Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cast in Chaos

Cast in Chaos (Chronicles of Elantra, #6)Cast in Chaos by Michelle Sagara West

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Michelle just keeps getting better! While action is not lacking at all, what I most enjoyed about this particular entry in the series was the further development of the magical system and the power of language. And it's interesting to see the "child of the slums" theme played out in both this series and the Sun Sword/House Wars series. When Michelle deals with magic, it is also an exploration of love and power; that and beautiful writing is what I love about her work.

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Lost Recipe for Happiness

The Lost Recipe for Happiness The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars Really good. Really, really good. Magic of food, of memory, of loss, friendship, redemption. Solid depiction of the Southwest as we who are native know it. A writer not only to watch, but to read. View all my reviews >>

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

Troubled WatersTroubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished Troubled Waters, and I think it's her best yet. As I neared the end, I was simultaneously wishing to finish and to stretch it out, and I can honestly say it's the first time I ever read a book and hoped it would be a series! I would rather read a thousand or so pages at one time, usually. The "blessings" concept is so charming and true, the people are enjoyable to be around, and the "great evil" is birthed by human greed and pettiness--also true, in the world we live in.
There's a lovely romance, too.

In addition to visiting other worlds, what I most appreciate about reading is that it can give us insights and tools to use in the world we come back to. Instead of passing my copy on to the library, I will have to place it on my shelves to await its future companions. I will enjoy spending time there again and again, as I do in the worlds of Liaden, Elantra, Darkover, Valdemar, and Tortall. (Among others, of course. But after almost fifty years of reading, not many make the cut to stay on the shelves. I try to keep the house count at under 2,000.)

I think Shinn is at the top of her game, and has created another one of those worlds so well-realized that many readers old and new will love to revisit and share.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ignore Everybody

Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ok, the advice has all been given before, but not, I think in such a humorous and humble way. The cartoons are great and take you right to that young-in-New-York-cynical-dreamer-snarky-with-a-spark-of-hope
that lives in all us creative types, even if we're no longer young, or snarky. Much.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Altar in the World

Altar in the World, An: A Geography of Faith Altar in the World, An: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

How often books come when they need to...this book is about the embodiment of faith; it's what we do that matters, not what we believe (don't we really do what we really believe, not what we think we believe?). Taylor's Christian faith is revealed in a hairy Jesus with dirty feet whose message was essentially Chop Wood, Carry Water. Love is food, hugs, and smiles at the wonder of the world; love is tears, comfort, sweat, and laughter.

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An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More New Great YA Fantasy

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow! This woman can write, and I'm in search of her previous books! Truly magical prose.

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A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4) A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the latest entry into one of the most wonderful fantasy series out there (starts with The Queen's Thief).
Turner never shies away from love or hard choices and give real insight into politics and kingship--all while having the most engaging, real characters with flaws and gifts we recognize. It made me want to read the series all over again--to spend time in that world, with those characters, that you, MWT!

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Voices of Dragons

Voices of DragonsVoices of DragonsVoices of Dragons Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very good entry into dragon lore, an alternate world where dragons emerge from hiding after the nuclear bombs of WWII, adding their own flames and fire. The Cold War is with dragons, a very uneasy peace exists, with humans pushing the boundaries. Into this world an adolescent human girl and an adolescent dragon form a questioning and illegal friendship that brings possibilities of both war and peace--and of course, humans flying with dragons! Woo-hoo!

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Friday, January 8, 2010

The Spirit Level

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies StrongerThe Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Kate Pickett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The authors propose a welcome vision for the peaceful transformation of society. The first two thirds of the book is a marshaling of facts and figures that show, in their view as health researchers, that wide divisions of material wealth are bad for the rich as well as the poor. They tellingly do not point out (perhaps it's that British reserve) that such wide divisions in human society have generally resulted in bloody revolt (usually very bad for the rich). They vote for gentle revolution instead.

Simplified: greater inequality results in social tension, lack of trust (both interpersonal and towards society as a whole), lower lifespans and levels of wellness both physical and mental for the poor AND the rich, and the breakdown of society; greater equality leads to a firm social fabric, greater interpersonal and impersonal trust, less violence, better health and longevity for all. The societies at the "top" of the world have entered a phase where greater wealth is not providing a better life, or indeed, better opportunities, for all. In fact, such societies have higher rates of physical and mental illness, violence, crime, and suicide.

Capitalism is not democracy. Communism (as practiced by the state) didn't work. What shall we do? The authors acknowledge that the political will to change must come from the grassroots level, from the bottom up, as it were. (As most beneficial changes in societies have.) They also seem to realize that people are not moved to change by rational thought and the thoughtful presentation of facts and figures. They call on Martin Luther's vision of the arc of history leading toward the good, and ask all like-minded people to help further the vision by promoting equality in many different ways.

I am amazed and happy to say that they have a proposal for social change that doesn't rely on violence or plague. It involves rather than a simple (ha!) redistribution of wealth, that governments act proactively to provide incentives for a major shift in business (from corporation to cooperation)--where the ownership of businesses changes from that of anonymous shareholders to that of mutually responsible and accountable employees. They argue that unethical and morally reprehensible acts (carried out by tobacco and oil companies, for example) are easier for people when they are "only following orders" than when they are both making the decisions and carrying out the acts. Also that people are happier and more productive when they perceive that they have more control over their lives.

It's time for our world to move beyond the age of the individual and toward a society that mirrors our innate sense of fairness and goodwill.

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