The Sound of Useless Wings January 28, 2015 The Sound of Useless Wings Cecil Castellucci Of insect dreams and breaking hearts. Damage January 21, 2015 Damage David D. Levine Concerning a spaceship's conscience. And the Burned Moths Remain January 14, 2015 And the Burned Moths Remain Benjanun Sriduangkaew Treason is a trunk of thorns. A Beautiful Accident January 7, 2015 A Beautiful Accident Peter Orullian A Sheason story.
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Showing posts by: mari ness click to see mari ness's profile
Thu
Oct 30 2014 2:00pm

Let’s Ruin Some Childhoods: Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web EB White

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is the story of two unlikely friends: a pig saved from early slaughter only to find himself being fattened up for Christmas, and a rather remarkable spider with a gift for spinning words. Also, a very mean rat, a wise old sheep, a goose very focused on her eggs, a determined girl, a bit where a lot of people fall down in the mud, and a Ferris wheel. Warm, funny, wonderful—at least, that’s how I remembered it.

And then someone on Twitter had to spoil all of these happy childhood memories in one tweet.

[Her tweet, and this post, are both very spoilery.]

Mon
Oct 27 2014 1:00pm

Emma Loves Pop Tarts. And Maybe Other Things. Once Upon a Time: “Breaking Glass”

Once Upon a Time: Breaking Glass

Princesses! True love! Large hulking snowmen! Men trapped in mirrors! Women trapped in terrible plot lines! A surprising interest in Pop Tarts! Yes, it’s time for ABC’s Once Upon a Time to mess with our childhood memories, or make us just wish we could build large hulking snowmen to smash our enemies, depending.

[Spoilers follow]

Thu
Oct 23 2014 10:00am

Look, This Mouse is a Jerk: Stuart Little

Stuart Little EB WhiteE.B. White was many things—a writer for The New Yorker, a stickler for certain elements of style, a poet, an essayist, and—according to James Thurber—someone very good at hiding from random visitors. He is perhaps best remembered, however, as a children’s writer, thanks to a set of three remarkable books featuring animal protagonists, starting with Stuart Little, a little book about a talking mouse that later spawned three films and became a classic of children’s literature.

Full disclosure: I hate it.

[And to explain why, I must spoil pretty much everything in it.]

Mon
Oct 20 2014 3:00pm

Enter the Mouse: Once Upon a Time, “The Apprentice”

Once Upon a Time The Apprentice

True Love! Magic with a price, if almost never an actual price tag attached to it that would let you know whether it’s a bargain or not! Bad puns! Extremely convoluted family relationships! A sexy pirate and the savior who gives him a cell phone! And now, a reindeer! Yes, it’s another fantastic episode of ABC-Disney’s Once Upon a Time.

Ahem.

[After the cut, the spoilers will no longer be hiding under a hat.]

Thu
Oct 16 2014 2:00pm

Witchcraft and Maggots: An Enemy at Green Knowe

An Enemy at Green Knowe LM BostonAll old houses, over time, gather some sort of magic, and none more so than Green Knowe, that old house, founded in Norman times, that turned into a refuge for ghosts, time travelers and gorillas alike.

This naturally makes it of great interest to those with an interest in magic—even if they might not be the sorts to use magic properly. Or honestly. Especially since Green Knowe has sheltered an evil magician before this, something that attracts the attention of An Enemy at Green Knowe.

[Gorilla ghost to the rescue!]

Mon
Oct 13 2014 2:00pm

A VERY Troubling Relationship with Ice Cream: Once Upon a Time, “Rocky Road”

Once Upon a Time Rocky Road

Ice! Cameras! ACTION! Plus plot holes! Magically contrived moments! Terrifying moments where ice cream is associated with—gasp—EVIL! Yes, it’s another wacky week with ABC’s Once Upon a Time, where every Disney character you’ve ever heard of turns out to be related to every other Disney character you’ve ever heard of and many you haven’t.

[Never take candy from strangers. Or, in this case, ice cream.]

Thu
Oct 9 2014 2:00pm

Fifty Years Later: Paddington Here and Now

Michael Bond Paddington Here and NowFifty years after his first appearance as a stowaway at Paddington Station, Paddington Bear had become firmly ensconced at 32 Windsor Gardens with the Brown family. As are, alas, the two Brown children, Jonathan and Judy, who, fifty years on, are still at school, creating a new definition of “slow learners.”

This would be less of a problem if the characters in the books did not continually refer to things happening “years ago,” leaving me with the impression that, yes, indeed, years have passed, years where Jonathan and Judy have been held back year after year, possibly because of their dealings with Paddington. But I digress—a lot—since Paddington Here and Now (2008) is not really about the Brown children, but rather about Paddington in the 21st century: computers, London Eye, and all.

[Proving that you can continue to make the same sorts of mistakes in the 21st century as you did in the 20th]

Mon
Oct 6 2014 1:00pm

Dear Show, Ice Cream is NOT Evil: Once Upon a Time, “White Out”

Once Upon a Time White Out

Some fairy tale characters get to live happily ever after. Others, alas, turn into products of the Walt Disney Company and thus, find themselves trapped for what might seem like near eternity on an ABC Sunday night show. That’s right, it’s time for the weekly update for Once Upon a Time, with season four, episode two, “White Out.”

[Very, very spoilery up through season four, episode two]

Thu
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.]

Mon
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.]

Thu
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]

Thu
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.]

Thu
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.]

Thu
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!]

Thu
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.]

Thu
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.]

Thu
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.]

Thu
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!]

Thu
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.]

Thu
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.]