Friday, August 29, 2014

Review Me Twice - Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini


So, kind of an exciting book this week because... IT ISN'T OUT YET.  I know, how did we manage this?!  Well, because I work at a bookstore, publishers send us copies of books that haven't been released yet so that we will, potentially, read them and then tell the customers about them.

So this week's read, Trial by Fire, came in this epic looking box.  I mean, this think was tripped out in all of its marketing glory, and the summary looked marginally good, so I decided to grab it and then thought it would really be cool for Alex and I to read it for the blog before it came out.

I actually liked this book WAY more than I thought.  The thing about the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) that we get at work is that about 85% of them are absolute crap.  And Trial by Fire looked like it could really go either way (the packaging really made it seem like it was overcompensating for something.)

But the world building was amazing.  Angelini really drew you in and created this great new place that was magical and wonderful.  She created a character that you loved.  Lily had the potential to be REALLY annoying, but she wasn't.  Her relationship with Rowan had the potential to be really annoying... but it wasn't (though, a little stereotypical I will admit.)  I like that for once it was free of love triangles.  I love that there was a legitimate REASON that Lily came incredibly quickly into her powers.  I like that there weren't big gaping plot holes.

And I liked that there was still a little bit of mystery left to the book.

Now, I'm not going to say everything was perfect.  There were still a lot of the same old tropes (IE the everyone loves the main character trope), but even they weren't so bad as they could have been.  Angelini seems to integrate them with her story very well so they don't stand out so much as to distract from the story.

This is definitely one to pick up when it comes out on September 3rd!

When Cassy told me we were going to read a book that wasn't even out yet, I was curious. I don't read a lot of ARCs, because I don't typically read books without knowing anything about them. ARCs usually don't even have a summary on the back, so all you have to go on is visual cues from the packaging and whatever the author has put up on their blog.

But like she said, this one was a really pleasant surprise. The world (both worlds, actually) is great. The characters act like real people, which is something that kept occurring to me throughout the story over and over.

One thing that worried me was the world switching. You start in present-ish-day here-and-now, and after less than 50 pages, you're in a totally new world with different characters, different rules, and when I realized this, I inwardly groaned. I gave it a chance: I thought maybe we'd be going back and forth between the worlds, and that's an excellent place to introduce the alternate one. But once it looked like we were stuck there for the duration, I rolled my eyes. I just figured out what was going on here in world number one! Now I have to start over? I've been reading for a few dozen pages; I don't want to feel like I've picked up another book. BUT! It actually picked up really quickly and didn't really feel that way. It worked perfectly.

I also cringed when I finished the book, put it down, and thought, "Oh. I guess that's going to be a trilogy." Then I put the book back in its pretty packaging and realized that the side of the packaging had said "Worldwalker Trilogy" the whole time, so I'm just not super observant sometimes. But even without that glaringly obvious indication that this will be a trilogy, the ending makes it very clear that you aren't done here and there will be more books. Which, once I reflected on it, will be kind of awesome. There are some aspects of both worlds that I would really like to hear more about. Bummer is, since we read it early, we have to wait even longer for the sequel.



HEY GUYS!  If you life in the DC Metro Area, Cassy is going to be writing book trivia for 94.7 Fresh FM. 

On Sept. 2, tune in at 7:30 AM for Can't Beat Kelly and you can hear some book trivia questions that she wrote!!  So tune into The Tommy Show.  You can also listen to it here!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Advance Reader Copies

What exactly is an advance reader copy, and how are Cassy and I cool enough to get one to review for you?

Advance copies are printed early for several reasons, and they almost never look exactly like the finished product will.


Pictured: Not at all what the cover of the book we read looks like.

They have different covers, partially for promotional reasons, but also to make it easier for libraries and booksellers to keep them separate from the ones they're supposed to put out for the public.



They tend to be riddled with typos, because they usually haven't gone through their last round of editing yet. (I gotta tell you, I stopped counting after 15 spelling errors in our ARC of Trial by Fire. It was just getting distracting.) The cover of an ARC usually even says "uncorrected proof" on it.

So we know they're different, but how do you get your hands on one?



The big three audiences for ARCs are bookstores, libraries, and other authors. They're distributed about six months in advance. A lot of them come packaged with posters, stickers, bookmarks, etc. so the bookstores and libraries can start promoting the book's release and plan programs/events around it if they want to. You already know the covers don't look the same, so it makes sense that other authors get ARCs so they can submit their quote blurbs. (You know, the little things on the cover like "Excellent!" or "Tour de force!" or "[Author] is a rising star!" Things that end in exclamation points, mostly.)

The media also gets a lot of ARCs. Movie/TV execs get them if the book people are hoping for an adaptation. Talk show hosts get them if the book tour will allow for TV interviews. Newspapers, radio shows, book review publications like Choice, they all get ARCs.

If you aren't a part of any of these groups, you can also find digital ARCs pretty often now. NetGalley is one pretty useful place to find them. Sometimes, like with Trial by Fire, the author gives them away in contests on their website. I got one by a local author when I was at a Virginia Library Association conference a couple years ago. I fully expect to run across some at New York Comic Con in October. They're everywhere, if you know where to look!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Favorite Book With Magic

Our book this week, Trial By Fire, is all about magic.  So this week, we're telling you our favorite book with magic in it.


I feel like the Percy Jackson series is one that just doesn't get enough props.  It came out during the HP craze (2005-2009 and the last HP was 2007) so it got a little lost in that in terms of being dealt it's fair share.

That's not to say it's not famous in it's own right.  According to NYTimes.com, Percy Jackson (which is slot 8 on the best sellers list this week) has spent 340 weeks on the NY Times best seller list.  Not bad for a book and longer than everything else on the list in its category, including The Hunger Games and Divergent.

The books incorporate the Greek myths in awesome ways, and probably one of the more original ways that I've seen.  All these kids, ranging from about 12-17 years of age, are all demi-gods.  And, until they come of age, they're all in danger of being killed.  It's pretty dangerous to be the son or daughter of a God, and the camp they stay at is the only thing that protects them.  Percy has five books of adventures, all of which are fantastic.

But, I think for me, one of the best things is that book four and five are probably my FAVORITE of the series.  Too often the end of the series ends up being the worst, but that's not so for Percy.  The end is what's the best part.

The obvious choice, for me, would be Harry Potter. But since we talk about that series a lot, I'm going to skip that as my real favorite book(s) with magic, and tell you about...


The Magic School Bus series is just the COOLEST, right? I mean, let me count the ways. First, they're available at the annual event that makes nerdy kids like me flip out like early Christmas: the Scholastic book fair. Then, you have Ms. Frizzle, the world's coolest teacher (no offense, every teacher I ever had). She actually reminds me a lot of my 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Merrill, who dressed up as characters and did wacky things to get the reluctant learners to participate and just make everything even more fun for those of us who were already excited to be at school.

But let's address the "magic" part of these books, since that's why I'm talking about them today. You know how popular Bill Nye is? It's because he took real, scientific fact and made it fun and interesting. That's what these books do. But instead of camera tricks and sound effects and regular segments like "Consider the Following," these books have what seems to be at least a mildly sentient, morphing school bus that can survive extreme environments, including inside the human body, at the bottom of the sea, outer space, and the inside of a volcano! I distinctly remember one book (I think the dinosaurs one?) where a new student joined the class, and she kept being skeptical, talking about how the bus can't do that, and they should all be dead, and Ms. Frizzle was a lawsuit waiting to happen, and everyone else just brushes her off because (1) they're obviously all fine, (2) they've totally done things like this before, and (3) SCIENCE!!! Magic in the name of science is the best kind of magic, in my opinion.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Makes it Historical and Not Fiction

This week, Salem, MA comes up a lot in our book (which is being released on SEPTEMBER 2!!  So you're getting an early review of this book!!!!)  And, while our book this week isn't technically historical fiction, it does kind of have that feel and talk a lot about the Salem witch trials.

So what is that fine lines between a historical book and a historical fiction book?

A really good example of historical fiction is Phillipa Gregory.  She writes nothing but historical fiction.  Probably one of her most famous is The Other Boleyn Girl.  We've also reviewed The Queen's Fool.



These books are all based on historical events, mostly the Tudor family.  Elizabeth the first (appearing in The Queen's Fool) and Mary and Anne Boleyn, along with Henry VIII, who were in The Other Boleyn Girl, were all real people.  And a lot of the characters they portrayed in these books were accurate.  The Boleyn sisters were very prominent and lovers of Henry VIII.  Anne Boleyn did eventually become his wife.  Gregory did a lot of research about the time period and their lives and incorporated all of that into her books.

However, the relationship that Mary has with Anne is entirely fabricated by Gregory (might have existed, no one really knows.)  She created the conversations, the situations, all of the non-major events (and even some of the major ones.)  The books are, largely, fictional ones and should be treated as such, despite the fact that they're based on people that actually existed.


This book is called Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey.  It's a non-fiction book (a very good one at that) all about how Elizabeth I grew up.  It tells about how she was continually disowned and then readopted by her father.  She was in his favor and then dismissed, depending on his wife and his mood.  One second she was an heir to the throne and then the next second she wasn't.

Starkey tells us all about Elizabeth's life up until she claims the throne of England on Nov. 17, 1533 (PS I didn't even have to look that up.)  He tells us a story, just like Gregory does, the difference is, his story is nothing but fact.  There are footnotes and end notes telling us exactly where his information comes from.  He tells us when he's speculating and that it might be true, and it might not be true, but that there's no real way to tell, XYZ are just the reasons he thinks they are.

At the end of the day, the biggest difference between between the two genre is the, well, fiction.  Starkey can't tell us anything but the true, while Gregory is allowed a little more embellishment.  But, they both tell a good story.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Author Bio: Josephine Angelini

If you have your finger on the pulse of new YA fiction, you might be a little taken aback by the name you see in the title of today's post. "But wait," you might be saying to yourself, "Josephine Angelini's newest book comes out soon. Are you reviewing one of her older books?" No, friends, Cassy is just cool enough to have had access to an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of Trial by Fire, the new Angelini book, which will be available next Tuesday!


Headshot
(Photo from http://www.josephineangelini.com/about/)

That beautiful lady up there is Josephine Angelini. She's already published a very successful YA trilogy called Starcrossed, about a girl with powers she didn't know she had until she met someone who could help her work it out. To oversimplify, that's also what the Worldwalker series (the one starting with this week's review book) is about.

Her website doesn't go into much detail about her personal life, and there is yet to be a Wikipedia page about her, so that's about all I can tell you. She's on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, and she has a blog (there's a book trailer for Trial by Fire posted there today!).

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review Me Twice: Once by Morris Gleitzman


I know people say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but those people aren't giving cover designers enough credit. Almost everything you need to know about this very short book is there on that cover. The Star of David and the color scheme and the barbed wire all point to "Holocaust literature!" The little kid doing a balancing act on the barbed wire (excellent visual metaphor, by the way) indicates that we're going to be dealing with child characters. What more do you need to know, really?

I liked this book. I didn't love it, I'm not incredibly compelled to pick up the sequels (Then, After, and Now) but if I happen to see all of them on the shelf at the library at once (ha... once) I might check them out. (Only because they're so short - they're intended for young teens, after all - I could plow through all of them in a day, easily.)

Let's be honest for a second... I usually cry at Holocaust novels. There's a lot to cry about. A lot of really terrible things happened during that period of history, and I think most of them are worth shedding a tear over. This book did not move me to tears. But I don't have a personal connection with children; maybe if I were more maternal, I would have felt differently about the characters. I did think a lot of things were sad, or poignant, or even funny (sure, it's sad that a little boy growing up during WWII doesn't really understand what Hitler is all about, but it allows him to make comments that are a little funny, in hindsight).

So, I don't super highly recommend this one, but if you're looking for a short book from a child's point of view during WWII... you have a weirdly specific wishlist, but this would perfectly fulfill your request.

Holy unreliable narrator, Batman.  Less so for the reader because it's incredibly obvious to us what's going to as opposed to the main character who is, sadly, hopelessly clueless.  

And it is a nice coming of age story, and different than some, because it is so brutal.  Usually coming of age is in a nice little package, some heartbreak happens, but nothing that the main character can't recover from.  Felix gets thrown into a horrific situation and everyone is dying.  His parents could or couldn't be dead, the first child he meets outside of the orphanage, he recovers her from parents that have been shot in the head. He grows up and learns about the war in a quick and violent way that you just can't quite ever go back from.

But, it wasn't a GREAT book.  Of the holocaust literature I've read, it didn't exactly hit me in gut like a lot of it does and I think a big part of that was BECAUSE Felix was so clueless.  Because we saw it from his view it was very naive, very stilted, very... simple.

So, a good book, but not fabulous.


ANNNNDDD, last day to enter our If I Stay signed book giveaway contest!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Naive Narrators

Remember that time I talked about unreliable narrators? There's one kind of unreliable narrator known as the Naif, so called because he or she is naive about some important aspect(s) of the story. Today, I'm going to more closely examine this type of narrator, because we're dealing with one in this week's book, Once by Morris Gleitzman.



Historical Fiction
One reason a narrator might be naive - compared to you, the reader - could be that they are in the middle of a historical event. Since hindsight is, after all, 20/20, you know how it turns out, and they don't, since it hasn't yet happened for them. This can create humor or sadness, depending on how it is used.


Living in a Different Place
Imagine that you suddenly find yourself living somewhere with a population that, as a rule, doesn't speak your language, eats different foods from what you're used to, and has different social rules like how to stand in line or say thank you or greet people or any number of random things you could do incorrectly on any given day. You're probably going to have some interesting insights, and you're probably going to say some naive things, being unaware of why things are done a certain way, or even that they are done a certain way. This would make you another type of naive narrator.


Age Differences
This one goes both ways. A young person might be frustrated by the slow, tech-less way an older person does a task, while an older person might be frustrated by the quick-paced, jargon-filled way a young person does it. Lots of comedians low on good material fall back on this concept, because it's relatable. Speaking from the viewpoint of one generation can create a naive narrator.


Knowledge/Skill Gap
If you have a character who is thrown into a situation calling for a specific skill set or one that requires specialized knowledge, and they don't have it, this makes them a naive narrator. It would be like if the Harry Potter books were first-person narrated (up until he actually gained some skills).

What other ways can you think of that create a naive narrator? If you were the narrator of your own story, what would you be naive about?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Favorite Naive Narrator

Sometimes your have narrators that just don't know what's going on.  They're clueless (like, if you hang around, you'll realize that our protagonist this week is.)


Christopher is the protagonist of our book, a high functioning, autistic child (once called Asperger's syndrome, but now it's all just different levels on the autism scale.)  The book opens with one of the neighbor's dogs being dead on her front lawn.  You realize, pretty early on that there is a lot going on in the adult world that Christopher just isn't catching onto.

I don't want to give away too much here, because there's a lot to give away, but Christopher tells everything that adults tell him at face value, a lot of times because they're adults.  There are some adults he's skeptical of, but his believes everything his father says.  He believes everything the police say, because his father says to believe them.  It's a very naive world view and, as an outside reader, it's easy to see his naivete.


I haven't read it recently, but I loved Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue. It's from the viewpoint of a little boy (Jack) who was born after his mom was kidnapped and sequestered in a little room set up by her kidnapper. (Donoghue wrote the story after hearing about the Fritzl case.) The boy has only ever known life inside that room, so he hasn't socialized with anyone other than his mom (the kidnapper visits, of course, but the boy's interaction with him is extremely limited) and the TV.

Like Cassy, I don't want to give away the rest of the book, but the boy has a unique perspective on everything, and it really makes you think what the world would be like if you had spent your first several years caged like he did.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Holocaust Literature

We talk a lot about holocaust literature around here, mostly because we (perhaps morbidly?) really enjoy reading about it.  There are probably three major types of that you can pick up about it.

Memoirs

We've read a lot of memoirs.  They're first hand accounts of the things that go on. The Diary of Anne Frank is probably one of the most well known first hand accounts.  I've also talked about The Girl in the Red Coat and, while Maus isn't a first hand account technically, it's someone taking down a first hand account of what happened almost word for word.  You get a lot of memoirs in holocaust fiction.  In fact, it's probably the most prevalent, probably because a lot of people I think need to get their experiences out of them.  They need to get it down on paper and let people know what happened.




Non-Fiction text

These are essentially like history books.  Biographies or just general history books.  Anything that tells about the time, but isn't a first hand account of what happened.  They tell about what's going on, but they aren't through anyone's eyes.  They stick to the facts.  They are (supposed to be) unemotional and unbiased.  Schindler's List is a good example of this.  While the book is mostly about Schindler and what he did, it tells you a lot about what went on in the time period and during the war.

Fiction

These are books that give us fictional accounts, but still relate the horrors of what happened during the time period.  Our book this week, Once, is a good example of that.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is also a good example of that, and rare because it's told from the German side of things, from a very innocent point of view.  The stories are a little more embellished, but often based on things that actually happened.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Author Bio - Morris Gleitzman


Morris Gleitzman is our author this week.  The book we're reading this week, Once, is about a little Jewish boy, hiding out in an orphanage during WWII.

Gleitzman has written a lot of controversial books (because we like controversy around here at Review Me Twice) like his Once series and his book Two Week With The Queen which sparked a lot of interest in AIDS.

You can tell that Gleitzman is a pretty funny laid back guy.  Right on the front of his webpage, he talks about how there are baby pictures because everyone has them and how he tried to steal JK Rowlings baby pictures, but her mum got mad.

You can learn more about him, his life, and his books on his website.

Also, don't forget to enter our contest!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

If I Stay Signed Copy Giveaway!


Gayle Forman and ChloĆ« Grace Moretz came to my mall awhile back and were signing ALL THE THINGS!!!  So, since I work at a bookstore, I bought a copy of the book to give to YOU readers and it's signed by BOTH Moretz and Forman!  EXCITING!!!


Why yes, that IS an actual copy of the book we're giving away.

This contest, though, we're going to make you really earn your contest entry.  We will be posting on the blog, as usual, and Facebook (as... mostly usual, though we've been less good about that as of late.)  You need to comment in one of those two places to enter.

So, rules:

- Your comments have to be at least two sentences long and something that might start a discussion.  "I liked this book.  It was good" does not count.  "I really like time travel sci-fi.  I think Octavia Butler is the best writer of our time" would count.  You're attempting to engage the opinions of others.

- You can not comment spam just to win.  However, if you end up engaging in a discussion with someone (including us), we will count each comment as an entry, as long as they abide by rule one and stay relevant to the post/discussion (if you start going off into a tangent about how hot Hugh Jackman is, I'll agree, but will no longer be counting your comments as entries.)

- Inevitably, all comments are up to our discretion if they are counted as entries or not.

- Comment has to be on a post within the last week (or so).  We're not going to go checking months and years worth of back posts just to see if you put a comment there.  Sorry.

- We will randomly pick a winner on August 22, 2014, the same day that the movie comes out!

- As per usual with these contest, contiguous US.  Sorry to all our international fans (and I know that we have a few.)  We just can't afford the shipping.  We will be shipping it USPS with no signature required.

- The winner must provide a valid address within one week of winning (that would be August 29).  Email us at reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com.  If they do not, we will pick another winner.  If the SECOND winner does not claim it, we'll dispose of the book as we see fit (AKA I'll give it to my co-blogger or sell it on eBay.)

- Please keep it civil.  We love discussions on this page, and we're totally ok with disagreeing with people! (In fact, we think it makes it more interesting.)  However, if it starts to get inappropriate or mean-spirited, we reserve the right to moderate.  This applies to especially foul language, name calling, or anything else we deem to be really jerky.

Good luck!!

This is in no way endorsed by the movie, the actress, or the author.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review Me Twice - Kindred by Octavia Butler


I was introduced to this book (and Octavia Butler) in a class in college, by a pretty awesome professor (and no, it wasn't Dr. Miskec).  Butler manages to take stories that should seem completely improbable and make them, well... believable.

Dana is our main character and is constantly getting pulled back to Maryland during slavery era.  Which, considering she's a black female, pretty much means she has zero rights at all ever.  Even if she DID have paperwork proving that she was a free woman, that wouldn't necessarily mean she had any rights.

We quickly learn that she frequently gets pulled back to this era because her (white) ancestor, Rufus, can't seem to keep himself out of trouble.  Between setting his drapes on fire, almost drowning himself and falling out of a tree, the guy almost has a death wish.  Dana just had to keep the guy alive until her ancestor is born.

But the way Butler shows us how Dana, a woman living in the 1970s and black woman with the right to do what she likes, reconciles herself to early 1800s Maryland where she has no rights and isn't even considered human, is powerful.  And the juxtoposition of that against the background of the 1970s where, while she does enjoy all the freedoms of a white person, she doesn't necessarily enjoy them without prejudice.

Butler makes powerful, important, statements about race, gender and humanity and she does it in a way that just makes you love her stories without feeling talked down to.

Cassy did a really great job of summarizing the important aspects of this book, so I'll save us all some time by not repeating any of that. One thing I do want to add is how great the relationships are between characters in this book. I don't mean that the relationships themselves are great, because they aren't, for the most part, but the way they're described and how real they are... that's great.

Without giving away too much of the story, it is important to note that Dana is married to a white man in 1976, and this entire experience sheds new light on that fact for both of them. In the antebellum south she is transported to, Dana makes friends and enemies, and some people are both at different times. You're constantly guessing what Rufus - the man who seems to be "calling" her back to his time - is thinking, planning, doing, going to do, because Dana is constantly guessing that, too.

I'm very glad Cassy introduced me to Octavia Butler, because this was a great book.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summaries/Spoilers

Well, crap.

See, guys, I wanted to find something interesting to write about for you today, but something related to the book we're reading, like we usually do. There's just so much about this book, though, that I needed some help narrowing down what to focus on. As I've done before, I went to Wikipedia for some guidance.

Don't do that if you haven't finished reading a book but you plan on finishing it. Seriously.

As of this writing, I've read 211 of the 263 pages of my copy of Kindred, and just by skimming the Wikipedia page about the novel, I accidentally found out about two huge plot points that haven't happened yet.

So, like I said... crap.

I could write at length about spoilers, but I'll save that for another day. I have a lot to say about them, and honestly, I'd rather save the time I'd take to write about spoilers, and reallocate it toward reading the rest of the book, since there is some really interesting stuff coming up... apparently.


I just need River to follow me around, is all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Favorite African American Literature


My favorite is not the book we are reviewing this week (Kindred) but it is by the same author (don't judge.  If you've read anything by Octavia Butler, your favorite would be by her too).  It's also not TECHNICALLY one book.  It's three books, but when I first read them, I read them in one giant omnibus, so I feel like it's legit one book.

Either way, Lilith's Brood a fantastic series that has all the things that I love in it.  Awesome strong lead female character?  Check.  Dystopian universe?  Check.  Interesting take on the Genesis story?  Check.  Aliens?  Check.  Really, what's not to love?

Butler has a great way of making the impossible seem real, seem plausible and this story is no different.  I LOVE Lilith, and I love what she does and the story is completely engaging from start to finish.  Plus, you get a strong female, African-American lead character, which is way rarer than it should be.

Cover

I really like Walter Dean Myers. He's one of those YA writers who really understands how to write for a YA audience... like they're humans, of course. And from what I hear, lots of other librarians and teachers and parents like him, too.

I've only read one book of his: Monster. I read it for a teen lit class. It's from the perspective of a teenage African American boy accused of murder, taking place from his cell and inside the courtroom.

If I remember correctly (and I might not) this book is one of the ones that shows up briefly in one scene of Freedom Writers where the teacher buys books out of her own pocket so her students have something they can actually relate to and care about reading. And that's what I think of it... there aren't a lot of books that schools and parents approve of that speak directly to an at-risk teen audience. (That's not to say that this book doesn't show up on annual banned books lists, but rather that it is usually seen as less offensive than some of the alternatives.)

More YA books need to be direct with their very real audiences, and this one sets an excellent example.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Time Paradox

"Paradox" is a word that appears in just about every book about time travel that you've ever read.  Our book this week, Kindred, is no exception to that rule.  So what is a paradox?  Why is it such a big deal?


Usually the best way to describe this is the "Grandfather Paradox".  You travel back in time, and kill your Grandfather before he has offspring, but in turn, that means that you were never born.  So you could never go back in time and kill him, which means that he would have kids and, subsequently, grand-kids.  Which means you'd be alive and free to go kill him again.

And so on, and so forth, to infinity and beyond.


You see that in Kindred.  She is pulled back in time to save one of her ancestors, but the question arises, does her ancestor live because she was constantly pulled back in time, or was she pulled back in time because history was changing and she needed to correct it?

There are lots of other books that employ a paradox.  Timeline by Michael Crichton (which you can read our review of) is a book that travels back to medieval France.  The cast of characters end up interacting with the locals and it's the age old question of, is this happening because I am here or am I here because this is happening.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger also deals with time paradoxes.  Henry constantly is jumping from present, to past, to future.  The first time that he "jumps" through time, he's a little boy and meets his older self.  But we don't find this out until later when his older self "jumps" to the past.  But is it the past if he himself is experiencing it?  Time really is wibble-wobbly.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Author Bio - Octavia Butler


Let's face it.  There are not a lot of female authors in the Sci-Fi genre (thought, considerably more than there once were.)  And there are even less African-American women writers.  So the fact that Octavia Butler is an African-American female sci-fi writer... and did SO much better for herself them most of the men out there, is pretty awesome.

She was born in 1947 and was raised by her mother and her grandmother, her father having passed away when she was just a small child.  She started writing science fiction when she was 12.  She had watched a bad sci-fi movie and decided that she could do it better.  So she turned the tv off, picked up a pen and never put it down again.

Butler recieved multiple awards in her lifetime.  She won the Hugo Award a few times for her short stories and the Nebula Award.  She also won the MacArthur Fellowship, often called the Genius Grant.

Kindred is probably one of her most well known works, and the one that we'll be reading this week, but Lilith's Brood is also well done.  In 2010, she was inducted into the Sci-Fi hall of fame.

Sadly, she passed away in 2006 of a stroke or head injury resulting from a stroke.  No one is 100% sure.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review Me Twice: Anthem by Ayn Rand


You might have been able to tell by my choice of topic yesterday that I thought this book was a little didactic. You'd be right, but since it's such a short book, it wasn't a huge problem. (No matter how over-the-top didactic you are, if the story is under 100 pages, it can't get too bad. Now that I've invited that upon myself, feel free to send me examples that disprove this assertion.)

I quite liked this book. I never thought I'd like Ayn Rand, but I had only really known about The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which are both bricks and get teased a lot elsewhere in pop culture.

My friend Missi suggested that I read this book, and called it a great introduction to Ayn Rand's work, and I agree with that.

I like the way the story is told, from the protagonist's first-person perspective, with all the ideas of his society ingrained into him. For example: in this society, the pronouns "I" and "me" have disappeared. Everything is about "we" and "us" because each person's entire life has to be about serving their fellow man. So even though our protagonist is breaking away from this society and learning how to be an individual, he's still using the language of it because it's what he knows.

I like the idea of this book: The world has thrown itself back into the dark ages.  Everything is for the good of humanity and the candle is the pinnacle of technology.  But you know what?  I wasn't a fan.  Like, at all.

First of all, I couldn't handle the third person that the main character spoke in.  I get the point: "I" and "me" and such similar pronouns had been eliminated from the language.  There was no individuality because everything had to be for the good of the whole, or it was evil.  If you weren't doing it for your fellow man, to further society, then you were sinning.

But honestly, it drove me crazy to continue to read it and, by the time he had switched over to the "I" and "me" pronouns, I was kind of over the whole thing.

Alex did make a fair point that, while incredibly didactic, it was incredibly short, so it didn't get on your nerves as much as it could have.  But at the same time, if I had to go read something like Atlas Shrugged, I feel like her didacticism would make me want to shoot myself.  So, I probably am never going to pick up her large works.

However, that being said, she does have a certain type of flair to her work, and her writing isn't BAD, per se, just not something I particularly enjoy.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

On Didacticism... for Adults

You may recall the last time I addressed didacticism, in the context of children's books. Let's look at didactic stories for adults now, shall we?



I'm talking about this today because Ayn Rand is an excellent example of an author who wrote didactic stories. Warnings against certain aspects of society that, unchecked, would ruin us. Remember: by "excellent example of ... didactic" I mean "beats you over the head with a lesson until it's literally lodged in your brain meat."


Philip K. Dick is another author whose name pops up all over the place when you're searching for didactic adult books. Something about sci-fi written in the 1960s, it's incredibly didactic, full of explicit warnings about the future.


And you can't talk about dystopia and didactic without talking about George Orwell. Personally, I actually think he's one of the lesser offenders, unless you're talking about Animal Farm. Remember how that was my least favorite assigned reading in school? I knew I was being talked down to... for once, it wasn't because I was supposedly young and stupid, but I felt like anyone, teen or adult, reading that book would be talked down to.

When you get right down to it, most stories are didactic on some level, because most stories incorporate a lesson, whether on purpose or not. An example of behavior is shown to the reader, and consequences occur for the character who acted. Even if someone is shown doing something good and not being rewarded, or even being punished for it, you're learning that no good deed goes unpunished, or not to expect rewards for good behavior (perhaps you should be good for the simple reward of being good). But the books listed here make it obvious that they have a lesson to teach you, and you aren't going to get through the book without hearing it... a lot.

What didactic stories for adults have you read? How did you feel about them?