Book Review: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card


ender's game

 

*mild spoilers for Ender’s Game are in this review

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was recommended to me by my husband and two of my student assistants. Unfortunately, as this review will reveal, I didn’t like it.

Here’s a brief, spoiler-free summary: Ender’s Game is about a young boy, Ender Wiggins, who is chosen to train at Battle School. His teachers hope that he will be the missing link in the fight between aliens and humans. Orson Scott Card wrote several books after Ender’s Game and has made different series that correspond with the Ender’s Game universe.

What Ender’s Game gets right: The beginning really pulls you in and sets the stage for the rest of the book. We witness a moment in Ender’s life that turns out to be an important test, and Ender remembers this moment throughout his training.

I find Ender easy to sympathize with. He seems like an Enneagram type 9 (“peacemaker”) in a world that is forcing him to act like an 8 (“boss”). (I could also see Ender as a 5- he enjoys games, strategies, and alone time to figure things out.) Ender is constantly trying to end conflict once and for all- he does not enjoy hurting others or commanding them, he simply wants everything to work out for the best of all involved.

What Ender’s Game does wrong: Where are all of the women? There are only three woman characters in the whole book, and only one of them gets a point of view narration.

Another qualm that I have with Ender’s Game is Card’s writing style. He switches between third person, third person omniscient, and first person narratives without much transition at all. It’s like he decided to have every kind of point of view possible in his story- which is fine, if it makes sense within the context (it doesn’t).

Who should read Ender’s Game: People who enjoy reading political commentaries, arguments on Facebook, and/or deterministic plots. Alternately, people who will read it for the science fiction aspects and won’t dig much deeper than that.

Who shouldn’t read Ender’s Game: Parents who are already worried about their children growing up in a scary world and don’t like reading about the abuse and manipulation of children. People who don’t enjoy constant social conflict (me). I can read about crazy, militant societies, but only if it’s clear that it’s a satire and that it’s not a good thing (like 1984 or Brave New World). Ender’s Game doesn’t convince me that the book is actually against the fanatical survival-of-the-fittest messages that are preached. Ender as a character certainly does not condone this kind of society (even though he enables it), but the book’s overall tone and destruction of free will points to total annihilation as the only means of human survival- and that’s not fun to read about.

Ender’s Game is available in the library’s Recreational Reading section.

Top 5 True Crime Novels

pex true crime 2

My favorite book genre, beyond any doubt, is true crime. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging criminals to keep committing terrible acts that make engrossing stories. The part of true crime I really enjoy is the detective work- how did the police and investigators find the criminals? What details were missed or discovered along the way? How did the family of the wronged person(s) rebuild their lives in the aftermath?

The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker (one of the best books I’ve ever read) talks about how if you have the ability to imagine a crime, it’s already been committed by someone else. It warns you that criminals are not inhuman monsters like we may want to imagine. No, criminals are people just like us, who move and work and breathe beside us. This isn’t meant to scare you (although it is certainly scary)- this just means that we need to figure out why some people commit acts of deviance. What’s the motive? Is this behavior something you are born with, or something you’ve picked up via your environment and upbringing? It’s the classic nature vs. nurture question.

All of these questions are examined and, in some specific cases, halfway answered in quality true crime novels. Reading them, you get to follow along as more evidence comes to light and one more piece of the puzzle is found. The best true crime novels make you a part of the story. The ones listed below are examples:

 

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Crime: Charles Manson & The Manson Family murders

Setting: Late 60s and early 70s California

Why It’s Worth A Read: This book was written by the main prosecutor of Charles Manson and his followers, Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi spent countless hours trying to figure out who committed the murders and why they followed Manson’s orders so devotedly; he himself did police work when the police were too busy to take it on. The Manson Family was a cult unlike any that had been seen before, and the motive of the crimes was difficult but entirely necessary for Bugliosi to prove before the judge. Helter Skelter is fast-paced, gruesome, and exciting, especially when Bugliosi goes head-to-head with Manson in the court room.

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Crime: Seemingly random murders of the Clutter family

Setting: Kansas, 1959

Why It’s Worth A Read: Some people believe that this book is where the true crime genre originally started. Truman Capote writes with dark precision as he recounts the crime, the history of the criminals involved, and how the small town in Kansas was changed forever. In Cold Blood is also a great example of creative nonfiction; Capote didn’t know every word spoken at the crime scene, but he improvises believable and factually accurate dialogue.

 

white ciy

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Crime: Kidnapping and murders of World’s Fair visitors

Setting: Chicago, 1893

Why It’s Worth A Read: Erik Larson masterfully splits this book into two stories: one is that of Daniel H. Burnham, an architect who designed the 1893 World’s Fair; the other is about Dr. H.H. Holmes, a local pharmacist and serial killer. Both men would change Chicago and make history but in vastly different ways. This book is equal parts history and true crime, so you’ll learn a lot about America’s age of immigration, industrialization practices, and economic depression while following the stories.

 

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Crime: Around 50 serial rapes and murders

Setting: 70s and 80s California

Why It’s Worth A Read: Michelle McNamara wasn’t a police officer or detective: she was a writer who was obsessed with finding a serial killer. Over the years, McNamara gathered information online and on foot about the then unknown man. Unfortunately, McNamara died before her research could be published, so her husband (comedian Patton Oswalt) and friends gathered her extensive work and published it as I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. Spoiler alert: the police arrested the man who is believed to be the Golden State Killer in April 2018, only 2 years after McNamara’s death.

 

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Crime: Double murder

Setting: Utah, 1984

Why It’s Worth A Read: The criminals in question were fundamentalist Mormons, an extreme religious sect of Mormonism, who believed that a divine order justified their crimes. Jon Krakauer not only describes the ups and downs of this case, but he also records the history of Mormonism in depth. Chances are you’ll learn something new from this excellently researched book.

 

 

Spotlight On “Accounting Today”

pex accounting

If you’re studying business, finance, or accounting, Accounting Today may be a helpful resource for you. The library provides access to this online magazine via our “Journals by Title or Subject” tab on the library website. Just search for Accounting Today or click on the “Business and Management” subject tab to see other similar journals.

Accounting Today covers sections such as:

 

This journal strives to stay up-to-date on the latest news in the finance world. Whether you want to read about auditing, the IRS, or technology advancements, you can find articles and research about your topic on Accounting Today.

 

Featured Book: “Surprised By Oxford”

surprised by oxford

 

Christians should never underestimate the power of their priesthood among nonbelievers. I was hooked, and drawn deeper into the faith, by the character of various believers and how it spoke of their God: by their humility, humor, compassion, perspective, even priorities. – Carolyn Weber

Surprised By Oxford by Carolyn Weber is a memoir that shares the author’s testimony. Weber arrives at Oxford ready to hit the books but is surprised when she instead begins wrestling with what she believes about the afterlife, the Bible, and theology in general. She also meets a fellow student who intrigues her, but she is wary of dating and Christian men in particular. What follows is a beautifully written tale of discovery, faith, friendship, and a little bit of romance.

If the title of the memoir sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Surprised By Joy, the autobiography of C.S. Lewis. Like Lewis, Weber also struggled with theology before coming to accept Christ as her Savior. And also like Lewis, Weber recorded her story so that others might have hope and believe.

To learn more about Carolyn Weber and her book, you can read her interview with The Gospel Coalition. Surprised By Oxford is available at the library in our main book stacks.

 

 

How To Buy Print Cards At The Library

print card

It’s a known fact that some majors need to print an exorbitant amount of PowerPoint slides, essays, and book chapters. At some point during the school year, you may need to buy more prints. Here’s how you can do that:

 

1. Go to the Circulation Desk on the first floor of the library. Ask the worker at the desk if you can buy more prints.

2. There are two options of print cards to buy. You can buy 20 prints for $1 and/or 100 prints for $5. You can even buy multiple print cards if you need to.

3. Bring cash or a check to buy the print card(s). The library does not have a card reading machine.

4. Once you’ve purchased the card, log in to printing.uu.edu (the PawPrint website). Click the option to “Redeem Card.”

5. Enter in your card’s number. Now the prints will be added to your account.

 

There are 5 printers, all located on the library’s first floor, for you to use for printing, copying, and scanning. Once you have the prints you need, you are good to go!

Book Review: “Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location”

smithsonian

 

I have around 15 different house plants in my apartment. Most of them are succulents of some kind, but 2 are specifically cacti, 1 is a hosta, 1 is a prayer plant, 1 is a snake plant, and 1 is a poinsettia that someone gave to the library last Christmas (I couldn’t bear to throw it away). All of my plants have names, and I love all of them as equally as possible.

When the Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location arrived at the library, I immediately checked it out (for obvious reasons). This book is big, brand new, and bursting with breathtaking photos of every kind of plant you can think of. While I don’t have a yard to garden in, I still love learning about plants and how to care for them. This may be the same for you- if you’re living in a dorm, then your growing space is limited. However, this book can teach you techniques for your future yard, or for that next big Campus & Community landscaping project.

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The sheer volume of this book could be intimidating at first look. Thankfully, the book begins with a helpful “About this book” section, where key terms and symbols are defined. The book is divided into two sections: Plant Locations and Plants for Special Effects. Within these sections, you can learn about the best plants for shady and sunny gardens, plants for garden problems, and even plants for color and scent. The specific plants are pictured in vibrant colors and their scientific names in bold.

This book is for anyone who enjoys flowers, succulents, trees, and plants of all kinds. You can pick it up from the library today!

 

Harry Potter: Expectations and Isolation

harry potter

In this blog post, student assistant Donny Turner recounts his experience of reading the Harry Potter series for the very first time!

Warning: This Blog Post Contains Spoilers

When I was growing up, parents were skeptical about the Harry Potter fad. Like many Christian kids, I was not allowed to read the Harry Potter books until I was 13. As I grew up, the series became something of an urban myth to me- the taboo of something I felt like I was not supposed to have. In my head, the stories became something of a legend, and I kept building up how amazing the books were going to be once I turned 13. By the time I turned 13, my expectations towards the books became something that no book, no matter how good it may be, could match. So, when I ended up starting to read the first book, I was admittedly underwhelmed. The book was great, but when I found out that Harry Potter was an adventure story about a group of friends trying to save the world and it just happened to include magic, I was almost disappointed. I never even finished the first book, and for years I had no desire to read the other Harry Potter books. Throughout all of this I felt extremely out of touch and alone with a lot of my friends who had been obsessed with and read every single Harry Potter book.

Years later, in my sophomore year of high school, I stumbled upon the entire Harry Potter series in a used book store. I was able to purchase the collection for less than $50, and I was really excited about getting all of the books. I decided to attempt to read the series again, and for a while, it worked. I read through the first 3 books in less than a month, but then I stalled about 200 pages into the 4th book. For whatever reason, I just could not get past the Quidditch World Cup. I would read the first 200 pages, get busy and it would get set aside for a few months, and I would have to reread those pages again. Another few years would pass before I was able to get past those first 200 pages. Eventually, I began to read less in general; it just never took a precedence in my life.

When I first began college, I once again experienced a feeling of isolation again. I was at a new school full of new people that I had to meet. Often times I felt like an outsider at school; I had a very difficult time finding my niche. For the most part, I felt isolated and outside of the whole community. I remember thinking back to how I felt when my friends were talking about the Harry Potter books. Everyone had these shared ideas, and I couldn’t latch on to them. I felt detached from others. Eventually, I did find my groove, but those first few months of school were difficult.

harry potter

 

In my junior year of college, during the month of January, I found myself having to drive 4-10 hours a week and listening to music in the car was getting old; I needed something new. I realized I was able to check out the 4th Harry Potter book from the library (here), and I decided to listen to it on my long drives. While on the road, I was able to get about 400 pages into the book, and then I decided I had to start reading it in print. I flew through the last 400 pages in less than a month, and I immediately picked up the 5th book.

The 5th book is quite a bit darker than all the others. The tone is more somber and there is an edge to everything that is going on. Voldemort, the main antagonist, is on the rise, and it seems like something bad could happen at any moment. Throughout all of this Harry beings to feel more and more isolated. None of the awful things that are happening seem to be happening to anyone else. Harry begins to feel more depressed and more alone as time goes by. To top it all off there is a new professor at the school that is the literal worst. She specifically targets Harry, and she actively attempts to make Harry’s life worse. Harry feels utterly alone. The story focuses around this idea of loneliness and builds more and more that Harry has to learn to rely on his close friends. He must realize that he is not, nor was he ever, alone in any of what is happening to him. At the end of this book, the closest thing Harry has to a father figure, Sirius, dies. Once again, Harry experiences those feelings of expectations being destroyed and a great feeling of isolation. Once again I was able to relate very strongly to the character.

The 6th book of the story has some lighter tones, but ultimately ends on a very dark note. Harry is growing older, and Voldemort continues to gain more and more power. He is learning more about the history of who Voldemort is, and through these lessons, Harry learns of some of the humanity of Voldemort. The main antagonist is still extremely evil, but through multiple backstories, we are able to better understand Voldemort as a character. He is revealed to be more human, although definitely a very sociopathic human. Harry’s expectations of him change as a whole. He understands that he has love while Voldemort never will. Also, Harry’s expectations shift slightly towards the end of the story towards Draco Malfoy. Throughout the entirety of the series, Draco has been considered the antithesis of Harry Potter, and Harry absolutely suspects him of malicious intent at different times throughout the story. As the story is nearing its ending, Draco, ordered by Voldemort, matches up against a very weak Dumbledore and is poised to kill him. Yet, he cannot do it. There is a flicker of humanity in Draco, and he is unable to murder his headmaster. Harry, watching silently in the room notices this. Harry’s perception of Draco has changed in this moment, if only slightly. Where previously Harry had not seen any humanity there was some.

At this point, I was totally hooked on the books. Much of my free time was spent reading on and talking about the books. I can now say with certainty that the 6th book is my favorite, and I would tell anyone who would listen about it. Unfortunately for me, the fad of Harry Potter, while still quite prevalent, has definitely faded. I was dealing with isolation once again. Most people don’t want to listen to someone talk about how much they adore Harry Potter. Nevertheless, I persisted on towards the 7th book.

If you’ve ever read the 7th Harry Potter book, you know how different this book is compared to the rest of the series. The protagonists are no longer at Hogwarts, everything around them seems to be falling apart, and many of the main characters that you have grown to love end up being killed off. The book is gut-wrenching, and it seems like every chapter has a new main character dying. With each death, I felt more and more sadness and isolation. Throughout this book, the main characters become more and more removed from everyone as they are trying to find and destroy the horcuxes, the items that contain Voldemorts soul and ensure his survival.  At one point, Ron leaves Harry and Hermione, leaving them even more alone than they already were. Without Dumbledore, and with wicked stories of what Dumbledore has done, the main characters feel utterly alone.

As the story nears the end, however, the main characters learn of all the different people that are still on their side, supporting them. They are encouraged, and they are able to find and destroy almost every single horcrux. It is only when Harry returns to Hogwarts at the end of the story that he realizes he must sacrifice himself to save everyone. This singular moment, the moment he realizes that he must die in order for everyone to live, is a pivotal moment. This is when he reaches his most isolated, but he stays brave and dives deep into the darkness. He sacrifices himself, and through his sacrifice he is able to destroy the last bit of Voldemort that exists. Through his sacrifice, he is given the option to live again. In the moments proceeding his death, he is given a choice. He can decide to stay dead, and go on to the afterlife or whatever happens to witches and wizards after they die, or he can come back to a life that has caused him suffering and pain. He has to choose to make another sacrifice, and once again he makes the choice to come back and fight one last time to save his closest friends.

Despite his isolation and fear, Harry Potter is able to be strong and courageous when he needs to be. Sure, he absolutely makes a lot of really dumb decisions throughout the books that would have saved everyone a lot of time and pain, but I think that is what makes these books so special. Many of the characters are flawed, and even some of the main characters that seem downright evil throughout the entire series have redemption arcs. The Malfoys end up regretting their actions, and, most famously, we get to see and understand why Snape made the decisions that he did. We get to understand his love for Harry’s mother and how isolated and alone he has been throughout most of his life. Finally, the reader is able to understand why Snape acts how he does, and that he was actually acting out of love this entire time. He clings to one aspect of his life that will keep him from being completely isolated, and as a result, dies for an extremely heroic cause.

Every single Harry Potter book has some themes of isolation, and dealing with feeling misplaced or alone in the world. Reading these in the first years of college or whenever you are in a new place in your life can be especially helpful because often people feel out of place and alone at times of change. These books can help give one perspective about isolation, and they can show how one can emerge from that isolation and be a much stronger and better human being.

Plus, the books themselves are fantastic stories, with deep characters. These books are probably the most famous series of the 21st century. They personally have helped me get through a challenging time in my life. Harry Potter is absolutely incredible and 100% lives up to the hype, and if you have not read them yet, there is no time like the present.

 

*written by Donny Turner

Spotlight On “Volunteer Voices”

Tennessee

Are you interested in learning about Tennessee history? The Volunteer Voices project is a collection of documents, artifacts, photos, and other facets of local culture. The library provides access to Volunteer Voices as a database in our Databases, E-Books, and Media tab. You can also access Volunteer Voices via the Tennessee Secretary of State website.

So, what can you read about in Volunteer Voices? The project has many broad topics to choose from, including the following [click the links to access Volunteer Voices]:

Broad Topics
African-Americans
Architecture
Arts and Literature
Children and Childhood
Civil and Human Rights
Education
Family Life and Gender Relations
Farming and Agriculture
Frontier Settlement and Migration
Government and Politics
Health and Medicine
Immigrants and Immigration
Law and Legal Documents
Music and Performing Arts
Native Americans
Nature and the Environment
Popular Culture and Folklife
Religion
Science and Technology
Social Reform
Sports and Recreation
Trade, Business and Industry
Transportation and Internal Improvements
Wars and Military
Women

You can also choose to search the collection for specific terms, or you can simply browse the collection and see what the project has to offer. You’ll find documents like personal letters, campaign advertisements, pamphlets, photographs, and more. The collection allows you to narrow your search down by choosing subjects, genres, and the historical era of your topic.

The next time you’re searching for Tennessee history, head to Volunteer Voices and get started. You can also tour our library’s online archives, search our catalog here, visit the Tennesee Room at the Jackson Madison County Library, or visit the Madison County Archives.

 

 

Featured Book: “Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles”

life inside

If you’ve ever dealt with (or are currently dealing with) OCD, ADHD, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health disorders, you are not alone. That is the overarching message of Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. This book includes essays from various writers about their experiences with personal conflicts. Each essay is from a different author, so the writing style varies, and one author even incorporates free verse to tell her story.

Some of the authors included are as follows:

  • Amber Benson (who portrayed the character Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  • Jessica Burkhart (author of Wild Hearts)
  • Scott Neumyer (a popular journalist)
  • Sara Zarr (author of Story of a Girl).

It can be comforting to read about others who have struggled, gotten help, and learned how to cope. However, some of the stories depicted could be hard to read about for someone who is currently experiencing a similar situation- so be aware of this book’s heavy nature.

Several of Life Inside My Mind‘s lessons can be summed up in this passage from Amber Benson:

As much as your friends love you and want to be there for you, it’s not their job to fix you. Ignoring the problem, or pretending “you’ve got it under control,” will only make things worse. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist knows that they’re doing (they went to school for a long time in order to do this), and they know how to help you get back on track . . .

Whether we like it or not, the stress of of being a human being can be overwhelming, and having a safe space to talk about our problems, assess whether our brains are working correctly, make sure there’s nothing chemically out of line . . . well, I think that’s super important. I know I need that safe space in my life if I’m going to be a productive member of society.

Getting help when you need it- whatever that looks like for you- is encouraged by all of the authors in this book. They’ve been there themselves, and many of them are still figuring it all out. Pick up Life Inside My Mind when you need to know that you’re not alone in your struggles.