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The False PrinceThe False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
High-spirited orphan Sage, always a troublemaker at his orphanage, is sold to the noble Lord Conner, who is buying up orphans the right age who resemble Prince Jaron. Prince Jaron was lost four years ago, and presumed to have been killed by the pirates who took the ship he was on. Lord Conner’s plan is to train all four boys to impersonate the prince, and thus prevent the civil war that would otherwise break out when it’s discovered that the king, queen, and crown prince have all been poisoned. There’s a lot at stake, as it’s clear from the get-go that the boys who don’t get chosen won’t have any future at all. While Sage refuses, somewhat inexplicably, to buckle down to his studies, the other boys are doing their level best, including studious and sycophantic Tobias and the less educated but tough and street-smart Roden. Sage is too smart to want to be a pretend prince, forever doing Lord Conner’s bidding, but he’s walking a tightrope between making it clear that he won’t give in to Conner’s demands while co-operating just enough not to get booted out altogether. All too often, his open defiance gets him hard knocks from Conner’s toughs. He’s got two weeks to learn enough to stay in the contest, figure out what Lord Conner’s real motives are (surely not as virtuous as he claims), and find a way to get out of the whole situation alive, preferably saving the lives of the other boys as well. Sage is cagey about his history, even with the reader, and it’s clear he’s got secrets of his own. Having read reviews of this other places, I already knew the Big Secret. (Hint: why does Sage both refuse to pretend to be the prince forever if he’s chosen and tell Conner “I am your prince.”?) Theoretically, knowing this ahead of time could have spoiled the book for me, like already known whodunit in a mystery. Not so. There are still so many gaps in Sage’s story, past and future (and present, the wily kid) that I was sucked in. Ultimately, Sage has to decide if he should go for being a prince or not – and how to get there without Conner coming with him if he does. As I get tired of books leaving me hanging waiting for the next in the series, I was somewhat surprised to see that the catalog record for this says “Ascendance Trilogy Book 1”. Nielsen has been very considerate with her series making: while I definitely want to read more of Sage’s adventures, this is a nicely rounded story in its own right, without being awkwardly chopped off at the right length. The False Prince combines strong characters with fast and tricky plotting, similar to – dare I invoke the name? – Megan Whalen Turner’s the Queen’s Thief series. That series has similarly strong characters who hold on to their secrets to the end, combined with top-level politics with a small number of players, though the gods and magic don’t play a noticeable role in The False Prince. That means that despite it not being set in any place definitely on our earth and having a very similar feel to fantasy books, it doesn’t really count as fantasy. Still, highly entertaining and well worth reading.
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So again with Chasing Ray She was suggesting that literary bloggers (which I would think I am more than any other category) write about why voting is important today. Here’s the master schedule. My posting schedule is irregular enough that I didn’t sign up to be an official part of the whole thing. [Update: I made the official list. Thanks, Colleen!] So many eloquent people have already written with all of my major reasons for voting. But I’m sharing my thoughts on the matter anyway.

I lurk on Publib, one of the oldest librarian mailing lists. Frequent poster M. McGrorty asked what we would do on Wednesday morning if our candidate doesn’t win. And someone – Frances Meadows, to give her proper credit – said
“While, I will heave a big sigh and then find 10 things I can say good about the candidate even if I have to make it up! I will say CONGRATULATIONS and will not whine all day or week or year. I will treat him with the respect that he deservers since he is the President of the United States.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, anyone who’s elected deserves some respect – the same courtesy as any other human being, for one, and some deference for the position. But I absolutely feel that voting gives me the right to share my opinion. And I am just as sure that whoever is elected will need to hear my complaining, whether the candidate I’m voting for wins or not.

Part of my job as a librarian is to give people the resources they need to vote. We link to multiple voting guides – VoteSmart, League of Women Voters and more. I am pleased as punch that the LMV voter guides have been flying out the door. We don’t tell people how to vote, but we certainly encourage everyone to vote.

Yesterday was my son’s fourth birthday. My friends will know this story already. Four years ago November 2 was Election Day. My OB was talking about inducing me for high blood pressure the next day. His due date wasn’t for three weeks and I hadn’t gotten an absentee ballot. I had a heart-to-heart talk with my son and told him that we really didn’t want to be induced, but that it was really, really important for Daddy and me to vote.

So my love and I got up early to go to the polls. I was having contractions and, as we found out later, appendicitis. It was cold and rainy and the lines were out the door. One of the poll workers – bless her heart – asked if anyone minded if the woman in labor cut to the front of the line. No one did. The atmosphere, from all those people who were now going to have to wait longer in line because of me, was incredibly supportive. Somebody in less pain than I was at the time would probably have heard the emotional, triumphant music swelling in the background as we were all united in helping everyone participate in our political system.

At four, my son is no longer quite so cooperative as he was that day. But I will still take him to the polls with me tomorrow. (If you live close to me, and your kids aren’t good to come with you, let me know. If you can go before three, I will watch your kids for you so you can vote.) Either my husband or I has taken him to nearly every election since his birth. He may be too young to understand the issues we care about yet, but we will teach him that care about where we live, and we vote.

Palestine

Oct. 18th, 2008 02:10 pm
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book coverPalestine by Joe Sacco Journalist Joe Sacco visited Palestine for a couple of months during the first Intifada, the early 1990s, and reported in graphic form. Very graphic. There are the muddy streets and tiny houses of the camps, the torture, even an honor killing. Also, a whole lot of sitting in rooms full of men, drinking tea and talking. The bumpy, less-beautiful than reality pictures are punctuated with wavy wedges of text describing what he’s seeing, gritty days in Palestine alternating with sparkly, modern nights in Jerusalem. This is not book with a coordinated message or a neat ending. It’s reality, as told to the author by people on both sides. While Israel doesn’t come off looking like the noble saviors of democracy in the Middle East the politicians talk about, the Palestinians are equally racist, and fighting for traditions that are bluntly appalling. If you’re looking for a jumping-off point into modern history of the area, this is a good one. Pair it with Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds for views from both sides of the road blocks.
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book coverThe Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein Journalist Klein gives us a superbly researched history of modern economics that ranks among the most disturbing things I have ever read, on par with the literature I read for the Theology of the Holocaust class I took in college. Once again, reading a book that was dense and important makes for a long review, even leaving out lots of very important bits, so a cookie for anyone who makes it through.

In the good old days after World War II, there lived an economist by the name of Keynes. He theorized that people who felt economically insecure and victimized would turn to fascism and extremism. To protect from this as well as communism, he advocated strong government to ensure social equality and regulate business. This was the theory behind the Marshall Plan, which helped Germany recover economically when popular sentiment would have left the evil Nazis to suffer.

The current popular theory of economics started in parallel with two seemingly unrelated people. One was a psychologist named Ewan Cameron, who theorized that if mentally ill people could be stripped of their personality with electric shocks and drugs, their personality could be rebuilt. The research was carried out in Canada but funded by the CIA. It turned out that Cameron was half right: it’s possible to strip personality away. It’s not possible to rebuild it – you’re just stuck with a shattered person. At the same time, a man named Milton Friedman was developed a new theory of economics. Instead of controlling businesses and taxing businesses and people to level society, Friedman claimed that capitalism left to itself would regulate itself, and become a thing of abstract beauty. He used early computer models to “prove” this and tried to move economics from a “soft” to a “hard science”. Friedman believed that the way to do this was to shock a people or a nation into acceptance, either by the sheer economic shock of making massive changes all at once or using whatever means were necessary. Friedman died just last year, having won the Nobel Prize in economics and revered by many.

Read more... )

The Truth

Apr. 1st, 2006 04:55 pm
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The Truth, with Jokes by Al Franken Hooray for politics done funny! From how W. used Smears, Fears, and Queers to win the election to the social security reform debacle, Franken covers what's been going in politics since the '04 election. OK, if you’re not a liberal, you probably still won’t enjoy this book. But if you are, and want to have some factual ammunition for conversations with conservatives, or just want to know what’s been going on without feeling utterly depressed, then read this book. Or better yet, listen to it. Al Franken is a comedian, so unlike some author-read books, he does a really good job. Plus, whenever he quotes speeches, he plays the clip from the actual speech rather than reading it aloud. You’ll laugh a lot. And then you’ll be really mad.

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