Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I'm a big fan of school. You know me, I'm all 'Go, school, it's your birthday!' Or something to that effect."
Willow. Ep: Tough Love

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Dark is Rising

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone....


Those of us who discovered Susan Cooper's five book The Dark is Rising Sequence as children have that memorized. Will Stanton, one of the heroes of the sequence, is one of my first book crushes.

For those of you who have never heard of Cooper's series, I envy you: there is nothing like falling in love for the first time. And once you read The Dark is Rising, you will fall. Hard.

Plot basics first: five children (Simon; Jane; Barney; Will; Bran) battle "the Dark." The sixth person mentioned is Merriman Lyon, great-uncle to Simon, Jane and Barney. Will is an "Old One," a group of people born to keep the Dark at bay. But, as with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the fight is not only for those who are born with special powers and abilities; it is also for those who are human.

This is fantasy set in the real world; the fantasy elements come from extensive use and reference to Welsh, Cornish and other Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend. While knowledge of the myth and legend adds to a reading of TDIR, it is not necessary; as a matter of fact, my introduction to elements of both is from this series. So if you like adventure; mythical retelling; danger; history; and friendship, this is a series for you.

I read the books out of sequence, starting with the third, Greenwitch, because the title had the word witch in it. Here's my recommended order:

The Dark is Rising. The second of the five books, it gives the sequence its title; it's also the book that will be turned into a film first. It introduces Will Stanton, a regular boy who wakes up on his birthday to discover he is the last of the Old Ones and the Sign Seeker. His mentor is Merriman Lyon. Death, loss, and defeat are possible; innocents get caught in the war between the Dark and the Light; and Will not only has adventures; he also matures and grows. Will loses his innocence and leaves his childhood behind when he gains responsibility. One problem he faces along the way: he still looks like a child. I reread this title once a year.

Under Sea, Over Stone is the first book and introduces Simon, Jane and Barney Drew, three children who find themselves in a Grail quest. They are aided by Great Uncle Merry (Merriman Lyon), who tells them about the fight between the Light and the Dark. As a note outside the story; this is an OK treasure hunt story, but the other four books are the magical ones. I've read that Cooper didn't think of doing the sequence until after this book was written, and I can believe it. It doesn't have the same tone and vibrancy that the others have -- its much more in the school of Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five.

The third book is Greenwitch, where all four children and Merriman are on vacation on the coast of Cornwall. The children first meet each other, and the three Drews are rather unfriendly to Will because he is -- to them -- an outsider, someone who will interfere with their adventures. They don't know he is an Old One. And because Will is an Old One -- he could care less what the Drews think. One of the reasons Will is so awesome is because at this point, he doesn't care about being liked or popular. He has a mission, a calling, and that is what is important. The strength of the third book is its focus on Jane, the only girl.

The last two books are set in Wales. The Grey King finds Will in Wales, befriending a local boy, Bran. It is also the winner of the Newbery Award (TDIR was a Newbery Honor Book), and while I love that any of the books in the sequence were recognized, and I think its cool that a book in the middle of a sequence can win this award, it means that you have to convince some "read all winners only" readers that this book is not a stand alone.

In Silver on the Tree, all six are together: the Drews, Bran, Will and Merry. After having skirmishes with the Dark -- some won, some lost -- the final battle takes place. As with all the books, the risks are very real and there is no guarantee of winning. Also, what is clear is that the Dark is not simply bad people who battle the Light; its not an isolated war that has nothing to do with humanity. While there are dark and sinister warriors on the side of the Dark, it is also shown that modern issues such as prejudice and war are manifestations that "the Dark is rising."

The Good: The risks are real. The dangers are real. This isn't a phony adventure. And while some are born to the fight, like Will, others -- like the Drew children -- can join in the fight, also. Choice is important, whether one is or is not mortal, is or is not an Old One. While there is prophecy, there is still choice.

The myths and legends give TDIR a sense of history, which provides depth and substance.

While there are some friendly adults along the way, the children are the ones who act, who decide, who do things.

These books -- loved by kids -- also stand up to adult readings. The logic holds up; the characters are believable; the adventure is still urgent and real. If anything, an adult reader will be able to take more out of the story than a child. Adult fantasy readers will love these books.

One of the reasons I love this series (and probably why I so enjoy television) is that everything doesn't happen at once. Bran, an extremely important character, does not appear in the first three books. Characters are complex, in a way that can only be shown by following that person over the course of several months.

And finally: after every reread, I wonder if there's a TDIR tour of the places in the book: Roman ruins, Welsh countryside, the Cornish fishing village.

One more finally: as mentioned above, TDIR will soon be a feature film. Personally, I think the complexity of story telling would be better served by a television miniseries. I hope that the films are brilliant because these books are so amazing. I think "unknowns" will work best for the five children, but I'm already wondering about the pivotal role of Merry: Sean Connery? Liam Neeson?

OK, a third finally. And its here for those of you who have read the books; all others, move along, move along. I have a few quibbles with the books. Part of me -- the dark part -- wishes that there had been some sort of betrayal or turning of one of the original five to underscore that the risk of turning to the Dark is real. And, I have always hated (stop reading now, I mean it!) "mind swipe" endings of stories. The whys of my hate is for another rant; its enough to say, I don't like it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

Willow: "Do you have Theories in Trig? You should check it out."
Xander: "Check it out?"
Willow: "From the library. Where the books live."
Ep: Welcome to the Hellmouth.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Vegan Virgin Valentine

Vegan Virgin Valentine is the latest book by Carolyn Mackler; her The Earth, My Butt, & Other Big, Round Things was a Printz Honor Book.

VVV is about Mara Valentine; yes, she's a vegan and a virgin. Mara is headed for Yale, aiming to be Valedictorian, and is all around super student and wonderful daughter. Then along comes Vivienne Vail Valentine, aka V -- Mara's niece, only a year younger than Mara. V is Mara's opposite; a "nicotine-addicted nympho" who doesn't care about school or grades. V has been raised by Mara's older sister, a flighty college drop out who moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, job to job, town to town. Now V has moved in with Mara. The plot is simple: these two opposites find they have things in common, and each changes. V gets a bit more disciplined; Mara loosens up a bit.

The good: this is a great, funny, book about a normal teen. If it seems like every teen book you've picked up has murder/ drugs/ death/ cutting etc., this is a refreshing change. A book doesn't need the drama to be good; or, rather, drama can come from the every day things found in every teens life: friends, school, family.

Also good: the treatment of university and grades. Stop reading now if you want to remain unspoiled.

Sometimes it seems that in books and TV, the only way to "loosen up" a good girl is to have her not go to university. Examples: Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson and Julia in Party of Five; just this week, Rory from Gilmore Girls dropped out of Yale. How refreshing to have Mara loosen up -- but still go to university.

Instead of postponing or avoiding school to show that Mara is not "uptight", Mackler has Mara reassess her drive to succeed. Mara discovers that life is not x or y; black and white; good or bad; nice or slutty. Mara had planned on completing university in less than four years; she realizes, why not four years? Why not enjoy herself and succeed -- why not have balance?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I love syndicated TV

I was very flattered to find my blog mentioned in one of Cynthia Leitich Smith's blogs (another former lawyer, yay!) and since she mentioned Buffy I began looking to see if she is a Veronica Mars fan (the world is made of two groups: those who are fans, and those who soon will be) and found an entry about Forever Knight, which got me thinking about syndicated shows from the 80s and 90s.

The syndicated shows of the 80s and 90s helped pave the way for the multitude of programming we see today that exists beyond the big three networks. Some of it is remembered fondly; some is forgotten. Since many of these were before the Internet as we know it today, Internet fandom, if it exists, is about a show that used to be. My comments are based on memory; all mistakes are mine.

Friday the 13th (1987-1990, no DVD) had nothing to do with the movies. Two cousins inherit a pawnshop/antique store from their Satan Worshipping uncle; the cousins now have to track down the cursed objects the uncle sold to unsuspecting people. Highpoints: a main character was written out by turning him into a child; bad things happened for no good reason (that is, it wasn't as punishment for bad behavior, it was just bad luck to have bought that cursed doll). As with many of these shows, looking at guest appearances reveals some interesting casting, such as Sarah Polley.

In Freddy's Nightmares (1988 - 1990, no DVD), Freddy Krueger hosted an anthology series of horror stories set amongst the people stupid enough to move onto Elm Street. Unlike other series based on popular horror movies, this show actually related to the movies. Freddy related the story, but rarely was involved in the story. Highpoints: stories often connected to each other so while an anthology, there were multi ep arcs; and bad things happened for no good reason.

Aliens are living amongst us in War of the Worlds (1988 - 1990, no DVD yet but rumors are that one will be released to coincide with the Tom Cruise movie of the same name.) Aliens are living amongst us and plotting against us. In season 1, it was a secret; in season 2, all out war. Both Adrian Paul and Philip Akin appear, prior to their work on Highlander.

In Dark Justice (1991-1993, no DVD), a judge has decided that the legal system sucks. So, while he's a suit wearing short haired law abiding judge during the day, at night, he and his long hair, his motorcycle, and his gang of former-but-not-really-bad criminals hunt down the bad guys who were let go because of technicalities and punish them! Silly laws. They just hamper us in our efforts to fight evil. Fondly remembered because no one watching could quite figure out the hair: short at day, long at night.

Forever Knight (1992-1996, DVD) (a sort of spin off of a 1989 made for TV movie starring Rick Springfield called Nick Knight (1989, DVD)) is about a vampire who is trying to atone for his centuries of crimes against humanity by fighting crime. What, you think this sounds familiar to another show, perhaps one called Angel? You're not the only one; both featured mopey main characters who work only at night due to their vampire issues; main characters who drove cool old cars; frequent flashback theatre; edgy editing between scenes; and arty shots of sunrise and sunset. FK also had a very charismatic bad vampire, LaCroix, and moral issues about whether or not it was OK for vampires to live off humans. Noteworthy for having one of the best series ending episodes ever; it stayed true to Nick's struggles.

Another series based on popular movies is Highlander (1992-1998, DVD), which sort of followed the continuity of the first movie and ignored the remaining films. Immortals live among us, but they aren't interested in humans; they are more interested in surviving, fighting each other, killing each other by beheading followed by lightning storms, and trying to be the ultimate survivor: there can be only one! One immortal, that is. Season and series long arcs; funny dialogue; flashback theatre. Addressed the ever important question: if you live forever, what is moral? Contained the unanswerable question: how do they hide those heavy swords in their clothes while walking around? Had the nerve to kill off main characters, establishing that being in the credits does not mean a person has to survive. Most importantly: Methos, who deserves an entry all his own.

Speaking of deserving their own entries: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994 – 1999, DVDs) and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001, DVDs). C'mon, you know who Hercules is – they still teach myths and legends in school, right? I don't have to link for Hercules. Hercules and Xena live in a world where all ancient history, mythology, folklore and legends are true, and apparently, exist at the same time. (Seriously: the battle of Troy, Julius Ceasar, and Hera, all in the same world.) Hercules is half-god and protects humans from the pantheon of gods who would play with human lives; Xena used be very bad and now is making up for her past crimes by helping the helpless. Started off as just fun camp with quirky dialogue and odd references (credits included such tongue-in-cheek disclaimers as no centaurs were injured in the filming of this movie.) Soon went beyond that, with innovative storytelling that pushed the boundaries of TV (modern day reporters following Xena, time travel, alternate worlds) and at the same time addressed issues of redemption, family, loyalty, forgiveness, and revenge. Noteworthy actors included the always awesome Bruce Campbell, the underappreciated Ted Raimi (humming, "Joxer the Mighty, roams through the countryside, he never needs a place to hide") and the funny and sexy Kevin Smith, who tragically died in 2002.

Another movie inspired TV show that had nothing to do with the movie is Poltergeist: The Legacy (1996-1999, no DVDs). Members of a secret society, called The Legacy, fight to save us from the creatures of the darkness and evil in general. Season and series long arcs (are you beginning to see a pattern?) and surprisingly well rounded characters. People who fought against evil and yet were sometimes tempted by evil. Another series were being in the credits didn't guarantee one's safety.

Finally, the very important La Femme Nikita (1997-2001, DVDs). As Nikita said at the beginning of each ep, "I was falsely accused of a hideous crime and sentenced to life in prison. One night, I was taken from my cell to a place called Section One, the most covert, anti-terrorist group on the planet. Their ends are just, but their means are ruthless. If I don't play by their rules, I die." The obvious parallels are Alias and 24; with Nikita going undercover like Sydney, and doing bad things on the side of good like Jack. Throw in a lot of moral ambiguity – one is never sure if Section One is the good guys or the bad guys. People were always lying, playing each other, and betraying each other.

So those are some of my favorite syndicated TV shows: I'm proud to say I watched them and loved them all. Sadly, Highlander, Hercules & Xena are out of my price range for DVDs at the moment and Poltergeist isn't available. So, what are your favorites?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

"In the end, we are all who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed." Giles, Ep: Lessons

Sunday, May 15, 2005

City Underground

City Underground by Suzanne Martel is another one of those books that frequently shows up as a stumper.

"I read it when I was a kid... there were these people living under a mountain, in the future, after some disaster... and they didn't have hair...and they escape the mountain and meet people with hair..."

Luke is the boy living in an underground city; and wow, as a kid reading it, I loved this future city. Pills for food; go into a shower and it would be programmed at the temperature you wanted; it was all so organized and well run and functional. Luke explores and goes outside the city, where me meets Marie. And as the stumper says: Luke's people have no hair (genetically, its been decided there is no need for hair). Luke and his scientist ancestors had fled nuclear war; Marie and her village are descendants of the people left behind, who survived. Who, of course, have hair. So much time has passed that both groups of people initially believe that the others are only a myth.

I loved this book as a kid because I loved the order and structure of Luke's world. I still love the idea of stepping into the shower and it being all preprogrammed for you: water temperature, soap, etc. I also loved how Luke explored and found the world outside the city. And while the city was fairly controlling of the lives of its citizens (tracking what they ate, their exercise, etc.) a part of me really liked that.

I tracked this down and read it last year and what surprised me the most was the lack of details. I really thought that Luke's city was described more fully than it was; I guess as a kid I filled in additional details and believed them to be part of the book.

What appealed to me as a child -- the structure of Luke's world -- was now a turn off. I saw now -- but didn't see then -- the problems with Luke's city. Problems that the author clearly meant to be there: lack of free will, lack of artistic expression, lack of choice. While I didn't pick up on all the drawbacks of the city underground, I did realize that Luke was right in seeking life outside the city and exploring and finding Marie's world. Another thing I didn't realize as a kid: that it was set in Canada. Not that it matters.

Oh, and the pills for food thing? I love food. I'm not one of those people who don't care about food. So I have no idea why a book where people don't enjoy food made such an impression; I think the reason I liked it was that at dinner, each person could choose what their meal would be, so it wasn't the idea of food in a pill that appealed to me, but rather the idea of eating whatever you wanted rather than what someone else made.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Light Years

Light Years by Tammar Stein is about recovery from grief, and starting over.

Maya is Israeli and has just started her freshman year at the University of Virginia. In flashbacks, we find out that Maya, like all Israelis, finished two years of compulsory military service, so Maya is older than her peers. She is also older because of her experiences in her home country: her boyfriend, Dov, was killed by a suicide bomber.

Like Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever, this is a story about loss and about how hard it is to survive the loss of a loved one. And what does survive mean? Is it enough to keep breathing?

Maya is an outsider at university, and it is interesting to see her perspective on America and Americans. Flashbacks reveal Maya's life in Israel, which is fascinating; the Palestinian-Israel conflict, which is treated in a surprisingly even handed fashion; and Maya's relationship with Dov. At the same time, as Maya dwells on the past, her future keeps happening, and we find out about her life in the United States and the people she meets.

Highly recommended. This is well written; rarely have I read something that handles the use of flashbacks so well; and I love that it is set at university.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Who Killed Lilly Kane?

After last night's Veronica Mars, I know the answer.

The answer was satisfying, and I want to watch from the first episode to catch clues and red herrings.

What is even more satisfying than a good solution to a murder mystery? The characters on Veronica Mars, including Veronica herself. As I watched last night's ep unfold, all I could think of was -- damn. I love Veronica; and part of the reason is she is not perfect. She makes mistakes. And she doesn't necessarily learn from them. There are consequences; which means, because of x then y happened; not that y is a punishment; and y cannot always be predicted. Compare to 24, another show I like, where Jack is always right. No, seriously: Jack is like God. His judgments, actions, responses -- always right. And while its fun to watch 24, Jack is not a character that will ever show any growth.

The final ep of Veronica Mars also dealt with trust and betrayal. It's funny; because in the first ep, Veronica clearly saw herself as the one who had been betrayed and as the season went on this was true. She'd lost a best friend; her mother; her place in society. Yet the season ended with Veronica betraying someone, and I'm not sure yet what I think about Veronica's actions. Believable? Yes; In character? Yes. So that gets a thumbs up. But I also did not like at all her treatment of Logan. At this point, in Logan's world, everyone -- every single person he knows -- has shown that they cannot be trusted. Logan has been betrayed to a greater extent than Veronica was, and Logan is without any of the resources Veronica had. Logan will be starting next season from such a low place that I cannot imagine how he can recover. Last week, Logan asked Veronica to trust him; this week, I'm wondering if there is anything that can be done for Logan to trust anyone ever again. (Hmm... this may make more sense if I just named the killer.)

I'm a little concerned about Logan for a few reasons. First, it kept me up all night, worse than a cup of coffee before bed, and I need my sleep. Second, much as I love JD's acting, this show is called Veronica Mars and is about Veronica; how much of Logan's story do I want to see, no matter how intriguing it is? Third, as I said above, I have no idea what Rob Thomas will do with this character next. I don't want Logan to become Angelus (or worse yet, Connor), all with the grr and angry and unredeemed evil.

Veronica Mars will be back next season (yay), but its on the edge, so please watch! Trust me: you will not be disappointed.

Quote of the day, thanks to Logan: "Adversity is the diamond dust with which Heaven polishes its jewels."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Drama class is just . . . I think they're not doing things in the proper way, and now I'm in a play, and my whole family's here, and why is there a cowboy in Death of a Salesman, anyway?" Willow, Ep: Restless

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Girl Who Owned A City

Sometimes you can't go home again; or, you can never read the same book twice.

I loved The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson when I read it in about sixth grade. Given the number of times this appears as a stumper on the child_lit and yalsa-bk mailing lists, I am not alone. This book really stuck with me... If you haven't read it, plot is simple: virus kills everyone over the age of 12 and the kids are left to fend for themselves. Basically a kiddie The Stand (interestingly, if Amazon's publication dates are to be trusted Nelson's book came out before King's.)

What I remember about it, and why I loved it, and why I continue to love the world is ending/ nine tenths of the world is dead what now fiction: the struggle for survival; the violence; the ingenuity; the making do, figuring out, discovering how to do things (make fire, for instance) for the first time. The starting over.

So I reread this book, of 10 year old Lisa and baby brother Todd, hoping to revisit the love.... and came away with a sort of sick to the stomach I-used-to-date-him-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking reaction. I'm sure that kids still love it. But as an adult, I couldn't help but question a lot that I accepted as a child.

For example, where were all the dead bodies? Apparently all the adults conveniently dug their own graves before they died. And what happened to the babies? I had recalled one of the neighbors, Jill, taking in all the little ones left alone in the neighborhood, but I discovered it was only toddlers she saved. No infants. No babies. The "littles" taken in were eating, talking, toilet trained. There are no problems with sewage, waste, or rats.

And Lisa, the strong girl I admired, is a mini control freak a hair away from utter dictatorship. She "owns" the city and the food supply because she thought of something first, and to a kid reading it -- where calling "first" is the rule of the playground -- it made sense and I agreed. But now I doubt that; Lisa ignores the hard work and ingenuity that may exist in others. Lisa also is hell bent on "getting airplanes to fly again," and rebuilding the society that was. OK -- except she actively discourages the boy who wants to start farming for food, arguing that there is still plenty of canned food. Again, the 11 year old me bought her argument, but now, I wonder how long before Lisa & co starve to death because she doesn't value those who produce, who work with their hands. By the time that I finished reading, I was hoping for a revolution and overthrow of Lisa.

Bottom line: kids, especially younger ones, will love this book. They won't question some of the stuff, like lack of bodies; instead, they will enjoy reading about a child who manages to save her family and friends. It's a great story of survival. But an adult reading it will be disappointed and wonder about the fuss.

I've been trying to get additional information on this book and the author; various Internet rumors include that Nelson's 2 children were named Lisa and Todd; this was set in Nelson's home town and the landmarks are readily identifiable; Nelson was a man; Nelson was a woman; Nelson wrote a sequel; Nelson dies before a sequel could be written; the book represents the politics/ theory of Ayn Rand.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Battlestar Galactica

I loved original Battlestar Galactica. I watched every night. Starbuck was one of my first TV boyfriends. I bought every book tie-in.

On viewing as an adult -- still felt the love, even though I could see the flaws.

So when the new re-imagined Battlestar Galactica came out, I was outraged. No way. Starbuck a girl? I don't think so. But the previews looked cool... and there wasn't much on... and I love end-of-the-world stories... so I watched.

Oh. my. god. Truly, one of the best shows on television, EVER. Ron Moore has done an amazing, incredible job -- when a character gets beaten up in one episode, he still has the bruises next week! And if you watch episodic television, you know how rare that type of attention to detail is. New BG has everything: great special effects; interesting, complex characters; a fully imagined world. Yet at the same time, its not very "sci fi" (or SF, as I was raised to call science fiction.) If anything, the good comparison is to a war movie; or a political drama. This is not a space opera. What else? Storylines that respect the audience; don't do the expected; unanswerable, philosophical questions.

Um, did I get too fangirl -- what is the plot? OK, in a nutshell: in a galaxy far far away, people created robots; the robots (called cylons) rebelled; war; the cylons fled and peace was declared. Unknown to the humans, the cylons evolved and now look human. They infiltrate the humans, attack, kill all about 40,000 odd who are now in a fleet of ships trying to save what is left. Its a story about survival and choices, about redefining humanity, about what makes someone -- or something -- human. And in an amazing twist, the humans are polytheistic (worship many gods) while the cylons are monotheistic.

Ron Moore knows how to write quality science fiction; his credentials include Roswell and various Star Treks (and also the late lamented Touching Evil, but lets save that for another day).

What Ron Moore also knows: fans and fandom. And he respects us. Just take a peek at what is being given to BG fans: officially, legally able to watch episodes on line; deleted scenes available on line; podcasts so that you can hear Moore's commentary as you watch the episode; and a blog all about the show. So with all this available on line, why buy the DVDs?

Because -- its what fans do. And all that Moore gives us -- its like an appetizer. Just makes us hungry for more. (Yeah, bad pun.)

But its not just respect for fans -- Moore realizes that the Internet isn't the enemy. The Internet can become part of the story shown on TV, or in a movie; can add to the story. It's not a substitute; it doesn't take away; it doesn't repeat. It brings something different to a story.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bound

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli is the book currently under discussion at Adbooks.

The discussion about Bound has been extremely interesting; from reading and discussing this book, I've gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the book. I have also changed my mind about certain points that I initially did not like. And this is why I love book discussions, especially the ones found at Adbooks. It's critical, heartfelt, informed, passionate, honest discussion -- its not all nitpicking, and its not all fawning.

Bound is a retelling of the Chinese Cinderella, Yeh-shien. Napoli creates a world and well rounded characters using very few words; this is a short book, but it is not simple.

Xing Xing's father has died and she lives with her stepmother and stepsister; the family survives by selling its belongings. The stepmother hopes that someone will marry the stepsister, thus saving the family, before the last bowl is sold. In this time and place, foot binding was viewed as necessary to ensure a good life for women -- and good marriage prospects. The stepsister's feet have been bound in hopes that she will attract a husband; Xing Xing's feet are not bound, so she is the only person in the house capable of the chores needed for survival: cooking, cleaning, running errands.

This is a unique take on the Cinderella story, and not just because of the setting. Xing Xing's feet may not be bound, but her life is: bound by obligations to ancestors, family members, society. She must find a way to create a life and future for herself. Bound is about choice and acceptance. It is also a very well written, entertaining story.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

soul surfer

As the subtitle says, soul surfer by Bethany Hamilton is "a true story of faith, family, and fighting to get back on the board."

What's nice is that even though only Bethany's name is on the cover, the book (and Bethany) give credit to the writers: Sheryl Berk and Rich Bundschuh. She talks about the process of writing and organizing the book: "I'll tell you one thing: it wasn't easy."

At age 13, Bethany was already surfing competitively and had a sponsor; she and her family took her surfing so seriously that Bethany was homeschooled. She was surfing with friends in Kauai, Hawaii, when her left arm was bitten off by a tiger shark. The cover of the book has a picture of the board she was on when it happened; its a wonder that she only lost her arm. There is also a picture of the shark that attacked her: it is huge.

The story is simple: its about Bethany's life before the attack, the attack, and her return to surfing. And let me add not just to surfing for fun: Bethany still competes, and she still wins.

soul surfer provides a unique look into the culture behind surfing: the people whose priority is surfing, who have created lives and families that revolve around surfing.

Bethany is upfront, honest, and upbeat. Bethany is also Christian; refreshingly, neither she nor her family suffer any crisis of faith in the aftermath of the attack. If anything, their faith is strengthened. At the same time, this is not a book that is preachy or didactic. Bethany is involved in her faith and proud of it, but she's not using this book as a soapbox. If anything, the message of this book is to not let anything come between you and what you love doing.

Bethany is unique not in that she lost her arm; Bethany is unique in that she knew from a young age what it was that made her happy, and she has parents who were willing to support her. The message of this book is simple: do not let anything come between you and what you love doing.

Who would like? Anyone! It's simply written; is exciting; is about survival; is about a different way of life. And it has a happy ending.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Buffy Quote of the Week

"I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide till it goes away." - Xander. Ep: The Witch

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