A Couple Of Newbery Reviews

I’ve been falling behind on a couple of reviews, so here are two quick ones for two books that I loved reading for the Newbery challenge.

The first was Lois Lowry’s, The Giver. The Giver is a dystopian novel about a brave new world that cherishes “sameness” There is no color in the world, there are no true feelings, there is no true love. Families are manufactured and every aspect of life is planned from the day you are born, in fact, from the moment you are conceived; seeing as each member of the community is assigned a job at the age of 12, and one of those jobs is “birth mother,” a position that is looked poorly upon.

Jonas is assigned the title of Receiver of Memories, a title that is given only once every few generations. The job of the receiver of memories is to be the only person who remembers humanity as we know it today. The receiver of memories is the only person in the community who will ever know what the word “snow” means, what the word “love” means, what the word “war” means. He is given these memories by The Giver, the former receiver of memories. Jonas actually experiences each memory when The Giver lays his hands on his back and transmits the memory. The training is often brutal and painful. Throughout his training, Jonas realizes how animalistic and cold humanity has actually become and he wishes to restore love and compassion back to society.

I absolutely loved The Giver and wish I would’ve read it earlier in life. I certainly plan on reading more of Lowry’s work. My next book of her’s may be Gossamer after reading Nicola’s wonderful review of that book for the RIP challenge! Sounds like a great one.

I also finished Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson today. I had read this one ages ago when I was much younger, and I remember loving it then. I remember it being such a magical book to me and relating perfectly to Jess and Leslie’s kingdom. It reminded me of me and my cousin when we used to build forts outside made out of whatever wood that we could find, and to us, it would be a real battle zone. Or me and my sister would make tents in the house with the kitchen chairs and a sheet and it would be a little magical place.

So, I read this book today, years later, and what do you know, I fell right back into that place. I suspect that this will always be a special book to me. It’s a comfort book. A book that I can fall into and relate to. But it’s such a tragic book. No matter how many times I read it, this book will always choke me up. I won’t talk about why, but for those who have read the book, I’m sure you understand.

I’ve yet to see the movie, because I wanted to refresh myself on the book first, but now that I’ve reread it, I think I’m just going to go out and buy it! I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about it and am really looking forward to seeing this book as a film. And I’m just thinking, this is also my first read for the Cardathon Challenge…cool!

OK, all caught up! Now, on to the RIP Challenge with Dracula!!! Yay!

And guess what?! Megan’s coming in town!!! But only for a day 😦 But that’s better than nothing. A friend of hers is coming to pick up another friend and bring him back to Texas, so he asked her if she wanted to take a ride. So I get to see her for a day. So I’ll probably disappear from blogging for the next couple of days. Might be here tomorrow, but Sunday will most probably be a no show 😉 Enjoy your weekend everyone!


How I Found My Favorite Author…

As I mentioned the other day, Becky is hosting a challenge that officially begins in January 2008 called the Cardathon Challenge which focuses on books written by, introduced by, edited by, or reviewed by my favorite author, Orson Scott Card. As a part of this challenge, she made the suggestion that fans of Orson Scott Card share their stories of how they came to know and love this author, and I thought that it was such a neat idea! So here’s my story.

My first “meeting” with Orson Scott Card was in 2001. I was taking a Science Fiction literature course while in college and my professor has assigned Ender’s Game as one of the novels for the course. I had heard of Orson Scott Card and Ender’s Game, but had never read anything of his and had no idea what to expect from this book. I was hooked from the first chapter of this book as I first met Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a character that I would come to love, a character that will always be, in my opinion, one of the best characters ever written. I continued to read, literally blown away at Card’s ability to write one of the best novel’s I had ever read. I was fascinated by the depth of his characters. This book was about war, brutality, an alien species, the power of the human mind, the innocence and loss of innocence of children, yet it didn’t have a strictly sci-fi feel…it was a human drama, it played with emotions, it was a beautiful story and a heartbreaking story. When I didn’t think the book could get any better, it did. The last couple of chapters were my favorite and with this one book, Card was sealed as my favorite author.

I went on to read it’s immediate sequel, Speaker for the Dead, which to this day remains my favorite book. I can’t even put into words what Orson Scott Card has achieved with Speaker for the Dead. It’s a book of many colors. It’s certainly a sci-fi book, but it’s also a book of philosophy, a book of religion, a book of politics, and it echoes some of the beautiful themes of ancient tragedies. Speaker for the Dead takes us into another world, in a different time, with a couple of different species. And we meet Ender at an older age when he is the Speaker for the Dead. The new world is settled by Portuguese colonists and is called Lusitania, and on this world we meet the Pequininos, or the “Piggies,” quite possibly my favorite alien race ever written. Slowly, we the reader are allowed into the piggies’ beautiful and strange culture and rituals as Card’s masterpiece unfolds. The other two sequels, Xenocide and Children of the Mind are also wonderful books and rank high on my list of favorite books of Orson Scott Card’s.

I have many favorite Card books and could go on and on, but I won’t. Needless to say, he has written something for everyone. He’s written sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, fairy tales, horror, biblical fiction, historical fiction, plays, political fiction, etc. His bibliography is huge and one that I still haven’t tackled completely after all these years, but I’m coming close 😉 His series are wonderful. The three main series that he has written are his Ender series, the Homecoming Series (another favorite), and the Alvin Maker series which is absolutely amazing.

My favorite thing about Card and what sets him apart for me is his character development. He has the ability to write the most amazing characters I have ever read. I’ve written about this before and it’s something that you can’t truly appreciate until you’ve read one of his works. In nearly every review of his books, I see people mention this. I always feel so attached to his characters and it’s so hard to let go when it’s time to. I was very saddened when I reached the end of the Homecoming series, because I knew that was really the end. At least I know that with the Alvin Maker series, there’s one more book, and in addition to War of Gifts, there are two more books in the works for the Ender series! One is called Shadows in Flight, and the other is Ender in Exile.

Since I’ve discovered Orson Scott Card, his website has become a daily visit of mine. The Hatrack community is amazing! The forums are great. People are extremely friendly over there, and I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Orson Scott Card himself 3 or 4 times as he actually posts occasionally on the forums. I was giddy as could be the first time I asked him a question on his forums and got a response! In fact the question was in regards to the future release of any type of new fantasy project and he responded that there was a new contemporary fantasy project in the works based on a magical world created in one of his earlier works that he was revisiting! So now that I’m looking back on that (that was in April of 2006), I’m thinking that may be the Mithermages series coming out in 2008!

As a last mention, this has become the most meaningful Card story for me. As you all know, our home was pretty much lost to Hurricane Katrina and we still haven’t been able to rebuild. I’ve lived in a trailer, a hotel, a condo, a cruise ship, a duplex, and now we’re finally renting a whole house 😀 Around last Christmas, Subterranean Press released their edition of Orson Scott Card’s novel, Saints…which I will be reading as part of this challenge. It’s a beautiful cover by the way. I asked for the book for Christmas and Orson Scott Card agreed to personalize all of the copies, as in “To Chris…Orson Scott Card.” Our first Christmas after Katrina was spent in a trailer, our second was in a duplex…neither was home, so they were a little rough. I unwrapped my book (like a 10 year old boy getting a nintendo) and the book is signed “To Chris: Trying to find home -Orson Scott Card”. I asked my mom if she told him to write that, and she said no…she just put my name on the order form. I’m sure it has something to do with the story which I haven’t read, but I thought that it was the perfect coincidence and ray of light that I needed from this author that I’ve always felt so close to. So, Mr. Card…thanks for everything 😉

I Got A Job!!

No clever title there, just the basic facts 🙂 After nearly 4 months of searching and all of your helpful and very much appreciated crossed fingers (and toes ;), I finally landed a job! And it’s perfect…exactly what I was looking for.

It’s a job with the state as a “school based mental health counselor.” I’ll be placed at a school in New Orleans that’s mostly for kids who have been kicked out of other schools, so there will probably be lots of behavior disorders…but I love a challenge 😉 The program is set up to help rehabilitate kids who have behavior disorders, depression, ADHD, and anxiety disorders. I’ll be working with adolescents, which is the exact age group that I wanted, and will be doing individual, some group, and family counseling when I can get the parents involved. I’m so excited about this.

Since it’s a job with the state, the salary is decent…not great, but decent…the benefits are incredible, and there’s job security. The program has guaranteed funding for a good amount of time. There’s lots of supervision worked into the job, so it’s perfect for me as a first job out of school. Now I just have to play the waiting game as I get all the paperwork lined up for my licensure and all the paperwork that I have to go through for the state. My guess is that it will probably be anywhere from 2 weeks to a month before I’m actually working, but the job is there, and that’s all that matters!

The hours are 7:30-4 Monday through Friday, so I’m going to have to do some serious readjusting to my sleep schedule (as I blog at 1 AM). Blogs will probably be a little less frequent, but rest assured that I will most definitely still be blogging and reading away 😉

Yes, I Am Indeed Crazy

This really should come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m signing up for two more challenges :p The good thing is that neither one starts until next year, so all of my other challenges will be done by the time I start these two! And both challenges will work nicely into other challenges (like the chunkster if that one’s done again, the Once Upon a time, and RIP 3 😉 So here they are:

The first is Caribousmom’s Themed Reading Challenge. I think that this one is such a neat idea! You pick the theme and then commit to read at least 4 books associated with that theme. The challenge runs from January 1st through June 30th. So I went over to my TBR bookshelf and found a VERY specific theme: Orson Scott Card religious fiction! Now, I’m normally not a fan of religious fiction, but as I’ve said before, Orson Scott Card can write just about anything…and he does. So here’s my list for the Themed Reading Challenge:

  1. Saints by Orson Scott Card – This one is definitely considered a “chunkster.” It’s huge! I got this one for Christmas last year. It’s the new Subterranean edition of the book with an amazing cover and is signed and personalized to me 🙂
  2. Stone Tables by Orson Scott Card – This one’s been on my shelf for a while and is the one I’m most looking forward too. It’s cards retelling of the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. This one’s also signed.
  3. The Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card – This is one of Card’s sci-fi novels. It’s about a nuclear attack set in the future and about a religious community trying to rebuild their society after the attack.
  4. Rebekah by Orson Scott Card – This is the second book in Card’s Women of Genesis series. I read the first book, Sarah, last year and really enjoyed it.
  5. Rachel and Leah by Orson Scott Card – Sequel to Rebekah.

The other challenge has me so excited that I just don’t know what to do with myself. Becky’s hosting this one, she is the very cool person who won The Tale of Despereaux in yesterday’s drawing. It is the Cardathon Challenge and everyone should join it! The challenge is all about my favorite author, Orson Scott Card! The greatest thing about this challenge is that there is something for everyone. Orson Scott Card has written Sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, religious fiction, political thrillers, horror novels, poetry, coming of age stories, short story collections, speculative fiction, etc. etc….The challenge is to read between 6-12 books (or more if you would like) that were written by Card, edited by Card, have an introduction by Card, or have been reviewed and recommended by Card! How cool! She has a whole site up and dedicated to the challenge that lists all of his many books and she’s compiling lists of the books that he’s recommended as well. I think that this is such a great challenge that will expose so many people to a wonderful author. I’ve incorporated the Themed Reading Challenge into this one along with the rest of Card’s books that I haven’t yet read. After these, I’ll be all caught up with him! Here’s my list:

  1. Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
  2. War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
  3. Saints by Orson Scott Card
  4. Stone Tables by Orson Scott Card
  5. The Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card
  6. Rebekah by Orson Scott Card
  7. Rachel and Leah by Orson Scott Card
  8. Robota by Orson Scott Card and Doug Chiang
  9. Maps in a Mirror by Orson Scott Card
  10. Treason by Orson Scott Card
  11. Wyrms by Orson Scott Card
  12. Hot Sleep by Orson Scott Card
  13. First Meetings by Orson Scott Card
  14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  15. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  16. The Stand by Stephen King
  17. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  18. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  19. The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling
  20. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
  21. Prospero’s Children by Jan Siegel
  22. Here, There be Dragons by James Owen
  23. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  24. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
  25. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  26. Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot

Now, I’ve noticed that the sidebar is getting ridiculous with all these challenges, so I’ve decided to take them down and what I’ve done instead is created a link on the sidebar to a new blog called Dream Stuff Challenges that will document all of my reading challenges and my progress. So if your ever curious about all of that, feel free to pop on over there by clicking the link!

A Winner, Short Story Sunday, And Purple Poppets!

Let’s take care of business first! It’s time to pick a winner for the book giveaway for The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. So without further ado, the winner is BECKY of Becky’s Book Reviews (one of her many blogs ;). Becky’s very cool and I’m happy to send this book her way. She’s an Orson Scott Card fan, which automatically makes her one hip chick in my book! Send me the address you want the book sent to, Becky and I’ll ship it out to you. My email is chrisa511 at gmail dot com.

I guess today officially kicked off the RIP Challenge for me with Short Story Sunday. I read the first two stories in the Wizards anthology which were Neil Gaiman’s The Witch’s Headstone and Garth Nix’s Holly and Iron. Nix’s story was a bit disappointing. It was a high fantasy story told in a short story format which was it’s main problem. Pretty cool concept…2 kingdoms battling for a crown, one uses “holly” magic, the other uses “iron” magic, main character can use a bit of both, but the problem was that I really just didn’t care about the characters. I think the story was just too big to fit into 30 pages. This story may have worked better as a novel. Two major characters died in the story, and you can tell that it was supposed to be an emotional scene, but it wasn’t, because I as a reader wasn’t attached…I may have been though if he would’ve introduced us to the characters a bit more. And I know that Nix is capable of doing this as I LOVED his Abhorsen trilogy. I’d like to see this story told in a longer format, I really think it has potential.

Gaiman’s story on the hand was excellent! It’s the story of a boy named Bod (short for Nobody) who lives in a graveyard and is raised by the spirits of those who have passed on. He meets the ghost of a witch who was buried in a potter’s field with no headstone. Bod feels bad for the witch for not having a headstone and decides to leave the graveyard after finding an item that may be worth some money in the hopes of buying her one. This story is actually the first chapter of Gaiman’s future book, The Graveyard Book, and I am super excited about this one now! The latest news from his blog was that he had begun typing it from the written draft…so progress is being made!

And finally, I predicted in a previous post that it was going to happen! If you let the red and blue poppets hang out together, well….purple poppets will eventually come along, and it seems that they have. Lisa Snellings-Clark has some very cool items up on eBay right now including Little Purple Poppets! I’ve already bought one for myself of course 😉 There are 6 left as of this post, but I’m sure she’ll post more if those sell out, so keep checking if you want one. They’re quite cool!

*Sticky Post* 10,000 Visitors Book Giveaway!


It seems like I just started this blog, though at the same time, it’s quickly become a very familiar part of my life. My first blogger post was on January 3rd and since then, this blog has evolved into something that I never imagined it to be, but something that I’m very happy with. It’s grown into a community of readers and friends and a celebration of things I love and enjoy and a place to ponder on life...a far cry from my old myspace blog.

What I never imagined was that 8 months later, my blog would have it’s 10,000th visitor!! That’s incredible. Thanks to the wonders of StatCounter, I found that the 10,000th hit came from a google search for “Tale of Despereaux Review”. I thought that it was the perfect hit for this blog. Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux sums up what this blog is about. To begin with, it’s a book :p It’s fantasy related, it’s a wonderful, heartwarming story filled with adventure and memorable characters, and it’s visually stunning. It’s one of those books that’s a joy just to hold in your hands. So I’m giving away a copy!

I really wanted to give away a hard back copy, but couldn’t find one 😦 But the soft cover version is even wonderful with it’s antiqued pages, wonderful illustrations, and the Newbery medal on the cover. Just leave a comment on this post and let me know that you want in on the drawing. Even if you already own a copy, feel free to enter…maybe there’s someone else in your life that would enjoy it. While it was written for children, anyone will enjoy this book, I promise. I certainly did. You can read my review of it by clicking here. The drawing will be held on August 26th!! Spread the word!

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

This is another one that has sat on my shelves for awhile, but finally got read thanks to the Classics Challenge. I really enjoyed The Death of Ivan Ilyich…well, I don’t know if “enjoyed” is the write word, but it is a remarkable novella. There’s a wonderful intro written by Ronald Blythe. In the intro Blythe writes about Tolstoy’s great fear of death that eventually turned into an obsession with death that lead to the creation of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, his meditation on the subject.

The book opens immediately after the death of Ivan Ilyich. Ivan was a judge and when his co-workers find out about his death, the first thing they begin to talk about is who will take his place. This scenes is followed by his funeral where we meet his wife who is in mourning. The book then goes on to introduce us to Ivan and his wife in the early days of their marriage and paints a picture of a marriage that was all bright colors on the outside, but rather dark behind closed doors. Ivan soon finds out that he has a “floating kidney” and his health slowly deteriorates over the next few months eventually leading to his death.

The beauty of this book is that the plot is given away in the title. Ivan dies…you know the book ends with his death. Tolstoy’s masterpiece lies not so much in the actual storyline, but in the thought process, the philosophy, and the atmosphere behind it. The only way I can describe the feel of this book is claustrophobic. From the minute that Ivan learns and recognizes that he is dying, the feel of the story is one of collapsing, closing in. It becomes a story of seeing the world fly by so fast that you can’t grasp on to anything to stay in it. It’s quite sad actually, but so wonderfully told by Tolstoy and becomes one of the most haunting stories I’ve ever read in it’s final pages.

I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten around to this one and look forward to revisiting Tolstoy in the future, most probably with Anna Karenina based on comments from yesterdays post! This one’s a quick read, but a poignant one…highly recommended.