Friday, September 30, 2005

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

A great young adult book about anger management and learning to cope with what life has dealt you. Even my son got it - he said though he has anger problems, they are not THAT bad. Well Cole is a very angry 14 year old. He beat up a kid at school and faces a trial and prison sentence, when Garvey, an Indian parole officer steps in and suggests circle justice. A group of community people concerned about Cole and the situation get together to help both Cole and his victim Peter heal. Cole is so out of control, they decide to send him to an island in Alaska to get in touch with himself and his anger. Cole agrees expecting to be able to swim off the island. He tries, but the tide is too strong for him. He sees a large white bear, a Spirit Bear, and since the bear doesn't show any fear, Cole attacks him. The bear doesn't take this very well and mauls him. While lying injured, he has time to think about his life and realizes he does want to live and live differently. Cole survives, but barely, and after recovering from his injuries, is given the chance to go back to the island and work on healing his soul.
(listened to in August, going through it a second time with my son in September)

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: a Comedy of Manners by Robert Heinlein (1985)

It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Heinlein, and since this was one of the books with a funny title I have students find in the library, I thought I’d read it. Basically it was a fun adventure story, where the main character Richard ends up running through numerous space stations, the moon and planets with his new wife Gwen/Hazel. I found a lot of things amusing and interesting in this futuristic tale. I had forgotten about his open sexuality mindset. But then it got very confusing with numerous time lines and the convoluted extended family over time and space of Lazarus Long. I vaguely remember Lazarus from Heinlein’s other books. Though I found the last third of the book confusing and tedious, overall it was still fun and worth reading. I enjoyed Heinlein’s explanation of religion, God and beliefs. A short excerpt: "For many centuries religion held sway as the explanation of the universe … the details … differed wildly but were essentially the same: Somewhere ... there was an old man in a nightshirt who knew everything and was all powerful…and could be bribed."

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

This was another book that came in the mail unordered. This is more the type of romance I can’t really handle. It just was too contrived. Yes we all have our life’s crisis and knitting actually is a very meditative activity (a friend of mine knits in meetings at work all the time), but all the situations were too contrived. Lydia opens a yarn shop after surviving two bouts with cancer, Jacqueline is blind to the merits of her new daughter-in-law, Carol is the perfect woman, but can’t have a baby, and Alix is a punk young woman who just incidentally comes up with a child for Carol. Everyone ends up in a good relationship or improves the one they had. Yeah, right….
(read late July)

Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Again, to understand the latest Harry Potter book, I felt I had to revisit the previous one. Umbridge is the most evil character Rowling has created. Every time Umbridge speaks or is around, I get a creepy feeling. She knows how to destroy students like no one else. I was a bit more tolerant of Harry’s anger this time around, because he is not only going through adolescence, he really does have a lot of things to deal with. His relationship with Cho is especially realistic - he really doesn’t know what to say to her and doesn’t understand what she wants. Surprisingly Hermoine is the understanding one - at least in this case. Her relationship with Ron is very bumpy. Again, I love all the details - the DA group and how they really learn to do spells which they actually get to use against adults in the final huge battle; Hagrid and his relation with the giants, his brother and Madame Maxime. I think I will end up listening to this again with my son soon, but there is so much here, that I don’t mind.
(listened to all 17 tapes twice! July & August)

Howard Hughes: The Secret Life by Charles Higham

Here’s a book I started, but never finished, but I’d still like to keep a record of it. After seeing the movie Aviator, I was intrigued by Howard Hughes, his role in the development of aviation and things like his relationship with Katharine Hepburn. I remember when I was a kid, hearing of Hughes as the reclusive richest man in the world. I got about half way through the book, but realize I don’t have time to finish it right now, and gave it back to the library.
(read half early in 2005)

Runaway Mistress by Robyn Carr

I don’t know why I got two romance books in the mail, but there they sat, tempting me. I am embarrassed to admit actually enjoyed this fluff book after it got out of the mode of rich mistress with designer clothes whose main goal in life is to look good for her guy. After the first chapter Jennifer ran away from that life style, shaved her head, wore baggy army pants and got a job in a small town diner. From here I liked the story. The small town characters were nicely done, but things fell together a little too patly for my tastes. The teenage girl she befriends has the same kind of childhood as she had, so Jennifer can help a lot. When the nasty rich ex-boyfriend comes looking for her, her new guy just happens to be a cop, so he can go chasing after him. So what is it about romance novels that get to some of us women? At least the modern ones have strong female characters, but things do work out better than they usually do in life. I guess we just need some of that fantasy life.
(finished July 24)