers to them myself!

The illustrations are wonderful, as DiTerlizzi’s always are. They are very interesting pictures. I love the sketchy feel that gives them the impression of having been drawn into the book. The book really does feel like a set of notes about each creature and the sketches go a long way in reinforcing that impression.

This is a cute book. I can’t wait for the Spiderwick field guide to come out, but this was a great read in the meantime! Now I have to go figure out what my dream fairy baseball team would be! Check the book out, it’s a lot of fun. And if you haven’t read the “Spiderwick Chronicles”, go read them! They are funny and fresh. I hope to see more from these authors!

Posted by Katie at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2005

Book: Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Illustrator: Greg Call
2004

Warning: Major Spoilers!!

Peter and the Starcatchers is intended to be a prequel to J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. It is written by two American writers (yes, it is that Dave Barry) and published by an American publishing house (Hyperion Books for Children) with Disney’s blessing. The story explains how Peter and the lost boys and the pirates and the mermaids and Tinkerbell came to live on the island called Neverland. There are a great number of other characters in the book that are not present in Peter and Wendy, and thus have to leave by the end of the book. The story follows the adventures of a pair of ships transporting five orphan boys from London, one wilful little girl, and a large box full of “starstuff” (magic dust that falls to earth in shooting stars). The book is long, but reads quickly. The writing is funny and generally enjoyable to read, but it doesn’t save the story.

I really didn’t like this book very much. The plot makes little sense and feels rather forced. It feels like something made up by adults to explain something that fundamentally can’t be really understood and accepted by anyone but children. They give explanations of things that directly contradict the explanations given by Barrie in the original book and play. Barry and Pearson’s vision of events removes much of the magic and fun from Neverland. Peter grows up in an orphanage in London; he has no reason in particular to want to remain a little boy. In fact, his life as a little boy totally sucks. To explain Peter not growing up, they use the “magic” starstuff.

The starstuff explains everything from the mermaids to Tinkerbell, to why the pirates are on the island, to why Peter can fly. And it leaves giant holes in the story. The starstuff is removed from the island, so why can other people fly later? Without exposure to starstuff, how do Wendy and her brothers learn to fly? Where are all the other fairies if Tinkerbell was the only one made? Why didn’t the pirates ever just repair their ship (which shouldn’t have been much damaged in the first place) and leave the island? Why does Peter not remember what a kiss is when he meets Wendy when he thinks a lot about it in this book? It doesn’t make sense. And Peter isn’t terribly likable. He’s stubborn and a show-off and doesn’t seem to care a whole lot for anyone else. Peter is supposed to be likable, if slightly frustrating.

The pictures are nice. I like the rough black and white style. It reminds me of carved clay sometimes. The problem is that it too lacks magic and often doesn’t match the text. The ships look cool, but the characters seem wrong and the world seems boring and real rather than exciting and magical. The pictures are very pretty, but I’m not sure they match this book.

Perhaps one of my biggest concerns with this book was the utter dependence on adults. Peter and Molly are important in moving the plot forward, but they always turn to the adults for guidance and protection. The children seem to be always just trying to stabilize the situation until some adult they trust can come along and take over for them. They need an adult to help with their plans, to protect them from danger, and to deal with the mess that is made of the situation on the island. And yet they have ample evidence that the adults have no idea what they are doing and are rather unhelpful. Until Molly’s father comes. He fixes everything as if by magic. And the only reason that the boys don’t leave the island with him and Molly is that Peter doesn’t want to be ostracized in London for never growing up and his friends don’t want to go back without him (to a horrible orphanage). Why the pirates stick around after the starstuff is gone, I have no idea. Peter is supposed to be a strong, self-reliant and independent character. He is none of those things in this book.

This book lacked cohesion, flow and the feeling of magic that it promised. It didn’t feel like a child’s fantasy at all. It felt like an adults explanation of a child’s fantasy so that it doesn’t seem stupid to them anymore. Except that it wasn’t stupid to begin with. It was wonderful. I wouldn’t recommend this book. Read the original, Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie, which is a genuine masterpiece, and forget that this book ever existed.

Posted by Katie at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

Inspiring

I just read this article on the NYT website. I've been really in need of something inspiring and uplifting that could help renew some of my faith in people lately. This article totally accomplished that. It's a very inspiring piece about a woman in Africa who has a third grade education but is a sergeon for women who otherwise get totally ostrasized by their societies. She took what was a horrible experience and used it to help her become someone very generous, talented and awe-inspiring. Read the article. It's amazing.

Posted by Katie at 01:53 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2005

Cool Link

Go check out The Monster Engine. It has really cool works of art made from children's drawings. There are some really cool pictures and it's a really cool idea! Check it out!

Posted by Katie at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

New Favorite First Sentence

On Dreamer's Plain, the gathering of delegations from the Twelve Crowns of Raine for the coronation of the Queen of Raine looked like an invading army.
- Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip

Posted by Katie at 02:00 AM | Comments (0)

Book: Wedding Goddess

Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress into Wedding Bliss
Laurie Sue Brockway
2005

I really liked this book. It was useful to me. It is written by a non-denominational minister from New York who recently got married herself. The book discusses how to deal with engagement, wedding planning, family squabbles, and the ceremony itself. The book has quotes from other women who were recently married, advice on many different elements of weddings, and “goddess” exercises to help with planning and maintaining emotional health throughout the process. I particularly liked that while the book did spend a great deal of time on actual, practical advice and ceremonies and traditions from various religions and cultures, it also kept it’s primary focus on surviving through the process still healthy and still as in love with your partner as ever.

This book totally didn’t fit in with the “bridal industry” focused books that fill shelves in book stores. It doesn’t discuss what you absolutely have to have or not, it doesn’t pass judgement on anything, it doesn’t stress the importance of buy etiquette guides or having bridesmaids wear shoes dyed to match their dresses. It focuses on the important things. It understands that the wedding is very important, but ultimately not as important as the marriage that follows. It understands that it can be really hard to maintain a healthy relationship throughout the wedding process and that it is more important to have that relationship remain strong than to have perfect centrepieces. It also discusses dealing with family and friendships throughout the process (when they will be very very very strained). I liked that these things were the focus and that the book did make me feel special, like I could very easily be a “wedding goddess” on my wedding day.

I liked this book a lot and certainly do recommend it to anyone (bride or groom) who is getting married.

Posted by Katie at 01:51 AM | Comments (0)

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!

Posted by Katie at 01:22 AM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2005

New Contest Entry - Famous Couples

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

Posted by Katie at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

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!

Posted by Katie at 01:57 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

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."

Posted by Katie at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005

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.

Posted by Katie at 07:51 PM | Comments (2)

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!

Posted by Katie at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

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!

Posted by Katie at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

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!

Posted by Katie at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005

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!

Posted by Katie at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2005

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.

Posted by Katie at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

New Doll Stuff

Yay! New Doll stuff! Ok, first I have nine new stamps from Fractured Fairytales. The doll is a representation of Adialana from Sabrina's shop at Eden Enchanted. There are also three new entries to the Inhabitants of Neverland contest from Eva. The contest is now closed!

Posted by Katie at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

Dangerous Books! Beware!

I decided the last post didn't fullfill our daily quota of "book things that piss Katie off". This should just about cover it.

A conservative website called Human Events Online just came out with a list of "the most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries". Some of the books on this list make sense. The Communist Manifesto, for example. I have no problem with this book, but given some of the events it inspired I can understand why it would be on this list. Some of the books on this list make no sense at all. The Feminine Mystique, for example. How is this book harmful? Because it convinced some women who hadn't already figured it out that the world wouldn't fall apart if they weren't well-behaved little housewives? How does that rate alongside Mein Kampf? I totally don't understand. This list seems like it's just intended to supply a list of books that should be burned or banned, especially given that they listed the other books considered besides just the top ten and their scores for how "harmful" they were considered. I also find the list of "experts" they chose somewhat less than balanced. Of the fifteen experts, one is female. And she is one of the few names on the list without "Dr." or "Prof." before it.

Anyway, the list irritated me a great deal. If you want, you can read the list here.

Posted by Katie at 10:17 PM | Comments (1)

More Book Banning

I hate hearing about book banning. A lot of people have been unfortunate enough to have to hear my very long, very angry rants about the subject. I'm very sorry to all of those people, but it's a really important subject to discuss and to be aware of. It's a totally stupid thing that we do in the united states every day, something like 547 times last year - give or take. That's more than one book a day. That's insane. Why is it that we have no real problem banning books, but if you talk about banning guns you risk bringing hell and high water down on your head? When was the last time you saw a book shoot someone? I realize that books can be dangerous, but seriously, how dangerous could a book about a little boy and a man floating down the river on a raft really be? How about a book about a kid who goes to school to study magic? Or maybe the danger really lies in books of poetry about silly things by such horrible people as Shel Silverstein. Seriously, why do people do this? Do we think so little of our children (usually high school students) that we can't trust them to think for themselves about issues that could prove very important to them in college and life? It's disgusting and it pisses me off like few other things even begin to.

Anyway, there is currently a fight going on in Pennsylvania over a book called The Buffalo Tree by Adam Rapp. It's a book set in a juvenile detention center and told from the point of view of a kid there. It's intended for teenagers. Obviously this should be a light and fluffy read, right? Well, apparently it involves a fair about of non-so-acceptable language and some discussion of things like a boy becoming sexually aroused. It was being taught in one of the English classes at the high school where it is now banned. The banning is being contested and reconsidered this evening. Hopefully they will come to their senses and remove the ban. You can read the New York Times article about it here.

If you see instances of books being banned, please let me know.

Posted by Katie at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)