Green Eggs and Ham is one of the best children's books ever. Possibly I am biased, because it was my favorite for a lot of years and I made my mother...moreGreen Eggs and Ham is one of the best children's books ever. Possibly I am biased, because it was my favorite for a lot of years and I made my mother read it to me over and over and over and over and over, ad nauseam, for which she has probably never forgiven me, considering I could read on my own by the time I was 3. But, at any rate, I still maintain that anyone between the ages of zygote and dead should be able to enjoy this wonderful classic work of children's literature, and if they can't, then that person is clearly not a person but has in fact been replaced by an alien doppleganger incapable of joy and wonder.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a work of utterly fantastic macabre hilarity. It's one of those books yo...more"N is for Neville who died of ennui."
The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a work of utterly fantastic macabre hilarity. It's one of those books you cackle maniacally over while flipping through it after a run-in at the local Mega-Mart with some snot-nosed brat screeching and howling because Mommy wouldn't let him get that ridiculously expensive new toy or some treat with 20,000 grams of sugar.
And it never loses that special ghastly charm. Quick, simple, and simply hilarious, it's enjoyable no matter how many times you revisit it. Because really, even if you're someone who generally adores children, I dare you not to snicker darkly over such abecedarian dactylic delights as: B is for Basil assaulted by bears; and T is for Titus who flew into bits.
I dare you.
Go. Read. Laugh. You won't be sorry. (And if you are, then I implore you, please, venture out and find yourself one of those elusive yet magical things known commonly as a Sense of Freaking Humor.)(less)
I'm not sure what I could possibly say about Cosmos that hasn't already been said by countless others in the 28 years since its publication, and likel...moreI'm not sure what I could possibly say about Cosmos that hasn't already been said by countless others in the 28 years since its publication, and likely in a far more intelligent and eloquent way than I ever could. But upon recently reading this book for the first time (which may seem a bit belated, but I am, after all, only 23) it instantly became one of my favorites, a status not easily attained by any book, and so I feel compelled to say something, to expound upon its many virtues and why it has endeared itself to me so completely.
"One glance at [a book:] and you hear the voice of another person--perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time."
Perhaps prophetically, this is exactly the effect the late great Dr. Sagan acheived with this book. Through the power and fluid elegance of his prose, while reading Cosmos I could almost hear that familiar and somehow majestic voice (which in large part, I believe, made the PBS miniseries of the same name so wholly entrancing), as if the two of us were old friends having a leisurely, albeit profoundly intellectual, chat over coffee. Not exactly what one might expect from a book largely concerned with science, but this is just one of many qualities that makes it not only endearing to the reader, but also--and perhaps more importantly--accessible, making even the smattering of complex equations seem casual and undaunting.
Aside from the beauty of its prose, which is at times poetic in its depth and its eloquence, Cosmos is also wholly engaging and fascinating in the depth and scope of its subects. Sagan succinctly and expertly covers everything from the birth of stars to the birth of science, the origins of life on Earth to the possibility of life on other planets, and our far distant and recent (in the grand cosmic scheme of things) past to the possibilities for our distant future. And yes, because science is constantly evolving and, as Dr. Sagan states, self-correcting, some of the information and theories covered may now be outdated, but I still believe that Cosmos is well worth reading. Not only can it serve as a friendly, accessible, and engrossing jumping-off point for we common folk who are interested in delving deeper into science but may feel a bit intimidated, it is also, if nothing else, worth reading for the beautifully poignant and evocative insights and the oft-philosophical tidbits contained therein.
"We are the local embodiment of the Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars...."
My only complaints about Cosmos are these: the last two or three chapters lag just a bit, incorporating several topics that seem extraneous and unnecessary, and somewhat lose the smooth, easy flow present throughout the rest of the book; and though I feel that, in the current world political climate, the section discussing nuclear arms is still as relevant today as then, I can't help but think that anybody above the age of 12 and possessing a fully-functioning cerebral cortex is already aware of the potential consequences of nuclear war (gamma burst, radiation poisoning, junk in the atmosphere, nuclear winter, death, doom, destruction, we get it already). However, I can concede on this last point that, at the time of publication, the aftermath of a full-scale nuclear war was perhaps still a pretty hot topic. And in the grand scheme, these negative points make up only a negligible fraction of this otherwise fantastic book, and do not in anyway detract from its intrinsic value or from its overall enjoyability.
All in all, Cosmos is a thoroughly enthralling read that takes you on a breath-taking journey from the inception of the Universe to futures that may never be, and allows us to ponder--when considering our own epic journey from starstuff to "assemblages of a billion billion billion atoms contemplating the evolution of atoms"--what it truly means to be human and what our place, our purpose, is in the vast expanse of "this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky".(less)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my absolute favorite book of all time.
While the story is set at the turn of the century (1902-1919) and contains many hist...moreA Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my absolute favorite book of all time.
While the story is set at the turn of the century (1902-1919) and contains many historical elements that may feel alien to the modern reader, the message that is subtly and intricately woven into the fabric of the story is one that I feel not only transcends the ages, but also one with which many of us can identify.
The protagonist, Francie, and her family represent the sort of wonderfully complex characters who come alive in the reader's mind as fully as if they were old friends. Detractors say that Francie fits the depressing Pauper archetype, who spends the vast majority of the book being beaten down by her unfortunate circumstances. For me, however, she unfolds into a delightful character who is easy to love; a heroine who strikes a delicate balance between sinner and saint, full of humor, wit, compassion, strength, imagination and a unique perspective on the world around her.
Altogether, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a fantastic book that is engrossing, evocative, poignant and inspiring.(less)
I must have read Hitchhiker's at least five times. Probably more. And every single time, it's just as hilarious as the first time I picked it up, comp...moreI must have read Hitchhiker's at least five times. Probably more. And every single time, it's just as hilarious as the first time I picked it up, completely unwitting, and found myself diving headlong into this outrageous misadventure alongside poor Arthur.
Douglas Adams has woven an utterly engrossing tale that is, at all times, magnificently outlandish, uproariously funny, and also stands as a humorously scathing commentary on the State of Things. It never disappoints; every single page contains gems of comedic brilliance that have me sporfling coffee all over myself every time. And it's a story that is so perfectly ridiculous, so rapidfire rampaging-through-the-galaxy fun, and so subtly poignant, that I never want it end. And when it does, I can't wait to pick it up and start all over again.
Hitchhiker's has become the literary equivalent of my comfort food. Whenever my life goes to shit, or the world gets me down, I curl up in bed with my tattered and dog-eared old copy and set off again with Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian. And suddenly everything seems all right again. Because at least I know where my towel is.(less)
High Wizardry is probably my least favorite of the Young Wizards series. It was a fun, fast read, but much of the story seemed rather extraneous. Larg...moreHigh Wizardry is probably my least favorite of the Young Wizards series. It was a fun, fast read, but much of the story seemed rather extraneous. Large portions of the narrative are taken up with unnecessary descriptions of an outdated OS, most of which I could have done without, and overall it simply lacks the same quality of layering as in So You Want to Be a Wizard and Deep Wizardry. As a result, it didn't even seem like anything important started happening until around the latter third of the book, and I came away feeling like there could have been a lot more to the story than there was.
Also, the majority of the book centers around Dairine. I actually kind of like her (except for her name, which sounds like some kind of low-fat dairy product or something), so this wouldn't really have bothered me if not for the fact that Nita and Kit got so little screen time. I love their dynamic, and I really enjoy watching them come into their own both in their wizardry and as individuals in that coming-of-age sort of way that's just right and not too clichéd or cheesy. But more than that, I've become so invested in their ongoing adventures through the first two books, and in their struggles against the Big Bad, that I felt rather cheated by Duane making them little more than a sideshow in Dairine's Ordeal circus, especially considering that this appeared to be such a critical turning point in the fight against the Lone Power.
That being said, I actually loved the latter fourth of the book. Not just because Dairine takes about ten levels in badass and lays the smack-down on the Lone Baddie--although that is pretty awesome--but largely because it's such a powerful story of change and redemption. It has always bothered me how many writers (and people in general regarding real life) seem to operate on the principle that, once a person crosses a certain moral event horizon, they can never turn back. You can't change; you're damned forever. But here's the thing: people change all the time. They don't always change for the better, and oftentimes it might not be very noticeable, but they do change. And I adore Diane Duane for straying from the well-laid path and instead conveying the idea that, even if you're the biggest, baddest motherfucker in the whole of time, space, and the entire freaking multiverse, you can change. It won't be easy, and it won't undo the damage you've done, but you can still make that choice and work to redeem yourself.
Whatever my other issues with this book, there's an important story here that needed to be told. Kudos to Ms. Duane for having the vision to tell it, and for doing it beautifully.(less)
Okay, I’ll admit it. Deep Wizardry made me want to be a whale. For serious.
I admire the hell out of Diane Duane--I daresay I even worship her--for the...moreOkay, I’ll admit it. Deep Wizardry made me want to be a whale. For serious.
I admire the hell out of Diane Duane--I daresay I even worship her--for the way she conveyed the experience of being a whale. There was no awkwardness at all (except in the beginning, for Nita) and nothing seemed forced or silly. It all felt perfectly natural, and comfortable, and utterly fantastic, as if I could truly imagine what it would be like to be a whale. And by the end of the book, it seemed so normal for Nita to be in whale-form that whenever she was in human-form it felt unnatural. Hell, it felt unnatural for me to be in human-form.
I’m really sad that I can’t spend my days swimming around and singing tales of glory and sorrow in whalesong and hugging other whales by brushing them with my flukes or whatever.
But that’s beside the point.
The point is that I absolutely loved Deep Wizardry, and if I had to choose, I’d have to say that I liked this better than So You Want to Be a Wizard. Duane’s style in this book is fantastic. You can definitely see a difference between DW and its predecessor, but in a good way, like she really came into her own during the interim. I absolutely adored her mixture of simplicity in places where it’s not only necessary, but achingly perfect, and lyrical elegance in others, which come together to weave a story that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.
And Nita and Kit really came into their own, too, which is another highlight of the book. The action was not quite as fast-paced in this as in SYWBW, allowing Duane the opportunity to really flesh out Nita’s and Kit’s personalities--their strengths, their flaws, their idiosyncrasies and charming little nuances--without disrupting the flow of the story. And I loved that because this is a very powerful and touching story, on several levels, but I don’t think that it would have hit me so fully and moved me the way it did if I hadn’t felt so close to the characters. However, both Nita and Kit (who didn’t get a lot of character development in the first book) really grew on me throughout DW; I cared about them, in a way that I don’t typically care about a lot of characters, and my heart literally ached for them toward the end of the book. I felt Nita’s despair, her turmoil, she and Kit’s courage, their triumph, their joy, everything, and that made the book just that much more beautiful to me.
The only thing that I didn’t care for was that Nita’s parents turned into raving psychopaths in this book. Okay, well, maybe not psychopaths as such. But her mother was definitely annoying to nth degree, what with her raging hypochondria (was this an epidemic among women in the 1980s? I’ve noticed a trend), and her father was no better, considering he didn’t seem to even attempt to be rational about the situation. I mean, I know that some YA writers will blow situations out of proportion because that’s how their target readers see them--kids often view their parents’ decisions as being insensible, unfair, and even outrageous. But I don’t think that’s the case here, and despite being a grown-up myself, even I don’t see the logic in taking your family (plus one) to the beach for vacation, then throwing a holy fit when the kids spend so much time...*gasp*...ON THE BEACH. And how dare they go swimming! You’re not supposed to go swimming when you’re at the beach!
Oy. If I ever spawn any miniature humanoids (though I shudder at the thought), I hope I don’t end up like that.
But I can conceded that this was probably a necessary bit of ridiculousness to facilitate the Big Reveal, even though I think it could have been handled a bit better. And since Nita’s parents end up being pretty cool at the end, once they figure out that Nita and Kit are not, in fact, out doing the nasty, but just doing wizardry (and working a crazy powerful spell that once blew an entire tectonic plate and continental landmass to shit, and battling against the ultimate Big Bad, the Lone Power, who’s basically Satan except he exponentially took a level in Badass, but whatever, at least they're not having THE SEX), all is forgiven.
All in all, Deep Wizardry is absolutely beautiful, a compelling story with great action, fantastic imagery, interesting characters--especially Ed! I never thought I could adore a shark so--and a message that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. If you like fantasy, do yourself a favor and read this book.(less)
"Dear Artificer, I’ve blown my quanta and gone to the Good Place!"
I'm so glad that I decided to re-read So You Want to Be a Wizard as part of my self-...more"Dear Artificer, I’ve blown my quanta and gone to the Good Place!"
I'm so glad that I decided to re-read So You Want to Be a Wizard as part of my self-imposed book challenge for this year. I'd almost forgotten how much I love this book!
In fact, I love it so much that I almost couldn't read it again. At first, I would read a couple of pages and have to put the book down because I'd get all teary and junk. Not because it's sad (although it does have its moments), but because I would remember how much the story touched me the first time I read it. And it still does.
There are so many things in this book that, even as an adult, I can relate to: from Nita's isolation and finding solace in books to the desire to become, to be and to do something more, something beyond imagining, being so strong that even danger and death seem worth the risk. I cannot even begin to count how many times, or how intensely, I've wished throughout my life for something to come along and turn my world upside down, set me off on some crazy ass adventure and make everything new and exciting. And reading about an introverted, socially awkward, oft-misunderstood geek who stumbles across a mysterious book and suddenly finds herself immersed in a world (or two) of wizardry and wonder (and some terror and heartache) allows me to live my fantasy vicariously through a younger, fictional, sort-of alter ego.
Another thing I absolutely adore about this book--and the Young Wizards series in general--is that Diane Duane never assumes that the readers (her target audience being kids roughly, I'd say, 10-14) won't "get it" just because they're young. She doesn't dumb anything down, doesn't shy away from using or making up big words, and she doesn't water down her prose into that succinct but ineloquent simplicity sometimes found in young adult novels. Yet she's managed to weave a tale that is not only beautiful and sometimes lyrical in its elegance (I truly loved how she described the trees talking in leafrustle and fireflicker), but also accessible.
Duane also deserves kudos for creating one of the most original characters ever. I mean, in what other book are you going to find a freaking white hole as a central character? And, oh, how I adore Fred.
"You people are so fragile. A little gamma radiation will ruin your whole day, it seems."
Who can not love a wise-cracking and often endearingly clueless space phenomenon who has a bad habit of spontaneously emitting cosmic rays? Not I, my friends, not I.
Did I mention that I adore this book? I do. And if you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed, strangely reaffirming adventure to sink your teeth into, or if you're trying to find something to fill the gaping wound...er...void left after Harry Potter and the Book That Tore My Heart to Pieces, Covered Them in Petrol, Set Them on Fire and Danced a Merry Jig All Over the Bloody Ashes, Goddamn You, Joann (otherwise known as Deathly Hallows), I highly recommend SYWBW and the rest of the Young Wizards series.(less)