Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Ramblings on Dune by Frank Herbert

By: Frank Herbert
Release Date: 25th Anniversary Ed. Sept. 1990
Official Dune Website


Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction. Frank Herbert’s death in 1986 was a tragic loss, yet the astounding legacy of his visionary fiction will live forever.

My Ramblings:
First off, let me just say, this is one hell of a book. Amazing, really. It's hard to know where to start with a book like this because it covers such a huge amount of information and a large chunk of time. I guess I'll get the negatives out of the way early. The biggest downside to this book really is just the sheer volume of information being put in front of you. It really is a whole new world. There are strange names, oddly familiar (but totally foreign) customs and beliefs and a cast of characters that can sometimes be hard to keep straight. Speaking of names- one thing that isn't a huge deal, but honestly got me thinking several times were the names. Specifically the names of the two main characters we follow. In this book we get names like Astreides, Harkonnen, Thufir, Gurney, Stilgar and Chani- all are slightly exotic sounding and speak to the setting of the story. Our two main characters- the concubine and son of the Duke Leto Astreides- whose adventures we follow bear the wildly unique names of (wait for it) Paul and Jessica. Now, again, is this a big deal? No. Does it take away from the story? Not really. Did I spend way more time then necessary trying to figure out why their names were so generic and bland? Absolutely. So for me, this was a minor distraction.

Beyond the massive quantity of information to take in and make sense of this book was pretty darn amazing. There were passages that, though written in 1965 originally, still hold strong today. As an aside, I picked this book up on the say so of my Uncle, who said "everything you need to know about life, you can learn in Dune". This may sound like tall order, but I think he's right (especially if you look beyond the story held in the pages). There are snippets of religious readings from the O.C. Bible and there are reflections and quotes on the life of Muad'dib. Little life lessons crop up, like"Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place." and "The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.".  A phrase that is often repeated is "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." These (and others) all speak to the place where the characters are living and surviving as well as give the reader food for thought on their own lives. 

Paul's story really is a classic hero story. Unfortunate circumstances fall upon him. He loses a role model in a tragic circumstance. He is exiled, he faces hardships and tests of faith. Eventually he overcomes these obstacles and eventually good defeats evil. Or does it? The twist here is that Paul is also fighting his own fate. A fate he has the ability to see laid out before him in potential possible paths. The thing he tries to prevent may be inevitable, no matter which path he chooses. Or, the choice to avoid one tragedy might actually cause something even more heartbreaking to befall him. 

I don't really want to get into a lot of the plot of this massive novel. I think if I started I really wouldn't be able to stop. Suffice it to say that this book truly is epic. If you like SciFi and don't mind putting some time and effort into reading then this one really needs to be added to the to-be-read pile. 


Thursday, July 14, 2011

How about a book talk?

That's right, a book talk. This summer, besides indulging in fantasy and magic, I'm also taking 3 (count em' 3) graduate classes at Syracuse University. Life is busy, but a lot of fun. One of my classes is Youth Services in Libraries and Information Centers. Week one? Genre Study. Here in week two? Book talks. A slew of other things as well, but on the assignment front, book talks. I had never done one, so when faced with the task of choosing three books I was at a loss. They had to fit together somehow, be interesting and lend themselves to this format. I was stumped, and then, a bolt of lightning struck (that analogy would be extra awesome if I chose Harry Potter, but I didn't). Fae! That was it. Some of my favorite books in the past year have been ones that deal with Fae. So, without further ado...

So, are you interested? If you are hit up Amazon, the closest indie book shop or the local library and give them a go!

Wings (Aprilynne Pike)
Wondrous Strange (Lesley Livingston)
The Iron King (Julie Kagawa)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine- head to her site to see what everyone else is eagerly awaiting.

It's been a LONG time since I posted a WoW- so long I don't even want to admit to it (it's been 6+ months!). Still, I had a free moment in the midst of this crazy school schedule and there is a book that I am dying to get my hands on and it's taking every ounce of self restraint to wait until tomorrow. This week I'm waiting on Forever by Maggie Stiefvater. Yes, I know it came out yesterday- but tomorrow Maggie is coming to my town and I'll be heading over to the Barnes and Nobles to not only pick the book up, but get it autographed. 

More about Forever...


When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from a curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.


That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.


Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

Now if Maggie was not coming to town I would have bought this yesterday and this post would probably have been a review. So heads up, I'm hoping to plow through Forever in the next few days and then wallow in the sadness that comes in the ending of a great series. (this + the end of Harry Potter? I'll be a mess, it's guaranteed.)

If you haven't read Maggie's Wolves of Mercy Falls series get on it- it really is beautifully written and amazingly addicting!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Ramblings on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
By: J. K. Rowling


Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility. 

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years. 

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

My Ramblings:
And so the summer of Fantasy and Magic continues. Although if I was being honest with myself, it would be called the "summer of Fantasy, Magic and a ridiculous amount of homework", but I'm picked these books to read as an escape from all that homework, so let's forget it even exists. 

On Thursday it all ends. No more books, no more movies, no more magic of the Hogwarts kind. Thank goodness we have Pottermore to look forward to, because at least it's something. For right now though, reading Sorcerer's Stone with Part 2 looming so near seemed fitting. Do you remember the first time you read it? The first time you imagined getting your own invitation to Hogwarts? I don't really. I think I was a senior in high school- so I was a good 3 years behind the game. I read the books right after I saw the first movie. So for me, Harry will always be Daniel Radcliff, Snape will always speak with that voice of Alan Rickman's and Hogwarts will always look the way it does on film. Of course this doesn't take anything away from the reading of the books because these are some beautifully and loyally made movies. They don't disappoint in any way. 

How about the book though? Does it hold up after all this time? Obviously, the answer is yes. A million times yes. It was just as magical to read it this time as it was 10+ years ago. I found myself marveling over the lack of sympathy shown by the Dursley, hating Draco from the word go and falling in love with the trio of hero's that we find in Harry, Ron and Hermione. It was if I had no idea how it would all end, even though I do. That says a lot about Rowling's writing and the world she created. 

There were other moments that once you know how they end, you can't really ever un-know, it changes the way you see the characters and their actions. You can see their motivation and their destiny now in a way that wasn't clear on the first read. I'm thinking, of course, of Professor Snape and Neville Longbottom. They have such a pivotal role by the end that seeing them for the first time here in Sorcerer's Stone takes on a new meaning because you see them as they will be instead of how Harry is seeing them for the first time. Can I again say that this says a lot about Rowling's writing and the world she created? I get the feeling that she knew from the first page where these characters would end up. 

I think it's only fair to say that I love these books, I love this series, I love these characters and I'm not nearly ready for it to all end. As an almost 30 year old I still wish that I'd get my invite to Hogwarts. What a fabulous first stop on one of the best series I've ever read. Can't wait to pick up The Chamber of Secrets in a few weeks and of course to see Part 7 in a few days. I can't think of any other way to end this then to say Thank God for J.K. Rowling for giving us all a little bit of magic. 

You've read Harry Potter right? If not, I can't say enough times, do. Read it. I hope you love it as much as I do!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Ramblings on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit
By: J.R.R. Tolkien

Summary: Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo-alone and unaided-who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside . . .

My Ramblings:
This is the first book on my summer of Fantasy and Magic, in which I will re-read some of my old favorites and start some new discoveries; namely Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Song of Ice & Fire and lastly Dune (which was just recently recommended to be).  I'm giving a go by reading the books in a rotating order. Game of Thrones I read a few months ago, so The Hobbit is my first from the LOTR series, and I've just picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, once I've finished the first book in each series, it will be back to the start for the second book, and so on. Enough about that though. How did I feel about The Hobbit?

Well, I haven't read the book since middle school, so it was a bit like rediscovering a world all over again, or visiting an old friend that you haven't seen in a really long time. Some of it was familiar and some parts I had completely forgotten. It was also hard to read the book without picturing the setting and charecters from the LOTR movies- which, as there were so well done, wasn't really a problem.

Some of the the things that I shook my head at were Gollum and his riddles. I love the moments where Tolkien says that the reader has probably figured the riddle out by now, I hadn't, and even when given the answer I wasn't sure I really got it (I'm not sure I should admit to that). I was also surprised at how deceptively simple the writing is. It wasn't hard to wade through and there wasn't a huge amount of extra descriptions and dialog- it was straight and to the point, but still worked for me. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the writing seemed much more bare then I remembered, if that even makes sense.

The long and the short of it is that it was still an amazing book to read, even after all this time, and after seeing the movies bring the world to life. Bilbo was still brave and courageous and a remarkable complainer. The dwarves were still wimpy despite their strength and focused on the gold and revenge more the the plan. Gandalf was still the wise old man, pulling strings and setting everything in motion- he struck me as quite a bit more of a puppet master then I remembered, not in a bad way, but he had his hand in every misadventure and rescue throughout. I love how he believes in Bilbo and is genuinely proub of the little hobbit by the end of it all. Lastly, I can not wait to see this story come to life on the big screen and fall in love with it one more time!