Wednesday Poem: The Presence In Absence ~ Linda Gregg

presenceofabsence-_opt

The Presence In Absence

Poetry is not made of words.
I can say it’s January when
it’s August. I can say, “The scent
of wisteria on the second floor
of my grandmother’s house
with the door open onto the porch
in Petaluma,” while I’m living
an hour’s drive from the Mexican
border town of Ojinaga.
It is possible to be with someone
who is gone. Like the silence which
continues here in the desert while
the night train passes through Marfa
louder and louder, like the dogs whining
and barking after the train is gone.

Linda Gregg

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Review: Ultimate Star Wars ~ Ryder Windham, Adam Bray, Patricia Barr and Daniel Wallace

star warsISBN ~ 978-1465436016
Publisher ~ DK
No. Of Pages ~320 Pages
Links ~ Amazon, Dorling Kindersley, Barnes and Noble

Become an expert on the Star Wars galaxy!

Ultimate Star Wars® is an in-depth visual feast exploring the characters and storylines from the Star Wars galaxy. This is a beautifully illustrated guide that is structured chronologically and packed full of information about key characters and storylines from the Star Wars movie saga, The Clone Wars, and Rebels™Ultimate Star Wars will get new and old fans caught up and knowledgeable on all things Star Wars.

© & TM 2015 LUCASFILM LTD.

Let me start by explaining the reason behind my four thumbs review, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the movies, but I’m not a fangirl in the same sense or to the extremes others out there are.  Having said this, this art book really hit the spot with me, and went a long way to explaining some of the storylines and characters in the movies.

Dorling Kindersley have done their usual excellent work when publishing this book and, with the frenzy that is building with the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in December of this year, they are sure to have a money-maker on their hands.

This book is sure to appeal to fans of any levels, and maybe capture the interest of those new to this Universe.  The book itself is divided into topics that cover things from characters to locations, and these are interspersed with ‘key event’ facts  and each includes a timeline  and a behind the scenes article.  Covering all six of the Star Wars films, it also touches on the animated TV series of Clone Wars and Rebels.

To say this book has detail would be an understatement, and do it a total injustice.  As I said earlier I am not a huge fan, but I found the character pages fascinating; each has a biography which includes some important events of which they were a part and other little pieces of information on their weapons etc.  The major characters, such as the R2-D2 unit are given a double page spread, as can be seen in the image below, while lesser character may, in some cases only get a portion of the page they are still included and this is part of what makes this a comprehensive guide to the Star Wars Universe.

r2 unit

Apart from the myriad of information that the reader will find within this books pages, they are also given a visual treat in the form of crisp images that are full of detail, from the most important of characters right down to the obscure.  I have to admit that my favourite part of this book, along with the foreword by Anthony Daniels, were the character and location sections, as after reading it I now feel I might just be able to hold my own in a conversation with a die-hard fan.

I would highly recommend this to all lovers of Star Wars and those, who like myself, enjoy the movies but feel their knowledge is lacking.

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Review: The Abhorsen Chronicles (The Abhorsen Trilogy, #1-3) ~ Garth Nix

AbhorsenISBN ~ 978-0061441820
Publisher ~ HarperTeen
No. Of Pages ~ 1232 pages
Links ~ Abe Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sabriel
Every step brings Sabriel closer to a battle that will pit her against the true forces of life and death—and bring her face-to-face with her own destiny.

Lirael
With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil, which threatens the fate of the Old Kingdom.

Abhorsen
The Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are missing, and Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the evil Destroyer—before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a huge book even by my standards, and to add to the confusion it is one of those that, by some strange reason is known under a different title depending on where in the world you live; for example in the Authors native Australia this book is entitled The Old Kingdom Chronicles.  It is also a trilogy that not many fantasy readers appear to know about.  As for me it took me some time to actually finish reading this, and that was not due to its size.

The characters in all three of the books, in my opinion, could have benefitted from a lot more time spent in their development.  None of them really gripped me and made me want to invest more of my time in getting to know them.  I really was expecting to like the characters, but they were flat and very one-dimensional people who seemed to enjoy a lot of walking.  You would have to read the books to understand that reference.  Having said this, the character of Sabriel in the first book of the three was, by far, the most interesting of any in the Chronicles; she is a determined young woman with a definite plan for her life.  When curve balls are thrown at her she is able to adapt and think on her feet making her the most impressionable of all the characters in these books.  What really would have  helped the characters come into their own in these books would have been more background and explanation into how they learned their skills and came to be in the place they are when the books open.

The world in which these books are set could have been so much more.  It was a wonderful concept but I felt that the Author really did not do it justice and, like his character development, it would have benefitted from more time being spent in the descriptive aspects.   At no time did I feel as if I had actually been transported into this world and was experiencing the events occurring; in a good fantasy novel a reader should feel themselves transported to the alternate world, as that is part of the pull of this genre.

After buying this trilogy on the recommendation of a friend, I now wish that I had kept my money in my pocket and will be donating my copy to the local library.  If long and plodding fantasy books are something you enjoy, this is probably the book series for you; if not I would recommend you give this a miss.

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The Littlest Christmas Tree ~ Amy Peterson

Christmas tree on a plate

The Littlest Christmas Tree

The littlest Christmas tree,
lived in a meadow of green,
Among a family,
of tall evergreens,
He learned how to whisper,
the evergreen song,
with the slightest of wind,
that came gently along.

He watched as the birds,
made a home out of twigs,
and couldn’t wait till,
he too was big.
For all of the trees,
offered a home,
the maple, the pine, and the oak,
who’s so strong.

“I hate being little”,
the little tree said,
“I can’t even turn colors,
like the maple turns red”,
“I can’t help the animals,
like the mighty old oak”,
“He shelters them all,
in his wide mighty cloak”.

The older tree said,
“Why little tree you don’t know?
The story of a mighty king,
from the land with no snow?”
Little tree questioned,
“A land with no snow?”
“Yes!” said old tree,
“A very old story,
from so long ago”.

“A star appeared,
giving great light,
over a manger,
on long winters night.
A baby was born,
a king of all kings,
and with him comes love,
over all things.”

“He lived in a country,
all covered in sand,
and laid down his life,
to save all of man.’

Little tree thought of the gift
given by him,
then the big tree said with the
happiest grin,
“We’re not just trees,
but a reminder of that day,
there’s a much bigger part,
of a role that we play!”

“For on Christmas eve,
my life I’ll lay down,
in exchange for a happier,
loving ground.
And as I stand dying,
they’ll adorn me in trim,
this all will be done,
in memory of him”.

“Among a warm fire,
with family and friends,
in the sweet songs of Christmas,
I’ll find my great end,
then ever so gently,
he’ll come down to see,
and take me to heaven,
Jesus and me”.

“So you see little tree,
we are not like the oak,
who shelters all things,
beneath his great cloak.
Nor are we like the maple
in fall,
whose colors leave many,
standing in awe”.

“The gift that we give,
is ourselves, limb for limb,
the greatest of honor,
in memory of him”.

The little tree bowed,
his head down and cried,
and thought of the king,
who willingly died.
For what kind of gift,
can anyone give?
Then to lay down your life,
when you wanted to live.

A swelling of pride
came over the tree,
Can all of this happen?
Because of just me?
Can I really bring honor?
By adorning a home?
By reminding mankind,
that he’s never alone?

With this thought, little tree,
began singing with glee,
Happy and proud,
to be a true Christmas tree.

You can still hear them singing,
even the smallest in height,
singing of Christmas,
and that one holy night.

Amy Peterson

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Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) ~ Brandon Sanderson

mistbornISBN ~ 978-0765311788
Publisher ~ Tor Books
No. Of Pages ~ 537 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Macmillan

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

4 Thumbs-UpIf you have a need to be anti-social for a while, and don’t we all at some time or another, this is the book for you and despite its title it is the first in the Mistborn series.  After featuring it in an article of what people might like to read while game of Thrones was off the air, I decided I would give this a try to see if it really was a worthy substitute.

I was immediately pulled into this book from the first line, and soon felt comfortable with characters that I came to regard as the mains in this epic.  There is a strong female who, despite all odds, manages to survive and then actually thrive in this bizarre environment the Author places her in.  Add to this a loveable rogue who teaches her everything she needs to know about using her newly found powers, and this all adds to up characters that readers can connect to and want to follow on their travels. However, not all the characterizations in this book are as well done as these two I have mentioned, some of them were lacking in descriptiveness and I found myself at some points hard pushed to remember their role in the plot.

It is often hard for an Author in this genre to come up with something new and different, but it appears in this book.  The ‘magic’ used in its pages was unique and used items that I had not come across before in other books.  From the way the magic is described and explained it is obvious that a lot of thought went into this system as the Author wrote this book, and it works well as it plays a major part in the action of which there is definitely plenty.  When writing about the battles waged using this magic, the Author was very careful to stick to the rules he had created and applied to it, and there was not a point where I found myself having a ‘hang on, didn’t you say….’ moment.  World building was not skimped on either in this novel, it is not just a strange environment that happens to be there, but has a history behind how it came to being, and this is just as interesting as the plotline itself.

The downside for me whilst reading this was the dialogue, it had a tendency to take the safe road, and use dialogue that can be found in most books of this genre which made some of the conversations a little unbelievable and also, in some cases, as if the book itself were intended for a much younger audience.  However, this was just a minor peeve and didn’t pull away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an epic fantasy read that will keep them engrossed with every turn of the page.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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Review: Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) ~ Chris Wooding

retribution fallsFrey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn’t just a nuisance anymore – he’s public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don’t. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he’s going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It’s going to take all his criminal talents to prove he’s not the criminal they think he is …

4 Thumbs-UpIf you are a Browncoat who is lost in lamentations over the cancellation of Firefly, this is the book for you.  I’m not saying it will replace the crew of Serenity, but it will go a long way to fill the void and feed the need for a good pirate/cowboy steampunk western.

The individual crew members of the Ketty Jay are introduced to the reader one by one, with each revealing their story, apart from the Captain.  To say he was a work in progress would be an understatement as his character was developed and grew and the novel progressed.  Most of all the characters are loveable on the Ketty Jay, maybe not so much their motives and reasoning at some points, but they each have something about them that will have the reader wanting to learn more about them and join them on their adventures;  Id’ join them if we could leave the Captain behind as I just could not warm to him and thought him to be a bit of a spineless human being.  As in all the good adventure stories the villains, are well just that, villains.  From the description of these characters, right down to the personalities they each have there is nothing that could have the reader mistaking them for being anything else than what they are…baddies.

Although, in my opinion, the story takes a while to get underway this is not a bad thing, as in these ‘slow’ moments is where the set-up for the adventure begins and when it starts it definitely moves along at a cracking pace and does not disappoint at all.  Through great writing the Author is able to provide a perfect balance of sadness alongside humour and wraps it all up in the form of shenanigans.  There is magic, gun play, sword fights and daemons; so enough of everything to appeal to most reader.

I would highly recommend this novel to all Browncoats, steampunk fans and lovers of the type of adventure novels that are so hard to come by today.  I will definitely be reading the remaining ‘Tales of the Ketty Jay’ novels.

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Review: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda #1) ~ Tom Angleberger

Origami YodaIT TAKES THE WISDOM OF YODA TO SURVIVE THE SIXTH GRADE

Meet Dwight, a sixth-grade oddball. Dwight does a lot of weird things, like wearing the same T-shirt for a month or telling people to call him “Captain Dwight.” This is embarrassing, particularly for Tommy, who sits with him at lunch every day.

But Dwight does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. And that’s when things get mysterious. Origami Yoda can predict the future and suggest the best way to deal with a tricky situation. His advice actually works, and soon most of the sixth grade is lining up with questions.

Tommy wants to know how Origami Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. Is Yoda tapping into the Force? It’s crucial that Tommy figure out the mystery before he takes Yoda’s advice about something VERY IMPORTANT that has to do with a girl.

This is Tommy’s case file of his investigation into “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

5 Thumbs-UpI love reading books aimed at children, well sometimes I do and others I just want to throw my hands up in the air and wonder about the wisdom of the Authors.  With this book this was not the case, this is a great read, and I don’t care that I’m old and crusty with grandchildren, this is a book series I will keep on my shelves and re-read as a pick me up.

If you are a reader that loves Star Wars, or even if you come from the other camp of Trekkers, this book will have you chuckling and making you wonder how you ever made it through 6th grade yourself without the wisdom of Yoda.  If you have no clue who any of the above are, read it just for the sheer enjoyment of being able to be a kid again.  This little piece of fun is also a great way to get middle school children invested in reading, as the whole series pulls on characters they most likely recognise from the movies, and what could be easier than that.

Like most children’s books there are no complex characters to wade through, no diabolical plot lines, this book is just kids being kids and brooding over the major concern of their time; does an origami Yoda really give sound advice that can be followed?  For example: “How do you get out of a potentially embarrassing situation when you’re in the bathroom and you spill water on your pants so that it looks like you peed yourself? Origami Yoda says: “All of pants, you must wet.”   Just based on this I must have an origami Yoda as my advice counselor.  But for all the fun stuff in this book,  the little drawings and side notes as different classmates weigh in on the Origami Yoda conundrum, this book discusses a serious topic in an easy to understand way for children; tolerance.  Just because one person thinks another is strange doesn’t mean we are all going to think that way, and this book is able to covey the wonderfulness of difference and tolerance in a world that is becoming more uniform and intolerant. Don’t over analyse this book (hence the short review) just enjoy it, and when you’re done with it use the diagram at the end to create your very own origami Yoda, I know I am going to make a whole army of them.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone really, and if you’re thinking of reading this in the dark don’t forget to have your trusty lightsaber on hand to help see the pages young Padawan.

“Much to learn you still have.” … “This is just the beginning!” ~Yoda

I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.

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