Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On getting bored and moving on

No surprise to anyone who is still hanging onto this blog or has it in their feed reader or whatever that I...I've lost interest.  I've been busy, it's true, but I've made time for other things that I find more interesting at the moment.  Like Plants vs. Zombies (awesome game, by the way, totally addictive and time-wasting and distracting).  I think my mistake was in making the focus too narrow.  I wanted to post about lots of things other that books, and I didn't feel I could do that here because I gave the blog a TITLE about BOOKS.  And even if I changed the name, the URL would remain.

I'm not done with blogging, however.  I have just decided to make a new blog, for a few reasons.  First, I wanted a fresh start with a new title that gives me the freedom to post whatever my heart desires.  Second, I feel kind of like I'm baby-blogging over here on Blogger.  The big kids use WordPress.  I wanted to try it.  So...introducing my new blog, about whatever the hell I feel like talking about INCLUDING books but also other stuff, Wishing Heart.  Go, read, give me comments.  Oh, and this blog is not going anywhere.  I'm going to leave it up for posterity as long as they let me, so if you've linked to it or want to reference something from the archives, go for it.  It will stick around.  Thanks for those who've stuck with me and encouraged me on my very first blogging experiment!  I hope you'll join me for my next adventure.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Life's been busy, what can I say. Sorry, kids! But I'm about to go on a rampage because I'm uncomfortable with how many reviews I want to do! I might skip some that I really didn't like that I don't want to waste your time on - or maybe I'll gather those together and give them shorter reviews :)

The Virginia Festival of the Book starts tomorrow, too, and I'm sadly not heading to anything this year because life is crazy and I'm visiting my Mama for her birthday on Saturday. But YOU! You should be going to some of these events! There are lots of awesome things going on, including events with Lee Smith and Julia Spencer-Fleming, two of my favorite authors! And there are a bunch of other people coming as well, many of whom I've admittedly not heard of, but some I've heard good things about: Dave Cullen, Sheila Curran, Nikki Giovanni, Hermine Pinson (my former professor at W&M!), Elizabeth Strout (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge)... So make some plans to go to some of the events if you can!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We're following the leader, the leader, the leader...

We're following the leader, wherever he may go! Tee-dum, tee-dee, a-teedly-dom-tee-day...

Ahem. I may have watched Disney's version of Peter Pan just a few too many times as a child. I actually woke up with this song stuck in my head on Christmas morning a couple of months ago, no idea why. ANYWAY, as you may have gathered, I recently read J.M. Barrie's original story of the children's classic, Peter Pan. This is one of my favorite tales of all time. I loved the Disney animation (as you've already figured out), I loved the Mary Martin production, I loved Hook, I loved every version of the story I ever saw created, performed, or written. Oddly enough, however, I had never read the original story, at least not until a few months ago. I put it on my Fill-in-the-Gaps list for that very reason, and now I have read it.

Interestingly enough, Peter Pan was originally a short story in a book for adults, which was then adapted into a stage play, and then adapted again to be a children's story. You all know the general story of Peter Pan, right? Peter finds his way into the nursery of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling; he loses his shadow and Wendy wakes to find him crying; she sews his shadow on again and he takes them all away to Neverland. There they have adventures with the Lost Boys and the Indians and the dastardly Captain Hook and his crew. What I probably could have guessed (but didn't entirely realize) is that the familiar treatments of this story are prettied up. Barrie's original tale is a bit weirder, a bit wittier, a bit more sinister than we've been led to believe. The story is essentially the same, down to Nana, the children's doggie governess, but there is a distinctly different tone to the story.

Barrie clearly conveys sort of supernatural elements - he refers to Mrs. Darling cleaning up her children's minds when they've fallen asleep, similar to tidying the nursery only with their thoughts. He talks of Neverland being a place in the minds of the children, and yet they seem to physically travel there - they are absent from their parents for months during their adventures, and their parents are very sad. Peter is arrogant in all of the stories - that's part of his infinite boyhood - but he doesn't even make sense in his arrogance in Barrie's story, which I think is very true to the actual arrogance of a child. The story is also more bloodthirsty than the children's tales to which I'm accustomed. There is no shying away on the part of the Lost Boys or the pirates or the Indians about taking a life - they're at war with one another, and that's how it is. I do think children's minds work that way; it's just we as adults want to convince ourselves that they don't, so we try to make children's stories softer than that.

There are also some pretty funny comments in the book, particularly revolving around Peter and Captain Hook. I was particularly amused by the background on Hook and his extreme concern for good form. Barrie has a dry sense of humor, which I really enjoyed. Despite the humor that was clearly written to appeal to adults, the book as a whole seems very childlike to me, in a very honest way. It's not sugar-coated and sweet; it's odd and cruel and innocent simultaneously. I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would, in part because it was different from the other versions of the story I'd seen previously. 5 of 5 stars!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Goth-Emo Teen Angst Sucks In Bookish 30-Somethings!

Oh, Wet Moon. So angsty and drama-filled. I adore it. I love Ross Cambpell's pudgy little characters with the big eyes and the confusion about their love lives. I love that the most tomboyish main character (beloved Trilby) is also the only outright straight female main character. I love the weird side stories and the feeling that they're all on the point of converging. I honestly cannot put a Wet Moon book down after I open it until it's finished.

So, this is the first time I've reviewed a Wet Moon book on this blog, apparently, and I feel the need to give a little background on it. First of all, it's a comic book/graphic novel series about (mostly) college students in a small Southern town called Wet Moon. The art and culture are very emo-goth, and there is a lot of sexual tension and sexual orientation exploration. It doesn't get too explicit, but it does get sexy, and it's heavy on the bi- and lesbian relationships. My husband introduced me to it, I think because he read the first one and loved it and was confused about why he liked it so much. I read it and also loved it, and then we had a long conversation about the fact that it's so much teenage angsty popcorn fluff, but there's something more to it. And the artwork is flat-out gorgeous.

So our main characters are four high school friends: Cleo (who is probably best called the heroine), Trilby, Audrey and Mara. But the cast of characters seems to grow exponentially with every book, so that I could now name for you probably at least 20 other characters who are also of some significance. Their lives and relationships intertwine, they whine about not getting dates or not knowing who to date, they buy atrocious Hot Topic-style clothing and get tattoos and all sounds really mundane, but it is reading crack, I promise you. The first three books really introduce the characters and their relationships and backgrounds - they lay the groundwork. Things started getting weird in the 4th book - a significant character shows some serial killer tendencies, a masked vigilante shows up, there's statutory rape drama and a cat who disappears through weird inky holes in the floor...and then the 5th book just gets weirder. Now, all of the mundane drama stuff still goes on, but there's some David Lynch-like weirdness too. I love these books, and I'd love you to love them too!

So Volume 5, Where All Stars Fail to Burn, is where the shit starts to go down. Things start happening faster. We watch Cleo kinda sorta start to fall in love with a close friend, and also deal with her sister Penny's big secret. We watch Trilby and her geektastic boyfriend, Martin, be just outright adorable, and Martin gets to meet Trilby's parents. We watch Audrey finally stand up for herself. Myrtle becomes even more psychotic, and Fern becomes even more unbelievably weird. We still don't know who the masked vigilante is, though I've got some theories going. And of course, we get to see the big softball game. Campbell, that incredibly talented SOB, leaves the book with a heart-breaking killer of a cliff-hanger - I almost fell out of my airplane seat in shock that he would leave the story like that FOR MONTHS! Until the next book comes out! ARGH! It sets my teeth on edge just thinking about it, even now, and I read this book two and a half months ago!

Bottom line, 5 stars. I cannot get enough of this series. It's killing me that I might have to wait a whole year for the next one. Damn you, Ross Campbell!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

About e-booky reader-type things

I told you earlier I felt like writing... :)

So, post number three today. I started formulating this post in my head when news of the iPad was first released last week. Because the world is astir with news of the iPad, which is more than an e-reader but still, and I have personally been debating about getting a Barnes & Noble nook after getting to play with one in my local store. There's also been a huge stand-off between Amazon and Macmillan this week regarding the e-book sales model. So my thoughts have turned to e-books and e-readers of late.

One of my very first posts, just over a year ago, was on paper books vs. e-books. At that time, I was not ready to move over to an e-reader. I have since changed my mind. The sheer volume of books in our house has gotten out of control. I've also had a chance to play with both a Kindle and a nook, and I've been impressed with how they haven't at all jarred me out of the book-reading experience. I have had hesitations about the Kindle simply because they require a different format of e-book than what has become the standard and because they don't have expandable memory. Though the the memory capacity is significant and I could switch out books virtually if I ever got close to running out of room. But the nook has expandable memory, which I just like the option to have, and it uses a standard e-book file format, and it has a pretty cool lending feature.

My hesitation at the moment with the nook is that B&N isn't offering any kind of sales or discounts on it, not even to members, which doesn't jive with my frugal nature, and that it's the first generation. I've made it a policy not to buy first generation electronics - they don't have all the bugs and glitches worked out yet. Add to that the fact that I have about 45 paper books in my to-read stack at the moment. So I've made the decision to wait and get my nook after the second version is released, which may be another year or two, but I think I've quenched my initial gadget lust and can manage to make myself wait.

Now. The iPad. First off, let's just all agree that it is the dumbest name they could have possibly given to this device. Not only is it reminiscent of feminine hygiene products (did they even ASK a woman about the name?!), it's only ONE LETTER different from their most famous new gadget of recent years, the iPod. Did they not foresee how potentially confusing that could be? Anyway. Rant over. The iPad looks like a pretty cool device, all told. I'd certainly like to play with one. But from what I can tell, it's essentially a laptop-sized iPod Touch. I'd personally rather have an iPhone that gives me all of those applications everywhere, available at my fingertips as my cell phone is. My laptop does everything I want in a computer; I want a computer that's as mobile as a cell phone. That doesn't mean that I don't see the value in the iPad. I see, for example, a potential e-reader type device for my husband, the comic book reader. Today's e-readers don't display color or images, so reading comics is not really feasible. But the iPad could be a the way, provided comics publishers respond to the (already great) demand to publish comics for the device. My husband is a lover of the format, not a collector, so he'd happily stop buying paper comics if they were available in a good digital format.

The problems with it at the moment are that there is no comics publisher making comics for the iPad yet and the memory capacity is not great yet. I don't know much about computers, but I do know that 64 GB is nothing for high-resolution image-laden comics. They need to up the memory a LOT to appeal to that audience. Also, there's the first generation problem again; we'll definitely wait until at least the second generation to get it. Finally, I'm not sure how it will handle PDF files or how to put files on it that you already own. My husband has a number of digital comics collections released by the publishers on CD-ROM that are in PDF form, and he'd definitely want to be able to read those on the iPad.

So there you have it. We want to upgrade our reading technology, but we haven't quite gotten the devices we want. Maybe in the next year or two we'll do it!

Review of Ender's Game

It may be blizzarding outside, but at least that's put me in a mood to write! I might get a few more book reviews posted this weekend and catch up a little bit :)

I had been wanting to re-read Ender's Game for a long time. I first read it when I was in grad school, getting my master's in gifted education, and we focused on literature that would appeal to gifted children. I'd never heard of the book before, even though I was a big sci-fi reader as a child and the book was published around the time I was born. So I read it about 10 years ago and loved it, and bought a copy to keep in my classroom library when I was a teacher. I always meant to read it again, and I got my chance when my book club chose to read it for our December meeting.

Ender's Game's main character is, not surprisingly, a boy named Ender. Ender is actually his nickname because he is the third and final, or ending, child his parents had. He's an exception, a Third. Most families are only allowed to have two children, but Ender's older siblings were so promising to the government for a special project that they allowed his parents to have a third child, hoping he'd be perfect. His older brother, Peter, is essentially a complete sociopath with no human compassion. His sister Valentine is too loving and compassionate. Lucky for the government (and humanity at large), Ender is juuuuuust right. At age 6, Ender is sent to Battle School to learn how to become a fighter for Earth in the coming war against the Buggers. He goes through rigorous military training, and it soon becomes clear that he's expected to be the Great Hope to win the Bugger war.

I've heard a lot of complaints about this book. I've heard that it doesn't portray children accruately, that the children are too smart and too ruthless. I believe those people have never met a truly gifted child and must not remember what it's like to be a child themselves. The old adage "Children are cruel" has its foundation in truth. Children have not developed the emotional maturity to be sympathetic or empathetic; as much as adults try to teach them by saying, "How would you feel if someone did that to you?" they just can't comprehend it. And so they are absolutely horrid to each other when the mood strikes, and they are ruthless. I remember that about childhood. And just as quickly, it's all forgotten and children are best friends again. I remember that, too. Gifted children are no different in that respect; they just have the intelligence to suss out exactly the most hurtful things to say and do to one another. They are logical and have the intellingence of any of the smartest adults, but they don't have the emotional development to temper it.

And that's why I think this book is brilliant. It shows, in what I think is a highly accurate way, what happens when you throw a bunch of crazy-smart children into a military situation and teach them to be soldiers, pitting them against each other in war games. The book is science fiction, and it is ultimately about two races' misunderstanding of each other and the resulting destruction because of this, but the book succeeds because of its exploration of these kids' psyches, and Ender's in particular. It's the reason gifted kids all over the world feel so passionately about the book: they feel like someone finally understands them, that there may be other people like them, after living their whole lives feeling isolated. That, in my opinion, makes the book one of the best ever written dealing with gifted children, and it's reasonably decent sci-fi in addition to that.