Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Books Read

Akiane: Her Life Her Poetry Her Art
I saw Akiane on The View in a segment "I can't believe a kid did it." There is indeed something a bit unbelievable about child prodigies. It seems this child genius converted her agnostic parents. I'm not sure I buy that. Her mom writes, "Physically, artistically, and logically, the process of her painting was incomprehensible, as though the Almighty power was vibrating through her every vein." This girl was homeschooled and isolated. Her story is whatever they tell us.

Akiane does have an incredible gift. One of the conundrums of child geniuses is living up to that accomplishment as an adult. So I sent for the book, paged through the art. The child seems to believe she talks to Jesus...so I wonder why her Jesus looks like the guy in my childhood bible. Her family lived through some hard times. Her gift certainly helps them. I wonder how much more so since they had such an inspiring conversion experience. Here's the clincher, her mom writes, "scientists from Russia who noted Akiane's "Prince of Peace" had a remarkable resemblance to the mysterious image taken from the very Shroud of Turin!" Ummm wasn't the Shroud of Turin debunked? I wonder if any of her paintings hang at the Creation Museum.

Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly
This is why I don't pay much attention to unknown library patrons when they say, "You must read this author/book." They would have no idea what I like to read. They have the untested arrogant assumption that if they like it, it must be good. I don't much read mysteries, but on the surface this did look like it could be interesting...historical mystery by a historian, with juicy explorations of freedom and race. I didn't read the book. This was one case where I just couldn't get past the first sentence: "Had Cardinal Richelieu not assaulted the Mohican Princess, thrusting her up against the brick wall of the carriageway and forcing her mouth with his kisses, Benjamin January probably wouldn't have noticed anything amiss later on."
That reads more like a romance. I'll be just a little wary if I come across this author's scifi stuff.

Wizard's Holiday by Diane Duane
I'm inclined to like it, after all I've sought it out as the 7th book in the Young Wizards series. The original two young wizards, Kit and Nita, experience a wizard exchange program, just like high schoolers visiting homes in foreign countries for a few weeks. It's supposed to be a holiday, but the joke is a wizard is always on call, even on a holiday. One of the exchange wizards that stays at Nita's home with her dad and sister Dairine was a mobile tree. That was neat.

The Book of Night With Moon by Diane Duane
This is the first of a secondary series, same universe as above, but this one focusing on the cat wizards. Familiar characters make cameo appearances, and hints at other wizardly conduct makes me wonder if the author is referring to stories from another book, but I'm not into it so much that I'm going to track that down.

This book seemed denser than the previous young wizard series, and carries a different tone. The author spent a lot of time establishing the language and interactions of cats, so it seemed a bit like lessons at times. It had the effect of making it a little distant, like cats can be. The whole Choice at the beginning of a species' sentience is getting to seem more like proselytizing, unfortunately, with some character actually laying out the whole Garden of Eden scenario as something that happens throughout the universe. It was OK, but I don't feel compelled to read any more about the feline wizards.

Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones
I could see kids enjoying this as a way to bring sense to the confusing social interactions of old ladies, and through the whole book that thought didn't quite make it as ominous as it could have been. The British version is called "Black Maria" ...already more ominous than "Aunt Maria." While it was clear this was possibly about a coven of witches with surrounding mystery that the kids needed to solve, in the end it turned out to be one of those sleeper fairy tales, with hints of the 'fairy mound' and magical beings that hold children prisoner.

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan
(I know, a lot of fantasy books lately...they read fast.) Just as a teenage boy finds out his parents are likely to separate because his mother is having a lesbian affair, he also finds out fairies really exist. Henry and his elderly employer are put in the position of figuring out the science to send their young royal fairy back to his own dimension, and once that's achieved, there's still more thrilling royal intrigue. Scary demons, dark fairies, kittens saved from the glue factory, the quintessential Dr. Evil type climax, and royal girl-spy, it's all there. Even girl-on-girl action, if you count the kiss between mom and girlfriend, but it's only described in a reserved British sort of way.

Forever in Blue: 4th Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
It seems as though this may be the last book of the Traveling Pants series, and that's OK. In some ways, like aging TV series, some of the insecurities of the protagonists seemed a bit contrived. If you'd read the earlier books, you knew that girl had more confidence and self-awareness than she was displaying.

I was just about to give up on the book when a quote kept me going. "Pain is inevitable: suffering is optional." Greta Randolph. Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from clever or deep thinkers. Of course girls just out of high school are experiencing love and lost love, and learning to deal. By the end of the book, I admired how the author captured the tumultuous time of love and love, and how girls might learn to negotiate those feelings. I felt it might be a little bit idealistic, shades of one soul mate per life, and I wished just one of these girls might shed her virginity without some psychic regret. I could see perhaps the author thinks no matter what, even in the perfect case, there is a loss of innocence that affects a girl deeply.

As teen books go, I like this series for the deeper thought and questioning that the characters experience. You can see them developing their philosophy and emotional wisdom that should serve them through life. So, it seemed they lost some lessons from previous books, only to find new emotional growth spurts in this one. The author dares to have these 'good girls' do some 'bad things' and emerges with us without the usual judgment. I liked that.

It was pure happenstance that I saw the movie based on the first book just around the time I was reading this the 4th book. It was nice to be reminded of the beginning of their coming of age.

Other quotes I liked from the book:

  • It's innocence when it charms us, ignorance when it doesn't. Mignon McLaughlin
  • Right now I'm having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before. Steven Wright
  • Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Epicurus
  • One must have a good memory to keep the promises one has made. Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Illusions are art, for the feeling person, and it is by art that you live, if you do. Elizabeth Bowen
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
I might not have read this book if it hadn't been a book group selection. It is a classic mystery, but does not take the typical form of the mystery genre. A recurring character from Tey's books is bedridden and going out of his mind with boredom. A friend brings him some portraits to look at, and he is taken up with the intriguing question of why Richard the Third does not look like a murderer. The more he researches the more he wonders if all the childhood history books were dead wrong. We had an intriguing discussion in our book group on the nature of the truth, and can we know truth in history. You're left still wondering, this book written as fiction...is it the truth? (The title came from the saying, "Truth is the daughter of time.") One of our book group members was so intrigued about the true course of events, she did a little google sleuthing herself and found the Richard III Society, a group determined to change the impression left of him in history.

1 comment:

sandy shoes said...

Nothing substantive to say, just: 1) hi, like your blog, and

2) hot damn, woman, you read a lot :).