The Lost Gate

by Orson Scott Card

When I started reading this book, I thought “Percy Jackson!” The protagonist, Danny, is a descendant of Norse gods. Norse gods whose powers are greatly diminishes as they can no longer pass through the gates to their own world. Danny however, appears to be the only one in the family without any magical ability.

As I read on, pretty soon it becomes clear it’s Card’s book, with his hallmark of character internal monologue, all that “if I do this, then they will…” analytical thinking that reminds me very much of Ender and Bean.

The story progresses in two worlds. On Earth, Danny discovers his power by accident, and has to run away from his family as gatemagery is forbidden among the “gods”. In Westil, the world where the gods come from, another powerful young gatemage is awaken. Wad stays in the castle as a lowly kitchen boy, until he overhears a plot to kill the queen, and thus saves her and eventually falls in love with her.

While there is nothing new about a fantasy of an ordinary boy discovering his special power, Card manages to create a new story here. The parallel stories certainly add to the appeal, and I really look forward to how the two boys will face off one another. In some way, I enjoy Wad’s story more, as he’s a more mature character, going through a deeper life experience, while Danny is still very much an adolescent growing up, talking dirty, playing pranks, wanting to impress girls. While I get it that he’s a teenager, I admit that I don’t care much for all that vulgar talk and unnecessary sexual stuff.

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Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 1:17 am  Leave a Comment  

The Martian Child

by David Gerrold

While this is categorized as fiction, most of the content is autobiographical. Gerrold is a single gay man who adopted a son, and while the idea of the boy considering himself Martian is inspired by another adoption, a lot of what happened in the book came from real life. It is a moving story about a boy in need of love and a man who so generously gives it. A boy who has been rejected so often he feels that he is an alien. He wishes for a father but is certain that the father will one day no longer wants him. So heart breaking, and so heart warming.

Definitely one of the best book I read in years. I’d love to buy a bunch and share it with everybody I know. I would love to shove it to those people who insist on laws making gay ineligible for adoption as they can’t be good parents, but then those people will probably would just trash it.

In some way I find it funny that the author thinks so much of the boy’s claim as a Martian. As mentioned in the book, plenty of kids imagine weird birth origins, and I think I had my share as a kid too. But I suppose it means a lot more when you are a sci-fi writer to have a Martian in your house.

BTW I found this blog that has a very nice review about the book, with pictures of Dennis as a boy (the agency picture that stole Gerrold’s heart) and grown man.

http://criticontheloose.blogspot.com/2007/11/martian-child-love-story.html

The blog mentioned that in the movie version, the father is not gay, but a widower. Hmph. I can see the reasoning for it, from a commercial standpoint, but it’s somewhat disappointing.

(And oh one more thing about this book’s category. The author is a sci-fi writer so this book is actually published under science fiction and had in fact, in its original novella format, won the “triple crown” of science fiction that year: The Nebula, the Hugo, and the Locus Readership Poll.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Host

by Stephenie Meyer

I know there is no need for another The Host review, but I love this book so much I can’t help chirping in.

Wow this certainly is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I think it is the first 10* I’ve given in a while!! Although I have already selected my book for the Best of Swap, I am almost tempted to use this instead. Though I get a feeling someone else will be using this too, so I am back to my original, less popular choice.

When I read this, I have already read Twilight. And while I enjoyed it, it was a bit too formulaic: average school girl meeting perfect guy. A girl who likes book but not exceptionally brainy, clumsy, sucks at sports, broken family, a bit insecure… a profile that fits plenty of target readers. Along comes a guy who is gorgeous looking (and perpetually so), gentlemanly, a superman who is unfailingly there to save your life, ridiculously rich, speeds in a nice sports car (with one hand holding you tight), and who finds you the most desirable creature he’s seen in a hundred years. The perfect boyfriend. Yikes, too calculated to be popular.

However, this book just blows me away. It would be lovely if Rowlings can pull something like this, something that makes me say, well, Harry Potter is great, but this new book is even more brilliant. Here is an author more mature and developed who doesn’t need to stay in the comfort zone.

The story moves along at a good pace, and at moments when a lesser author can happily end the story, Meyer pushes on to bring it to a new level. The plot is richer and less predictable than Twilight. (Well, I haven’t read the later books in the series, so my comparison is only with the first book, and I would imagine Breaking Dawn is likely a better work than Twilight.)

As for the review calling it “the first love triangle involving only two bodies”, well, things get really interesting when it becomes a love rectangle! This book makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me think a lot about good and evil, makes my heart sing for the highest virtue of pureness and love in life. (I have wanted to say in humankind, or in our souls, but in this case it would not be inclusive enough.) It’s simply a superb book. This is a book that makes me want it to continue, I want to hear so much more about the characters, all the characters.

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Ender in Exile

by Orson Scott Card

I was reading this book two nights ago. Past bedtime, but couldn’t put it down. That likely happens a lot to any bookworm. When I did close the book, however, I felt a sense of despair and panic when I realize that I had engulfed two thirds of the book already, and there aren’t too many pages left.

This is the moment I realized how much I enjoyed the book, that it has met my personal criteria of excellency: so good you can’t stop reading, yet you want to brake yourself, so you won’t reach the end too soon, because you hate very much to depart from that world created by the author, and you dread the moment when there is no more page to turn.

Okay, I admit that Ender’s Game is an absolute favorite of mine. I agree I am a bit biased, anything OSC writes about Ender (and Bean), I will likely lap up happily; heck, if there were really Ender heading a colony, I might sign up too… I know Card is milking on the success of Ender’s Game too much, with First Encounters about his father, the whole Shadow series and what not, but I suppose my comfort is in knowing that I am not the only gullible one. As I like the young version of Ender so much more than the adult version appears in the later series, this one fits the bill perfectly. I just didn’t like the big gap of 3,000 years between the first two books, so for a fan like me, this is a wonderful addition to the series, where I get to know young Ender, and the other characters, better.

The story starts, as the author said, about the timeline of Chapter 14 of Ender’s Game. The war is won, the Earth is saved, but Ender realizes that he won’t be able to go back home as he has supposed he would. As the greatest and most feared military power, he is regarded as too dangerous. He will have to go on exile, to become governor on the first outer space human colony. His sister, Valentine, joins him. On board the ship is a captain who is convinced that he would make a much better governor than a young boy who only knows how to play video games, and a mother scheming for her daughter to marry Ender.

To enjoy Ender in Exile, you need some acquaitance with Enderverse. As it’s a direct sequel to Ender’s Game, reading that is a must. Reading Ender’s Shadow and a couple after that, would be a plus, as you gets to know Bean, Peter and Petra better. You will find loose ends tied and previous scenes played out. It just isn’t a book that you can enjoy on its own as the author didn’t spend time introducing the characters.

While I enjoyed the book, I have to admit it’s more for the characters than the plot itself. In other words it’s a book for the fans: a book enjoyed more for its relation to an undisputedly superior book, rather than for the book itself. Some of the conversational exchanges are still brilliant, but some just feel awkward or unnecessary, especially all those bickerings. The encounter towards the end seems to be over too fast; with all the built up I would expect a more substantial opponent, though in some way I know that’s what Ender needs to move on. Also several threads just seem under explored, which is a pity. So, maybe another sequel to tie this up? Afterall, there’s 3,000 years of gap to fill…

Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Dear darling hubby bought me a copy!!

I didn’t read it as fast as I could have though.  As it’s the last one, I kind of drag my feet so as to enjoy it slowly.  However, that being HP, you can’t really read it one chapter per day. 

Okay, SPOILER WARNING!!

There are people who are happy with vol 7, some who are not.  Overall I am pretty satisfied with it.  The middle part where they went searching for the horcruxes was painfully slow.  I don’t know if Rowlings intended it so to make us feel the depression caused by the necklace,  but it was just all around misery for everybody and not much going on at all.  Even Hermoine doesn’t seem to do much besides loitering around, reading and making feeble attempts at cooking. 

And some more thoughts:

Neville was able to pull the Griffindor sword out from the sorting hat.  It was brilliant though the scene was a bit chaotic.  Also, I can’t help sympathizing with the goblin.  No doubt the little folks are mad with the wizards.  They can be having a cocktail party, celebrating and admiring the sword, when a fat little hand appears in the air and pulls the sword away. 

It is moving how Snape asks Harry to look at him in his dying moments.  Okay, someone has called that creepy, some have called it sweet.  His memory doesn’t reveal much that a HP fan couldn’t have guessed already.  At least, we all know that Snape is smitten with Lily back when they go to school and Lily defends him in front of James.  We didn’t know that Snape and Lily goes all the way back as childhood friends, the fact deepens his love for her but doesn’t give any surprise in what we think Snape is and will do because of is love.

I am a bit disappointed though that after his death he isn’t mentioned at all.  I want something more than Harry naming his child Severus.   Well, Snape was the headmaster right?  He still held the title at the moment of his death.  So his picture should be up on the wall in the headmaster room.  There could have been just a brief mention, that while all the headmasters were applauding, Harry saw Snape’s picture and an understanding nod passed between them.  That would be suffice, and a nice closure.  Snape would not be patting Harry on his back, but he would likely give a stiff nod for a job well done.  Harry would like have yet overcome all those years of dislike to warmly thank Snape, but would attempt to give a thank for how Snape protected him and his mom. 

One question that bugs me – When the trio camped out, they put charms around their camp.  It was mentioned that when Ron stomped out, he couldn’t make it back even had he wanted to, because with the charms he won’t be able to find the way back.  However, after Ron and Harry found the sword, they didn’t have any difficulties walking back to the tent.  Now, if it weren’t a hole, I suppose an explanation is that Harry put up the charms himself, so he was able to find the way back.  The book didn’t exactly say who did the charm, though it makes more sense that Hermione did, because Harry was in a bad shape then and didn’t even have a ward.

Also, it’s a pity that at the epilogue, things haven’t improved much for their juniors.  The house rivalry are still there, although after the battle people were not sitting in their houses but all together.  And the term “pureblood” was thrown around, which means “mudblood” and “halfblood” were too.

I really like Kreacher in the end.  It’s amazing how such a despised character turns out so loved in the end.  I imagine him staying with Harry and turning out all kinds of delicious dishes? 

Published in: on July 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

The China Garden

by Liz Berry

Copying from Amazon.com, “Like a jewel box with hidden drawers and compartments, this finely crafted, multilayered novel holds many secrets.”  Indeed. It is fantasy, mystery, coming-of-age, romance, and more – a bit of green peace, a bit of family love.

Clare Meredith, 17 and waiting to hear the results of her school exams, goes with her widowed mother to Ravensmere, an ancient English estate, to care for its dying owner.  Somehow in the village, everybody seems to know her and expects her to save the day (a la Harry Potter style), and she starts having visions and stumbles upon a magical garden.  The story draws you in from the start and just keep getting better.  There are lot of historical and mythical references, making the story seems both real and magical at the same time.

While the plot itself is good, the character of Mark could use better development.  He was set up so negatively in the start that it’s hard for me to do a 180 switch to like him as the hero all of a sudden, and makes it hard for me to envision Clare herself doing so, without seeing her as a witless bimbo.

Published in: on July 20, 2007 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Daemon

Azuki’s Daemon

I love Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, and just got wind that the movie is coming up.  The official site is: http://www.goldencompassmovie.com/

The website allows you to find out who your daemon is.  Mine turns out to be a handsome lion Remis.   I love my daemon. Now I really really wish that I have a daemon around so I can give him a good hug. Interestingly I am a Leo, so I guess he’s mine!

Published in: on April 30, 2007 at 4:15 pm  Comments (11)  

The Silver Wolf

by Alice Borchardt

I picked this up at the library book sale because of the enthusiatic endorsement of Anne Rice, who happens to the suthor’s sister. 

Decadent Rome in the Dark Ages is mired in crumbling grandeur.  Into which comes Regeane, a beautiful young woman, bethroned to a mountain lord as a political move.  While she inherited her royal bloodline from her mother, from her murdered father she received the genes of werewolf.

While trying to escape the abuse of her uncle, she meets Antonius, a wise and gentle soul trapped within a body grotesquely disfigured by disease; Lucilla, the courtesan of the Pope himself; and Elfgifa, a Saxon captive whom Regeane rescued from slavery.  Regeane must fight for her life, her freedom, to live as she is, woman and wolf, partaking of both yet infinitely more than either.

This book certainly doesn’t feel like an Anne Rice book.  The writing style, with fragmented sentences, gets some taking used to, and ocassionally the woman/wolf narrative feels muddled.  I also feel that the character Lucilla should not be so full of emotional outbursts and hysteria, for who she is.  However, once into the story, I find it interesting enough to continue.

Published in: on April 17, 2007 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ender’s Shadow

by Orson Scott Card

Okay, I finished reading it. Like, three times.

I read Ender’s Game, book one of the series, a long time ago and have re-read it several times since. It is one great book that made it to my personal top ten list. Probably the only book where I put it down to give the author a standing ovation. It was that brilliant. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, moves the timeline forward for 3,000 years, when the genius boy is now middle aged. I just couldn’t connect it to the Ender I love, so the book (as well as book 3 and 4 of the quartet) collected a decade’s worth of dust on my shelf. But I chanced upon Shadow of the Hegemon and enjoyed a happy reunion with the battle school kids.

So, I went back to pick up Ender’s Shadow, the “parallel” novel of Ender’s Game. It’s great to read such a clever book. A well crafted book on intelligent characters. Card developed Bean wonderfully, the characters are so alive (the decade between the two books certainly aged Card nicely as a writer) and I loved the book down to the last sentence. And it’s fun to lay the two books side by side to compare the scenes. As a parallel novel, you pretty much know what is happening. Even the big surprise of “you’re not playing a game” is not there. For the book to remain as entertaining, Card did a wonderful job indeed.

So, another book in Enderverse made it to top ten.

 

Published in: on February 21, 2006 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment