Welcome to my blog for people in search of a good book.
My promise to you is, if it's here, it's good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Runes of the Earth

I took a break from painting my house last week and spent a day immersed in the Land, which I last read about back in the 1980's. A full 20 years have passed between the publishing of White Gold Wielder in 1983 and The Runes of the Earth, published in 2004. The Land was a reality visited by Thomas Covenant, a man with a rare form of leprosy in a series of 6 novels, always during a time when he was injured and unconscious in his real life on earth as we know it. Those novels also dealt with his struggle to wonder if what he was experiencing was real, and he was referred to as the Unbeliever. He was the quintessential reluctant hero. In the Land, he found himself in complete health and regarded as a savior, sought out for his possession of a white gold ring, capable of being used to wield wild magic, unlike his waking life where he was spurned and impotent.

I really enjoyed the books, but over 20 years have passed since I read them, so I took time out to read the synopsis provided at the beginning of the book. I can't say that it totally brought me up to speed. I've forgotten a lot, but it did enough to get me going.

Thomas Covenant, the hero of the first two trilogies, died in the final novel, but Linden Avery, a medical doctor who was pulled with him into the land in the second trilogy is alive back in the real world. Ten years have passed and she is still trying to find a way to reach Covenant's very insane wife, Joan Covenant. Covenant's son is now 21 and wants custody of his mother, Joan, even though he clearly lacks the ability to care for her needs. Linden is afraid of him and what he might intend and attempts to warn the local sheriff and security staff. Linden also has a special needs son, Jeremiah, she adopted after he was abused by religious nut cases who forced him at the tender age of 5 to stick his hand in a bonfire in the earlier series.

After a series of violent events initiated by Covenant's son, Linden finds herself back in the Land. She also realizes from the bullet hole in her shirt, that in the real world, she is dead, and that she cannot return to that life. Her son is missing, and apparently in the possession of The Despiser, the evil force in the Land that wants to force her to destroy the Arch of Time and release him from his prison. Approximately 3,000 years have passed in the Land, during the 10 years she has been in her own reality.

In this first novel Linden has to figure out how to use the power of the ring she inherited from Thomas to find the Staff of Law, which has been lost. She hopes it will help her find her missing son, and restore the Land to health.

There was an awful lot of exposition in the beginning to prepare new readers for the Land, and I found myself impatient for the story to get there, but it got there and in dramatic and memorable style. Once there, the story moves quickly and furiously as Linden finds herself in one desperate situation after another, fortunately finding some friends and allies along the way. She also finds herself having to deal with both the help and harm of Esmer, whose dual nature forces him to balance every deed he does to help her with one equally dastardly and potentially deadly to her and to the Land she love.

These books are not simple. This is adult fantasy, not something your kids will enjoy. This isn't the typical, go on a quest with friends, find a magic object, beat the bad guys and save the world fantasy. The issues are complicated and include the theme of unintended consequences. The reason Joan Covenant is able to wreak such havoc in the Land is because in the real world, Dr. Linden Avery, gave her back her white gold wedding ring, thinking it would soothe and calm her, not realizing that it could affect the Land when used in the real world. Each time Joan beats her head in her insanity she creates rifts in time and space in the Land called Caesures. So, even though she meant well, Linden now bears some responsibility for what the Land is now suffering. She has the ability to wield great power using her ring, but using wild magic could also unmake the world and do irreparable damage to the Arch of Time. Figuring out what action she should take that will not play into the hands of the Despiser, finding her way in a land much changed and where everyone she knew before is gone, and persuading many reluctant players to help her is part of the problem she needs to solve.

I enjoyed this first book of the series and will soon be reading the second of the series: Fatal Revenant (2007). Books 3, Against All Things Ending (2010) and Book 4, The Last Dark (2013).

The titles of the first two trilogies are listed below, in case you missed them and want to read them first.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever:
Lord Foul's Bane (1977)
The Illearth War (1978)
The Power that Preserves (1979)

The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenent
The Wounded Land (1980)
The One Tree (1982)
White Gold Wielder (1983)

Visit the author's website HERE.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Life After Death

This is a busy time of the year for me. The past month has been life at a frantic pace. I often compare the last few weeks of school to those old Crash Test Dummies commercials, full speed until they hit the wall and come to a sudden stop. No easing to a gentle stop.

Finally, just one more day of school and then summer break begins, when I will have some time to do all the stuff that needs doing to our house, but also some free time to sit on the terrace and read.

Right now, a little bit at a time, I am reading Deepak Chopra's book Life After Death: the Burden of Proof, and finding it satisfying and enlightening.

The author has read and studied the philosophies of many faiths, and brings in elements of them and tries to show how they are different, but also how they share similar ideas about the soul and its continued journey after death. I am comfortable with Chopra's ideas, since I share them, but he also explains things in new ways, and this I find satisfying and helpful for my own understanding.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

House of Spirits and Whispers

If you like true tales of haunted houses, you will enjoy reading Annie Wilder's book House of Spirits and Whispers.  This is the story of a woman who moves her family into a Victorian house in Sibley, Minnesota (an historic Mississippi river town) only to find out it is haunted.

Unlike the baffled mother in Don't Call Them Ghosts, who hadn't a clue what to do, this woman has had experience with ghosts and spirits. She comes from a long line of psychic women and has some mediumistic abilities. She is not particularly surprised to find that she is sharing the house with earlier inhabitants. She is quite willing to share as long as the spirits behave themselves. She is not the only member of the family who has experiences there, but hers are the most vivid, and occasionally scary.

The old house had been turned into 3 apartments by Leon, the former owner, and the Wilders have to make some significant changes to transform it into a house suitable for herself, her two children and occasional house guests. The floor plans in the front of the book are very helpful in orienting oneself and I often referred to them as I read the book.

Leon is still hanging around when Annie and her family move in, and he has strong feelings about the place. After driving off everyone else who showed interest in the place, he appears to consent to her family moving in. As they explore their new home, they discover a treasure of sorts hidden in the basement, a rustic door with an interesting old seed poster on it  (seen on the cover of the book) and discover that Leon is not the only ghost. Several spirits have lingered in the house. The house sits across the street from a funeral home and they suspect that some spirits are attracted to their house and drop in on their way to other places. It all makes for a lively experience, sometimes too lively.

This book is a quick, easy read. The author keeps things moving, and ends every chapter with a teaser that makes you want to find out what happens next. Watch the video to learn more about Annie Wilder and her haunted house.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zombies on the Brain

Some purists may be annoyed that someone has had the cheek to add zombies to Jane Austen's classic novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice. Other readers may wish the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, had added more of them. He has stayed true to the plot line, while using the zombie threat to inject humor and enhance our understanding of the characters. I particularly enjoyed his exaggeration of the silliness of Mrs. Bennet and the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, the additional sarcasm of Mr. Darcy, and the unpleasant fate of some of the more disagreeable characters.

The author sticks close to the script, sometimes just tweaking Austen's words a bit, such as in the opening sentence:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Most of his additions are low-key, gentle reminders of the situation, such as:

Elizabeth most thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes, and at Elizabeth's request, her favourite musket.
Battles with the zombies are, of course, an addition to the original tale:
Elizabeth knew that she and her present party were all doomed to slow deaths if the horses should fall into Satan's hands, so she sprang skyward, firing her musket as she flew through the air, her bullets penetrating the heads of several unmentionables. She landed on her feet beside one of the horses, and with her sword, began cutting down the attackers with all the grace of Aphrodite and all the ruthlessness of Herod.
Another gem:
What remained of Charlotte [who has been bitten by a zombie] would have liked to have believed this change the effect of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza. She watched him [Mr. Darcy] whenever they were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much  success, for her thoughts often wandered to other subjects, such as the warm, succulent sensation of biting into a fresh brain.

I particularly enjoyed the Reader's Discussion Guide supplied at the end with questions for not-so-serious contemplation, such as:
•Is Mr. Collins merely too fat and stupid to notice his wife's gradual transformation into a zombie, or could there be another explanation for his failure to acknowledge the problem?

•Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the author's views toward marriage––an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won't die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the unmentionables?

•Vomit plays an important role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies . . . Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater, or is it a cheap device to get laughs?

•Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen's plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?
Not any more!

What would Jane think? (WWJT)

I think she would be delighted that the independent Elizabeth Bennet is a ferocious fighter capable of killing ninjas and zombies alike with ease, while still retaining good sense and sensibility. Having experienced the repression and limitation of women in British society of the time, Jane may well be delighted at the self-sufficiency of the Bennet women and the further confirmation of the uselessness of silly people in this version of her story.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an amusing read, especially for anyone familiar with the story, and all in good fun. Hopefully, the addition of zombie hordes will attract more readers to this classic tale.

There are 20 illustrations in the book, done in the style of the original illustrations of the original 
Pride and Prejudice (sans zombies).

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Marcus Didius Falco, as usual, has been handed an impossible task by one of the Emperor's flunkies: to find a missing hostage, a beautiful, dangerous and mysterious prophetess from Germania, who objected to finding out she was to be the chief sacrifice during the Saturnalia festivities. She left behind a body sans head, has a big head start, and a persuasive personality. As usual, in Marcus's way are officious slaves, uncooperative patricians, a family with problems of its own, and quack doctors. 

He must race against time and his chief rival, Anacrites, the Chief Spy. Along the way he will rely on his wits and his ability to read between the lines and see the truth the witnesses are trying to hide from him. He's had a lot of experience with the general public and his dysfunctional family. He knows when people are dissembling.

Read more about this novel by clicking on the title of this post.

Read more about Lindsey Davis and the Marcus Didius Falco novels HERE.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Puzzling Adventures with Edgar Font

Audrey and Garrett, cared for by a busy aunt and mostly absent father, have become introspective and hesitant after the death of their mother. When they are shuffled off to live with their grandfather for the summer, a man they hardly know and last saw at their mother's funeral, they expect to be bored and miserable. After all, he lives in a retirement home with other old folk. What could possibly go right?

But their grandfather turns out to be anything but ordinary and not at all feeble. A life-long adventurer with a world class collection of artifacts to prove it, he's not ready to settle down and fade away like the ghosts that haunt the home. He wants to be sure that when he dies, any place he haunts will be worthy of him.

So, off go the threesome, into a series of adventures, three so far, involving mysteries, clues, and a generous dose of mystical, magical hijinks in search of the perfect place to haunt. And one of the problems with that, is that such a perfect place may already be haunted by someone else who doesn't want Edgar Font and his grandchildren to solve the mystery.

The series of books:
Edgar Font's Hunt for a House to Haunt include:
Adventure One: The Castle Tower Lighthouse
Adventure Two: The Fakersville Power Station
Adventure Three: The Flint Island Treehouse

The delightful illustrations are done by the author, Patrick H.T. Doyle. Young readers are offered a puzzle to solve at the end of each book, which they can use to access more stuff on the website. These books will appeal to most upper elementary and middle school readers. The characters are interesting, the puzzles are puzzling, the adventures adventurous and a lot of fun.
Visit the author's website: edgarfont.com

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scary Done Right

I like Neil Gaiman. I have not read all of his books. I discovered Coraline about 3 years ago and liked it enough to read it twice, and it has had a good following with my middle school readers.

I stumbled onto one of his adult novels when I picked up the book Neverwhere at an airport bookstore to read on a long flight, only discovering after finishing the book, that this was the same author who wrote the deliciously scary Coraline. I also enjoyed the movie, Stardust, although I have no idea how close it is to the book, which I have not yet read. So, I can't say I'm an expert on Neil Gaiman, but so far, so good.

The Graveyard Book, his latest children's book, starts with some very scary images indeed. The worst is not stated, only hinted at, leaving it to the reader's imagination to fill in the rest, as it should be. A man, clearly an assassin, moves through a house holding a bloody knife, implying that he has murdered a family: father, mother and children, and is now searching out his last victim, a toddler, who should be in his crib and no problem at all. But this youngster is an adventurer, who has climbed out of his crib and wandered up the street into a graveyard. So begins the adventure of Nobody Owens, a scary and enjoyable tale.

Some people don't like Neil Gaiman's approach, too full of sinister images and fearsome villains for children they think should be sheltered from all knowledge of the dark side. I like his work. I find it spooky, but also filled with humor for those who are looking for it.

The original purpose of fairy tales was to scare little children into being good, but also show them how they can be brave, courageous and compassionate in the face of a dangerous world. That call to courage is something all children and adults can relate to. Boldness and determination are the qualities of Neil Gaiman's heroes, large and small, not a bad message for our children, not bad at all.

The movie, Coraline, is now showing. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Magician Reading

In going through a collection of clipart that someone gave me. I've came across a few treasures worth sharing. This one gave me a chuckle. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "in the middle of a good book."

Search This Blog