The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

The Lost Gate is the first book in a new fantasy series by Orson Scott Card.  It is the story of Danny, an 11-year-old boy living on Earth among his family of gods.  Unlike the rest of his family members, he displays no affinity for magical powers, so he is often tormented and cast out by the others living in their village.  That is, until one day when Danny is climbing a tree and discovers that he indeed has a power:  he is a gatemage, meaning he can create gates through space to anywhere he wants to go.  This discovery puts Danny in great danger, as being a gatemage comes with the penalty of death due to the destruction and torment caused by the last gatemage, Loki.  After being discovered, Danny must escape his family and go out into the “drekka world” (the real world for us mortals without magical powers) and learn not only how to survive alone, but how to use this new power.

Card is very skilled at worldbuilding.  Though he does a lot of explaining so that the reader understands this urban fantasy world that he has constructed, it comes off as very easy to understand and interesting.  I expected nothing less of Card, who created a detailed and fascinating new world in his famous novel Ender’s Game, one of my personal favorites.  I will say that the main character in this novel, Danny, often annoyed me and I didn’t feel as connected to him as I did to Ender, but the story was captivating enough that it wasn’t too hard to get through the especially irritating parts (like when Danny becomes friends with young criminal Eric and engages in some unlawful activities).  If you’re a big fan of fantasy and enjoy imagining new magical worlds, I recommend giving this book a try.

National Library Week

April 10-16 is National Library Week!  What a perfect time to check out some materials featuring libraries and/or librarians.

Here are a few of my favorites, and even though technically the main characters aren’t librarians, they definitely do spend a lot of time in libraries.  First off is The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.  When they wrote this, they were fresh out of college, so their descriptions of academic life at Princeton really hit the nail on the head.  Also, the book’s plot reminded me of The Da Vinci Code, as the two main characters are close to solving the mysteries of an ancient Renaissance text that has confused scholars for centuries.  It’s fast-paced and there’s lots of code-breaking going on.

Another favorite is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  This is a lengthy Draculian tome, so it’s catalogued in the Horror section.  The book begins with a young woman exploring her father’s library when she discovers an ancient book with letters all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor.”  Generations of researchers have risked their lives and their reputations trying to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler, and to uncover this source of darkness and rid the world of it powers.  Now this young woman must decide whether to take up her father’s quest; her journey takes her from  Ivy League libraries to archives in Istanbul and Eastern Europe.  I don’t usually read Horror, but I couldn’t put it down.

Just think about it.  Celebrate National Library Week! And find the answers to your quest at your Davenport Public Library!

Smart is the New Rich by Christine Romans

Most readers will recognize Christine Romans as the CNN business reporter and host of “Your $$$$$.”  But I wonder how many realize she hails from right here in the QCA?  Yup, that’s right!  Romans grew up in LeClaire, Iowa, and graduated from Pleasant Valley High School.  She went on to graduate from Iowa State University in 1993 and then began working for the Des Moines Register.  Later, she worked with a financial news firm in Chicago before hitting the big time with CNN in 1999.

But now, this TV reporter is an author of a practical, no-nonsense book about money.  It’s title, Smart is the New Rich, also happens to be a perfect fit for Money Smart Week, which is happening right now — April 2-9.  According to Romans, most of us need to start managing our money a little differently than we did before the economic bubble burst, and here are her 3 primary guidelines:

  • Live within our means
  • Live with less debt
  • Be less vulnerable

She further substaniates her message with 5 clear spending rules.  A perfect example of this is the subtitle, If You Can’t Afford It, Put it Down. Other classic rules include:

  • Think of money like nutrition
  • Negotiate everything
  • Always save first
  • Don’t deny yourself

Her book is proving popular, so come check it out and use Money Smart Week to get smart and rich!

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

David Levithan is a prolific YA author whose books I normally enjoy, so I was very interested to see that he released his first novel geared towards adults, called The Lover’s Dictionary.  The format of this book is very unique, as the story is told in short “dictionary” entries.  In each entry, the unnamed narrator defines a word like “ubiquitous”, “autonomy”, and “idea” by describing profound moments (big and little) in his longtime relationship with a woman, who is also unnamed.  Since it’s told through dictionary entries, which are of course alphabetical, the story isn’t told chronologically and it is up to the reader to determine which events happened when.  It’s filled with romance, humor, and heartbreak.

The way this story is told reminds me a lot of the movie 500 Days of Summer, which I loved. The mixed-up timeline is interesting and makes sense with the story rather than feeling like a gimmick.  It allows Levithan to pair the sad moments in the story with the more lighthearted and fun moments of their relationship, which gives the story a nice balance and feels more realistic.  It’s no sugar-coated love story; it feels gritty and real, and Levithan knows how to make you feel it right along with the main character.  If you have enjoyed Levithan’s other books or are looking for a unique and realistic love story, I recommend picking up a copy of this book.

A great Norweigan crime author!

After reading Swedish authors Steig Larsson, Camilla Lackberg and Asa Larssen and becoming addicted to Scandinavian crime mysteries, I came across rave reviews about Norweigan author Jo Nesbo and decided to try one of his most recent books that has been translated into English.

The Devil’s Star begins simply enough with a small trickle of water that streams down the wall of an Oslo apartment.  The Devil’s Star continues to take the reader on twists and turns to a unexpected and thrilling end with a myriad of victims courtesy of one serial killer.  Each victim has a telltale sign left at the scene – a five point diamond near each of their bodies.

Detective Harry Hole, who is still reeling from the murder of his former partner, struggles both with alcohol and his new partner (and nemesis) Tom Whaaler on this case.  Hole is convinced Whaaler has something to do with his partner’s death.  To complicate matters, Detective Hole also struggles with his on again off again girlfriend, Rakel – which makes for more drama in the Detective’s life.

If you enjoyed reading Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, give Jo Nesbo a try – his latest book to be translated into English, The Snowman, comes out in May.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Overwhelmed by mounting pressures from school, home and life, 16-year-old Craig contemplates suicide. Planning to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, at the last minute he detours to the local mental health clinic hoping for a simple solution. What he finds instead, after a minimum five-day stay, is that there are no simple answers, just the support of family and friends and the belief in your own true self.

Starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a charming, witty and heartfelt movie. Craig finds himself surrounded – and accepted – by a colorful cast of characters. His fellow patients are all struggling with their own personal demons but pull together and support each other, sometimes in surprising ways. There are a lot of funny scenes and quiet moments, and there are heartbreaking insights. It’s a story not so much about mental illness as it’s about finding a way to live again.

New Study has Serious Implications for Readers

According to a report released Monday by the University of New South Wales, science has  now proven that bookmarks only have a 3% success rate in keeping ones place in their book.

“Every person that reads or loves someone who reads should pay attention to this study and it’s implications” stated head researcher Dr. James P. Unked. “The loss of an anchor, a way to mark your place in the world can be devastating and lead to aimlessly flipping through pages, missing key passages and wasted time rereading the same paragraph.”

Technological advancements in the form of eReaders and audio books have done little to alleviate this problem. “In fact,” reports Dr Unked, “they dramatically complicate the issue by adding the inevitable layer of computer illiteracy.”

There is no simple solution to this potentially disastrous situation. Experts have several suggestions including writing down the page number you stopped reading at, asking your spouse or significant other to remember your last page number, or gluing the bookmark to the page. However, the best solution is to simply read the book in one sitting; be sure to stock up on snack items and clear your schedule before tackling large volumes such as War and Peace.

The complete report is available here.