Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Next up on my list is The Chronicles of Narnia, (each book) read in the proper order. I purchased the whole large collection (I have a weird thing for collections) this weekend on a random trip to Borders (a new Borders I just found when I randomly decided to drive to Frederick, Maryland for no reason at all only to purchase a milkshake at McDonalds and turn around to wind up at Borders). This might be my new favorite Borders though the distance is a bit much for a trip to a bookstore. But these words are irrelevant.

I started the book Sunday night and am now a few chapters into The Magician's Nephew and I am absolutely loving it. The last time I tried to read any of the Narnia books was when I was in sixth grade. I found The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to be insanely dull and vowed to stay far, far from Lewis. But after seeing the movies (which, truth be told, I did not love but do find myself oddly enthralled by and will stop whenever I see them though I will not purchase or rent on my own), I've decided I wanted to read the whole series. It's exactly the kind of book I love. Magic, mysterious old people, odd friendships, secret passages. It's perfect. I'm excited to get deeper into this new world.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Order of Odd-Fish, James Kennedy

This weekend I finished The Order of Odd-Fish. I picked it up because I came across James Kennedy's blog and found him to be hilarious. The book did not disappoint in that regard.

The book begins in a home that I would very much like to visit, The Ruby Palace. It belongs to our protagonist's (Jo) aunt who was a successful film star in her younger days before she disappeared for forty years. She returned to her home with no recollection of where she had been and found a baby with a note that that alerts her that the baby is Jo and she is dangerous. Now Jo is 13 years old and her aunt is throwing another wild party. Jo is hiding and watching people when she notices a strange man dressed as a colonel and he seems to be looking for her. This is the beginning of a journey that takes them out of the desert, into the belly of a fish, to finally wind up in Eldritch City.

The author is really great at characterization. Each character has his own peculiarity and I was never confused as to who was speaking. Each time a new character was introduced I felt immediately drawn to that character and his or her back story. Unfortunately, only a few lived up to the potential they had been set up for. The book was, at times, overly silly. But in context it worked well and was easily forgiven.

For being a middle-grade book, I was a little embarrassed by how many of the words I did not know. This is great for those in the intended age range. James Kennedy is obviously very intelligent and very creative. I think it is a great read for those still in school and while I found it enjoyable (enough so that I would read anything else he writes), I don't necessarily think it's one that adults will enjoy in the same way as other younger reader books.

Wow, please forgive these elementary school reviews. I promise for the next book to have something of substance that actually mentions something about the book!

Sometimes I Lie...

Watership Down! I read it! It was....okay. I have more complete thoughts written on paper, but I am just ready to do this and forget about it. So please forgive my elementary book report.

I was skeptical immediately. A book written from the point of view of rabbits? Seriously? It suddenly made sense why this book was assigned to middle school and junior high classes (though not my middle school or junior high). The plot was simple. Fiver has a sense that alerts him to danger so he rounds up his brother, Hazel, and a few random rabbits and guides them to safety. The encounter danger and obstacles (I never knew rabbits were so violent). They persevere. They tells stories and have their own God and myths and language.

Overall, the book was well-written and well-researched. Richard Adams must have spent months observing rabbits. I found myself growing bored with their stories by the end (the stories of El-Ehairah and Prince Rainbow) and never really found a relevance to the main story. I rolled my eyes a few times at various words and phrases (written down on paper as examples, but not here...sorry) as human characters would never even speak in that way. The rabbits kept reminding the reader that they were only merely rabbits and therefore did not understand certain things (such as water and boats), and I don't believe it was necessary.

I'm sure there is more to this book. Something about community and trust. Maybe something about courage. But whatever it was was buried and did not leave the book with me.

Final opinion - it was okay. I'm not sorry that I read it, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it or reach to read it again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Because I am a slacker on this blog, I bring you a meme! Tonight I will be back with something good. A review of Watership Down! Stay tuned. And until then, read this.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
This would go to either Neil Gaiman or David Foster Wallace.

2. What books do you own the most copies of?
I've downgraded things a bit so I got rid of any multiple copies. There are a few books I've had two copies of... Alice in Wonderland I had in paperback and in my Collected Works of Lewis Carroll. Romeo and Juliet existed on its own and as part of my Collected Works of Shakespeare. I have two copies of Price and Prejudice - one in e-reader and the other in paperback but only because the e-reader copy was free.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
My girl crush on Elphaba from Wicked is certainly no secret. As for others...I definitely went through a Harry Potter phase. And an Edward Cullen phase. But mostly I fall for the fictional characters that my teenage self would have fallen for. I can't think of any amazing male characters I have had crushes on. I'll have to work my way through my bookshelves and find someone.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
Gone With the Wind. I used to read it once a year. It's a thrift store copy, the cover is held on with Scotch tape, it's old and yellowed and I absolutely love it.

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Either Just as Long as We're Together by Judy Blue or A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L'Engle.

6. What is the worst book you have read in the past year?
Others have been afraid to say, but I am not afraid. The Road. NOTHING HAPPENED. I've heard people say the end was very moving, etc., but one can only be moved if she can actually make it to the end. I did not make it to the end.

7. What is the best book you've read in the past year?
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The characters are exceptional, the story is exceptional, everything about this book is exceptional. The story is moving and I didn't even have to suffer through to the end (which I did anyway, though I'd hardly call it suffering). It's real and gritty and beautiful.

8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Why are so many of my favorites centered around a war?

9. What is the most difficult book you have ever read?
Infinite Jest. Oh, the footnotes. I had to keep a separate bookmark in that section so I could keep flipping back. The subjects range from grammar to physics to tennis and filmography. The speaker constantly changes and they are all in separate corners of the narrative. It took a long time to read and the ending was abrupt and did not feel final, but it was great and so worth the effort. I think I would read it again. Many years from now.

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I would say the Russians.

11. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Hm...In college I took a Shakespeare class and a Milton class, but never felt a great love for either. I've only read one story from The Canterbury Tales and I don't even remember which one it was...is there a woman from Bath in there? I guess I'll go with Shakespeare based solely on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with Leo and Claire.

12. Austen or Eliot?
Austen. I have never read Eliot. That should have been on my 100 list...

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
The Canterbury Tales. Everyone has read The Canterbury Tales. That or The Pilgrim's Progress.

14. What is your favorite novel?
I hate this question. Next!

15. Play?
The Glass Menagerie or A Streetcar Named Desire

16. Poem?
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - T.S. Elliot

17. Essay?
I can't remember the title, but it's in David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Funny Thing I'll Never Do Again and it's about fiction writers/television and Joe Briefcase.

18. Non-Fiction?
Does Stephen Colbert's I am America (And So Can You) count as non-fiction?

19. Graphic Novel?
The only graphic novel I have read is Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw. I liked it and if I could be led to more in that vein I would try reading them.

20. Science Fiction?
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut

21. Who is your favorite writer?
Neil Gaiman (currently)

22. Who is the most over-rated writer alive today?
See above "worst book read this year" for the answer. Cormac McCarthy. I just don't get the appeal. I hated The Road, I didn't read the book but I hated the movie No Country for Old Men. Two of the most boring stories I have ever encountered. I must be missing some underlying themes or brilliance...

23. What are you reading right now?
The Order of Odd-Fish by James Kennedy, Children of the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries by Laurel Holliday, and whatever I pick up next for my 100 list.

24. Best memoir?
I don't typically read memoirs...though I totally want to read Tori Spelling's books.

25. Best history?
Uh...I need to broaden my reading horizons.

26. Best mystery or noir?
And, see above.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Too Many Books on my Shelves

I recently downgraded from one and a half bookcases (five shelves each and each shelf stuffed to capacity) to just one bookcase (full and stuffed to capacity to the point of exerting effort to pull one out). I thought, I have a Kindle now. I will rarely buy real books. Then this weekend I purchased four books.

Interestingly (or maybe not) each of these books is about the Holocaust. Three were intentional, having been purchased at the Holocaust Museum. The other one, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, was purchased in Barnes and Noble. That's irrelevant though. I don't think that saying I am fascinated by the Holocaust is an appropriate phrase, but it's such an interesting period of time. It's close enough that most of us know people who were alive when it happened making it one of the first major events that my generation can relate to. My grandparents (though not together at the time) were in the Ukraine when the Nazis invaded and for fear of being rounded up (as dark-haired Ukrainians they were afraid they'd be mistaken for Jews) they fled the Ukraine and ended up in a German work camp. They met and took an Army boat to Ellis Island before settling in Pittsburgh. My grandmother tells me all the time about how much she used to love to sing and how the Germans loved it when she did. I just hope I have more time to listen to her stories. They are not all as happy as that one, but they are essential to our history and must not go untold. Even if it is just for family.

A (fiction) book essential to any reading about the Holocaust is The Book Thief. Such a ridiculously amazing book. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. Read it. It will forever change your life.