Archive for February, 2016

Review of Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

ancillary_justice_largeAncillary Justice

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, New York, 2013. 422 pages.
Starred Review
2014 Nebula Award Winner
2014 Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner
2014 British Science Fiction Association Award Winner
2014 Hugo Award Shortlist

My son gave me Ancillary Justice for Christmas because it was the best book he read in 2015. I read it on my trip to ALA Annual Conference in Boston, and it was amazing.

The book begins like a classic mystery:

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celsius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.

There was something itchingly familiar about that out-thrown arm, the line from shoulder down to hip. But it was hardly possible I knew this person. I didn’t know anyone here. This was the icy back end of a cold and isolated planet, as far from Radchaai ideas of civilization as it was possible to be. I was only here, on this planet, in this town, because I had urgent business of my own. Bodies in the street were none of my concern.

Sometimes I don’t know why I do the things I do. Even after all this time it’s still a new thing for me not to know, not to have orders to follow from one moment to the next. So I can’t explain to you why I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder so I could see the person’s face.

Frozen, bruised, and bloody as she was, I knew her. Her name was Seivarden Vendaai, and a long time ago she had been one of my officers, a young lieutenant, eventually promoted to her own command, another ship. I had thought her a thousand years dead, but she was, undeniably, here. I crouched down and felt for a pulse, for the faintest stir of breath.

Still alive.

Seivarden Vendaai was no concern of mine anymore, wasn’t my responsibility. And she had never been one of my favorite officers. I had obeyed her orders, of course, and she had never abused any ancillaries, never harmed any of my segments (as the occasional officer did). I had no reason to think badly of her. On the contrary, her manners were those of an educated, well-bred person of good family. Not toward me, of course — I wasn’t a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship. But I had never particularly cared for her.

Reading the beginning over, it’s clear I need to read the whole book over, the better to appreciate certain details which were there all along. The world-building in this book is incredible, though now that I understand all of it, I think I’d appreciate the book even more.

The person talking was once a ship, or at least the AI controlling a ship. She had many bodies, ancillaries, taken from captured peoples and connected up to the AI. In her memories, she saw events from many different perspectives.

But something terrible happened, the ship was destroyed, and Breq’s current body is the only body left. She is now on a mission for vengeance — vengeance against one who also has multiple bodies.

We find out all this along the way. Meanwhile, Breq cares for and rehabilitates Seivarden, who was her officer more than a thousand years ago, and has some catching up to do.

This book is mind-blowing with the situations and ways of looking at the world.

Another thing I liked was the things the author does with gender. On this icy planet where the book opens, Breq is trying to figure out how to address someone.

She was probably male, to judge from the angular mazelike patterns quilting her shirt. I wasn’t entirely certain. It wouldn’t have mattered, if I had been in Radch space. Radchaai don’t care much about gender, and the language they speak — my own first language — doesn’t mark gender in any way. This language we were speaking now did, and I could make trouble for myself if I used the wrong forms. It didn’t help that cues meant to distinguish gender changed from place to place, sometimes radically, and rarely made much sense to me.

With the Radch language not marking gender, the author, seeing through Breq’s eyes, uses “she” as the default. For everyone. This is a refreshing change. I thought it was interesting that I didn’t necessarily adjust well to this, thinking of everyone as female. When I later found myself wondering which sex organs different people had — when it didn’t matter in the slightest — it dawned on me how much I see the world through gender lenses. It was interesting to look at the world a different way through the eyes of someone who was once a ship.

And besides doing amazing things with perception, this book tells a compelling story. We’ve got the whole history of how most of Breq was destroyed and what she is trying to do now. And how almost-dead Seivarden fits into that.

This is a fascinating and absorbing book. If you like science fiction at all, and if you like having your perceptions and assumptions stretched, give this one a try.

annleckie.com
www.orbitbooks.net

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/ancillary_justice.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, given to me by my son.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – into the Dome of Doom

Monday, February 8th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

This week it’s back to the book that started it all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, otherwise known as The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy.

Sonderlinge 1

Last time we left off on page 254 in the English edition, Seite 321 auf Deutsch. So you see, we are now significantly past the halfway point.

As usual, I’m hoping that seeing James Kennedy’s unusual turns of phrase in bits and pieces will entice you into reading the book — tantalizing rather than spoiling, even though we’re pretty far along into the story.

(Ian is playing pool:)
“Ian returned to his shot.”
= Ian knozentrierte sich wieder auf seinen Stoß.
(“Ian concentrated himself again on his impact.”)

Here’s a useful word to know!
“prig” = Moralapostel (“moral-apostle”)

“his arms crossed” = und verschränkte die Arme
(“and folded his arms”)
I have to wonder if verschränkte meaning “folded” has anything to do with the fact that a Schrank is a large cupboard for clothes. So if you’re folding something you’re For-Schranking it. (Even if that’s not where it came from, it’s a good way to remember it.)

“dreadful electricity” = schrecklichen Spannung
(Google Translate: “terrible tension”)

“bashful” = verschüchtert

“judgmental” = abfällig

“invincible” = unbesiegbar

“you get in some mess” = steckst bis zum Hals in der Klemme
(“stick up to the neck in the terminal”)

“and I have to clean it up for you”
= und ich soll die Sache für dich ausbügeln
(“and I should the matter for you iron out”)

“Shut up!” = Haltet die Klappe!

Interesting translation variant:
“I’m sick of your arguing, both of you!”
= Eure Streitereien gehen mir auf die Nerven. Ihr beide geht mir auf die Nerven!
(“Your quarrels go on my nerves. You both go on my nerves!”)

“warehouses” = Lagerhäusern

More picturesque language is interesting in translation:
“The rain bucketed down, churning the puddles into mist”
= Es regnete wie aus Eimern, so stark, dass die Pfützen schäumen
(“It rained like out of buckets, so strong, that the puddles foamed”)

“splashed down the unlit streets” = durch die unbeleuchteten Straßen wateten
(“through the unlit streets waded”)

“heaps of scrap metal” = Schrotthaufen (“scrap heap”)

“unmarked door” = unauffälligen Tür

“squished noisily” = quietschten laut

“assembly line” = Fließband (“flow-band”)

“put on a brave face” = tapfer zu wirken (“bravely to act”)

Sadly, not as much of a ring to it in German:
“the Dome of Doom” = der Dom des Todes

We’ll leave Ian and Jo in the Dome of Doom for this week.

Bis später!

Jade’s Finished Outliers Scarf!

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Today I finished the Normal Distribution Scarf I made for my transgender daughter Jade!

OutliersScarf

This scarf shows that it is the outliers that make life beautiful.

A lot of things in life have a normal distribution — height, intelligence, and many other things. Most people are somewhere near the middle of the bell-shaped curve.

All her life, Jade has had qualities that are outliers. And I do believe that has much to do with why she is such a beautiful person. She definitely adds spice to life!

Here’s how I made the scarf:

I chose four colors of yarn. Then I generated random numbers from a normal distribution. I used the website random.org/gaussian-distributions/.

OutliersYarn

The numbers told me what colors to use for each row.

OutliersScarfLengthIf the number was negative, I knitted. If it was positive, I purled. (This will be about even for each.)

For numbers from -0.5 to 0.5, I used brown, Color A.

For numbers from -1.0 to -0.5 and 0.5 to 1.0, I used a brownish burgundy, Color B.

For numbers from -1.5 to -1.0 and 1.0 to 1.5, I used bright red, Color C.

For numbers less than -1.5 and bigger than 1.5, I used a rainbow yarn, Color D.

The rainbow yarn changed only gradually. It started out orange and gradually changed to yellow, then green, then pink. But this yarn for the outliers definitely is the most noticeable yarn throughout.

The only thing I didn’t like about this scarf is that there were far too many ends to sew in, and I didn’t feel like I did a great job of covering that up with a crocheted edging. If I make a normal distribution scarf again, I will probably knit it lengthwise, even though that won’t use as many numbers.

I was also thinking I’d like to use an additional color for 1.5 to 2.0. Then the outliers yarn would be more rare. I also might try using an amount of 0.75 for each section instead of 0.5, so that the sections would be 0 to 0.75, 0.75 to 1.5, and 1.5 to 2.25.

I’m going to test these two ideas on a coloring sheet before I try knitting another scarf.

You can find various more mathematical knitted objects and coloring sheets at sonderbooks.com/sonderknitting.

Review of The Inventor’s Secret, by Suzanne Slade

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

inventors_secret_largeThe Inventor’s Secret

What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Charlesbridge, 2015. 48 pages.

This is an introductory picture book about the work of two great inventors, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The overarching message of the book applies to any aspiring inventor: It’s what Thomas Edison told Henry Ford the night they first met: “Keep at it!”

The Author states in a note at the end (along with plenty of interesting backmatter):

For nonfiction authors a new story often begins with a fascinating, little-known fact that sparks a magical “goose-bump” moment. When I learned Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, pounded his fist on the table and shouted, “Keep at it!” to Henry Ford, that was one of those moments for me.

She weaves their stories together, with this meeting the central event. She used patent records to establish a timeline, and we get a taste, especially for Henry Ford, how much of his success was based on multiple attempts.

This is an entertaining story with cheery (but informative) and cartoon-like illustrations. But it also presents an encouraging message for future inventions. Follow your dreams. And don’t worry if your first several efforts don’t achieve success.

Keep at it!

suzanneslade.com
jbreinhardt.com
charlesbridge.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/inventors_secret.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Pax, by Sara Pennypacker

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

pax_largePax

by Sara Pennypacker
illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzer + Bray, 2016. 280 pages.
Starred Review

At ALA Midwinter Meeting, this Advance Reader’s Edition came in a special gift box, which opens up to a diorama.

When you open the first lid of the box, you see a blurb from librarian and blogger Betsy Bird, and next, one from librarian John Schumacher, and only after that from Newbery author Katherine Applegate. It made me happy to see bloggers featured so prominently (and there are more people I know blurbing the book on the back cover).

Then I read the book itself — and what they say is true. I was pulled in to this book, and finished it by the next day. Even though I have this ARC, I’ve already pre-ordered my own published copy — this edition didn’t have very much of the art by Jon Klassen, which I know will be wonderful, and whose stark artwork is exactly suited to this material.

The book alternates viewpoints between Pax, a fox, and Peter, his boy.

Peter has been raising Pax since he found the orphaned fox kit, not long after Peter’s mother had died. But now, five years later, Peter’s father has enlisted to fight in the war, and he says it’s time for Peter to return Pax to the wild. And Peter is going to have to live with his grandfather three hundred miles away.

The book opens as Peter leaves Pax in the woods. Pax doesn’t understand.

The boy’s anxiety surprised the fox. The few times they had traveled in the car before, the boy had been calm or even excited. The fox nudged his muzzle into the glove’s webbing, although he hated the leather smell. His boy always laughed when he did this. He would close the glove around his pet’s head, play-wrestling, and in this way the fox would distract him.

But today the boy lifted his pet and buried his face in the fox’s white ruff, pressing hard.

It was then that the fox realized his boy was crying. He twisted around to study his face to be sure. Yes, crying — although without a sound, something the fox had never known him to do. The boy hadn’t shed tears for a very long time, but the fox remembered: always before he had cried out, as if to demand that attention be paid to the curious occurrence of salty water streaming from his eyes.

The fox licked at the tears and then grew more confused. There was no scent of blood. He squirmed out of the boy’s arms to inspect his human more carefully, alarmed that he could have failed to notice an injury, although his sense of smell was never wrong. No, no blood; not even the under-skin pooling of a bruise or the marrow leak of a cracked bone, which had happened once.

It doesn’t take Peter long at his grandfather’s house for him to know that he is in the wrong place. He needs to go back and find Pax and take him home. He knows that Pax will wait for him.

But it’s not simple for a boy to travel three hundred miles. The book follows Peter and Pax in alternating chapters as they try to find one another.

The war is coming to the place where Pax was left. The house where they lived is in an evacuation zone. The soldiers are wiring traps at the river, without regard for animals. So besides Pax having to learn to live in the wild, he is affected by what the humans are doing. The other foxes don’t trust him because he smells like humans.

Peter also meets someone on his journey who’s been deeply affected by war. Circumstances force him to slow down and learn some lessons while he’s waiting to travel on, even though he so urgently wants to get to Pax.

This story is an intricate, well-orchestrated look inside the characters, both human and animal. The title is appropriate, because it’s also a look at war and peace.

After I finished the book and was mulling it over (This is a book that you will mull over.), I wondered where it was set. Certain clues — Peter’s love for baseball and the woman he meets having Creole heritage — would indicate this is the United States. But the animals knew about war and had seen war in their lifetimes.

An old fox (who has seen war) explains:

There is a disease that strikes foxes sometimes. It causes them to abandon their ways, to attack strangers. War is a human sickness like this.

Anyway, I was wondering how this could be America, since this doesn’t happen here. Then I noticed the sentence on a page at the very front of the book:

Just because it isn’t happening here
doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

I’m looking forward to reading this again with Jon Klassen’s illustrations. Publication date is today! Yes, this, the first new book I read in 2016 is already what I hope wins the Newbery in 2017. We’ll see….

sarapennypacker.com
burstofbeaden.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/pax.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader’s Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Mango, Abuela, and Me, by Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez

Monday, February 1st, 2016

mango_abuela_and_me_largeMango, Abuela, and Me

by Meg Medina
illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Candlewick Press, 2015. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Cybils Fiction Picture Books Finalist
2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book
2016 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book

Mia’s grandmother, her Abuela, has come to live with her family. But Abuela doesn’t speak English and Mia doesn’t speak Spanish. But little by little, they learn to communicate, and some of the help comes from a parrot named Mango, who learns both languages as well.

This is simply a lovely cross-cultural story. It does address that it’s difficult to learn a new language, and takes lots of practice, but all the motivation in this story is love.

The first night, before Abuela goes to sleep, she shows Mia a red feather from a parrot that nested in her mango trees back in her old home. This is the episode that gives Mia the idea to purchase the parrot in the pet store for Abuela and name him Mango.

Spanish words are peppered throughout the story. It’s just a nice twist on the stranger-in-a-new-country story. This time it’s not the girl herself, but her Abuela who clearly loves her and learns to tell her stories about her Abuelo, and also learns to hear all the stories Mia has to tell.

megmedina.com
angeladominguezstudio.com
candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/mango_abuela_and_me.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?