Thursday, May 24, 2007

Magyk by Angie Sage (2005)

Now here's a wonderful fantasy book for young adults (i.e. the main characters are kids and nothing too too awful happens.) Yes we have a new world, new social structure of wizards and non-wizards, some weird creatures, but they are introduced slowly, so we can get used to them and get to like them or hate them, depending on whether they were aligned with good or bad guys. Jenna grows up in the Heap family of wizards, the only girl amongst 6 boys. Boy 412 grows up in the army. My only slight complaint was the use of two very well know terms from the Harry Potter series: Bogart and Trelawny. Otherwise, I can't wait to read the next one, and I'll have to wait for the release of the third.

Arabat by Clive Barker (2002)

Sounded interesting, but I had little tolerance for things I don't like in reading, so I quit this one after a few chapters. Clive Barker is usually a mystery writer, I think. I did not like his forray into young adult fantasy. The names all sounded too cutsy, the situations too contrived - they always are, but this one just got on my nerves.

Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer (2007)

The premise was great, and I had never read anything by Mailer, so I thought I would try this. Mailer looks at Hitler's youth and family in a fictional story, hoping to explain what made him so evil. The narrator is non other than a minion of Satan. So far so good and from a few things I mentioned to a friend who has studied Hitler and the Holocaust, looks like Mailer covered a lot of the controversies around Hitler's childhood and family - so it was probably well researched. What really got to me was Mailer's sense of the role Satan and his minions have played in historical events. He has his own elaborate definition of what is evil and how people get drawn into being Satan's pawns, and what the relationship is with God. It is not a Christian definition, but his own. I can respect that, but it made no sense to my ethical constructs and didn't further my understanding of evil - a concept I have struggled with at different times in my life. This didn't help. The historical figures got so tedious, that I lost interest in what happened to them and gave up on the book about three fourths of the way through.

I was interested in the concept of incest brought up in the very beginning. I never thought of it, but the close proximity of family members in those days, often sharing rooms and beds, could have easily have led to incestual relationships. I'm sure this is covered in sexual histories, I just haven't read any.

I was also fascinated in the beginning about the detailed descriptions of bee-keeping, one of the endeavors Hitler's dad takes on, but then it just got to be too much. Since I was listening, I couldn't flip past the pages on this.

Firebirds Rising, edited by Sharyn November (2006)

It's been a long time since I've read an anthology, especially one of fantasy and science fiction. I was lead to this by a middle school student I know, who was looking for information on Tamora Pierce and Angie Sage. Tamora had a short story in this. I found myself liking most of the stories I read, but surprisingly did not like the one about librarians - In the House of the Seven Libraryians by Ellen Klages, seven librarians stay behind when the library moves to a new, modern building. They keep up their work even without any readers, and occasional new books appear, like the Harry Potter books, but they continue living in the old library style. I still love the physical book and like to hold them and read them (and buy and keep them!) But librarianship has moved way beyond that, and this story felt to retro, mourning the passing of the old ways.

Some authors were known to me, like Sharon Shinn - in her alternative world, where they celebrate Wintermoons. I know I read a whole series by Patrica McKillip a long time agao. Tanith Lee, Alan Dean Foster, Charles de Lint, are names I recognize from years ago. But the most interesting stories came from the writers I didn't know - Tamora Pierce, Alison Goodman, Kara Dalkey.

Six Mornings on Sanibel by Charles Sobczak (1999)

Picked this up on Sanibel Island during Spring Break. Nice gentle, feel-good book on why people move to Sanibel, or spend time there, leaving their hectic lives behind.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Maggie Darling by James Howard Kunstler (2004)

This "modern romance" was given to me by my friend Sniedze - just for the fun of it. Maggie Darling (yes, that is her last name) is a Martha Stewart type, whose world starts falling apart, but whenever she needs to calm herself, she starts making lists. She has a perfect house, impeccable parties, glorious garden - it's just her relationships with people that leave a lot to be desired. It was kind of fun. I was totally bored by the details about food - none of it sounded tasty to me. She drank a lot, mostly expensive rare wines and scotch - one way to deal with problems. I never liked Martha Stewart until she went to jail - then she became more human and likable. I never really got to like Maggie Darling, but I did like the man she finally ends up with. I also liked some of the settings - the over the top 747 that used to belong to an Arab sheik, the film set in Vienna - where there is so much waiting around, that people get bored. I didn't mind her fling with the rock & movie star, and liked it when she knew when to call it quits. The calamities were definitely contrived - husband, son, best friend, etc. but it was basically a fun read. The interesting thing about the author Kunstler, is that he writes for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and op-ed page, and has written much more serious books.