Tag Archives: #Courage

Ford, Jamie: The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009)

Wow. Sad in a happy way this novel. I’ve read the Norwegian version of it. There are a couple of translation hiccups but the translator has done an excellent job.

People are strange and we have a dark side, a side we seldom like seen in the light of day. The treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII illustrates this dark side of humanity. Letting ourselves be ruled by our fears is incredibly tempting. I cannot count the times I have allowed my own fears to rule my decisions.

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives an excellent account of what it must have been like to be a child during this time. Henry (Chinese-American) has to watch his father be completely ruled by his old hatreds and fears of the Japanese. Seeing him forget that people who just happen to be of Japanese heritage are also Americans was difficult for Henry. Falling in love with Keiko and having to stand up to his father while 12/13 years old must have been horrifyingly difficult for a young boy. Yet Henry did.

Such courage.

The beauty of this novel lies in Ford’s touching depiction of a difficult subject. While the novel is fiction the internment was not. Panama Hotel is there and people were placed in camps with razor wire around them and soldiers pointing at the prisoners with armed weapons. This is also who we are.

Butcher, Jim: The Codex Alera: The Furies of Calderon (2004)

Today was a first for me. I had to check my blog to see if I had written about Jim Butcher’s books. Maybe I should read less.

Most people probably connect the name Jim Butcher with the urban fantasy series Dresden Files. This was my introduction to Jim Butcher. I’m not certain where I found out about The Codex Alera, but I remember that one of the comments I read was that this was the better series. So why not give it a try.

The Codex Alera is very different from Dresden Files. The Dresden files are each around 300 pages long while the Codex Alera carries  approximately 600 pages of text. That gives the story time to flesh itself out. It could have ended up with fiasco, but Butcher does an excellent job.

Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum

What I think has happened is that Butcher has happened upon something that gives him a chance to shine. And shine he does.

We meet Tavi, a furyless human in a world where most humans have at least some ability to use the furies of the world. The furies are something along the lines of elemental spirits that can be used by humans. With them they gain various abilities to very different degrees. The furies are called water-furies, air-furies, earth-furies, metal-furies and fire-furies. The humans who control these elemental spirits are called crafters.

While Tavi is the main character of the series, he does have a lot of people helping him on his journey. One of them is his uncle Bernard. Bernard is a retired legionare who has become Steadholter in the Valley of Calderon. He is responsible for the welfare of those who live within the boundaries of his steadholt. Bernard is known for being a fair leader. To Tavi, Bernard is his hero, someone he would like to emulate. When Bernard becomes hurt due to Tavi’s carelessness, Tavi has to look beyond himself and try to make matters better.

Isana is Tavi’s aunt. Her goal in life is to take care of Tavi and to ensure his reaching adulthood in a safe manner. But she will not get her way in The Furies of Calderon. Tavi has seen something he should not have and becomes hunted.

Amara and Kitai are people whose importance will become more apparent as the series progresses. In The Furies of Calderon they play supporting roles. Amaray is a cursor (spy/messenger) for the First Lord Gaius. Kitai is a Marat – a race of non-humans that Tavi and his family come into contact with in various ways.

The Furies of Calderon is an incredibly fun action/adventure/magic-filled high/epic fantasy novel that shows Jim Butcher at his best.

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My reviews of books 2 (Academ’s Fury), 3 (Cursor’s Fury), 4 (Captain’s Fury), 5 (Princep’s Fury) and 6 (First Lord’s Fury)

Sullivan, Michael J.: The Riyria Revelations

Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan has been writing his whole life. Not until he began writing the Rirya Revelations series did he get published. Strange thing that. The Rirya Revelations had been a project that he undertook to please himself and his daughter (who has been part of designing the cartoon on Michael’s website). All six books were finished before the first one was published.

After a while the sales took off and Michael J. Sullivan has become a well-known name in the fantasy world. That recognition is well-deserved. His books are fun to read and they kept me wanting to know how the greater plot is resolved. The characters are fun and varied. It is not immediately clear whether the butler did it or not (I know there isn’t a butler in these books) and that is something that I really like in a writer. We should be kept wondering who the baddest baddie is.

All six books are stand-alone books in the sense that the main problem is resolved. However, there is a greater plot spanning all six books, so it would be a good idea to start at omnibus no. 1 – Theft of Swords. That way you get all of those pesky little threads tied together from the beginning.

Royce Melborne and Hadrian Blackwater are essential characters in all six novels. They are the Rirya – a gang of two. Together they get into and out of all sorts of trouble. These books are good for young adults and upwards. There isn’t too much violence and no sex.

The gods of Elan are: Erebus (Father of the gods), Ferrol (Eldest son, god of elves), Drome (Second son, god of dwarves), Maribor (Third son, god of men), Muriel (Only daughter, goddess of nature) and Uberlin (Son of Muriel and Erebus, god of darkness).

The main political parties to be aware of are:

  • Imperialists: Those wishing to unite mankind under a single leader who is the direct descendant of the demigod Novron.
  • Nationalists: Those wishing to be ruled by a leader chosen by the people.
  • Royalists: Those wishing to continue rule by individual, independent monarchs.

THEFT OF SWORDS (2011): THE CROWN CONSPIRACY AND AVEMPARTHA

French covers by March Simonetti

THE CROWN CONSPIRACY

Hadrian and Royce are stopped by highway robbers, incredibly incompetent ones according to Hadrian and Royce. When the highway robbers discover that they are dealing with the Rirya, panic settles in. Before they go, Hadrian gives the robbers advice on how to rob people properly.

Hadrian and Royce are on their way to a job. That is what they do. They get paid to rob the wealthy for various reasons. The two of them are quite successful at what they do. But things are bound to go wrong when they are asked to undertake a job that leaves them practically no time plan. A sword is placed in the chapel at the Medford castle, and the boys are to remove it to give Count Pickering trouble in a duel. What Hadrian discovers instead is a dead king and he and Royce are accused of the murder.

AVEMPARTHA

Hadrian and Royce meet up with the guy who asked them to steal the sword, and you can probably imagine that they weren’t best pleased. But for some strange reason the man walked out of that meeting alive. Royce gets to chat with old friends and the two men are told of a young girl looking for them. They must be in a soft frame of mind, for when they meet this young girl, Thrace, they end up going with her to her village. There, mighty adventure awaits. Ok, that was a bit over-kill.

In the meantime, and you just know there has to be a meantime don’t you?, Arista bounces into her brother King Alric’s meeting misunderstanding the meeting’s intent. She thinks he is about to marry her off, while he is in reality planning on sending her as an ambassador to Dunmore. Arista likes the idea of having something to do, especially as it gets her away from all of the rumors of her witchhood. Along with her normal entourage bishop Saldur comes along with the Pickering brothers. Fanin and Mauvin are going to enter into a contest the church of Novron is holding in Ervanon.

RISE OF EMPIRE (2011): NYPHRON RISING AND THE EMERALD STORM

NYPHRON RISING

Young Amilia works as a bullied scullion maid at Aquesta. She is being threatened once again by Edith Mon, the head maid, but saved when two women enter the kitchen. One is clearly some kind of nobility, having both the manners and the clothes for it. The other is an extremely thin and quiet young woman who turns out to be the Empress of Modina. She does not look the part at all.

Through luck Regent Saldur (formerly bishop) appoints Amilia as the Empress’ new secretary. Amilia is terrified as she knows the fate of those who disappoint the regent. But Amilia turns out to have a positive effect on the Empress.

Royce and Hadrian have become royal spies, a job they are really good at. They have found themselves willing to be in the service of the Royal family of Medford, trying to keep the kingdom alive and well in a growing Empire. But keeping Medford on its feet is quite a challenge. Princess Arista has had no luck as an ambassador in finding allies. Every country is too afraid of the new Empire to dare to fight it.

THE EMERALD STORM

Merrick Marius is the world’s best and most cunning assassin. He has been hired to kill someone in Arista’s closest circle. It goes off without a hitch, leaving Arista without an important aid in keeping Ratibor in the hands of the nationalists. But he leaves her with a riddle: “Find the Horn of Gylindora … at Wintertide the Uli Vermar ends … Patriarch … is the same …”. Arista knows the message is extremely important but she hasn’t got a clue how to go about it.

Amilia is still the Empress’ secretary. Modena has been moved to better lodgings, but Amilia still feels as though she is treading water. But fortunately she has acquired her own helper in Nimbus, a landless nobelman. Amilia’s life is on the line every day, as Regent Saldur has made it quite clear what will happen if the Empress embarrasses him in any kind of manner.

Royce and Hadrian go off hunting Merrick. Once Royce and Merrick were good friends, but something happened and Merric now hates Royce. Now he has the chance to play with the Ryria and work against the kingdom of Medford. He tries to lure the two into a trap, quite a cunning one it turns out.

 HEIR OF NOVRON (2012): WINTERTIDE AND PERCEPLIQUIS

WINTERTIDE

Stealing is what he has to do to survive. But back luck strikes and he gets yelled at when he gets back to his gang. They decide to try to fleece two newcomers to the city. Royce and Hadrian enter the Imperial Square in a snowstorm. They have come to save Degan Gaunt from execution. The boys discover that the newcomers might be more than they have bargained for, but their meeting actually turns out to be fortuitous for both sides.

Arista is trying to stay sane in her cell. Arista’s attempt to save Degan Gaunt has not been successful. She just knows that she cannot give up trying to escape as the fate of the world rests upon her hands, quite literally.

Amilia is still secretary to the Empress, finding her life full of new experiences. Modena is still quite grief-struck at the challenges that have met her. But something happens to slowly wake her from her dull and grief-struck state. She finds something to live for a meaning to life. Revenge and retribution.

PERCEPLIQUIS

The elves are a hunted people by humans. Persecution is severe by the Church of Nypron. They are thought of as terrible creatures who should be struck down whenever they are seen. Now the elves have come on to human lands once again, striking down humans.

Rather than help the humans in trouble, Guy Luis is chasing a young girl called Mercy. She is the ward of Arcadius and Arcadius is trying to save her. But that job might turn out to be insurmountable.

Refugees are arriving at the Imperial city. All of the North is being overrun and the humans have no idea why. As more and more refugees come into the city Arista decides that the riddle Eshraddon gave her must be solved and as soon as possible. However, she soon discovers, once again, obstacles in her way. Royce and Hadrian end up providing the assistance she needs.

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AWARDS

  • 2010 Iceberg Ink Award Best Read (Avempartha)
  • 2010 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (The Emerald Storm)
  • 2009 National Indie Book Award Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)
  • 2008 ReaderViews Annual Literary Award Finalist (The Crown Conspiracy)

Malala Yousafzai on the mend

I admit it. I am a feminist. As a feminist I find it natural to be a supporter of equal rights to all no matter what age, gender, skin tone, sexuality, class or cultural or religious background. But I am not the bravest person around.

One of the candidates for bravery of the year would have to be Malala Yousafzai. Her willingness to put herself in danger for trying to get an education, is worthy of many a prize. And she is not alone in trying to get what she deserves in a quiet but determined manner. Unfortunately, people like this are never popular. Neither was she, and she was shot.

Thankfully, the world rallied and Malala is seemingly on the mend now. I really hope she pulls through and keeps on being a bright light for the world to see.

Briggs, Patricia: The Hob (2001)

We humans are a fearful lot. If anything or anyone differs from the accepted norm, most of us will find some way to avoid that thing or person. Sometimes we’ll use the opportunity to bully and taunt the person exhibiting “strangeness”. The Hob’s Bargain illustrates this ability to pretend that we know how the world should be, even if that means hurting someone we love.

Aren’s (our protagonist) family is not excepted from this. They have an hereditary clairvoyant ability that sometimes expresses itself in a more magical one. That makes them fodder for the blood magicians – who feed on death. Aren’s brother was wanted as a magician by those in power, but he did not want to consequences of such a choice. Rather than have his death be used by the blood magicians, he chose to suicide.

You can imagine this has affected Aren. It seems she is beginning to experience visions, making her worry about her new husband. When the cottage is broken into, she manages to hide in the food cellar, but Aren knows something is terribly wrong.

While hiding in the cellar, Aren suddenly feels a change in the way magic feels. Something has broken, but she has no idea what – being too busy surviving, and all. From that point on Aren’s visions are clearer and the first one concerns the death of her father and husband. Turns out her whole family is gone. Now Aren has to deal with her grief, her out-of-control magic and the changes in the land and her neighbors.

Nexø, Martin Andersen: Pelle, the Conqueror (1906-10)

“Pelle, the Conqueror” begins on the first of May 1877. Lasse Karlsson from Tommelia in Sweden arrives with his son Pelle at Bornholm in Denmark. They are fleeing poverty and starvation and try to find a decent living. Instead they are treated as indentured servants. As Pelle learns Danish, life becomes easier, but he and his father continue to be treated as outsiders. They refuse to give up their dream of a better life in Denmark.

In one sense you could call “Pelle” auto-biographical. Nexø (1869-1954) knew poverty from the inside. When he was 8, his family moved to Bornholm in hopes of having a safer life. Through this inside experience we get to follow Pelle and his father and friends through tragedy, comedy and success. There is an optimism inherent in these four books (mine is an omnibus) that has us identifying with Pelle’s fight to conquer his life.

Nexø writes beautifully. He brings the reader into the text and gives of himself to us. The journey through Pelle’s life is an amazing journey from a life of terrible circumstances into a life of possibilities. With warmth and generosity my heart was warmed by the excellence of Nexø’s text.


Barnes & Nobles seems to have the best price on this omnibus, consisting of 4 books: Boyhood; Apprenticeship; The Great Struggle; Daybreak.

Project Gutenburg offers Pelle the Conqueror.
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Pelle Erobreren is a Danish/Swedish movie from 1987 based on the book
1988:
  • Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

Gilbert, Martin: The Boys – Triumph Over Adversity (1996)

ForsideWhen I read “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” I was once again reminded of the story of 732 Jewish boys and girls whose story Martin Gilbert tells in his “The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity“. One book is from the viewpoint of someone standing outside the suffering while the other one is about the kids who went through hell. I’m not a believer in the many after-life versions of hell, but I am certainly a believer in the human ability to create hell for their fellow humans. In fact, we’re really creative in the many ways we cause others pain, and that worries me.

The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity tells such a story. This is the story of children who (along with their siblings and parents) were uprooted from their homes and dragged into the horrors of the Holocaust. These children were originally from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Their lives were the lives of ordinary children with loving parents. As they just below and above ten years old for the most part, these children had no understanding of all of the abrupt changes in their lives. From living in regular homes, they were stuffed into ghettos and then dragged to even worse circumstances.

And then it all ended. No more parents or siblings, all alone in the world after having endured what only few people in the world have had to endure.

After their liberation from the camps, they had to begin rebuilding their lives in Britain. Despite being physically and emotionally drained by their nightmare past, they drew strength from their group. After leaving their hostels, they remained a close-knit and devoted band of siblings. Their families having been destroyed, they created a family among themselves.

So many people ask themselves how something as terrible as the Holocaust could have happened. I doubt there is any one answer to that question. After all, we let history repeat itself all over the world. What I do believe is that we are all capable of becoming something we had never thought was possible. Ervin Staub in his “Roots of Evil” and Max Weber in his “On Bureaucracy” – Iron Cage both try to look at why people are dehumanized and warn us of the consequences.

Marsden, John: Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow I) (1993)

tomorrow_when_the_war_began_poster

The Tomorrow series consists of seven books that should be read in order. The first book of the series is Tomorrow, When the War Began.

In the series we meet a group of young people who have gone camping to celebrate their last summer together. They are:

  • Ellie Linton: Our narrator. Ellie was born and raised on a cattle and sheep farm not far from the edge of the country town of Wirrawee.
  • Corrie Mackenzie: Ellie’s best friend.
  • Homer Yannos: Ellie’s neighbour and close friend.
  • Fiona Maxwell: Fi is more brains than brawn.
  • Lee Takkam: Lee is also more brains than brawn.
  • Robyn Mathers: The pacifist of the group.
  • Kevin Holmes: Corrie’s boyfriend.
  • Chris Lang: An introverted, but well liked boy.

All eight of them are regular teenagers getting ready to enter the world of adults. They are all filled with constructive and less constructive qualities and I can see why so many would identify with them. At the beginning of Tomorrow, When the War Began the gang feel so young to an old person like myself, but that does not last. They certainly retain their youthful optimism but gain some of our adult cynicism. I think another thing that might appeal to readers is John Marsden’s willingness to address difficult topics. One of these is death. Unfortunately death is one of the consequences of resistance in war and so it will be for this gang. And, finally, There is plenty of romance and action, both kept well within the young adult literature boundaries. The writing certainly kept me going and Marsden raised some interesting questions along the way.

In Tomorrow, When the War Began a group of friends (in their last year before college) go camping together. They’re all exited and have a wonderful week together. On their way back they find their homes empty of people and their animals suffering from neglect. It turns out all of their families have been collected at the showground by a foreign power trying to take Australia over. The teens have to decide whether to fight or surrender.


  • ISBN: 9781742612683
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012-12-01
  • Subject: Children’s: General Fiction
  • Imprint: Pan Australia
  • Pages: 304 page/s

  • Winner, Australian Multicultural Children’s Book Award 1994
  • Winner, Fanfare Horn Book Best Book 1996
  • Winner, Children’s Yearly Best-Ever Reads (CYBER) Best Book for Older Readers 2000, 2001, 2002
  • Winner, KOALA (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) 1995
  • Winner, YABBA (Young Australian Best Book Award) 1995
  • Winner, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Books Award) 1995
  • Winner, BILBY Awards (Books I Love Best Yearly) 1998
  • Winner, New South Wales Talking Book Award
  • Nominated, South Carolina Book Award 1998

2010: Film-adaptation released based on Tomorrow, When the War Began. Australian adventure movie written and directed by Stuart Beattie.