Moar Carrot’s Book Review

In today’s shameless promotions, we’ve got an independent author Leonard Petracci.

For those who are unaware, there is a website called Reddit and within their many forums is a Writing Prompt. People post the theme/scenario and anyone who wishes can submit their flash fiction. Sometimes they become longer, becoming mini-novellas posted under that topic in itty bitty chapters. Occasionally, the Muses take them and a novel is born from a simple prompt.

Personally, I tend to favor the science-fiction prompts as they provide entertaining escapism from the World of Today(tm) and it’s many uncertain political woes. That means you might find more of these Reddit Authors being shamelessly promoted her in the future. Who doesn’t need a good read?

So, onto The Bridge: A Science Fiction Survival Story

It only comes in Kindle format, what with that independent author status and all. For $2.99 I thought I got a good read. The concept (writing prompt) was simple – generation ship heading to a planet and over time the inhabitants lost understanding and knowledge of who they were, where they were going, and even the technology of the ship itself.

I think the main character could have been fleshed out a bit more, as most of the story was from his perspective, but you still got a real sense of his feelings an motivations throughout the story. The culture shifts on the generational ship from spacefaring to….not spacefaring…seem very plausible given the limitations of their environment and what was necessary to keep society alive. Some of it was shockingly cruel, but if it was a question of life and death, what other option would there be?

I have to admit to practically skimming the last few chapters in a desperate race to get to the ending to see how it all played out, so the minute details are lost to me, not that I would give you a detailed summary of how it ended anyway. Take the fact that I sped read it as an indication of how tightly the story had me.

I give this book a “Speculative Anthropology” – which only sounds boring to the non-nerds. I’ll add “With Spaceships” for the rest of you.

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Literary Skills

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Beta: Mom what are these?
Me: (already through) What do they look like?
Beta: Star Wars books. But what are they for?
Me: Read the whole cover. (watches his eyes skip from the logo to the fine print at the bottom)
Beta: They’re for first grade.
Me: Beta, read the whole thing.
Beta – (long silence) OH! This one is for reading and this is writing. And math.
Me – Can you tell me why the last thing you read on this page was the big white letters, easily taking up 3/5ths of the page? Instead of maybe starting at the top and reading your way down?
Beta – Uh….I don’t know.
Me – (thinking about how much money she’s going to save on not sending kids to college)

Carrot’s Book review: Surprise Edition

A week ago, no sooner I finish my glowing praise of The Name of the Wind“>, than UPS drops off a package at my door.  I hadn’t remembered ordering anything and none of my family or friends ‘fessed up to sending me anything.  In the padded envelope was nothing but a book.  No letter or invoice or anything explaining whyfor this book arrives or whence it came!  Exercising my big smarty brain, I read the label for a clue and got only that it came direct from Penguin Publishing.

Maybe I signed up for some free give away?  I have no idea, but obviously the Universe wanted me to read this book and perilous is it to ignore directives from the Universe when they are so blatant.

So the book – Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands.

I can sum up this book in two words –

Arab Gunslinger.

No seriously!  Stick with me on this!  It’s a fantasy novel, so it takes place in a fictional desert kingdom with a Sultan and far eastern magical myths like djinn.  It’s very careful not to imply fictional Islam, so there are no Imans or Mosques, going for Holy Men and Prayer Houses instead.  Some standard social issues are present, such as polygamy and women having little to no power in their own lives.

Which brings us to the wild west aspect of it all.  Our tale starts out in a desperate small mining town, rife with all the problems that a small desperate mining town has – scarcity of water, scarcity of options, the men give their lives to the mine and women suffer the brunt of their hopelessness in a one horse town where not even the monthly train runs through.

Our heroine is desperate to escape the gritty emptiness of life here and the awfulness of her impending future.  Dressed as a boy (naturally) and gifted with uncanny aim with a gun (heresy!), she exchanges an empty unhappy life for endless danger as she naturally falls in with the rebellion.   Because of course there’s a rebellion, all tied up with the mines, an allied/occupying foreign kingdom (that seems awfully western with their blond hair and blue eyes), and the struggle to retain the magic/identity of the kingdom/people without losing their soul.  There’s even a train heist!  Because Arab Gunslinger, duh!

I’m sure there’s a little subtext in there on the magic vs technology side of things, but the magic part really didn’t show up until later in the story and I presume it will be further explored in the following books.

Overall?  I expected it to be very tropey what with the YA label and a girl hero, but it wasn’t.  It was very engaging, handing me a few surprises along the way, making it an even more enjoyable story than initial assumption.  If ever you were looking for a book that would actually break the molds and play a strong part in that whole “Representation Matters” I couldn’t suggest this book fast enough.  Faux Arab Heroine.  What more could you want?  This should be read in school, except for the fact they never seem to offer fantasy as a literary choice.

I give this book a Make Your Kids Read It, because when I’m so delighted by an pro-active non-timid girl hero in a setting far underutilized in the writing world, then obviously my kids need the exposure as well.  Especially in this current world where women and our Middle Eastern brethren are never considered heroic.

Back later, I have to hand the book off to Alpha.  He was asking for it last night.

Carrot’s Book Club

Just finished Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind”. I have been trying years to get around to reading it as I had yet met a fellow book lover that did not rave about it.

I feel like any raving I might do about it is just redundant. It has been so very very long since I was at a point in my life where I looked forward to bedtime; that scheduled hour or two where I’d curl up with my dozens of pillows and viciously run through as many chapters as I could swallow before my eyes grew fuzzy and an adult’s sense of responsibility forced me to a reasonable hour’s sleep to be somewhat functional the following day. I’d think about the book during the day, trying to predict where the plot might lead based on the clues I had already read the night before.

Would I dare say lyrical? There are some books for whom the story is compelling while the writing is weak, forcing you to slog through dreary narration so you can learn what you need to learn and get closure on what could have been a far better tale. There are some books that the dialogue is witty and you enjoy the characters as you would old friends, but there is no significant adventure and you see the end coming long before you’ve even come to the middle. This book had both real people and real adventure and perfectly musically paired.

So real, I was made uncomfortable by a repeated failure to overcome something so simple as monetary debt! Perhaps that is nothing more than personal experience with the topic, but it was unsettling and made me fearful for the character. There were times I grew impatient with the character’s inability to choose the simple solution to his woes, but seeing as how at the time of the telling he was only a teen boy, perhaps that would explain overly complex solutions that only brought more hot water.

I also grew impatient as the remaining chapters dwindled and I realized that it was not a stand alone book. There would be no ending for this tale, not even in an intermission partial closure, or a season ender to tie the plots together. Not so much a cliffhanger as the commercial break with still more show to go. I had been putting off buying it – restlessly waiting for my turn at the library’s wait list to get a copy – but now I see that I can’t do that for book two and must, as soonest possible moment, head out to purchase the next one (and of course the first one so my shelf has a complete set).

I’m giving this book a Carrot Rating of Two Hands, as in it’d take that to pry it away from me.

A few stolen moments

I used to be a prolific reader.  I could power through a book in twenty four hours if given the appropriate leisure time and the book in question was a much anticipated release.  My daily long commute on public trans, much needed lunch breaks, the dragging empty hours of filling a quiet office during evening shifts were all hours that were filled with a never-sated need for reading.  My work bag contained a change of clothes, my lunch and at least three paperbacks at all times.  You never know when you’d finish one at midnight and still have four hours of your overnight shift in perfect solitude.

My library probably deforested a small country.  I’m sorry.  I really am.  This was pre-Kindle days and my local library only had so much in my preferred genres of fiction-based entertainment.  Especially the way I plowed through entire shelves.  I promise that every book I couldn’t give away or donate was recycled.  Honest.

Anywhoo – finally giving up gainful employment to be the Stay Home to my first two children had me dreaming of days when I could knock out a few chapters during nap time or after I put them quietly to bed early in the evening.  Or, dare I dream, be that confident put together mom on the playground sipping her coffee and reading her hardcover while her darling angels ran around playing nicely with other children.

Unprepared for the realities of toddlers that didn’t nap – refusing to sleep at all until exhaustion kicked in! –  and then needing constant handling on the playground to keep the city from calling animal control on me, it has been years since I’ve been able to read a book in short enough time for me to remember how it started once I finished it.  I’ve been lucky to read two books in a year for lack of interest, focus, and time.  I’m glad to say I’m getting better and getting back to reading.  It has help that, in the time of becoming a Stay Home and now, technology has gotten so much more exciting and making it easier to access books!  Now I just have to fight the lure of other online time wasters to actually go read….

But here it is!

It was lent to me – Kindle to Kindle! – by another reader friend who wanted someone versed in the old school D&D tabletop gaming.  His lady wife had read it but, never having  played any sort of RPG, felt she might have missed some of the fine nuances of the genre.  So I gave it a go.

It starts as a classic Game World vs Real World and how they bleed over.  It was a fairly popular trope at some point or at least it seemed like I read a lot of “Gamers play module and end up in other universe totally by accident” books somewhere in the late 80s/early 90s.  From there it takes the predictable character evolutions and swaps them up.  Swaps them up realistically even!   As realistically being subjective in a world of orcs, dragons, and magic sword, of course.  The characters were real and engaging, both the characters and the “characters”, for those of you having enough tabletop/larping experience to understand the difference.  The motivations were not ham-handed or contrived and the solutions were clever.   I really enjoyed it.  So much so that I’m currently on the third book! In three months! Can you believe I’ve read so much in so short a time! I can feel my brain coming alive with imagination!

Edit! (Sorry – I probably should have included the link to the second book too, to save you the time of trying to hunt it down.)

Outrage, stage left

(scene opens in basement, mother folding laundry)
Alpha: (coming down stairs) I have to do my reading homework and I finished Deathly Hallows.
Me: Cursed Child is on the sewing table. Listen, you need four books in six genres for your Reading Merit badge. Cursed Child is a play. If you document your reading, this will count for your badge.
Alpha: Okay. I’m getting a snack first.
(time passes)
Me: (goes upstairs with clean laundry to hear outrage) What’s wrong?
Alpha: This isn’t a story! This is a play! I wanted to read a real story!
Me: (sigh) It is a real story. You just have to pay careful attention at who’s doing the talking.

Mindblown: Second Verse

Me: Alpha, you’re playing that piece wrong. The note goes down, not up.
Alpha: No it doesn’t, I’m playing it right!
Me: Listen. (hums the music, pointing at each note in the piece)
Alpha: I’m playing it right! I’m telling you! You don’t know I’m not!
Me: (deep sigh) Alpha, I can read music.
Alpha: (long silence) Oh. (starts practicing again)

You’d think it was understood

Me: Beta, here’s a list of famous spiritual people, go to the library, ask the librarian for help, pick two biographies.
Beta: Okay!
(time passes)
Me: Welcome back, which ones did you get?
Beta: The Dalai Lama!
Me: And what else?
Beta: What do you mean what else?  I got two books on the Dalai Lama.
Me:…..Beta, you needed to pick two different people to read about for the scout pin.
Beta: Well you didn’t specify that!