Monday, October 25, 2010

Enchanted Ivy - by Sarah Beth Durst

I read "Enchanted Ivy" in a little bit more than a day. I was totally enthralled. This is a very original story and I hope this is the start of a series that could be totally wonderful.

Our heroine is Lily. She's a normal, mostly happy high school junior who wants nothing more than to go to Princeton like her father and her grandfather before her. The biggest obtacle for her to overcome is her mother's mental illness, that is sometimes under control and sometimes not. But, she loves her mother dearly and would see nothing harm her.

The story starts with Lily, her mother and grandfather making a trip to Princeton for her grandfather's alumni weekend. Little does Lily know, but she is about to enter the biggest adventure in her life, one that will turn her world upside-down and inside-out. Her grandfather and his best friend have decided that Lily is ready for a test. A test that will determine if she will enter Princeton as a "legacy". If she passes the test, she is in... no questions asked. Her test? All she has to do is find the Ivy Key.

Lily grows and changes before the reader's very eyes. The person we meet at the beginning is but a shadow of the young woman we see at the end. There's a lot to be said for family ties. And a lot to be learned by believing in one's self.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is Race an Issue?

Up until recently, I never gave this a thought. Most of the books I've been reading lately are in the fantasy or science fiction genres and race doesn't seem to be an issue -- at least with the authors I read. Then I started noticing things. Cover art that didn't match the descriptions of the characters purportedly described being the biggest.

How important is it that the artwork on the cover match what goes on in the book? If the book describes a stately, beautiful woman of African descent, and the cover shows a generic blue-eyed blonde who is obviously Caucasian, I have to wonder: Whose idea was it to 'whitewash' the character? The artist? Or maybe the publisher? I have to doubt that it would be the author -- especially since many of them have little or no say about the cover art.

In a perfect world, the color of one's skin shouldn't matter. But we don't live in a perfect world. I am guessing that decisions are made regarding the race of the people depicted on the cover purely for monetary reasons. Which makes absolutely no sense to me at all. I would think that there would be more controversy over a cover depicting a young Caucasian girl when the book was about a young African girl. I for one would be supremely disappointed in the choices that led to that decision.

At the end of it, race does matter. But, and this is important I think, CAN a white author write a credible African character? I mean without the character coming across as a caricature? The reverse questions applies as well. I doubt very much that I could write a credible character who is anything but caucasian! I am being as honest as I can. All I know about cultures other than my own are what I've observed and what I have read about. This makes me less than credible if I were to write about cultures other than my own. As much as I know that race matters, I think it is doing no one all that much good to put a few tokens in a story and say "Look, I have a mixed-race story."

I don't know what the answer is, or if there is a good one. I do know that there needs to be more honesty on the part of publishers to depict the books they sell in the correct light. To "whitewash" a book to simply sell it is wrong.

Old Friends Revisited

I've been re-reading books. Sometimes, the only thing that satisfies is a visit to an old friend. Go somewhere familiar and comfortable and just ignore what's going on in the outside world. So, I've been revisiting Anne McCaffrey's Pern and Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar. With the chill of autumn in the air, it will soon be time for my annual visit to the Willows to see Rat and Mole, Badger and Otter, and we mustn't forget Toad of Toad Hall.

Walks down familiar lanes are a way for me to ground myself. I read new books and discover new places and people, and its fun! But coming home is fun too, in a quieter way. Sometimes, when work is overwhelming and people aren't doing what they need to be doing, its good to visit with old friends and just chill out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exercises in Frustration

I love people. If I keep telling myself that, I may end up believing it.

One thing I do love is reading. Its hard to find me without something to read, so any "down time" I have is spent with a book or an e-reader at hand. Like when I'm waiting for a bus.

"Hey, what's that thing?" asked the young lady.

"A Kindle."

"What's it for?"

"Reading books."

"Can you get the internet on it?"

"Yes, but is kind of slow." (Proceed to show her how I can get on the internet and get to Google.)

"Oh. But you can only go to Google, huh."

"No, but its really slow so I don't use the 'net on it a lot."

"So, what's it for?"

"Reading books"

"Is that all?"

"Yes" I lied.

"I thought it could go on the internet?"

"It can, but its very slow, so I use it only for reading."

"Oh. What's it do?"

At this point, I was ready to show her another facet of the Kindle: that of weapon. But, my bus came and she was saved.

After I got done shopping, and was on my way back home (on another bus), I was reading again. Gee, guess what? Another question:

"What's that?"

"A Kindle."

"Oh. Its not an iPad?"

"No, its a Kindle."

"Huh. Looks like it should be an iPad."

"Well, its not. Its a Kindle and I'm trying to read."

"Why don't you use a book?"

This was the point where the bus driver burst out laughing. I put the Kindle away and haven't taken it out in public since. I am terribly afraid to take the Bebook out in public at all.....