"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

“Four hundred billion suns spiraling through space together. Our solar system just one grain on that galactic carousel. The carousel itself a speck in the cosmos. And here I am in this small clearing, on the surface of the earth, as transient and unnoticed to the universe as the dry blades of grass that are poking into my shirt.”
 This is the story of Sol. Who lives in a world where modern civilization has been divided into Night-dwellers (Smudges) and Day-dwellers (Rays). When I started this book, I admit I had something like Twilight in mind. I had a stressful week, and I wanted some light hearted, young adult nonsense, that oozed happiness from beginning to end. This did not ooze happiness, it oozed desperation. And I couldn't make myself stop reading it, because I was equally desperate to know what happened next.

 Sol, a Smudge, is about to be left alone in the world. Her brother Ciel was reassigned to Day, she has no parents, and the grandfather who raised her is dying. Her grandfather's dying wish is to hold his great grandaughter before he dies... and Ciel refuses to cooperate. With nothing left to lose, Sol decides to steal the newborn for her grandfather. What's a little kidnapping among family?

Her choices set her on a collision course with a crime spree, a government conspiracy, and the Ray who loves her. D'Arcy, a medical apprentice whose own family has been left equally damaged by the Day-Night divide.

At the end of this book, I have just one question: Where is the rest of it? This book pulls you along, pulls you along, stops short and pushes you off a cliff. I just wanted a damned happy ending this week. And it wasnt sad ending it was just...desperate. I glanced at the reviews that came before  and I see I'm not the only one who thought this book needed a sequel.

But I give this book 4 stars, because it did its job. It took me elsewhere, it kept me captive, and I enjoyed every word of it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome 2016!

I've been gone but I've not been slacking. Long at last, I finally found a job that was willing to overlook my lack of experience, in favor of training me up. The good news is I thoroughly enjoy the job even if it's possibly the weirdest job I could have found. It allows me to do two things I love: work with my hands and work with my mind. Unfortunately, its been an adjustment; getting up early made me come home an exhausted dragon lady with no time to read (even though the books keep piling up!)

In 2015 I participated in the AZ Challenge. I haven't decided yet if I will repeat the feat this year. I also set out to read 30 books. I read 14 instead. I started Short Story Sunday, which like this blog has remained obviously inactive (but I remain confident in its purpose).

I've finally got a handle on my working hours, which is good because its the First Day of the New Year and I'm excited to be accessing abilities and setting goals for 2016. This year I'm setting a more modest goal of 12 books to read and review, one book a month, although I ambitiously hope I can surpass that number. I've got a tower of books waiting for me! I'm also looking into literary magazines that accept submissions from new authors, so that someone might be able to read and critique my stories someday.

I hope you all are doing well, enjoying your holidays, and I hope you'll join me for some reading this year!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling

"To Harry Potter -- the boy who lived!" Strange things are happening in the suburbs of England, all over town, all over the countryside, when Harry Potter is left on the doorstep of his Uncle's house. Harry Potter is lone survivor of a murder plot, left in the care of relatives, to live out his childhood in relative normalcy. On his eleventh birthday, letters start arriving, inviting him to enroll in an unusual school... Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I have long regarded this story one of the best pieces of children's literature to come out of the 90's, I think my grandkids will be reading it, and I think someday it will be taught in schools.  It has the themes we've been brought up to expect in children's lit: made up words to add an air of silliness, a few funny rhymes, a child from a broken home who wants to do what is right. (See my late night ramblings on OrphanLit Here) Additionally, the story adheres to the rules set down for fantasy novels: language unique to the fantasy world, a clear border between where one world ends and the other begins, rules and restrictions for the possibilities of magic, and of course the age old tradition of a battle between Good and Evil.

The author could have stopped there. Isn't that enough? Isn't it enough to write a story that is simply entertaining? Sure, but then it wouldn't have been as good. JK Rowling also wrote a book that was as thought provoking as entertaining.

The main characters, Harry, Ron, and Hermione form friendship despite their extreme differences. Harry's famous, but he can't remember a time when he knew love. He's also just discovered that he's filthy rich. A lot of people want to be his friend, but he chooses Ron. Ron Weasley, comes from a large family. He feels overlooked, surrounded by hand me downs, in his lower income bracket. Hermione Granger, is raised by dentists! She's not just a bookworm, she's an academic addict, and like Harry, is just discovering what it means to be a student at Hogwarts. You've got three very different kids who are joined by the need to prove themselves worthy of the chance they've been given.

You are also granted the reccurring theme that money and fame isn't everything in life. The counter trio, Harry's schoolmates, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle are an important mirror. Malfoy, raised by magical parents with money, is little jerk. He doesn't need to prove himself, he feels perfectly entitled to get what he wants and has no problem hurting others for his own amusement or personal gain. Crabbe and Goyle allow themselves to be led, and occasionally used; they seek favor from a dominant personality...that's got little to do with loyalty. They think they've got the world at their fingertips... and they're not better people for it.

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live..." Then there's Professor Dumbledore, the benevolent headmaster, who watches over the school and it's inhabitants. He's both protector and enabler; he seems to understand that while Harry is a child, he is also a human being filled with need. Rather than shield Harry completely as a parent might, he decides to provide Harry with the tools to survive the hardships ahead.

"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty, but don't judge on what you see..."  Don't be quick to judge anyone, says the Sorting Cap. A sentiment that rings true beginning to end. Professor Snape is perpetually angry, Professor Quirrell timid and kind, Hagrid is enormous and hairy, and a dragon dealer in a pub appears fated. You can't ever know what's inside someone's heart and head, unless you think to ask. Being scary or angry doesn't make a person evil, just as giving a gift doesn't make a saint.

What makes a friend? Ron is willing to lay down his life for Harry. Hermione is willing to throw away what she holds close to her heart. Loyalty and courage are nothing to snub your nose at, but other things count too. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends..." Neville Longbottom, quiet and forgetful, accident prone and the target of bullying, tries to protect Harry, Ron, and Hermione from themselves. Any idiot can stand up and say, "Let's do this!" But when you tell your friends, "Let's not!" Even if it's for their own good, you risk having them not like you. Neville seems to have learned early in life, what friends think of you is irrelevant if they're all dead.

Needless to say, I've given this 5 stars. If you're looking to have a well thought out,  magical adventure with some really clever characters, and learn about Lord Voldemort the most evil wizard that ever lived, and thwart his attempts to return from the not-quite-grave... This is the book for you, regardless of age.