Staff Musings

November 20, 2007

Light Night Reading

Filed under: Fiction & Literature,Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 11:35 pm

Last night I stayed up entirely too late reading a novel by Robert Charles Wilson called A Hidden Place. Though it’s undeniably a science fiction novel, it’s a good stepping stone for those readers who don’t like quite as much science mixed in with their fiction.

The story is set in the Depression, and it revolves around a young man named Travis whose mother died in some mysteriously disgraceful way. He moves to a small town on the edge of nowhere to live with his aunt and uncle, working in his uncle’s ice factory. The town is similar to many small towns in America, ambitious to be a city, but lacking both the money and the attitude. The characters all start out as typical, but evolve into anything but.

The narrative is like Billie Letts meets Neil Gaiman. The prose is outstanding, the plot engrossing enough that I didn’t notice it was 3 am. Then I turned off the light and tried to go to sleep, then turned it back on and kept reading. I have loved every Robert Charles Wilson book I’ve ever read, and this one was his first. His newest is called Axis, it’s the sequel to last year’s Hugo winner, Spin, which is also brilliant. My copy disappeared into the hands of some unsuspecting dinner party guest I think, during one of my “You must read this!” breakdowns. Stop in and pick up some Robert Charles Wilson. I do believe it’s impossible to be disappointed.

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.

October 23, 2007

What am I Reading?

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 11:27 pm

Lately, despite the piles and piles of new books I have to read, I’ve been rereading old favorites. I was definitely inspired by the death of Robert Jordan, author of the epic series Wheel of Time, to reread his work and hope that they find a worthy author to finish off the series. The death of a favorite author seems to me to be much more heartbreaking than one thinks it will be. Writing is a very intimate process, and if you’ve read many of their books, you’ve spent more time in their head than most people spend in each others’ – and if you particularly enjoy what you find there, it’s sad to hear of the loss to the family and real-life friends, not to mention sad to think that what was in that head will no longer leak out onto a page.

So, once I finished rereading the eleven books currently out in the Wheel of Time, I found that I still needed comforting, preferably from someone who was still around. So I picked up the perfect time-travel novel, The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. One of the things I like about Connie Willis’ writing is that, despite it being time-travel and set in the future, the world she writes in is undeniably ours, and she’s trying to tell a story about people, not about science or about how many fancy gizmos she can come up with. In the novel, a young historian named Kivrin travels back in time to the Middle Ages to study the culture and people, but arrives in the past ill and in a desperate situation. At the same time, Oxford (where she traveled from) is under quarantine, it’s during Christmas, and multiple university people are laid up while they try to deal with the hassles of life under quarantine and to make sure Kivrin arrived safely and will be able to return.

In the midst of all that, you find stirringly real characters, both in the future and in the 14th century. The small touches thrown in provide not just historical accuracy and a feeling of recognition about the future, but a story that can be related to  – regardless of whether the reader is a science fiction fan or not. The Doomsday Book won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards in 1993.

October 18, 2007

Space / Time Continuum Errors

Filed under: Sci Fi & Fantasy,Store News and Events,Uncategorized — carricee @ 3:09 pm

Wow, I could have sworn we were still blogging all this time. Gee whiz, has it really been since July? I think that it’s not my fault, there must have been something going on with that darn space/time continuum doodad again.

Regardless, it’s been a great couple of months at Don’s Books. We have successfully started our monthly book discussion group, led by former IU Kokomo professor Dr. John Rudy. In November we’ll be discussing Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Make sure to come early, we’ve been running out of chairs! Surely it’s not due to the striking resemblance our discussion leader bears to Brad Pitt?

I personally spent some time down at GenCon in August, which, for those of you unfamiliar, is a convention for role-playing gamers. The geeky ones with pencils and paper and funny shaped dice. It was huge and actually quite overwhelming. The BEST part was meeting one of my favorite new writers, Patrick Rothfuss. Rothfuss is writing one of the most compelling and beautifully written epic fantasy series out there. The initial title, The Name of the Wind, is just out in hardcover right now, so we don’t generally carry it, but we are more than happy to order it. The paperback (and the next volume in the series) is coming out in April of next year. Not only is it a great book, it was written by a GNOME.

Carri and Patrick Rothfuss, Name of the Wind author, at Gencon

Now, I honestly can’t say enough about the quality of this book. Especially as a first novel, it makes the fantasy epic seem brand-new. If you have EVER enjoyed reading fantasy, pick it up. If you are disappointed you can blame me, but I can’t imagine how you could be, and I would probably question your taste and perhaps your character. Rothfuss won the Quill award for best Science Fiction / Fantasy novel this year, and you can watch him accept the award on NBC Saturday, October 27th. I’m sure he’ll say something delightful and witty, because he’s just that kind of guy.

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.

June 30, 2007

Signing MADNESS!

Filed under: Sci Fi & Fantasy,Store News and Events — carricee @ 10:43 pm

Today the store was pretty calm. Buckell tap-danced through the shelves and Scalzi followed him around, taping bacon to all the books he approved of. Meanwhile, thousands of screaming fans hurled themselves at the windows in a desperate attempt to gain entry to the sold-out event. We just pushed them back with our mighty mighty dust mop, no biggie.

Really though, it was a lot of fun. Lots of fans came to see the guys; both of them stayed late to chat. I got to talk to Buckell about how he turned me on to Nalo Hopkinson, another amazing Caribbean speculative fiction author, and I got to tell Scalzi how much I’d like to see him write a book similar to his Rough Guide to Science Fiction Movies, but about literature. He was very gracious and said it was something to think about, even though I’m sure that all kinds of people annoyingly say to him “You should write something like this!” all the time.

All in all, a great time. And even though I was bursting with energy while they were there, running around like a madwoman and talking loudly and saying awkward things, now I’m beat. I think I used up all my energy for the day in those hours. Tomorrow, I’m coming in bright and early and we’re going to do some painting!

Scalzi and Buckell!

Filed under: Sci Fi & Fantasy,Store News and Events — carricee @ 3:44 am

Hey Everyone,

I am wiped out. We worked pretty hard at the bookstore today, both in our ongoing store renovation and getting ready for…

JOHN SCALZI AND TOBIAS BUCKELL!!!

Both of them have written about their upcoming appearances on their blogs, so check them out. Scalzi is some kind of blog superstar, so even though it was the first post just a couple of hours ago it’s now several posts down. Wacky blogging goodness.

So, after closing today, I wanted to work some on the science fiction section to make it presentable for the multitude of fans who will descend on the store tomorrow to meet these guys. I thought, hmm…what will make it look better than anything else I can do in a couple of hours?

So I ripped out all the carpet. All that old, icky carpet that has been there since long before we got the store is GONE. Parts of it were duct-taped to the floor, and underneath, as carpet padding, were cut up pieces of mattress covers. Not kidding at all. It’s something that’s been on our minds to do for a long time, but it’s also one of those things that, unfortunately, you kind of get used to when you see it everyday. One of our staff is going to take the old carpet to use in her garden for…something. Gardeny.

Anyway, enough about me working. What am I reading, you ask? I am reading Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell, whom you may have heard of. It’s really good so far, and starts out a lot differently from Crystal Rain. I meant to read it before they got here but I got a new computer game accidentally, which severely cuts into my reading time. It seems to be creating a lot of parallels with current technology and political and corporate control of said technology, in a lot of interesting ways. Read it! When could I find the time to get it, you ask? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe TOMORROW. When he’s at the store. Which is Don’s Books, in Kokomo. We’ll make coffee. See you then!

June 26, 2007

InConJunction

Filed under: Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 5:10 pm

In a couple of weeks, July 6-8, the Circle of Janus (a central Indiana science fiction and fantasy interest group) will be hosting InConJunction, an awesome-looking science fiction and fantasy convention, in Indianapolis. Our friend, Tobias Buckell, will be among the guests, as well another friend of ours Rosemary Laurey. Someone I pretend is my friend in my head when I’m reading his amazing and infuriating books is going to be there too – George R.R. Martin. Like I said, awesome-looking.

The convention looks like a lot of fun, with more than just authors (though they are exciting enough!) and meet and greets. There are tons of panels, workshops, and screenings, all of which seem interesting, imaginative, and applicable, three adjectives that often won’t even show up in the same paragraph together, let alone the same sentence.

Personally, I won’t be able to go, because I’d already made up my work schedule when I remembered when it was. I’m hoping to be able to get off some of Friday to spend some time there, but I’m frankly disappointed in myself for once for not keeping a calendar. Honestly, it’s not like I have any other interest that I spend as much time and money on as reading science fiction and fantasy, you’d think that when a huge group of people throw something awesome-looking together to honor it I would have my act together. I need a whiny smiley…HERE.

So, for those of you invisible and imaginary people out there reading this who are able to go, please ask George R.R. Martin what the &*!@ is going on for me.

June 18, 2007

Locus Awards

Filed under: Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 10:25 pm

The Locus Award winners were announced Saturday! Congratulations to all the winners!

Best Science Fiction Novel

Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (Tor)

Best Fantasy Novel

The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner (Bantam Spectra)

Best First Novel

Temeraire: His Majesty’s Dragon/Throne of Jade/Black Powder, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Voyager); as Temeraire: In the Service of the King (SFBC)

Best Young Adult Book

Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK; HarperTempest)

Best Novella

“Missile Gap”, Charles Stross (One Million A.D.)

Best Novelette

“When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth”, Cory Doctorow (Baen’s Universe 8/06)

Best Short Story

“How to Talk to Girls at Parties”, Neil Gaiman (Fragile Things)

Best Magazine

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Best Publisher

Tor

Best Anthology

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Third Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin’s)

Best Collection

Fragile Things, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)

Best Editor

Ellen Datlow

Best Artist

John Picacio

Best Non-Fiction

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, Julie Phillips (St. Martin’s)

Best Art Book

Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds. Spectrum 13: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (Underwood)

The Locus Awards are voted on by the readers of Locus Magazine, the industry magazine for science fiction and fantasy. Some of the winners were no surprise, since I think Neil Gaiman wins everything (and deservedly so), and everything he doesn’t win I think Cory Doctorow wins (and also deservedly so). Check out their work, if you haven’t done so, including one of my daily internet visits Boingboing, a blog Doctorow contributes to. Rainbow’s End has been talked about so much for the last year I forgot it was new and had started thinking it was a classic, and the James Tiptree Jr. biography is also supposed to be brilliant.

But I was really excited to see that The Privilige of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner won best fantasy novel. Since I work in a used bookstore I don’t always read the newest releases, but being a fan of Ellen’s radio program on NPR and especially after all the great reviews I read of it, I decided to order a copy for myself. Kushner’s characters are lush and interesting, they never lose the power to surprise you, and the novel has all the great hallmarks of a coming of age story without being sentimental.

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