Diadem: Book of Signs — A Review

bookofsignsThe second book in John Peel’s Diadem series is called Book of Signs. It picks up just moments after Pixel, Score, and Helaine jumped through the portal at the end of the first book (Book of Names). They find themselves closer to the heart of the Diadem, on a world where their magic is more powerful. This new planet is known as Rawn and is home of Shanara, a shape-shifting wizard.

On Rawn, the chosen three meet many new and interesting creatures including goblins, trolls, centaurs, and giant wyrms. They must face the perils of this new world all the while trying to make their way to Shanara, whom they must meet for better or for worse in order to move on to the next world. All the while, they must learn to better control and focus their magic. Along the way, they also find more clues as to why they were chosen for this world-jumping journey.

Book of Signs continues the story and action flawlessly from the first book. There’s still that since of adventure (and a bit of nostalgia, as I rediscover the really fun parts). Pixel, Score, and Helaine are all three growing as characters as each discovers new ways to look at their magic and at each other. A wonderful addition to one of my favorite YA Fantasy series.

5/5 Stars

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: A Review

Girl_Gordon_coverThe Girl who Loved Tom Gordon is a relatively short novel by the master of horror, Stephen King. The story is legitimately suspense-filled and scary, but not due to any monsters (though, in true Stephen King style, there may be a monster involved). The creepy factor comes in to effect because of the very real possibility of the sequence of events that happens.

Tom Gordon is about a nine-year-old girl named Trisha McFarland. Her family is going through the great American crisis of post-divorce living. Every weekend that she and her brother stay with their mother, she takes them on some sort of educational adventure. For this particular weekend, she takes Trisha and her brother on a hike in the Maine wilderness. While her mother and brother are arguing, nature calls and Trisha takes a detour into the woods, thinking that she can just run and meet back up with her family. She reasons that they wouldn’t even know she was gone because they are so entrenched in their spat.

Unfortunately, Trisha gets turned around, and armed only with a small amount of day-hiking provisions (and no bug spray), she becomes completely and utterly lost in the vast forest. Over several days, she faces the many foes of the forest, from bugs, to dirty water, to rainstorms, and more. And of course, it wouldn’t be a true Stephen King story, if there weren’t an added bonus of something possibly monstrous following Trisha.

The horror aspect of this novel is more psychological than overt. Does the monster in the forest exist? Does it even matter if it does? The perils of the forest itself could kill Trisha just as easily.

The only thing that this book has going against it is Trisha as a nine-year-old. Sometimes, her knowledge of the forest can be a bit too advanced for her age, rivaling and defeating my own knowledge (which is decently significant since I grew up in the middle of the woods and even took a wilderness survival class as a kid). Her inner fantasies that she concocts about meeting Baseball player Tom Gordon are pretty spot on with my own elaborate childhood fantasies.

4/5 Stars

Backyard Visitors

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve seen sign of our tiny local herd of white tailed deer, but this morning, we had a couple of visitors. You may not be able to tell clearly by the pictures, but it’s a momma and her baby (well, adolescent. Its spots are gone).

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I grew up in the middle of the woods. My family even raised (and released) an orphaned deer. But I still smile every time I see these guys moseying through the back yard. And as an added bonus, they stay away from my garden!

Banned Books Week

“I suspect that having a reputation as adult material that’s unsuitable for teens will probably do more to get teens to read Sandman than having the books ready and waiting on the YA shelves would ever do.” — Neil Gaiman, in response to his graphic novel series Sandman being challenged

If you’re part of the book world, you probably already know that it’s banned book week. For those of you who aren’t…well, it’s still banned book week. Even in 2013, books are still being challenged. In fact, just yesterday, a North Carolina country reversed their decision on banning Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man at school libraries. The ban was enacted on September 16, 2013, but due to “fierce backlash by hundreds of citizens” the ban was lifted.

The top ten contested books from last year are as follows (list and reasons from nydailynews.com):

1. “Captain Underpants” (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3. “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6. “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7. “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8. “Scary Stories” (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9. “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10. “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Confession time! I’ve only read two of the entries on this list: The Kite Runner and the Scary Stories series. Both are absolutely wonderful, albeit for very, very different reasons. Beloved has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while. Perhaps it’s time to see what all the fuss is about. 

I, for one, am in total agreement with Gaiman (quoted at the top of this article). I think that completely banning a title will only cause a demand for it. Not everyone likes or agrees with everything they read. I’ve read plenty of things that didn’t sit well with me, but I don’t go around telling other people that they shouldn’t read it due to my personal views. Reading is about expanding your horizons, not confining yourself or anyone else to a box of set beliefs and mores. 

So what do you think? Should certain books be banned from school/public libraries? Which of last year’s most contested books have you read? Do you agree with the reasons listed for the challenged books? 

 

Byron Herbert Reece Trail – Sept 22

It’s the first day of autumn, and it’s such a beautiful day in North Georgia, Greg and I decided to go on a new hike. We chose the 4.4 ish mile-long Byron Herbert Reece Trail in the Blood Mountain Wilderness (it also runs into the Appalachian Trail). Though 4.4 miles isn’t that long, but this trail wound up breaking our personal longest hike. It took us a full 4 hours. We climbed over rocks, forded streams, and tripped over our fair share of roots and stobs. We also had tons of fun. And now, we have tons of soreness.

Lots of pictures in this gallery. Enjoy!

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