Review: Darkchild, Sydney van Scyoc

Phew.  Nearly didn’t make it.  Actually I am not absolutely convinced I did make it – I was planning to read Daughters of the Sunstone (a trilogy) for the YA/juvenile fiction book of Jeane‘s DogEar Reading Challenge; I thought it was juvenile fiction because when I looked it up in the library catalogue, it was shelved in the children’s section.  So when December rolled around I placed a hold on it (it was checked out), and I waited and waited and waited, and it never came in, and eventually I gave up and just checked out the first book of the trilogy, Darkchild.  I don’t know that I’d call it a kids’ book in real life, but on the other hand, I don’t want the challenge police to come and scold me, so a kids’ book it shall be called!

Darkchild is a sci-fi/fantasy book in which, essentially, humankind left earth eons ago and went to colonize other planets, making necessary changes to adapt to life on less friendly planets.  Brakrath, where our young heroine Khira lives, is one such planet – a planet on which the ruler can use the power of the sun as she wishes.  While spending a long winter alone, Khira meets a boy without a name, whom she calls Darkchild, unaware that he has been programmed (against his will, of course, or we wouldn’t like him) to collect information about her civilization, then bring it back to his programmers so they can use it to destroy the people of Brakrath and take all their valuable things.

What I loved about this book was the honesty of the characters’ dilemmas.  Even after she learns what Darkchild really is, Khira is fiercely loyal to him, desperate to find a way to save him from anyone that might consider harming or destroying him.  Darkchild, in his turn, grows fond of Khira and tries to fight against his programming, to access those parts of his memory that are shut off to him, and to keep his “guide” (the program in his head that protects him) in check.  Their loneliness aches, and it makes their relationship very sincere.

I wasn’t as crazy about the sci-fi business.  I am picky picky about my science fiction, and I found some of this confusing.  Some bits were over-explained, like the race of creatures who had programmed Darkchild (Darkchild has a revelation of sorts, near the end, where he remembers how he helped his programmers to destroy cultures that had helped him – and it falls flat because this has been explained so thoroughly in the rest of the book); and some were under-explained, like the powers the barohna (the rulers of the sunstone) has, and the way everyday life goes on this world.  I had a hard time getting a sense of the world, I guess, and that took me out of the book a bit.  Can’t have been too bad, though, as I’m eager to read the sequels if I can get them, and see where the author takes it from here.  I like it that she’s switching to different characters, as I do feel Khira and Darkchild are at a good stopping place.

Thanks to the lovely Jeane for hosting this challenge!  I’d say three of these five books were a bit out of my comfort zone, and that is a good thing for me to do, read outside of my usual stuff, give different things a try and see how I find them.  Like science fiction and books about food that make me want to eat cheese fries.

Review: Chalice, Robin McKinley

So this is my adult fantasy or science fiction book for Jeane‘s DogEar Challenge, and I have managed to finish it before the end of November, which I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do, what with all the applying to grad school I’ve been doing and whatnot.  Chalice!

I have figured out the key to Robin McKinley, and I will tell you what it is.  In each of her books, she has a world that she’s created, and she plops you down right in the middle of the world.  By and large, her books are not enormously long on plot, and this is fine as long as you think her world is interesting, and you continue to think it’s interesting.  Dragonhaven, I did not enjoy.  I have never been a big fan of dragons anyway.  But Sunshine, now – the world of Sunshine was all desserts and shiny sharp edges.  When plot wasn’t happening, I was happy just wandering around in Sunshine’s world.

I do not like honey.  Because it’s sticky, and I am tactile-defensive.  I don’t like sticky things or greasy things – when it comes time to clean a butter dish, I’d just as soon buy a new butter dish.  If there were honey dishes, I’d have the same issue.  I’m shuddering thinking about cleaning a honey dish.  Chalice came out ages ago, and I never read it because I don’t like honey.

Chalice is about a girl called Marisol with bees who makes honey.  Following a cataclysmic event that leaves the current Master of the land and his second-in-command, the Chalice, dead, Marisol is chosen by the earthlines as the new Chalice.  Uncertain of herself, trying to teach herself all the rituals she needs to know as Chalice, she is put further off balance when the new Master is named.  Brother of the old Master, he was sent to the priests of Fire, and after seven years is no longer quite human.

Overall, it was better than Dragonhaven, not quite as good as Deerskin, and not within miles of Beauty or Sunshine.  The world was interesting, with the rituals and the magic, but the characters didn’t have much to do throughout the book, up until the anticlimactic, rather too tidy final conflict scene.  If I had to put my finger on a problem, I’d say it was that Marisol was too isolated for too much of the book.  Not just that she had very few allies, but that she had very few interactions with anyone at all, and that made her difficult to know.

I am very full of food right now.

Here is what other people thought, and if I missed your link tell me! and I will add it:

DogEar Diary
Angieville
Em’s Bookshelf
Charlotte’s Library
bookshelves of doom
Once Upon a Bookshelf
Andrea’s Book Nook

How it all went down

Reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan for Jeane’s DogEar Reading Challenge.

DogEar ReadingChallenge

I am anxious about food-type books (because I love food), and I was planning to put this off to the very end of October, except someone has a hold on it at the library.  So if I don’t read it by 18 October I am out of luck.

11 October 2009

8:30 PM: Exciting.  My very first book about food except for Fast Food Nation, which let’s face it, I skipped a lot of that book because it gave me unhappy feelings.  I start reading and am startled to find that it is rather enjoyable.  I fetch my already-half-empty-from-when-I-bought-it-on-Saturday-morning box of Famous Amos cookies to munch on while I read.

8:45 PM: Food science must be a trying discipline.  Michael Pollan is making excellent points.  How can a study of diet possibly be any good, when people lie like liars about what they are eating?  Plus, you can’t isolate nutrients from the foods they are in!  That doesn’t make any sense!  I cannot believe I have put credence in these studies that say that more of those fishy omega things are good for you.  Next time I see a study that says a specific nutrient will lower your chances of heart attack and cancer, I will take it with a very large pinch of salt.  Thank you, Michael Pollan!

9:00 PM: It occurs to me that Michael Pollan might frown on the number of Famous Amos cookies I have eaten.  I inspect the box and it is closer to empty than it was before.  Surely Michael Pollan would understand that when your football team has suffered a defeat as ours did on Saturday, particularly when the only touchdown of the game was achieved by their team fouling our defense guy (Hawkins, I believe it was) but nobody noticed, and now everyone is going on and on about Florida’s crucial win at LSU even though if LSU had won by having an unspotted foul they would have all said This is a bad win and not one that LSU can be proud of because they are the most overrated team in the SEC (ARE NOT) – I’ve lost track of this sentence.  Anyway I bet that if Michael Pollan knew all of that, he would say, Go ahead, Jenny.  Eat up all those Famous Amos cookies.  You still have chocolate pie in the fridge if you need dessert later on this week.  So I finish up the box of cookies, and then go upstairs and wash my hair.

9:45 PM: Oh hooray.  I love it when this happens.  I am all clean and my teeth are clean and my hair is clean and it is not even ten o’clock yet.  It is cool enough outside that I don’t need the AC but do need pajama bottoms; and with my ceiling fan on and one blanket on top of me, I am the comfiest I have ever been.  GLORIOUS.  I can read In Defense of Food until eleven when I must go to sleep to get my eight hours of sleep.

10:00 PM: Michael Pollan loves omega-3 fatty acids like whoa.  He says that studies have shown that diets with lots of omega-3 fatty acids are correlated with lower risks of heart disease and cancer.  WAIT A SECOND.  Michael Pollan, what happened?  I thought we agreed that we didn’t like those “studies have shown, etc etc this nutrient gives you good health”.  Remember, you talked about it, and I thought you were right, and we were going to take them with a pinch of salt?  What happened to that?  I TRUSTED YOU AND NOW I HAVE NO MORE FAMOUS AMOS COOKIES.

10:01 PM: I switch to reading John Harwood’s The Seance.  The heroine is pretending to be her baby sister’s ghost.

12 October 2009

2:30 PM: I have had a half day, enjoyed a pleasant yogurty lunch with my mother, and made Halloween plans that involve a margarita.  I believe that puts me in a good enough mood to carry on reading In Defense of Food even though Michael Pollan betrayed me by saying all about omega-3 fatty acids and heart attack studies even though he said that those studies were silly.

3:30 PM: Hum de dum.  Michael Pollan says I have to eat more vegetables and fewer Famous Amos Cookies.  But I much prefer Famous Amos cookies to vegetables.  DIFFICULT CONUNDRUM.  Time for a break to watch one episode of The Office.

4:00 PM: Well I can’t stop with that one!  Dwight just left, and plus cause I am cataloging my books!

5:00 PM: Okay, right.  Back to my book.  I had a break to eat my dinner which was spinach and apple and pecan salad, so I have no guilty feelings as I return to my book.  Though I have put the oven on preheat in order to make cheesy fries.

5:30 PM: Michael Pollan says, Processed foods are bad for you, and you should not eat unless your stomach is saying I AM HUNGRY SO HUNGRY MM FEED ME HUNGRY HUNGRY HUNGRY.  Okay.  I have learned a useful lesson from this book.  I am hungry but maybe not hungry enough, so okay, no cheesy fries for me even though they are delicious.  Next time I make cheesy fries they have to be made out of real potatoes that I chopped up and everything.

5:35 PM: Michael Pollan says, Have a glass of wine with dinner.  I will have a glass of wine for after dinner.

5:45 PM: Maybe two.  I don’t actually have any wine glasses so that was champange flutes so that was really small even though I drank it really quickly.

6:00 PM: MICHAEL POLLAN IS NOT THE BOSS OF ME I CAN HAZ CHEESE FRIES IF I WANT THEM SO THERE MICHAEL POLLAN YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF MY STOMACH NYAH NYAH NYAH.

6:05 PM: I decide now is a really good time to write a review.  While my cheese fries are baking.  Y’all, this blog post is the bloggy book-review equivalent of me drunk-dialing you (dialing is a really hard word to type, y’all).

6:37 PM: Wooooo, my head is heavy.  Oh yeah.  Publish post.  I should do that thing where I make links to other people’s reviews but my head is heavy and my cheese fries are tasty…

DogEar Reading Challenge

DogEar ReadingChallenge

My own personal game for the DogEar Reading Challenge is to read only books recommended to me by Jeane.  Ya heard.  Thus:

1. Adult fantasy/sci-fi
2. A book featuring an animal
3. A YA or juvenile fiction book
4. A nonfiction book on an obscure topic/a topic you don’t usually read about
5. A book about gardening, plants, or food

So these are mine:

1. Chalice, Robin McKinley
2. The Coachman Rat, David Henry Wilson
3. Daughters of the Sunstone, Sydney Van Scyoc
4. West with the Night, Beryl Markham
5. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

I totally meant to post this sooner and then I got distracted by other stuff like getting a job, and then I had to find books that fit and my library had, and this is my final list.  For September, I am going to read West with the Night to get it over with.  Jeane truly did make it sound lovely, but outdoorsy memoirs are not normally my thing.  I like memoirs that happen inside, with bewildering identity crises and wacky family members and moments of clarity.  But, you know, inside.  We’ll see how this goes.