Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Oh dear. And here I just said this morning that I wasn't buying any more books until we move.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

I decided to start a new blog today. For a long time I took up most of my journal pages with book reviews and food notes; then I started this blog, and that took care of the books, but I still tend to go on for pages about food. Hence, Milk and Honey (which is also the name I plan to give my future bakery/bookshop). And now I have room in my journal to write about the other things happening in my life! Hmm... this could get depressing...

My day yesterday was unusually uneventful, since I wasn't feeling quite up to snuff and so stayed quietly at home cleaning, talking on the phone (for more hours than I care to count up, although I did take the chance to do a little crocheting and sewing), and reading a book by Robert O'Brien called The Silver Crown. My previous experiences with this author were confined to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (an excellent read), so I was pleased to find this reissue, which I quite enjoyed. It's a simple tale of a young girl whose life goes completely awry on her tenth birthday when she awakes to find a strange silver crown on her pillow. Donning it strengthens her belief that she is not just Ellen Carroll, but a queen--of what she doesn't yet know, but the consequent adventures lead her closer and closer to the answer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I have to say I wasn't overwhelmed by Reading Lolita in Tehran itself--it was interesting, but a little too scattered to capture me entirely, and the writing style kept all the characters very impersonal and unindividual (which was perhaps intentional to protect privacy). Also I was a little disappointed that the books read and taught by Azar Nafisi were not discussed more, and that their effect on the characters seemed unimportant. However, I did enjoy it, especially because it inspired me to read the books the author talks about.

I'd read The Great Gatsby as a teenager, but wasn't old enough to appreciate it--my memory of it was vague and slightly distasteful. I just finished reading it again today, and I am blown away. From the first page I was enthralled with the clean elegant prose and the strange intricacy of the characters' lives. This is a great novel, and I'm sorry not to have recognized that before.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Odious, Jack, another friend, and I had the recent pleasure of attending a book-signing and talk on Eagle Dreams at a lovely little bookshop in Albuquerque. We hadn't seen the author, Steve Bodio, or his wonderful wife Libby for quite some time, so it was quite a treat to visit with them as well as to hear Steve give more background on his travels described in the book. They were pleased to see us as well--I had the gratifying feeling of being a celebrity when Steve finally noticed us in the crowd and interrupted his talk with a delighted wave and greeting--and quickly introduced us to their other friends who had come as well. We met several falconers and a wonderfully adorable little girl named Grace, and got to see part of the extensive native bee collection that Steve has been working on for UNM, before heading out to a nearby bar for several rounds of cocktails and, of course, vodka shots. When one has just been hearing about a country where the staple foods are mutton and vodka, it's rather inspiring to go out and drink expansively. The frightening thing, as Jack remarked, was that after two shots of Ketel One and an impressively large cocktail each, we were all quite sober enough to drive--the dangers of living the restaurant life.

I had brought along the other two books of Steve's that we own, as this seemed the right time to have them signed for posterity, and handed them over at the appropriate time. After expressing surprise that we had found an original edition of Aloft (his 1990 meditation on pigeons and pigeon-flying), he opened it up to the title page to discover that it was already signed. While I was feeling mildly embarrassed for never having noticed, he read the inscription and realized that he had written it to a friend in 1992, over the weekend that he and Libby first met! So he signed it again, in hopes that Odious and I will keep it longer than Sana did, and we now own an interestingly historied book. Odious says that we almost have to sell it, just to see if the cycle continues, but I don't intend to let any of Steve's books out of my hands. Which I suppose is a recommendation in itself.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I've been meaning to say something about Tamora Pierce ever since briefly noting that I'd read the first Protector of the Small books, but haven't gotten around to it until now. Well, after that first book, I gobbled down the rest of the quartet in a couple of sittings. When I went to Ohio a few weekends ago, I took along the third book (which didn't last beyond the plane), leaving behind the other three. Odious happened to pick up the first one while lazing about in bed, and met me at the airport with an insistent demand for the one I'd taken (to be fair, I did get a brief hug first). They are particularly charming books, with a compelling story and characters that become as dear as friends--definitely a treasure among children's literature, and indeed literature in general. This quartet follows the life of Kel, a young girl who is the first to be allowed to train as a knight, from her lowly beginnings as a page to her fateful adventures as a lady knight. Throughout it all she displays admirable self-control and determination, working towards her goal with single-minded motivation despite prejudice and pitfalls. I found myself rooting for her far more violently than I usually do for any character. While Pierce may not possess a fantastic writing style, at least in these books it's polished enough not to intrude upon the story.

The Immortals quartet, published previous to Protector of the Small, is unfortunately not so polished in style, but I enjoyed the story nearly as much, as it gives the background of one of the most intriguing characters in Kel's story. Since her mother's magic brought on the destruction of her family, Daine has done her best to avoid magic, including the small vestiges she seems to possess. After she is taken under the wing of the sorcerer Numair, however, she begins to learn that her magic may help to save the land from a dangerous threat. I spent most of our time in Eugene last month whipping through these four books, and found them well worth it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

So far I've read two of Patrick O'Brian's books, and while I really enjoyed them, they both sure took me a long time to get through! With Master and Commander I got distracted, but with Post Captain I didn't read anything else and yet it took me nearly a week to read. However, I did enjoy it more than the first one, partly because it was, as Jack said, more Austenian in style. I've never been one for the men and boats stories, but O'Brian manages to make those parts of his books exciting and compelling (maybe because they usually catch up to whatever they're chasing, rather than pursuing a non-existent whale for hundreds and hundreds of pages!?!), and I found myself on the edge of my seat several times during Post Captain. What I enjoyed most, though, were the social exchanges and interactions that made up their lives off ship. In general what makes a novel interesting to me is the characters and their relationships, so it was nice to see so much of that in this book. It was especially neat to see the fluctuations between Jack and Stephen, and how their friendship won out when it really mattered.