A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: mari ness click to see mari ness's profile
Oct 2 2014 3:00pm

Bearing the Child Role: Paddington Takes the Test

Paddington Takes the Test Michael BondIt says something that it took me four books to reach the first archetypal Paddington book in this reread. Whether that’s about me, or the mostly random process of picking which Paddington book to read, I don’t know.

But in any case, here we are, with Paddington Takes the Test (1979): finally, a classic Paddington book containing seven unrelated short stories about the little accident prone bear from Darkest Peru. How does it hold up against the Paddington books that were, if not exactly novels, at least leaning towards that direction?

[I’d say Paddington passes the test. Oh, come on. You knew that joke was coming.]

Sep 29 2014 11:45am

Let’s Get Cold Together: Once Upon a Time, “A Tale of Two Sisters”

Once Upon a Time Frozen

Princesses! Saviors! Princes! Sympathetic evil queens! Unsympathetic evil queens! Witches! A sexy pirate! A young actor looking increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of staying on this show! Magic! Time Travel! Distortions of every fairy tale and story you’ve ever know! Plot holes that no magic can fix! That’s right, it’s time once again for fairy tale Sundays, as the fourth season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time takes on Frozen.

[Extremely, extremely, spoilery. Did I mention spoilery? Because, SPOILERY.]

Sep 25 2014 4:00pm

A Financially Minded Bear: Paddington at Work

Paddington at Work Michael BondAt first glance, the title Paddington at Work (1966) might seem just a little misleading, and not just because it's rather difficult to imagine the accident prone bear from Darkest Peru managing to settle down to full time work.  No, the real issue is that as the book starts, Paddington is a passenger on a cruise ship, which is more or less the antithesis of work, something the bear continues to do for the first couple of chapters.

And it's a good thing the bear has a chance for a bit of a rest—even if it's the sort of rest interrupted by possible hallucinations, encounters with ship entertainers, and cries of “Bear Overboard!” Because for the rest of the book, Paddington is going to be focused on a new concern: money, making the title feel rather appropriate after all.

[Stock investments, Scotland Yard, antiques, and the difficulties of finding good help even in a world with a talking bears]

Sep 18 2014 2:00pm

Immigration and Bears: Paddington Abroad

Paddington Abroad Michael BondYou might think that a lengthy sea voyage across the Atlantic in a lifeboat with only a jar of marmalade might be enough to convince anyone, and especially a small and highly accident prone bear, to never ever leave home again. If so, you haven’t encountered Paddington Bear, who has never been on a real holiday before—only day trips, and who is very excited about the mere idea of travelling to France.

The real question, of course, is not whether Paddington will survive France, but whether France—not to mention the Tour de France—will survive him in Paddington Abroad.

[And whether or not Paddington has the correct papers.]

Sep 11 2014 10:30am

Please Look After This Bear: A Bear Called Paddington

Michael Bond A Bear Called Paddington“A bear? On Paddington station?” Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. “Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!”

In general, I am inclined to agree with Mrs Brown: There can’t be a bear on Paddington Station. Then again, as I know all too well from personal experience, alas, Paddington Station can be a bewildering and terrifying place. Which means, I suppose, that if you are going to find a bear on a train station anywhere in the world, it might well be this one. Perhaps especially if the bear in question is—gasp—a stowaway from Darkest Peru, carefully tagged with “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Certainly, someone has to look after this bear, however polite he is, and equally certainly, those someones are going to be the first family that happen to encounter him, the Browns. And given the bewildering nature of Paddington Station, and the bear’s own apparent belief that most people are inherently good, it’s perhaps not surprising that the bear immediately takes up the first available invitation he gets to leave the place, and happily agrees to drop his incomprehensible name and instead become known as A Bear Called Paddington.

[Paddington Bear: making triumph out of disaster.]

Sep 4 2014 4:00pm

A Somewhat Disappointing Magic: Linnets and Valerians

Linnets and ValeriansBack when I chatted about A Little White Horse, I received a number of requests to reread Elizabeth Goudge’s other young adult book: Linnets and Valerians. It was—or so I thought—easily available from the library, and so I agreed. Alas, in this case “easily available from the library” turned out to be a bit of misinformation, and between that and August traveling I only got around to it now. Which is to say, here we are.

After she wrote A Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge had been considerably more organized and put together than I was in the above paragraph. She focused most of her attention on adult books, including one, The Rosemary Tree, which, if mostly ignored when it was first published 1956, garnered extensive critical praise and attention when it was extensively plagiarized and given a new setting by author Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen in 1993.

[That was a rather long intro, wasn’t it? Onwards to the book!]

Aug 28 2014 2:00pm

Time Travelling Through Your Earlier Books: The Stones of Green Knowe

Stones of Green Knowe LM BostonThe Stones of Green Knowe starts in the distant past, shortly after the death of William II, aka William Rufus, just decades after the Norman invastion, when the countryside is still using two languages: Anglo-Saxon (which author Lucy Boston, for simplicity’s sake, calls English) and French.

Osmund d’Aulneaux is building the great stone house that will eventually be known as Green Knowe on the estate he holds from his father-in-law. The house has several purposes: it will, of course, be more comfortable than the old wooden house the family currently uses; it will be more appropriate to their rank; it will prove that they are very stylish and up to date (a few paragraphs of the book are dedicated to discussing the most fashionable place to build a fireplace) and it will offer the higher ranking members of the d’Aulneaux family some privacy. Most of all, it will offer safety and security, not just to the family, but to the nearby villagers, who will be able to shelter inside when, not if, war returns. As Ormond bluntly explains, he does not expect peace. But he can expect this solid, carefully built stone house to survive.

As readers of the previous books in the series already know, it has.

[But if you haven’t read the previous books, this book will go ahead and introduce you to all of its characters anyway.]

Aug 21 2014 1:00pm

When Even Magic isn’t Enough: A Stranger at Green Knowe

A Stranger at Green Knowe does, I must say, start out on a strange note for a Green Knowe book, given that it starts not at that old and magical house, but rather deep in the African jungle with a family of gorillas.

A few jumps, roars, mildly questionable if well meaning descriptions of human African natives, and enthralled descriptions of the African jungles later, and poor little Hanno the Gorilla finds himself captured by a white hunter and taken to the London Zoo. His little sister gorilla doesn’t make it.

[It only gets slightly more cheerful from here.]

Aug 14 2014 2:30pm

Drifting Away, on More Than One Level: The River at Green Knowe

The River at Green Knowe LM BostonThe last Green Knowe book had left Tolly and his great-grandmother with enough money to take a nice long vacation—but not quite enough to afford to leave their ghost-ridden house empty during their absence. To cover that expense, they rent the house out to two mildly eccentric women: Dr. Maud Biggin and Miss Sybilla Bun.

Dr. Biggin is writing a, uh, scholarly book about giants who lived in England prior to the arrival of normal sized humans (let’s just leap past this), and Miss Bun just wants to feed everybody. Despite the need for peace and quiet for scholarship, and perhaps because of Miss Bun’s need to feed everyone, they decide to invite three children to stay with them during the holidays: Dr. Biggin’s niece, Ida, and two refugee children, Oskar and Ping. Fortunately, the rest of the book is mostly about them, and their exploration of The River at Green Knowe.

[In which I have to confess something. You may all judge me for it.]

Aug 7 2014 3:00pm

A Blind Ghost: Treasure of Green Knowe

Treasure of Green Knowe LM BostonNine year old Tolly returns to the old house at Green Knowe to face some terrible news: his great-grandmother has sent away the old picture of Toby, Alexander and Linnet for a London exhibition, which means—gasp—no ghosts to play with, since the ghosts are attached to the picture. Some people might consider this a good thing, but not Tolly, who now thinks of the ghosts as his best friends, which probably says something about the boarding school he’s at, but I digress.

Worse news is to come: Mrs. Oldknow is actually considering selling the painting. All of those wonderful floods and heavy snows from the first book have heavily damaged the roof (maybe not as wonderful as described) and Mrs. Oldknow has no money to pay for repairs. Since she also legally has to keep the historic house repaired, she has little choice: the painting, the only valuable object she has left, has to go.

Unless, that is, another ghost can help Tolly find the Treasure of Green Knowe. Fortunately enough, the house just happens to have another ghost—Susan.

[Spoilers! Which means he can!]

Jul 31 2014 2:00pm

When Your House Obsession Becomes A Kid’s Book: The Children of Green Knowe

The Children of Green Knowe L M BostonYoung Toseland Oldknow—Tolly, please, if you must give him a nickname, not Towser, or worse, Toto (I am trying to look past the implied insult to Oz here, everyone)—is off to live with his great-grandmother in a very old house that to him feels very far away. He is both scared and slightly hopeful: since the death of his mother, his only real family is a distant father and a well meaning but generally clueless stepmother, so a great-grandmother feels like something. She might even be real family.

Spoiler: she is. What Tolly didn’t expect—and couldn’t expect—were the ghosts. Or, if you prefer, The Children of Green Knowe.

[When you are not about to let a little thing like a plague distract you from living, playing, and dealing with evil haunted trees.]

Jul 24 2014 3:00pm

Wrapping Up the Ends, Untidily: Lois Lowry’s Son

Lois Lowry SonIn Son, Lois Lowry returns us to the terrifying, ordered world she had first explored in The Giver, the world where at most fifty infants are allowed to be born and live each year (extras and any babies that “fail to thrive” are euthanized), where everyone is assigned a job, a spouse, and children to raise, where everyone takes daily pills to suppress any form of hormonal attraction. Also, everyone eats the same carefully prepared diet. Delightful place, really. Fortunately, as Son reminds us, this world does have other places. Unfortunately, those other places have their own evils.

As Son begins, Claire, a Birthmother, is undergoing her first pregnancy, in the process answering most of the questions I had from The Giver. Spoiler: I am not happy with the answers.

[More unhappy spoilers follow—spoilers for this book and the previous books in the series.]

Jul 17 2014 4:00pm

Shifting from Human to Supernatural Evil: Messenger

Messenger Lois LowryLois Lowry’s Messenger takes place a few years after the events of The Giver and Gathering Blue. Jonas has settled down in the seemingly genuine utopian village where Kira’s blind father, Christopher, found refuge. Jonas has become the village Leader, with the simple and descriptive name of Leader, and Christopher has become the village Seer, with, ditto. Matty is still Matty, if a little cleaner and more educated, now hoping to earn the name of Messenger. We also get a hint that just maybe the community of The Giver has been forced to change, just a little, by Jonas’ departure, and that they are willing to forgive and forget.

(That’s Jonas’ interpretation. My interpretation is that the community is still so against change that they are doing everything they can do to ensure that no one in the community knows that alternatives exist—even though alternatives are clearly around.)

[When human evil is overtaken by supernatural evil.]

Jul 10 2014 2:00pm

Community Obedience: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue Lois LowrySeven years after writing The Giver, Lois Lowry wrote a companion volume, Gathering Blue. In it, she explored another future society that, like the one in The Giver, very carefully allocates its workforce and assigns tasks, and, like the one in The Giver, does not hesitate to kill unacceptable members of the community. By “unacceptable,” this community generally means the disabled, the old, those who refuse to work or contribute, and, as young Kira is about to discover, those that stand up against the community leaders. It is a community of codified status. And it is a community that insists on absolute obedience on laws—while not necessarily getting that absolute obedience.

Unlike the community in The Giver, however, no one is under the impression that everything is perfect in their community: they know what death means, refusing to use innocuous words like “release” in its stead, and have mourning rituals for the ones they have lost. They know about illness; as the book starts, Kira’s mother has just died from one. Part of their community lives in a very poor section, called the Fens, where they live by scavenging and trade and very little else. They know about grief. They know about love. And they can see colors. Indeed, this last gift is what keeps Kira alive.

[If not always happy about it.]

Jul 3 2014 2:30pm

Walking Away From Colors: The Giver

Lois Lowry The GiverLois Lowry’s The Givera version of which is coming soon to your local movieplex very soonstarts out on a chilling note, as the sight and sound of a plane—just one plane—completely freaks out a young boy named Jonas and for the first time, introduces him to fear. Because it is a deviation, and any deviation from normal, in this world, is wrong and terrifying. It is, after all, a planned and structured world, where everyone is carefully placed in the correct job, with the correct family and correct spouse, with no more than two children who must be carefully applied for and then cared for, with rituals for talking about feelings and interacting with peers, where the absolute precision of language is insisted on, a world of still evolving genetic engineering. Oh, and drugs.

Like the best of dystopian novels, The Giver is less about a future world than about our own. Lowry considers some of the solutions for managing an ever increasing world population and decides, with cold and clear logic, to see exactly what type of community such solutions would create.

[It’s not really one I’d want to belong to. Very spoilery.]

Jun 26 2014 2:00pm

Ghosts or Time Travel? Tom’s Midnight Garden

Tom's Midnight Garden Philippa PearceLast time, I chatted about a ghost story book masquerading as a time travel. And now for the flipside: a time travel book masquerading as a ghost story: Tom’s Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce.

As the book opens, Tom is sulking, since his parents are sending him to the home of a not much liked aunt and uncle, just because his younger brother has the measles. Tom would rather have the measles than stay with Uncle Alan and Aunt Gwen. His parents, on the other hand, are firm: one kid in the house with the measles is quite enough, thanks, even if Tom is yelling at them. His arrival at his aunt and uncle’s place does nothing to cheer him up; it’s one of many gloomy and depressing flats carved out from one of those huge old English family homes. He sulks some more.

Until, that is, the clock strikes thirteen.

[And, suddenly, bonus magical garden. Spoilery.]

Jun 19 2014 3:00pm

Time Travel, or Possession by Ghosts? The Court of the Stone Children

The Court of the Stone Children Eleanor CameronEleanor Cameron was hardly idle after abandoning the Mushroom Planet books that had brought her so many fans. She continued to write a book every other year or so, including A Room Made of Windows, a critically well received, more mainstream novel that eventually led to her abandonment of fantasy and science fiction writing for children.

But before turning completely to those mainstream novels, one more book haunted her: The Court of the Stone Children.

[Ghosts, time travel, and art.]

Jun 5 2014 2:00pm

Sometimes, Abandonment is Better: Time and Mr. Bass

Time and Mr Bass Mushroom Planet Eleanor CameronAs we’ve seen in these rereads, authors have several ways to respond to the demands of young fans for more books in a series. They could announce that a certain otherwise perfect fairyland was inexplicably unable to set up a simple security system and thus decided to go invisible; they could, when this failed, choose to trudge on in increasing despair, fortunately dying before seeing the travesty a certain U.S. television series would later make of their work. They could merrily send everyone off to a glorious afterlife, or rather less merrily send all of their characters into a miserable totalitarian hellhole with bonus political corruption (I’m still at a loss for this one), or simply refuse to write further books in the series until reluctantly returning years later for a limping sort of finale.

And then there’s Eleanor Cameron, who in 1967 returned to the Mushroom Planet, with Time and Mr. Bass. Not to spoil things too quickly, but I kinda found myself wishing she’d taken the totalitarian hellhole route. Or at least the killing everyone who doesn’t wear lipstick route.

[Those of you who had issues with BBC’s Merlin should probably skip this book, because, if you thought that screwed with the Arthurian legend...]

May 29 2014 1:00pm

How Many Planetoids Do We Have to Hide? Mr. Bass’s Planetoid

Mr Bass's Planetoid Eleanor CameronAs it turns out, keeping the existence of a tiny, secret planet inhabited by squishy Mushroom People is not all that easy, especially if the person who discovered the planet was in correspondence with certain scholars, and in particular one Prewytt Brumblydge, who seems to be well on his way to creating a machine that can unravel the planet. (Spend a moment thinking about what you did this morning, and feel either smug or deeply unproductive in comparison.)

And, as it also turns out, David and Chuck, the protagonists of Eleanor Cameron’s two previous books, don’t have just one tiny, secret planet to protect. They have two: the Mushroom Planet, and Mr. Bass’s Planetoid.

[Exactly how many small, undetected planetoids are zipping around the Earth anyway?]

May 22 2014 2:00pm

A Questionable View of Science: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet

Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet Eleanor CameronApparently I’m not the only one convinced that the remarkable discoveries, chronicled by children’s author Eleanor Cameron, of one Mr. Tyco Bass, that member of the Mushroom Planet who devoted a full human lifetime to creating various Strange Inventions, studying the stars, discovering new planetoids, and—in a new twist—finding what seem to be rather dangerous holes in space orbiting the Earth (GULP) should be brought to wider attention. Granted, my interest is purely scientific. That of Horatio Quimby Peabody, however, is rather less scientific, and rather more consumed with the joy of gaining renown—and possibly even tenure—by making such discoveries public. Thus his sudden decision to be a Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet.

[Though I seriously hope no young readers will be taking Horatio Quimby Peabody as an exemplar of the academic and scientific professions. Also, updates on the chickens.]