Armada

Cline, Ernest.  Armada. New York: Broadway Books, 2015.

I have lived near Austin for many years and have never attended the Texas Book Festival.  Every year, I think this is the year I will go.  Well 2017 was the lucky one! Last fall we drove down to Austin (shudder!), found the right parking garage near the Texas Capitol and attended the Texas Book Festival.  It was a dreary, misty day.  What the day lacked in ambiance, it made up with books and authors!  I bought some good ones!  I missed Ernest Cline’s presentation or panel at the festival, but I did manage to snap up this signed copy.

I have struggled to write this blog.  I am not a video game player so it has been difficult to focus on the points others might like to know about Armada. On the way home from the gym, I heard a story on the World Video Game Hall of Fame on the radio. I didn’t know there was one. Today they were announcing their 2017 video game inductees.  It was fate!  I had to complete this brief review on a book about a video game for you today.  I learned that these games are chosen on 4 criteria: Icon Status, Longevity, Geographical Reach, and Influence.  After reading this book, I wonder if Armada, the fictional video game of the book would meet these criteria?

As the book opens, we meet Zach Lightman, high school student, video store clerk, and an avid video game player.  When he is not in school or being tormented by the class bully, he is at the video story playing the online, multiplayer, flight simulator game Armada. He happens to be one of the best players in the world.  As he gazes out his classroom window, he sees a spaceship straight out of his video game zip across the horizon. Did he see it? Is he going crazy?  No one else seems to notice.

He isn’t crazy and that spaceship is real.  He isn’t playing a game, but has been training for the life-and-death alien attack some authorities fear is inevitable.  Read this book to find out how Earth got embroiled in this conflict.  Do they defeat the alien or are they defeated?

Cline has many nods to modern video game developers, movie makers, and other science fiction movies and books.  Most of that escaped my notice!  As I was reading, I thought of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. 

I think this would be an enjoyable read for a youthful student who lives for video games.

Ernest Cline

I just read his autobiography from his website.  It is one of the funniest I have read of late.  I like a guy who doesn’t take himself, too seriously.  Like many of the rest of us, he has been warped by his childhood, but managed to pull himself up and grow from a boy to an author.  Both his books Ready Player One and Armada have been optioned for movies. I liked both books.  They might make your average or above average video game player pick up a book and read.

About Ernest Cline

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

The Grim Legacy

thegrimmlegacyShulman, Polly.  The Grim Legacy.  New York: Puffin Books, 2010.

This is a book that my daughter, Sarah bought for me.  She thought I would like a book base on fairy tales and she was right!  Thank you, Sarah!

This is an amusing riff on “What if magic is real.”  Who would collect all the magical artifacts from fairy tales and other tales of magic? Warehouse 13? Well they might get some competition from the New York Circulating Material Repository.  Just think, a library for magic items! This illustrious institution loans artifacts to patrons for a small cost: your first-born child or your sense of direction or some other personal item.  You get your deposit back as long as you return the magical item intact with all its attributes.

The story’s heroine, Elizabeth Rew has a Cinderella like back story.  Her mom has died.  Her dad has remarried.  She has two-step sisters.  Her stepmom is not evil, but Elizabeth misses the closeness she had with her dad.  By good luck she is recommended for an after-school job at the repository by her history teacher, Mr. Mauskopf.

The repository is a grand and mysterious place. It is Tardis-like, bigger on the inside than the outside.  One of the most mysterious collections in the repository is the Grimm Collection.  If you have ever read any of the Grimm Fairy Tales you may know that some of the tales were bloody and gruesome.  It goes without saying that some of the items in the Grimm Collection are very dangerous.  Elizabeth and her friends discover that someone has been stealing items from the library and more worrisome items specifically from the Grimm Collection.

I love fairy tales!  Does Elizabeth use the magic cloak the soldier used to follow the dancing princess?  Does she use a pair of the dancing slippers?  When she and her friends discover the thief, what kind of magic will they deploy to foil him/her.  Read this book for yourself or read it to a young friend!  It is a very clever and fun read.

Reading Report from North Central, Texas: September 2016

sept2016September has come and gone.  What a month! Everyone here was very busy.  Imagine my surprise when I saw our reading stack for this month!  I thought there would only be 3 or 4 books, I guess we made more time for reading than I thought!

Alexis

In September, Alexis made ample use of the library.  She found a new author to read, Dorothy Cannell.  Her heroine, Ellie Haskell triumps over her problems, solves mysteries and marries her handsome friend, Ben.  She revisited Superfreakonomic.  This is not the entire list of her readings, just what I was able to notice this month.

  • Cannell, Dorothy. The Thin Woman.  New York: St. Martin’s, 1984.
  • Cannell, Dorothy.  The Widows Club.  New York: Bantam Books, 1988.
  • Cannell, Dorothy. Mum’s the Word.  New York: Bantam Books, 1990.
  • Cannell, Dorothy. Femmes Fatal.   New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
  • Levitt, Steven D. & Stephen J. Dubsner. Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitues and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.   New York: Harper Perennial, 2009.

Robin

You will notice that David Sedaris’ book, When You Are Engulfed in Falmes appears on my list again this month.  I finally finished it!  I think David is an excellent writer, but I was hoping for a very funny book and this book was only vaguely amusing to me.

I celebrated the old fashioned romance/mystery by reading a couple of the Dorothy Cannell books Alexis brought home from the library.  The two I read were fun, easy reads.  Ellie Haskell has a very eccentric family.

My favorite reads in September were the two novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Lord Penric is a gentle, humble soul probably the last person you would expect to obtain a Bastard’s Demon and control it.  These novellas were set in the world of the five gods.  The first in the series is the Curse of Chalion, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

  • Sedaris, David. When You Are Engufled in Flames.  New York: Back Bay Books, 2008.
  • Cannell, Dorothy. The Thin Woman.  New York: St. Martin’s, 1984.
  • Cannell, Dorothy.  The Widows Club.  New York: Bantam Books, 1988.
  • Bujold, Lois McMaster. Penric’s Demon.  Kindle Version, 2015
  • Bujold, Lois McMaster. Penric’s Demon.  Kindle Version, 2016.
  • Schulman, Polly.  The Grimm Legacy. New York: Puffin Books, 2010.
  • Bell, CeCe. El Deafo.  New York: Amulet Books, 2014.

Jim

In September, Jim finished the book Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. He has started on a book Alexis read a few month back The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu.  Also Inside PixInsight, a book he ordered early in the spring was finally released and came in the mail. PixInsight is the software that runs his new mount and telescope.  He is learning more about this every day.

Sarah

The new school year has begun.  Sarah has been busy with school.  We have both been so busy this month that I haven’t had time to follow up with her on the literacy pieces she incorporates into her music classes.  I will catch up and report next month.  She is reading Everything, Everything  by Nicola Yoon.  She is reading this as part of Austin ISD’s books study.

  • Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. New York, Delacorte Books, 2015.
  • Hoke, Helen, editor.  Dragons, Dragons, Dragons.  Carol Baker, Illustrator.  New York: Franklin Watts, 1972.

Elijah’s Little Library Recap

I started this blog back in April, because I was so excited about all the books I purchased for my new nephew.  It has been my whigmaleerie, my notion, my fancy that I might have something to share with the wider world about these books and others. My family is amused by this new hobby of mine.  They have been gently encouraging me to carry on with this writing.

The Hobbit blog marked the last entry for books from Elijah’s Little Library.  His Crazy My PhotoAunt Robin (that’s me!) had so much fun buying the books and writing him a book about his little library. Here’s a picture of me, taken when I was working on his book.  Don’t I look like someone’s Crazy Aunt?  I wanted the fun of thinking about the books we gave him to continue, ergo I started this blog.  To finish the section about Elijah’s Little Library, I’d like to share the introduction to his book.

Welcome to the World!

It is a wide, exciting and sometimes frenetic place.  All our family, Uncle Jim, Cousin Alexis, Cousin Sarah and I, are looking forward to meeting you.

I think your Mama and Daddy are rolling their eyes at this point, wondering why we decided on a small library for your very first gift as it doesn’t seem very practical.  Well I could say that we are your crazy Aunt Robin and Uncle Jim and that’s just what we do.  Ask your Mama when you can, how often a gift from us included a book.

I am your crazy Aunt Robin, but here’s the truth, we love to read and we want to share that love with you. We think if you can read you can go anywhere and do anything even if it is only in your own imagination.  With a good book, you are never alone and you always have something to do.

We want you to remember the way it feels to snuggle with your Mama or your Daddy, while you listen to one of their sweet voices reading you to sleep.  The way it feels to laugh, when you read a silly story for yourself.  The secret joy it is to read covertly under the covers with a flashlight when you are supposed to be asleep.  The guilty pleasure you feel when you look up from finishing a thrilling novel and realize that it is 2 am and you have to get up and go to work the next day.

Elijah, enjoy a good book!  We have chosen the books in this mini library with you in mind.  We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.  When we started to think about this gift, I asked everyone here to give me the names of two books.  One they remembered from when they very little and one that was their favorite when they were in upper elementary or middle school.  I think you will be surprised at what was included in this little library.

God Bless You Little One!
Love Aunt Robin, Uncle Jim, Alexis & Sarah
April 2, 2016

For those of you who are interested in starting a little library for a young person you love, I have compiled a list of the books in Elijah’s library: LibraryRecap_Aug17_2016.  We tried to get something that would please a young boy, however, I think they would be fun for many different readers.

 

 

The Hobbit

The Hobbit book coverTolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966

This is the last book in Elijah’s little library.  It is my contribution from my middle school years. My hope for him is that he can share this part of his family’s love for books and reading.  It can be enthralling to be pulled into a good book.  For Elijah we hope that he always enjoys these books and many others.  And when he grows up, he will have the great privilege to share his books with someone special.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was my favorite book from middle school. It was the grandest adventure story I had ever read.  It was my initiation into the fantasy genre.  One of my most vivid memories of reading this book is the intricate hand drawn maps.  I have always loved maps!   Take a look at the picture below.  To my middle school self, it was a wondrous adventure and this map fired my imagination.

Map of the Misty mountains and Mirkwood drawn by JRR Tolkien for the Hobbit

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” This is the opening sentence for the book.  That hobbit was the very comfortable, very prosperous Bilbo Baggins.  A hobbit, who never looked for adventure.  Hobbits are a comfortable, homey race much enamored of breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper and not adventures of any kind.  How Bilbo becomes a thief, takes a journey (scandalous behavior for a hobbit!) and comes home again is an impressive story.  It is a sweeping adventure story in which Bilbo encounters wizards, dwarves, trolls, elves and a dragon.  My heart sang with the poetry of the dwarves and the elves.  I always wished I could visit them.

One of the facets of this book that makes it opulent and complex is the poetry that Tolkien uses to set the scene, give perspective and move the narrative forward.  Here is the first verse of the song, the dwarves sing a confused and horrified Bilbo upon their first meeting. It illustrates dwarfen humor.

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates–
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

This song that explains the purpose of the journey for the dwarves. They were seeking a thief to help them retrieve their treasure.  The journey takes them beyond the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood to the Lonely Mountain and the great dragon, Smaug.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day,
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

You may have seen the two movies based on this book. I have seen the first, but not the second.  It was a good movie, but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of reading this book. For me it was a stupendous read in middle school.  It was the same wondrous read, when the girls and I snuggled up on the sofa one warm, summer day to read it together.

If you like fantasy books like this, you may also want to read about Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo in the great classic Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien was born in South Africa on January 3, 1892.  His father passed away in 1896 and his mother moved the family aback to England.  It is said that Tolkien remembered very little of his time in South Africa, but they were sharp.  One of the most vivid was an encounter with a large hairy spider¹. His mother converted the family to the Roman Catholic faith, thus separating them from both sides of their family.  The family lived in genteel poverty until his Mother’s death of diabetes in 1904.  Their parish priest Father Francis Morton took Tolkien and his brother under his wing¹.

His story is so rich it is difficult to summarize it to any great extent.  He was linguistically precocious.  He mastered Greek, Latin, Finnish and other languages including the ones he made up.  He went to Exeter College Oxford.  He changed his degree from Classics to English Language and Literature.  While still at Oxford, World War I broke out.  He did not rush to enlist, but worked to finished his degree, which he did in 1915.

He did experience war first hand as a second lieutenant.  He was eventually sent to the Western Front and participated in the Somme offensive.  He became ill and was sent home to recover.  By the end of the war many of his friends had been killed.  After the war, he sought employment and returned to Oxford. He had several positions, but finally he was a Professor of English Language and Literature².

His imagination and love of languages enabled him to write masterpieces of fantasy literature.  He is known as the Father of Fantasy.  He was not however an easy author. Were it not for the advocacy of the publisher’s son, who had read and loved The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy would never been published¹.  Writing fantasy epics was Tolkien’s hobby not his day job³.  I am so glad that he wanted to spend time exploring language and fairy tales.  He has given us masterpieces for the ages.  Although The Hobbit was marketed as a children’s book, I consider it a book for anyone who loves rich storytelling and exciting adventure.

In preparing this short summary of his life, I was disappointed to learn that The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not an allegory of World War II.  I thought I had read some place in the past that he wrote portions of it for his son, Christopher, who was in the RAF during that war.  Alas, I was incorrect.

Upon Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher did comb carefully through his father’s papers and published several of his father’s works.

Here are some sources for more information on this author.

¹http://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/biography/

²http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/wood-biography.html

³http://mentalfloss.com/article/59736/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-jrr-tolkien

The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan Book CoverThe Ruins of Gorlan
Flanagan, John
New York: Puffin Books, 2005

I discovered this book, the first in the Ranger’s Apprentice series a year or two ago.  I was taking advantage of my public library’s OverDrive service.  Offered by some libraries, OverDrive is a free service that allows a patron to borrow ebooks, audiobook and other materials from the library’s digital collections.  It is a wonderful program.  When I am restless and looking for something new, I search through my library’s digital collection.  The books are delivered to my eReader.  I also love their audiobooks.  I have checked out an audiobook and downloaded it to my phone.  We listened to the book on our road trip.

When I was choosing books for Elijah, I remembered this one.  I thought he might like to read a book about a brave, heroic young man.  The author wrote these books to get his son interested in reading.  I hope Elijah, doesn’t need to be enticed to enjoy reading.  Reading can take you places and provide adventures right from you own home.

The boy in this story, Will was small, thin and wiry.  He becomes the Ranger Halt’s apprentice.  While disappointed that he wasn’t going to become a knight in service to King Duncan of Araluen, he discovers that the kingdom needs other types of people to protect and serve. Will learns the ways of the Rangers and has important, dangerous and satisfying work to do.  This book and the others in this series are a bildungsroman, a story of Will’s work to grow into himself and his craft. He is intelligent, resourceful and intrepid.  I like Will and his young friends.  Read this book and others in the series to find out how they work together to save their kingdom.  This is an exciting series for a boy or girl.

John Flanagan

Googling this author, I couldn’t really find much more than what is in the back cover of my book.  He hoped to be a writer and had a successful career in television and advertising.  John wrote the Ranger’s Apprentice series to encourage his son, Michael to enjoy reading. John is an Australian and lives with his wife in Sydney.  You can visit this author’s website at http://www.worldofjohnflanagan.com.  Here are some links to interviews with this author.