Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I've been so busy at work lately that the last thing I want to do when I get home is fire up the laptop, but I'm getting ridiculously behind on posting, so here's a roundup of what I've read the last week and a half.

A Short History Of Myth by Karen Armstrong is, I believe, intended to be the introduction to the whole Myth series and I've been meaning to read it for a while now. It was indeed short and Armstrong isn't really given any room to really delve deep into any one era, but she does an okay job of skimming along the surface, tracing the evolution of myth into the present day.

Since it seemed like everything I'd been reading for a while had been so serious, I read three YA novels the weekend before last. The first, a recommendation from a coworker, was Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, which I eagerly raced through. It's the story of a group of young women in an isolated mining village who are sent to Princess Academy because it was prophesied one of them would be the prince's bride. Now this is how you incorporate telepathy into a story (I'm looking at you, Meg Rosoff). I enjoyed it a lot and can't wait to read Hale's other books.

Last time I saw Claire she told me I had to read Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. She was absolutely correct - this book was intense. It's told through diary entries of a 16 year old girl as she and her family try to survive after a meteor hits the moon, knocking it closer to Earth, which causes massive worldwide natural disasters. Claire said she had the overwhelming urge to start stocking up in case of an earthquake after finishing it. I had the exact same reaction. Time to get my food storage in order! And to get those canning recipes from my grandma before tomato season gets here.

Next up was Wide Awake by David Levithan. It's set in the not too distant future when a gay, Jewish man has just been elected President. When the corrupt governor of a swing state orders a recount, trying to throw the race to the opposition, millions of people gather to protest including the main character, a high school student who worked for the campaign, and his fellow campaign workers. It's a little reactionary and definitely wishful thinking and I could only wish as I read it that it would actually be our future.

Then I read another in the Myth series: Weight by Jeanette Winterson. It's the tale of Atlas and Heracles, with a little autobiographical fiction thrown in. It was recognizably Winterson's style (which I enjoy) and I found it very thought provoking. There was one line that stuck out because of all the times I'd read the Atlas myth I'd never seen it in this light: "His punishment was a clever one - it engaged his vanity." That really gets to the essence of Winterson's version, with both Atlas and Heracles, and even Winterson herself, pondering the why of their actions.

Lastly I read Icelander by Dustin Long, which I'd seen described as a cross between Nabokov and Agatha Christie or Nancy Drew, however from the beginning it was obviously Elizabeth Peters, specifically her Amelia Peabody mysteries, who was the other part of that mix. The comparisons are very sly and funny and I felt vindicated when a little ways into the book one of the footnotes read in part, "...perhaps more relevant information might have been revealed if the investigators had taken note of the fact that the book's vertical neighbors were, say, Vladimir Nabokov and Elizabeth Peters." Hah! I knew the parallels were too obvious to be unintentional. I really had a great time with this book. One character is described as a "rogue library-scientist" for heaven's sake! How could you not love a book like that?


Friday, June 08, 2007

My new-found love of Jess Walter led me to Every Knee Shall Bow: The truth and tragedy of Ruby Ridge and the Randy Weaver family, his non-fiction account of the 1992 standoff. I only have vague memories of this event because it all happened before I starting paying much attention to politics (that would come a couple of months later), so most of it was completely new to me. Walter naturally begins earlier with Vicki Weaver's childhood and follows her as she meets Randy. Together they and their family slowly become more and more radicalized in their religious and racial beliefs before ultimately moving to Idaho and isolating themselves. He doesn't demonize the Weavers, but he doesn't excuse them either. The same treatment is applied to the FBI and the other government agencies who become involved. He lays out the facts and lets them speak for themselves. It's not hard to conclude that many tragic mistakes were made and there was plenty of blame on both sides. It's extremely well written and riveting and Walter never resorts to sensationalism.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Find Me by Carol O'Connell kind of feels like the end of the Mallory series. In this book Mallory is following the tracks of her long lost father through his old journal entries written about the famed Route 66. Coincidentally there is a caravan of parents of missing children driving the route to raise awareness of their situation. And the FBI just so happens to be investigating what they believe to be a serial murderer who buries his victims along the same route. Needless to say paths converge and more bodies pile up. As usual, O'Connell throws you into the action already taking place and catches you up along the way, a trick which is so effective at keeping Mallory's mystique going. If this is indeed the end of the series, I'll be disappointed not to see how the events of the book affect the characters, but Mallory has had a good run and I'll look forward to O'Connell's next work outside this series.


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