Book Review: Nation by Terry Pratchett

nationNation by Sir Terry Pratchett 

Available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle formats

As some of you may have heard, Sir Terry Pratchett has had to cancel an appearance at a UK  convention due to the embuggerance  catching up to him.  In 2007, Sir Pratchett was  diagnosed with an early form of Alzheimer. He made the announcement to his fan community on December 11th of that year.  In 2008, the Nation was released.  Over the course of his career, Sir Pratchett has published over 50 books, including his fantasy Discworld series.

Six years later, a helpful volunteer for the local library dropped off the paperback version at my school to spark the student’s interest. It was the end of the year by the time that noticed it sitting on a shelf. The  Nation‘s colorful cover drew me to it and I asked the teacher who had been gifted with the book if I could borrow it.  After all my years as a geek and book lover, I am a bit shy to admit that this is the first book of Sir Pratchett’s that I have read.  It did not disappoint in anyway.

The Nation tells the story of two young people who find themselves struggling to survive after a tsunami hits the South Pacific stranding them on the same island.  The bigger problem is that while Mau called the island home before the wave is that Daphane is a trouserman, an alien in his world.  As you might have guessed, they quickly form a bond that helps them transcend cultural and language differences.  It is then that the real action begins.  Throughout the novel, they will fight to protect the island and the people slowly begin to gather afterwards.

It is the novel’s approach to culture and how it explains both Daphane’s and Mau’s world, that really caught me. I knew that I could use this novel to teach culture and its intricacies in my classroom.  The potential for a love story would engage my classroom’s readers as well as its character’s logical approach to their world. The concepts of what it is to be adult and what defines community after  a disaster. Others have pointed out that this is a character driven story tackles themes of death and faith as well.   All of this is present in the novel and while that may should heavy, Sir Pratchetts’s narrative flows in a way that the reader absorbs the gravity of the situations faced by the characters, but is never overwhelmed by it.  It is as the Washington Post Book World said “A terrific thought provoking book.”

While this novel isn’t set his Discworld universe, it clearly demonstrates his gift for storytelling and why readers have been flocking to his books for years.

Advertisements

Letting Go..

deadeverafterRecently, I discovered that one of my favorite authors was ending a series that I have been reading for the better part of ten years.  It saddens me, but I get it. She needs to me move on and it is time for us to let go Sookie Stackhouse and her fangy friends. Charlaine Harris‘s series has been going strong since 2001.  There have been bums along the way, but fans have been eating the books up.

So much so that some fans have threatened to kill themselves if she goes ahead with her plans.If you are one of these fans please seek help immediately.  Serious, do not stop on go just get help now.

As readers we get attached to characters and tend to forget that there are living breathing people behind them.  I haven’t always agreed with what characters in my favorite books have done.  (Richard in the Anita Blake series is lucky I couldn’t bitch slap him.) The people behind the keys giving life to our favorite stories are the ones that create the worlds we love. The worlds I aspire as a writer to make. And since my style of writing is akin to Ms. Harris, I feel sympathy for her situation.

It may be easy to say to an author that they should continue to write because they are making money, but writers like teachers don’t do it for the money. We do it because we are can’t help ourselves. And yes, I said we, because regardless of whether or not I reach the level of success as Ms. Harris has I will continue to write.  It is our passion and when the passion begins to fade for a storyline it is time to move on. Maybe we will come back to it in time.

Mercedes Lackey said this about her long running series “Hey, everybody needs a vacation, even from the best job. So, until I come up with a story set in Velgarth that is as compelling as the ones you’ve enjoyed in the past, I’m taking a break. The last thing I want is for my own favorite series to start limping along and go out with a whimper.”

Authors need breaks to recharge their creative juices and while I will miss the Stackhouse Series I understand.

Fellow readers I know that you are upset, but give Ms. Harris some room. She has been writing this series for over ten years.  She wanted to end it years ago, but kept going when the HBO series took off. She has already gone on after she wanted to quit for you,me, and the almighty dollar so let her be. The quality of the books have suffered.  As much as I loved them somewhere after book four, I got lost. She tried it your way and she still wants to go. Let her.

And while you are at it pick up some of her other great series.  Lily Bard, Aurora Teagarden and the Harper Connelly series are all excellent. (My personal favorite is the Aurora Teagarden series.)

Stalking and taunting your favorite author into producing something won’t work the way you want it, too. Trust me, when people have gotten unpleasantly freaky with me I back off.  So let us take a moment, be thankful and let Sookie go.

Thank you, Ms. Harris, I look forward to your next series or book and I am so very grateful for your stories.

Love, Hugs and Moo’s,

Lu

Gratitude Day 1 – Life

There have been a lot of complaints sliding past my lips these last couple of weeks. It has been draining and emotionally, I feel like I have been run through the ringer.

Looking over my previous words, I know they reflect a flaw in my own thinking. No one has run me through anything, but me.  I am responsible party in my tales of woe.

I can not control everything that happens. Hell, I can’t control most of what happens.

But, I am here and I am thankful.

Thankful for every ache and pain.

Because I am here and I am grateful for everyday.

Each new dawn, a change to make my world a little better.

I am grateful.

Storybook collection

Never Too Old For A Storybook or Three..

Storybook collection
Some of My Storybooks

Last week’s unstated theme was obsession and addiction.

My worst addiction is a life long one. My addiction to the written word began when I was an infant. My family read to me, my teachers encouraged me and in books I found the friends I was unable to make in real life. And it all began with storybooks.

As adults, we are told that we must put aside childish things.  Stuff animals, trophies and yearbooks are often packed away or given to the next generation.  Storybooks are the very opposite of childish to me.  They are highly portable pieces of the imagination. Their pages transport us to far off places in seconds.  Images and words working their magic on our hearts and minds.

Kids frequently rush to leave behind the childish things, but some how they aren’t making it to adulthood complete enough to think on their own.  They never make the connection between their lack of knowledge and dislike of reading. They don’t care about what they don’t know and never see the dangers of not being able to read well or think on their own.

Beowulf: A Hero's Tale Retold
Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold

For the struggling readers in my classroom, I recommend reading storybooks as well as other children’s books. Although the language is simplified, the ideas are not.

Hidden among the pages of many books are fabulous vocabulary words to be learned from context clues.  A skill, students are drilled on over and over again, but is needed less and less frequently in the materials that they are tested on.  (Testing materials are more and more frequently being drawn texts which are copyright free and by their nature lacking in context clues.) They can explore worlds and people in short time.

They can help the kids make up for lost time.

Teaching introduced me to a whole new world of storybooks, ones that found me even as I labored deep in the education mines.  Difficult or challenging concepts can be introduced with them.  Or in my classroom, stories that my students would read on their own.

Gilgamesh the King
Gilgamesh the King

A well crafted children’s book is a treasure.  Gilgamesh the King retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman found me this week and reminded of how much I hated it in college.  I missed the beauty of the tale, one of the world’s oldest stories.  I wish I had read Zeman’s retelling before I read the Epic of Gilgamesh and wrote worst paper of my academic career.  I missed the major themes of epic and though the paper was clever it wasn’t what the professor was looking for.  The imagery that would have been created by ancient storytellers is depicted by the illustrations.  Now, I get it.  Well I like it, at least.

Cleopatra
Cleopatra

Then there is the story of Cleopatra which found its way into hands the same day as Gilgamesh the King.  I have always loved the Elizabeth Taylor classic – Cleopatra.  So much of what I believed about her as fact was shaped by that movie.  Cleopatra by Diane Stanley & Peter Vennema opened my eyes.  Facts and storytelling merged into a fantastic book that is both enlightening and enchanting.

I used what I learned from reading Cleopatra the next day in class.

Read, read and read some more. And if ever lose your love of reading go back to the beginning and pick up a storybook.  Of course, you don’t have to go that far to read one.

Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton

Take Two on Micah – Book Review

Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton
Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton

Review of Micah by Laurell K.Hamilton

Available from Amazon.com

Beyond Facebook Games I have another serious addiction – Laurell K. Hamilton books.  Each time a new book comes out I reread the entire series.  Last week, I finished Micah, previously my least favorite of the series. It has now successful moved up…

The first time I read it, I was in a new book hazy rushing to get my fix and that is when I missed it.  This book like Obsidian Butterfly was a chance for readers to get to know a well liked character.  Micah has been Anita’s go to guy since his first appearance in Obsidian Butterfly.  He is the only man in her life that doesn’t argue with her, well, besides Nathaniel, but his background is well covered in the books.

It isn’t as clever as Obsidian Butterfly, no big bad monster to defeat or befriend; instead this book is about Anita’s emotional development and how she begins to learn one of the hardest truths of being in a relationship, don’t poke at it until break.  It is a lot harder than you think.

Long term fans of the series love Anita because not only does she kick ass she goes through the same mental obstacle courses that many folks tackle in throughout their lifetimes.  Her struggles with her paranormal lovers and friends artfully echo real life.  What do you do with the man you love when he hates himself and you for still loving him? And how after so much betrayal do you let yourself trust someone who seems to good to be true and isn’t actually.  How do you let yourself be in love when love seems so toxic?

This read through I discovered there was way more to the plot than I original thought. Sticking to my tradition helped me see where this book falls in the series.

Once Upon A Time: Reborn (A Review)

Review of Murder of Crows

by Edward Medina

Available for the Kindle at Amazon.com

Once upon a time has been reborn and re-engineered to perfection with the latest offering of Edward Medina. Murder of Crows is a classic waiting for the rest of the world to realize it.  There is a lyrical quality to Medina’s work that carries the reader on an unbelievable journey from a hundred and fifty year old circus to a pirate captain haunted and bent on revenge. It is one of those tales that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let you go until the end.

Since spoilers are just plain rotten here are a couple of carefully chosen excerpts from the book.

After that Belladonna became her own creation. She became whoever she needed to be, to get whatever she wanted. And when she wanted, she wanted with her whole being. Nothing could stop her blood lust once she fixed and focused on a desire.

She was her father’s daughter after all, and so the want began to wear at her mind, and she she want oh, so much. She wanted not to be poor, not to be hungry and not to be alone.

Belladonna is so deliciously wicked that she will worm her way into your mind. You don’t want to enjoy her escapades or smile at her cleverness, but you will.  Trust me, you will.

Old Otter Bizarre would be dead six months later. He would pass in his sleep on the night of Raul and Julia’s debut flight. It was a kind gift from death to a creature, who with his last official act, unknowingly become responsible for the death of so many.

Raul and Julia are the parents of Benjamin Nightthorn and acrobats in the circus. The King and Queen of the Aerial Arts gave birth to their prince.  A prince that would witness not only tragedy but rise from its ashes to fulfill part of his father’s great dream.

Just like any good circus this book is fun for all ages and genres.  Stream punk fans will love how subtly the steam elements are organically incorporated.  Pirate lovers will enjoy this first book in the birth of a grand sea tale.

It is a story that I fell in love with, but since I know the author I feared I might be bias so I passed the book on. First to my sister, a woman who is an avid reader, she loved it.  Then two of my students, they echoed her opinion. They were desperate for more of the story and sincerely wish Mr. Medina had a blog they could follow.  The best review came from one of my fellow teachers who couldn’t put the book down even during class.

Like one of the other reviews of this novel I would give it more than five stars if I could.. in this case, I think it would be a twenty-five star review.  Murder of Crows is the prologue for series of books called the Adventures of the X Pirates.   It promises to be dark progression of tales where Benjamin Nightthorn, the tortured hero of Crows, becomes the villain.

You can read more about Edward Medina at his website, Twitter and Facebook.

P.S. Don’t forget to buy the book… It is a bargain at only .99 cents.

Do I want?

Do I want to feel you against me?

Yes, and so much more…..

Do I want to taste you?

Yes, and so, so much more.

I want things I cannot name

for fear of going over the edge

which sailors once dreaded

plunging into exotic realms

places forbidden by customs

called Morality.