Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Tragedy of Puddinhead Wilson by Mark Twain (1894)

I had never read this book of Twain's nor did I know anything about it. I liked this typical Twainian rendition of life on the Mississipi with his colorful local characters, predictable, but still engaging plot, and wonderful depiction of the town, area and life in those times.

Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn

Another wonderful book about the angels in Semorra. Couldn't put it down. This was about the Archangel Alleluia or Alleya, who reluctantly took up the highest role when Delilah was reckless and broke her wing. Alleluia is one of the few angels left whom the gods can hear, indicating something is not right in Semorra. Alleya with the help of her friend Caleb, an engineer, discover what is wrong and right it. This book reveals a lot of the history of this land or planet -how it came to be settled and what structure was set up for its continuing success. This is the first time I noticed how most of the names for places and characters are biblical in nature.
The book addresses themes of our relationship to each other and higher forces. As in the last book, I really liked the Edori, a gypsy-like group of people, who are the outcasts of the society, but bring a lot to the lives of everyone.

Zorro by Isabel Allende (2006)

Another wonderful book from Allende about 19th century California. The main characters go to Spain to be educated and land in New Orleans for a brief stay on their way back, so we see the situation in all three of these places. I've always liked the character of Zorro, and now Allende offered a detailed account of how this fictional character got to be the way he was, set in the a solid background of historical California, Spain, and New Orleans. The story is told by one of the characters in the book, and though I guessed about midway, she reveals herself only at the end. There is plenty of adventure and swash-buckling, but we learn where Zorro learned his fencing skills, his skills with horses, and his ability to climb all over the place (on a ship's rigging). It also explains the history of and Zorro's connection with his silent Indian friend. All in all, a fun read, with lots to learn. Wanting to read more about Spain at that time, and am trying to find more information on the pirate Jean Lefitte. Most of the books in our library are about the Jean Lefitte National Park.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln

This is the book upopn which The Da Vinci Code is based. In the beginning I was going to give up because it was so full of names and details that all sounded alike to me - more information than I could ever take in and comprehend, but I'm glad I listened to it to the end. I don't care if they are right or very off base, their process and conclusions were interesting, to say the least. The most fascinating thing for me was the research these guys had done - in archives all over Europe and the Middle East. In an audio book you have no cues like cover blurbs, so I had no idea who the authors were and how authoritative they might be. At the end I came to understand that they are professors of religion, but I have to do a more thorough search of book reviews, as I found some who questioned their research methods and authority. Obviously, they have explored a very controversial topic, which many are unable to look at objectively, no matter how hard they try.

The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dahnvant Shanghvi

I picked up this award winning novel from India at ALA too. It didn't give me the insight into the life of India I had been looking for, but it gave me some insight into its soul. Other than a vague sense of the relationship between the British and well to do Indians, unfamiliar foods woven into the story, and the panthers and monkeys, I didn't get much of a feel for India.

But the language - though it was English (and not translated as far as I could tell) was unlike any I have read before, e.g. "elegant, as though a hymn wrapped in a sari." I hate to cheat, but the Newsweek quote on the cover says it well: "An erotic tale of love and loss, loaded with magical realism... The aching wisdom in this meditation on love truly satisfies."

The book is full of different forms of love - a beautiful, but sad love between wife and husband, parents and children, two men, two older artists and a young girl, women friends, and a strange house that plays a larger than usual role in the lives of its inhabitants. The eroticism is also of a much more varied sort than usual. (finished reading in Northport)

The Friend by Sarah Stewart, Pictures by David Small

From two wonderful local children's book authors, who I hadn't met until ALA. I had a nice chat with Sarah and David, they even joked about how they had courted - I think she was the persistant one. I got a couple more of their books, but this was the latest - about a little rich girl who's parents are too busy, so she spends her days with her friend - a big black woman, who lets her "help" around the house and takes her to the beach every day. Very touching.

John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith

Signed children's book from ALA. The title almost sounds like the Beatles, and the dedication starts out: "I get by with a little help from my friends:..." But it really is a mini history lesson. John was a bold lad, who liked to write his name on the chalkboard in huge letters (Hancock.) Paul was a noisy lad, which came in handy when he had to ride and shout "The redcoats are coming." George was an honest lad... Ben was a clever lad... Tom was an independent lad... You get the picture. (And the illustrations are fun too.)

The Babe Magnet by Robin Wells

OK, don't laugh - I picked this up for free at ALA - even signed by the author, who was sitting at the Romance Writers of America booth. She explained that it was a funny modern romance along the lines of the movie When Harry Met Sally. What I liked about it was that it started right off the bat with the hunky rich guy Holt finding out he has a son, the mother has died in a car accident, and he now has custody of the child. He takes on the responsibility, but the child is inconsolable. I loved seeing a difficult baby as opposed to the cute, smiley, always perfect and calm baby often romanticized in books. He goes through a bunch of nannies until he finds Stevie, who really can calm the child and bonds with both of them. Well, you know the rest.

The other neat plot line was about Stevie's parents. Her father is retired, feeling useless and growing grumpier by the day, while her mom is taking off with her own catering business I thought their talking past each other was very realistic. Anyway, a fun piece of fluff.

Did you know that 55% of all popular paperback fiction, and 39% of all popular fiction books sold are romances? Compare this with 30% for mysteries, 13% general fiction, 6% science fiction, and 12% religious, occult, westerns, male adventure, general history,adult and movie tie-ins. (From the Romance Writers of America site.) Pretty mind blowing.