Category Archives: Books

Virus on Orbis 1 Guest Book Review by Katie Kaminski

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A Book Review by Katie Kaminski

Katiekaylee

 

Virus on Orbis1 is the first in a scifi young adult series written by, PJ Haarsma. The other books in this series are, Betrayal on Orbis2, Wormhole Pirates on Orbis3, and Awakening on Orbis4. PJ Haarsma is also the founder of Kids Need To Read program. He works with Nathan Fillion to encourage children to read. They accept donations of books to give to underfunded schools, Libraries, and other organizations. If you want to learn more about this program here is a link to their website. pjharsmaphoto(1)http://www.kidsneedtoread.org/

 

Good young adult books are hard to find, let alone science fiction, it was exciting for me to find this great novel. So many young adult books tend to feature trivial problems such as having a new baby in the family, and the ones that have a more complex story line, I tend not to care much for the characters because they don’t have depth.

 

Orbis is a series of rings that surround a wormhole. Varieties of alien species come to Orbis hoping for a better life. A ship called Renaissance carries groups of human children whose parents died mysteriously. One of these children carries a special ability, the first Softwire recorded in the human species, Johnny Turnbull. He is able to enter any computer. This ability gets him into loads of trouble on his new home, and I wouldn’t miss a second of it!

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My favorite character is Max. Max is Johnny’s best friend. She is smart and creative. She enjoys taking technology apart and putting it back together.

 

The only criticism I have about this book is that there wasn’t enough description of the setting. I want to know what Orbus1 looks like. What is new and different about the place that the Renaissance kids have never seen before (besides the aliens that live there)?

 

This book is brilliantly written with a great plot. It’s a great adventure for everyone of all ages. This Science Fiction book is definitely going in my list of favorites. I had fun following Johnny as he explored orbis1 and his powers.  I got so involved, when Johnny was falsely accused of something I started to yell at the book! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I recommend this book to all ages. I had fun following Johnny as he explored orbis1 and his powers.  I got so involved, when Johnny was falsely accused of something I started to yell at the book! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I recommend this book to all!

The Rose Labyrinth Book Review

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The Rose Labyrinth

Cover of "Rose Labyrinth"

Cover of Rose Labyrinth

So, looking for a good summer read I came across The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie at my local “Friends of the Library” bookstore.

It LOOKS really cool, comes in an extra cover slip with the book on one side and a booklet of clues on the other side. It starts off really well with a “DaVinci Code” feel to it, with a focus on symbology and historical figures as part of the mystery, not to mention the Christianity vs Paganism vs Science overtones.

Pulling a George R.R. Martin, she kills off “the main character” after the reader becomes invested in him. The downfall to this technique occurs however when it also happens to be the strongest character, which it is in the case of “The Rose Labyrinth”. While his death is a catalyst for the story, it becomes a fluffy Harlequin Romancy thing after that. The two main characters are sickeningly “gorgeous”, there  is a whole “princess who needs to be rescued by the prince” aspect to it, when the “new” beautiful and  frail, main character, Lucy, has a heart transplant and falls in love with her handsome, seriously sensitive, and knight in shining armor, doctor. (Professional ethics be damned!) The extra characters such as their friends and family are just plain cardboard. The father has a depth of 0 and I kind of cringed every time he came on the scene. He didn’t seem to serve any purpose at all except to maybe add more protective testosterone to the cheesy mix.

I was hoping that the mystery part of it and the clue booklet would help make up for the syrupy romance but was sadly disappointed. I actually attempted to work at the clues but I really don’t think there is any way an average reader could figure any of them out even with access to the internet. I couldn’t do it and I’ve got an armchair interest in symbols, symbology, anthropology and the like. I eventually tired of even trying and just decided to discover the answers along with the characters and sometimes even that was a pretty far stretch. They seemed to have a general knowledge of stuff they really shouldn’t know unless they were anthropologists or something of that nature. Lucy is some kind of documentary film maker, so maybe that is supposed to explain it…

The author makes an attempt at some type of spiritual / mystical depth as Lucy has some connection to the mystery through her new heart, there are a couple of incidences of visions into previous time periods but these are so glossed over that it just makes the whole thing confusing.

In short, the book is a great concept and it could have been epic as a “DaVinci Code / Mists of Avalon” mix.  Hardie should have just done away with the extra pretty packaging and the unsolvable booklet of clues and concentrated on writing the story with depth.

Gay Rights vs Stereotyping in Jody Picoult’s “Sing You Home”

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As a Canadian living in the US I’m not totally ignorant of US politics, but it did surprise me to learn recently that one of the main reasons the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified was because there is a fear that it may lead to furthering progress in gay rights. (God knows we can’t have that can we, Human rights for ALL humans? Even those queers who live down the street?) When I learned about this little nuance regarding the history of human rights in the US, I was reminded of “Sing You Home”,  the Jody Picoult book I read last year.

The story opens with a young married couple trying to have a baby and the emotional rollercoaster involved in the whole process of invitro fertilization. The emotion pain at the beginning of the book was difficult reading, but then that is a sign of good story telling.

Zoe  is a music therapist. The description of her career is very interesting, and certainly well researched. As the relative of someone who has suffered a brain aneurism, I actually learned something about the workings of the brain through Picoult’s research that explained a few things.

One cool thing about this book is that it’s multimedia and comes with a soundtrack. I liked the music, but to be quite honest, considering that Zoe was described at one point as a “***king nightingale” I thought the singer on the track was weak. I wouldn’t go out and purchase the sound track for its own merit.

After one horrible miscarriage that almost kills her, and the revelation of further health issues, Zoe continues her obsession with having children and her husband, Max can take no more and he leaves the marriage.  Lost without her however, he falls off the wagon,  then subsequently becomes a fundamentalist Christian through his religious brother and sister in law. I didn’t much like Max. He’s one of those weak people who needs someone or something outside of himself to give structure to his life. Sometimes I just wanted to slap him upside the head.  It takes him a while but he does eventually grow a backbone.  Zoe on the other hand, makes a new friend, Vanessa, and begins to realize that she is falling in love and “turns” gay.  I have to wonder about that. Zoe has never experienced gender confusion and has never been attracted to a woman before.Would it be better to say that Zoe realizes that she is bisexual? I’m not really sure about that one. Anyway, I do think Picoult could have done a better job with regard to the fluidity of human sexuality.

Picoult does an absolutely superb job of delving into the gay rights issues, while at the same time portraying Max and his right wing mode of thinking in such a way that we can really understand that there is no black and white and only shades of gray.  All in all, it is a complicated story in which the reader can sympathize with everyone involved, (except maybe the Pastor and Max’s lawyer, both of whom made my skin crawl every time they entered the story line).

I have read a few other reviews of this novel written by more knowledgeable Picoult fans, there is quite a bit of controversy over this particular novel. Some of her fans love it and some really take offense. One fan, a devout Christian, was very upset at the stereotyping Picoult does in this story “this novel paints all evangelical Christians as homophobic scumbags and all lesbians as kind-hearted, loving saints” and that she describes Christian women as “simpering, uneducated doormat(s) who’ll only do those things (their) husband allows and who (have) no opinions of (their) own, outside the one he gives (them).”

A cropped version of this photo centered on Re...

A cropped version of this photo centered on Reynold's face is at Image:Burt Reynolds 1991 cropped.jpg. Burt Reynolds on the red carpet for the 43rd Annual Emmy Awards, 8/25/91 - Permission granted to copy, publish, broadcast or post but please credit "photo by Alan Light" if you can (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was no place on this website to reply to this particular post so I’ll do it here. I don’t think Picoult meant to say that ALL Christians are like the characters in this book. Picoults characters represent possibilities in reality. ALL books / stories use archetypes and stereotypes when creating characters. Not all Lawyers are scumbags (believe it or not, one of my best friends is a lawyer.) Not all old women are cookie baking grannies, not all used car salesmen are slimy greaseballs (at least I don’t think so, I don’t personally know any used car salesmen) not all prostitutes have a “heart of gold” (see  “Whores’ Sluts and Studs”       ) and not all gay men talk with lisps. (see “Watson is a Woman?”  )

As a northerner living in the south for ten years I have to say yes, I HAVE met people like these in the novel. The first time I saw a Sheriff down here was at the HEB on the I 45. He spoke with a very strong drawl, was chewing on a toothpick, and standing with hands on hips with  supreme attitude. I thought for a moment that I’d stepped into a Burt Reynoldsmovie. Also, One day while

waiting for my kid to be released from his gymnastics class, I overheard two women discussing the then new “Star Wars Phantom Menace” movie. They were saying they weren’t comfortable with the “demonic look” of the villain Darth Maul, and one woman was going to ask her minister if he thought it would be ok for her to see it.

Ray Park as Darth Maul

Ray Park as Darth Maul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picoult’s novel represents a certain EXTREMIST portion of the population that DOES exist.  Heck, we only need to look at the Yahoo News to see them in politics and the media, on a daily, basis. (Do I really need to bring up Rush Limbaugh AGAIN?)

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of mar...

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of marsdencartoons.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

http://www.jodipicoult.com/sing-you-home.html

The Hunger Games, Can it Live up to the Hype?

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Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

 

So I finally got around to reading the first book of “The Hunger Games”. Well, actually I cheated; my family listened to it in the car during our 11 hour spring break road trip. I’ve had so many friends tell me that I need to read this series, and I have actually given this review a lot of thought before writing it.

For a young adult book, I really liked the mature subject matter. I think it is comparable to a young adult’s version of “Running Man”. The premise is quite believable given the way humanity is prone to self-destruction, violence and our insatiable thirst for entertainment.  I also like the strong female character. Katniss kicks some serious ass in a “Buffy” kind of way, which is a far cry from Walking Dead’s Lori who is dependent on the closest alpha male for protection. What I’m having a little problem with is the icky teen romance thing. I guess I’m just tired of the “girl choosing between two guys” scenario; it’s just getting a little old. We’re seeing it in everything from The Walking Dead to True Blood to of course the mother of all sickly love triangles,  (gag) Twilight.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been so put off if I’d actually read the book instead of listening to it. My husband admitted to me that while he was reading it he was able to skip over the sappy “I love him, I love him not” daisy petal picking scenes to get to the good parts. It’s a lot more inconvenient to do that when you are listening on your ipod because you have to find just the right place to stop and start again. You end up just suffering through it.

I have to say however, that I like it much better than (gag) Twilight. The number one reason is that at least the main character isn’t codependent to the point of suicide. Katniss is a much more appropriate role model for our younger generation while Bella just sets feminism back about a hundred years.  Like Edward, Peeta likes to watch Katniss sleep, which is slightly creepfying in itself, but at least he’s not breaking into her house to do it.

The one author who did a really good job of the love triangle issue was J.K. Rowling. It was always there in the background, a subtle golden accent thread in the tapestry of the story. The Ron/Hermione/Harry, Harry/Cho/Cedric, Harry/Ginny/Dean romances never became the focal point of the story. The focus was ALWAYS the quest. In Katniss’s case, the quest is that of freedom from tyranny. THIS should be the focal point. This second focal point, the gooey romancy stuff, just interferes too much with the goal and detracts from the quest.

This story has SO much potential. I really, really hope that the movie version doesn’t take the Twilight road. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a really strong heroine.

 

(Stephen King’s analysis and review: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20223443,00.html )

Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_AW6Bqnvqo&feature=fvst

Some years ago I picked up George R.R. Martin’s much beloved by many, “Game of Thrones” admittedly I had a hard time getting through it. It’s a complicated, multi layered piece involving what seems like hundreds of characters. It just didn’t make for light tub time reading at the end of a busy day. If memory serves, I didn’t finish it. (I now hang my head in shame.)

The excitement surrounding HBO’s adaptation rekindled my interest so I tuned in. I was quickly mesmerized by the period sets, realistic costumes, settings that varied from mountainous to desert landscapes not to mention a fantastic cast. This was a huge production worthy of the big screen, definitely “Lord of the Rings” caliber. Creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss do fantastic work with this overwhelmingly epic production.  This reminds me of being completely captivated with Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V” in the same manner. It’s wonderful when movies and television can bring a whole new depth and meaning to a story when so often movie making has the opposite effect.

Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Boromir) is perfectly cast as Ned Stark, head of the Stark family of Winterfell. The Stark family is the heart of the story, and honestly, there are so many of them (Starks) it would take pages to describe them all. Lena Headey (300, Sarah Connor Chronicles) is captivating as the role of the complicated Queen, Cercei Lannister and Peter Dinklage, he just steals every scene he’s in as the most misunderstood character in history, Tyrion Lannister.

When the show finished its first season it just wasn’t enough for me. I returned to the novels. What better recommendation for a television series or movie than to say it encourages people to read?

“Game of Thrones” season two will be aired on April 1 2012. War is Coming!