Staff Musings

November 7, 2007

Dark Elves and Evil Geniusi

Filed under: Children's Literature,Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 12:46 am

This past week I’ve finished two books I’ve been meaning to read for a while – The Orc King by R.A. Salvatore and Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks. Let’s start with the most famous one, so less dedicated readers can slip away after. What did I think of them?

The Orc King is the first in a series called Transitions by Salvatore, and it also ends up wrapping up quite a bit of plot line that had been left at the end of the last series, The Hunter’s Blades trilogy. I admit that this was not my favorite Drizzt book. I think this stems more from personal preference than from the actual quality of the book though; sometimes it’s hard to tell. Particularly, I thought it dragged because I like to skim over the battle scenes – they just really aren’t that interesting to me – and since they are in the middle of a war with the orcs and the orcs are also at war with each other, battles take up a good chunk of the book.

The other thing I didn’t particularly care for was all of the orc action. Obould, the actual Orc King, and his enemies eat up quite a few pages, and Salvatore hasn’t made me care about them yet. They are boring, mean, and not witty at all, even the “good” ones. I don’t really like to read about characters I don’t care about, and there are a LOT of them in this book.

Now let me mention the things I did enjoy about the book. Mainly, that was Cattie-Brie. Her character actually changed and developed in interesting ways, and I found that I quite enjoyed the new role she took on in the group dynamic, and also enjoyed speculating on her future. I also like the way she and Drizzt’s relationship plays out. I love how Salvatore has always ensured that she was written as at least as strong a character, if not more so, as the guys.

I did enjoy the scenes with Wulfgar and Colson but I’m not sure how I feel about his actions yet. Nor am I entirely sure I know what his actions ARE.

So, all in all, I’m definitely glad I read it, however I’ll probably never read it again. Unless you hate orcs, it’s a must for people trying to follow the canon of Drizzt, of course, and it’s not really BAD, I just didn’t think it was all that interesting. To me. However, if you’ve never read one of Salvatore’s Drizzt novels before, do NOT start with this one. You will be bored and confused.

On to Evil Genius, a young adult book by Austrailian author Catherine Jinks. I first heard of this novel through a book review on SFSite, and it sounded like so much fun I had to order a copy. Evil Genius is the story of a young boy named Cadel Piggot, an orphaned child genius who is being raised by two incredibly soulless and dispassionate individuals, leaving him with little to distract him but the study of systems. When Cadel is forced to go to a psychologist due to criminal hacking activity, he learns that his real father is actually a criminal mastermind who is currently in prison, and has created a school to teach evil geniuses such as what he is trying to shape Cadel to be.

The book is dark but funny; it toys with the ideas of mental and physical superiority and the meaning of morality in ways that, while they lead the reader along a path, they don’t force them at gunpoint down the road. It’s well-written, you grow to care about Cadel and several of the other characters, well, at least one, almost in spite of yourself. And best of all, there’s a sequel in the works! Great for teens, it’s probably at about a 6th or 7th grade reading level? I really just made that up. But it’s definitely a fun read for adults too.

I also read another cozy this week, but I wasn’t going to admit that.

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July 21, 2007

Speaking of craze-inducing kids books…

Filed under: Children's Literature,Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 10:52 pm

I mentioned a few posts back that I had heard a lot of good things about the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials series – of which the first installment, The Golden Compass, is being made into a movie – but that I had yet to read it.  I was embarrassed enough by that omission to pick up a copy on Wednesday and I love love love it.

I even went to the movie website after I finished the books and made my own daemon (mine is a fox named Sirion) and read up on everything on there, and then to the author’s website so I could find out more about him. I looked at a few fansites but then got nervous about spoilers so stopped. I told my husband about the world-building and we decided it would be our next carbook (we have a deal – he can drive if I can read. Since I feel guilty about reading with him sitting there being bored, I started reading aloud to him, and now sometimes we invent places to go so we can read our carbook. Right now it is Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – a fantastic book).

So today I bought books 2 and 3 in the series, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I am so excited to read them I’m almost disappointed that I have plans this evening. The world-building in Pullman’s novel is fantastic – you never feel out of touch, despite the fact that you rarely notice when he is giving you pertinent details. The world has a very unique, kind of steampunk feel about it. The characters are wonderful, it’s impossible not to adore the main character partly due to her faults – she is a magnificent liar! It also takes a bit of time to turn out who are the villains and who are the good folk, and with some characters you are never quite sure. I keep reading from other people that there are all kinds of deep philosophical questions and moral quandries in the novels, and while I noticed that they were there I honestly didn’t take the time to sort them out; I was far too interested in the story.

Come in and pick up a copy before the movie! The movie isn’t actually out until Christmas, which is far too far away, but this way you’ll have time for your whole family to read it – and it’s definitely a book for both kids and adults.

Harry Potter is GONE!

Filed under: Children's Literature,Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 10:29 pm

From our shelves…that is. I don’t know if he’s REALLY gone as I don’t have a copy of the book because Robert sold them ALL last night. Yay Robert! YAY for selling!

While we’re glad we were able to sell the massive quantity we ordered, Monique and I were a little disappointed we weren’t able to lug home our copies today, though it was obviously our own fault for not having faith in Robert’s selling power.

While I’m definitely in the middle of reading something else that I’m not going to put down for the new tome, I’m nervous as all get out that the book is going to be spoiled for me. I am really, really careful about spoilers; I hate them for anything. So far, I’ve just avoided turning on the tv or looking at newspapers or looking at websites I believe may not be discrete. It seems to work, but I’m not sure how long I can survive on limited media.

December 30, 2006

The Talking Eggs- Robert D. San Souci

Filed under: Children's Literature — monique23 @ 8:40 pm

Working in the store recently I was overwhelmed with joy when someone brought in a copy of “The Talking Eggs” by Robert D. San Souci. It was a favorite bedtime story that mother use to read to me when I was a child. If you are looking for a book with culture, folktales, magic, and animals, you should check out “The Talking Eggs.” This winner of the Caldecott Honor is sure to captivate the interest of new readers and creates the perfect setting for a warm story at the end of the day.

The book is essentially a fable that teaches the reward of virtue and kindness. The characters live in the southern country and have a poor farm. The protagonist is a young African American girl, Blanche, living with her widowed mother and older sister. Her mother and older sister spoil themeselves with fancy clothes and luxury, despite thier poverty, but Blache must work hard on the farm without the help of her mother or sister.

Young Blanche meets and eldery woman in the forest and shows her kindness. She is rewarded with magical talking eggs. However, when her mother and sister find out about Blanche’s gift, they viciously attack the old woman for her magic. But, those two will find that vice is justly punished and virtue is rightfully rewarded.

November 24, 2006

The Valley of the Wolves – Laura Gallego Garcia

Filed under: Children's Literature — carricee @ 8:28 pm

Garcia spins a mesmerizing coming-of-age fantasy with The Valley of the Wolves. Dana is a young outcast in her isolated farm community when she meets a young boy named Kai. They become quick friends, soon spending all of their time together. Dana moves farther and farther away from the normal society of young girls as she and Kai become closer, and she realizes that she is the only one who can see him, until she meets a stranger passing through town. The stranger persuades her family to allow Dana to leave with him to learn magic, and she is whisked away to a castle in a valley even more isolated than the community she grew up in. As Dana grows and learns, she confronts the mystery of Kai’s existence, the strangly aggressive wolves in the valley, and her confidence in her sense of rght and wrong and her ability to think for herself.

The Valley of the Wolves is aimed at children 9-12 years old, however as a tale of redemption, love, and hope it is appropriate for all ages. Garcia wrenches conflicting emotions from the reader masterfully –  as in other similarly heartbreaking and hopeful children’s books like Charlotte’s Web or Where the Red Fern Grows. This book is a perfect gift for the child who enjoys Harry Potter and similar titles – it’s a bit deeper, a bit sadder, but a whole lot more satisfying*.

*The author of this post is not in any way suggesting that she dislikes the Harry Potter books, or that she doesn’t read them the day they come out in one sitting in a chair in the kitchen between the fridge and the coffeepot. The author is merely stating that she likes THIS novel in a different way than the Harry Potter novels. Which she likes. Differently.

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