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Oh, boo-hoo

Posted by barb on Sep 25, 2006 in Books, Random Thoughts

“Pro-Family” groups* are upset** with the American Library Association for Banned Books Week:

“What people need to understand is that this is the American Library Association’s way of trying to censor those who exercise their free speech rights and say that there are books in the library that should not be available to children.”

Huh? First amendment right to censor? Can anyone take these people seriously?

Their main problem seems to be that none of the books were actually banned across the nation. No, but books have been challenged, and groups like these so-called pro-family people would be perfectly happy if many of these challenged books were, in fact, banned.

Boo-hoo “pro-family” groups who have a problem with banned books week because it shines a big spotlight on your intolerance. Perhaps the place for discussions on books you feel are inappropriate for you children is in your household, since not every parent shares your narrow-minded views. Indeed, the first amendment is alive and well in public libraries and schools, and those of us who celebrate banned books week intend to keep it that way.

*Because, of course, if you don’t support their view that we should censor books, then clearly you aren’t pro-family.

**I’m a little ashamed to be linking to a “focus on the family” site, but there it is. Please don’t think any less of me.

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Book catch-up, part 2

Posted by barb on Jul 26, 2006 in Books

The rest of my books for the past few months:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix
by J. K. Rowling

Wow. Just wow. With Voldemort back in the picture, Harry has more to worry about than ever. Add to that the Ordinary Wizarding Levels at the end of the school year, and it’s a wonder Harry survives the year at all. Of course, the pressure does start to get to Harry. This book sees a lot of changes in Harry’s personality – he seems to be teetering on the edge for much of the school year.

The book is as engaging as the others, and left me gaped-mouthed and wishing for someone to turn to and say, “What? What just happened? Did I read that right? AAAAAA!”

Burning Road
by Ann Benson

I was a little surprised to find that this book is actually a sequel to The Plague Tales, but there was no indication of this on the book jacket (only a sentence like, “by the bestselling author of The Plage Tales).

That said, once I got past my surprise, the book was just as engaging as the first. As The Plague Tales, this novel follows two related medical tales that are separated by 700 years in time. In 14th century France, Dr. Alejandro Canches has kept a low profile since he saw England’s royal family through the last surge of the plague. He gets pressed into helping to translate a jewish text for an alchemist. Alejandro’s journal stumbled into Dr. Janie Crowe’s hands in the 20th century in The Plague Tales. We now find Janie dealing with a possible resurgance of DR SAM, a deadly and highly infectious disease that swept the world, killing a good percent of the population, including Janie’s family. The text that Canches had been translated also came into the possession of the same depository that Janie used to store Alehandro’s journal.

This was a good follow-on to The Plague Tales; however, in some ways it’s much the same, with the two parallel stories, and a bit unbelievable that two books with writing by the same person would first of all both survive 700 years, and second fall into the same book depositotry. It was just a bit too much to swallow. I likely won’t read a third book in this series if Benson continues. However, if she decides to start with a new story and new characters, I’ll be happy to give it a try.

Deep Wizardry
by Dian Duane

This is the secon book in Duane’s Young Wizard series, and I must confess that I missed the first one (though it is now on my to-read pile). Nita and Kit have only recently fell into wizardry, and now on a vacation with Nita’s family at the beach, they discover that they are needed by the wizards living in the sea – whale wizards.

This was a fun book. Fluffy and a quick read, but fun.

The Clan of the Cave Bear
by Jean M. Auel

The novel begins with an earthquake that takes the live of young Ayla’s family. After wandering for days, unable to feed herself, and attacked by a lion, Ayla collapses, on the edge of death. She is found by members of the clan of the cave bear. The clan was displaced from their long-time home-cave by the same earthquake that took Ayla’s family, and they are searching for a new home.

The novel follows Ayla’s struggles with becoming accepted into the clan, for she is clearly not of the clan – she is blonde and tall and likes to use her voice. The people of the clan are dark-haired, short and talk mostly with their hands. The people of the clan are also very set in their ways, with men and women having very particular roles, and both men and women seem happy with those roles, not only unwillingly to change, but unwanting. Ayla, on the other hand, wants to explore, hunt, and genearlly act unwomanly. Throughout it all, one member of the clan hounds her, Broud, son of the mate of the leader.

This was an excellent book – a page turner.

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Book catch-up, part 1

Posted by barb on Jul 23, 2006 in Books

I took a bit of a hiatus from reading in December, but I have been reading since then – I just haven’t been keeping up with my book diary. Here’s half of the books I’ve read since my last entry.

Wicked
by Gregory Maguire

This is not your mother’s Wizard of Oz. In fact, that’s clear from the first page.
“She [the wicked witch] was castrated at birth,” replied the Tin Woodsman calmly. “She was born a hermaphroditic, or maybe entirely male.”
As with Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, this book is fairly dark. Elphaba was born green and with sharp teeth. Is it any wonder that life was hard for her? Her father was ashamed of her, but doted on her armless sister. In school (yes, Shiz, just like the musical), she found a cause – the rights of Animals (where the capital ‘A’ denotes an animal who is sentient and intelligent). But when she brings her cause to the Wizard, she finds that he’s behind the villification of the Animals. He created them as an enemy to unite the different factions of Oz. Her crusade goes wrong, and everything she touches seems to go wrong. Is it any wonder that she became “wicked”?

Great book, highly recommended

In Search of the Big Bang
by John Gribbin

I didn’t actually finish this book, but that’s because the content wasn’t what I expected, not because of the quality of the book. In fact, as usual, Gribbin takes a very difficult subject and makes it manageable for laypeople. he tells the story of how scientists came to devlop Big Bang theory and some of the ongoing investigations into refining the theory.

I was looking for a book that told the story of the COBE spacecraft and its results. Since COBE is depicted on the cover, I don’t think I was foolish in thinking that I might find it here. Sadly, COBE was only mentioned in a paragraph or two of one chapter. Sigh.

Undead and Unemployed
by Mary Janice Davidson

The subject on the spine says “paranormal romance”. What more could a girl want?

Betsy Taylor is Queen of the vampires. She got this title just a couple months ago when she died, though most vampires don’t acknowledge her as Queen yet. In fact, several of these vampires are now out to kill her…er…again. During all this, Betsy secures a job at Nordstrom’s shoe departement at the Mall of America. So, at least her shoe-fetish is satisfied among the death threats.

There’s not much substance here, of course, but the book is rather fun while it lasts.

Twilight Rising, Serpent’s Dream
by Diana Marcellas

I’ve been anticipating this book since The Sea Lark’s Song. It’s Marcellas’ third in her series that started with Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea Brierly grew up wondering if she was the last of the shari’a, a race of witches which had long ago been killed off. But then Brierly found a young fire witch after Brierley fled the Duke’s dungeon. In this book, we found two forest witches, a girl and her twin brother (usually the shari’a abilities are passed down to the girls in a family, but if a girl has a boy twin, he may get some of the abilities as well). The forest witches have been awaiting The Finding – an event that will only happen when one of each type of witch gather (fire, ocean, forest and air). However, no one is quite sure what will happen at The Finding. Perhaps the abilities of the witches will change/grow. Perhaps new types of witches will come about. But it seems clear that the shari’a will find a rebirth at The Finding.

Wonderful book – up to the high standards set by the previous two books in this series.

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Book Catch-Up

Posted by barb on Nov 24, 2005 in Books

I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do, but I’ve read more than I’ve blogged here. Here are the books I’ve finished in the last few months:

The Annals of the Heechee
by Frederik Pohl

I had been looking forward to this, the last installment of the Heechee books (well, at least the last featuring Robinette Broadhead). Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations. Not even close.

I found myself often annoyed with the constant harping on the fact that Robinette is now digitized — not a “meat person”. We get explaination after explaination that he moves at higher speeds and that the speeds of “meat people” is way too slow for him. I didn’t need it beaten into my head.

The story does wrap up (sort of) the questions of what the Heechee are hiding from.

The Chronoliths
by Robert Charles Wilson

In early 21st century Thailand, Scott Warden witnesses the sudden appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar inscribed with a military victory of “Kuin”…16 years in the future. The novel follows Scott over the next 16 years as he joins the team investigating these events and whether or not they can be reversed.

The story idea is compelling; however, it’s told from Scott’s “future” self. Annoyingly, he keeps forshadowing how much worse things are going to get. After the third or fourth time hearing “little did we know” or “that was only the beginning”, I was ready to toss the book. However, the story intrigued me enough that I wanted to finish it.

Dooms Day Book
by Connie Willis

In the future, the best way to study history is to go back in time. However, several eras are off-limits as being too dangerous. Kivrin was determined to go to the early 14th century, but it has been declared off-limits due to the plague and plague-related histeria. When the history board starts to open up a few decades in the 14th century, Kivrin leaves for the past as soon as she can.

When she gets there, though, she finds that the drop site had drifted in time more than any other drop had drifted, and suddenly she’s in one of the un-approved decades. In the meantime, back in her own time, an epidemic hits London, and no one has the time or energy to see that she is not where she should have been.

As usual, Willis weaves an interesting and intricate story.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002
edited by Natalie Angier

Another great collection of science articles. A few noteworthy ones:

  • “Violent Pride” by Roy F. Baumeister – This article blows apart the premise that violent people have low self-esteem. This piece of “common knowledge” had not really been rigorously tested, and when a group does test it, they find that the agressive group actually has high self esteem.
  • “Welcome to Cancerland” by Barbara Ehrenreich – Ehrenreich examines the pink world of breast cancer after she is diagnosed with it
  • “As Good As Dead” by Gary Greenberg – This piece examines the fuzzy line between life and death and the ethics involved in declaring someone dead enough to harvest their organs.
  • “Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good” by Eric Schlosser – Interesting article on how flavorings are made and used. It’s surprising how flavorings are really the heart of the food industry, not the foods themselves.
  • “Shock and Disbelief” by Daniel Smith – This piece is about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and how it has changed in the last 20 years. It also touches on the controversy and highlighted how today’s ECT is far removed from the horrors that most people have in their minds.

There was also one annoying piece, “Sound and Fury” by Garret Keizer, and I skipped at least one other piece after reading the first few pages. However, all-in-all, this was a better collection than the others I’ve read.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J. K. Rowling

It’s Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts, and by far his most dangerous so far. As he is forced to compete in the triwizard tournament, a dangerous tournament between the top three wizard schools in Europe, he faces challenges that test his skills as a wizard beyond what he was ever prepared for.

This is the best Harry Potter book so far in the series, and the darkest. I can hardly wait to read the next one to see where things go next.

Man With Farm Seeks Woman With Tractor: The Best and Worst Personal Ads of All Time
by Laura Schaefer

This is a collection of personal ads through history. Unfortunately, the best one was the one used for the title. All of the rest paled by comparison. It also seemed that Schaefer picked many ads from the same paper on the same day or week, leading me to believe that her research was a bit lacking. This collection is not worth the time or money.

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Banned Book Week Meme

Posted by barb on Sep 29, 2005 in Books, Memes, Etc.

In honor of Banned Books Week, look at ALA’s list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 and list the ones that you’ve read.

I suspect that my list won’t be as long as I might like.

4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Yikes, only 20! I need to read more! In my defense, I have The Witches, Julie of the Wolves, two of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children Series, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings on Mount To-Read.

Which ones have you read?

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Maximum Ice

Posted by barb on Jun 27, 2005 in Books

by Kay Kenyon

Star Road has returned to Earth after a failed attempt to establish a colony elsewhere in the galaxy. They turned back after the young people stopped being able to bear children. They’ve been gone 250 years according to the ships clocks, but 10,000 years have passed on Earth.

When they arrive, they find an Earth covered with “Ice” — a crystalline substance that covers most of the surface. The people of Star road don’t have much time, since Ice is still spreading, and the small tract of land left open will be covered in less than 6 months.

On the surface, the Ice Nuns are the group to negotiate with. They are not catholic, nor God-fearing; however, they keep up the heirarchy of the old Catholic Nuns — along with the discipline and corruption. Their goal is to talk with Ice, and they don’t want to stop its growth.

Zoya tries politics with the Nuns, hooks up with a tracker of Ice Witches, and searches for a nun postulant who could unlock the secret of Ice.

This is the first book of Kenyon’s that I’ve read. Based on the blurb on the back of the book, I wouldn’t have even picked it up, and I would have missed out. The story was strong, the characters compelling, and I look forward to seeing what else Kenyon has written.

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A Wrinkle in Time

Posted by barb on Jun 17, 2005 in Books

by Madeleine L’Engle

This is another book that I read in my childhood that I’ve revisisted to see how it held up.

Meg’s father is a scientist who has been missing for quite some time. Her mother knows that something has gone wrong with his last assignment (top secret, with the government), but doesn’t know what to do to help him. Then, Meg meets Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which through her brother, Charles Wallace. These three unusual women know where Meg’s father is, and use a tesseract (a wrinkle in space and time) to help the children find him.

A great story, and it holds up as a good read for my adult-self as well as it did for my child-self.

Note: This book is on the list of 100 most challenged books from 1990-2000. Why? According to Forbidden Libaray, this book was:

Challenged at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the book’s listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil. Got it. Let’s cross Jesus off that list, shall we?

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More Anguished English

Posted by barb on Jun 13, 2005 in Books

by Richard Lederer

More bad grammar, gaffes, and funnyu mistakes collected together. A fun, funny read, but quickly forgotten.

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The Companions

Posted by barb on Jun 12, 2005 in Books

by Sheri S. Tepper

As is typical of the Tepper books I’ve read, she paints a rather depressing picture of Earth’s future, with a decimated environment and overcrowding that taxes the few remaining natural resources. A group (IGI-HFO, or In God’s Image – Humans First and Only) has called for all animal life to be eradicated to leave more resources for humans.

But in this desolation, Tepper remains optimistic on human nature — at least the human nature in a few strong people who can affect change in the world. As with most Tepper novels, the main character is a multi-faceted, interesting, strong female. Jewel Delis has worked with domestic animals since before the IGI-HFO people banished all except laboratory animals. Her brother works as a linguist, and often brings her along as an assistant on his travels to other worlds, not knowing that she really works for arkists, the group secretly trying preserve animal life on other planets.

Excellent read.

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Bookcrossing at the AAS

Posted by barb on Jun 4, 2005 in Books

I’ve made it a tradition to make Bookcrossing releases of either sci fi or science books at the AAS meetings. The targeted audience has really paid off for me, with several books journaled from each meeting that I’ve attended. This June meeting in Minneapolis is no exception. I made two releases, and both of them were journaled! Check out their journies on the following pages:

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