Monday, November 13, 2006

I LOVE Jim Dale

This summer as we were painting almost every square inch of our house's interior, I listened to every single Harry Potter book on tale. I didn't think I could love them any more than I already do, but Jim Dale really brought the characters even more to life for me. JK Rowling does such an amazing job with her characters in describing them in so much detail, and then Dale's voices, each character completely unique. What a wonderful joy to listen to. And thank you Hennepin County Library for having them all on tape so that I could listen!

Andy also listened to some of the 7 books. He thought it would be fun to download them on his IPod. Turns out they are $50 a pop. Guess not.
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A Vampire Book?

So, I've puzzled over the rage about vampires. The whole Buffy thing. I personally haven't watched any of it, but I mean, vampires? Kinda weird if you ask me.

Anyway, I wonder if Stephenie Meyer is a Buffy fan and that's where the inspiration came from for the dream she had that triggered the beginning of her novel Twilight. I was reading her blog today, and it's a crazy story. Here she is, a SAHM of three boys. Not really an aspiring writer, and hasn't really written anything much at all. But, she wakes up with the memories of a vivid dream about a human girl and a vampire boy who are desperately in love. And hence the catalyst for Twilight. And she finished it in something like three months. A 500 page book in three months. Wow. She was obsessed and that story just kept churning in her mind.

Also intriguing to me, as with Shannon Hale, is how she was able to write this and other works and go on book tours and have this successful career when she is primarily a mom.

So, the book. It was a good story. It didn't have beautiful language. I read this one right after Princess Academy, and the difference was clear between them. Meyer's language is much simpler. That's not a great way to explain. Hmm. The languaged wasn't as nuanced. It was more cut and dried. And I felt like Meyer's characters were a little flatter than Hales.

Aside from the comparison, though, the story was interesting. The whole development of what vampires' lives might be like if they tried to live within human society was creative and clever. Their magical powers, how they come to be--on and on.

And the story of star crossed adolescents who can't be together--it's a proven formula for success. The obstacles they must overcome, their determination to do so.

And in spite of all the glowing reviews by readers that I read, I didn't really feel it resonate with me.

A good book, though, and I'll read the sequel because I'm curious about it. Maybe I'll check out the book on tape and see how I like it read aloud.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Italian geneological mystery

Blood Washes Blood is the account of a man trying to find out the story of his great grandfather and namesake, a Sicilian. On his deathbed, His grandfather whispers to him the name of his great grandfather's murderer. Viviano feels compelled to return to his ancestral homeland to try to unwind the story of what really happened.

He goes to Sicily and lives there for long periods of time, goes to the parish and civic archives to sift through baptism, marriage, and death records (sound familiar?). He also finds old maps of the area, looks at newspaper articles, and on and on. Lots of tedious work. He also puts together the historical time period, including the formation of il potere, also known as the Mafia, in order to piece together a story. What he finds out is fascinating, an interesting twist at the end, that explains why his parents married and sheds light into his own personal identity.

Pretty interesting book. I didn't like the portions where he fictionalizes the history in a novel like way. It felt a little too detailed for a general audience, more appropriate perhaps for his family. I got a bit lost in the historical details. His dedication to solving the mystery were admirable and it made me think that I shoudl get back to my Italian history. The reason I picked it up: I heard about it on a yahoo groups list for Italian geneological research.
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Princess Academy

After I met Shannon Hale, and having missed book group in August where Princess Academy was discussed, I decided to check it out from the library and read it. Shannon described this as a transition book, meaning that it would have an appeal to girls who like princess stuff, but would be a bit more sophisticated and challenging than other princess materials. This made me rethink my original view of the book. I pooh poohed it a bit because of the title--disney princess and princesses in general have become too much in our house, although I think that MJ is growing out of it a bit. I hope!

I really liked this one. She has such a beautiful way of writing and I found myself thinking about how much Maren will like it (and how much I will like her to read it) when she's older. I think I liked this one better than the other two of hers that I have read.

Each of the three I have read of hers have a strong female character in common. And an element of mystical powers of being able to communicate with nature. Here, Miri is able to channel the powers of linder, a precious stone that her village quarries, in order to communicate with others in her village who have grown up with linder. She is a physically weak girl, and feels despair that she doesn't fit in to her village--her father forbids her from working in the quarry. She has a chance to expand her mind and locate some of her talents when a princess academy is created in order to teach the future princess the skills she needs. Miri returns to the village with a thirst for books and learning and wants to spend her time teaching others.

Good book. Speaks to human desire to find a place to fit in.
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Friday, November 03, 2006

William Tyndale, in three volumes

The selection for book group in October was Fire in the Bones by S. Michael Wilcox. It is an introductory look in William Tyndale's life, from a Mormon perspective.

My basic impressions:
1. It was an introduction for an audience that had never heard of Tyndale. (As it turns out, I am pretty much in that group.) But, it felt really simple. Like a lot of things were glossed over.
2. I didn't think Wilcox was a great storyteller. The story is compelling, but it didn't flow very well. He intersperses bits about the translation logistics and things of interest to a Mormon audience with the story. All interesting, but it didn't hold together super well.
3. Tyndale's shortcomings (whatever they are) were glossed over. It was very much a rah rah rah hero look at this man. I also felt like his part in the reformation and his ulterior motives of reform were lightly touched upon. He motives for translation were portrayed as purely to bring the light of the Bible to the fieldboy and servant woman. Nothing of the venom he felt for the Catholic church was described.
4. The language: ugh. Over the top flowery. Especially at the beginning.

All of the above are negative points. It was a decent introduction. As a stand alone book, I wasn't thrilled with it, but the topic was interesting enough (and his treatment skimpy enough) that I wanted to read other things.

Wide as the Waters covers all personalities and events that eventuated in the English translation of the Bible. Thus, the scope is much broader than Fire. It was also much more of an academic book which had some depth that Fire lacked. I liked getting the history from Wycliffe to the King James, with lots of interesting information about the reformation. (that is another of my critiques of Fire. The historical context was lacking.) The whole bit about King Henry VIII was fascinating. I was intrigued by the idea that the King's lust for a new wife (and a male heir), which led to his desire for a desire, caused a schism with the Catholic church and helped the reform movement in England. I haven't yet finished this book, but am going to get back to it soon. It is somewhat dense and takes and bit of time to get through.

The last book was God's Bestseller and I read the least amount of this one. Probably 150 pages or so. It was all about Tyndale, but it went into more depth on what paper was like back then, stuff like that. It didn't really add much to the story.

All in all, I enjoyed reading about Tyndale, the translation of the Bible into English, and the reformation and I learned a lot.
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