Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Road

When a book gathers so much attention, I can't help but read it just to see what all the fuss is about. Such was the case for "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. The blogosphere was making such a racket that I decided to give the book a try. I don't have anything against award-winning, best-selling books, it's just that there's lots of other good stuff on my reading list awaiting my attention. This book broke my heart. Here's a great description of it, but I'll sum it up by saying that it's your worst nightmare, especially as a parent. An unnamed man and his son are traveling across a great distance to reach the sea in a completely dead world. Some kind of cataclysm has occurred and nothing is living on the earth. The world is divided up into good guys and bad guys, with good guys scavenging canned food and staying hidden from the bad guys who are cannibals and killers. My heart broke for this poor little boy who was witnessing the absolute depravity of the human race, the worst possible behavior of human beings. Yet the boy remains pure, full of desire to be a good person, to see his father be the best person he can be and help people they see along their way. The father has no interest in helping others, but he takes great care to watch over his son, going to great lengths to provide for him. It was an interesting contrast in how they each showed love. The man for his son, the son for other people. The love that this man has for his son, the son's insistence on them staying human and not succumbing to the animalistic behavior of the bad guys made this book a beautiful story instead of a despondent one.

I cannot recommend this book to those with frail hearts. The burden of reading it would hurt too much. It has left a mark on me, but I'll never forget the beauty of it either.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Writing Motherhood

Sometimes I have a hard time with non-fiction books because there's no compelling finish that I'm racing towards. But "Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer" by Lisa Garrigues was so well-written that I found myself savoring each chapter instead of inhaling the pages, like I usually do with a fiction book. I would read a chapter and then sit and think about it for twenty minutes. Or I'd start to read and then just sit there and think instead of reading. Not typical behavior for me. This book is a great guide to writing well, writing more, and writing with a purpose. I'm not looking to become a professional writer and she's not gearing this book towards that. It's about channeling your creativity through writing and focusing that writing on motherhood. Since mothering is an all-encompassing task for me right now, I found this book to be a great help. She makes it sound so easy, so worthwhile and fulfilling! I always thought that my creativity will always and forever be expressed through music, but now that I don't have many musical outlets, I'm craving another venue. Mrs. Garrigues gives so many helpful exercises, writing starts and ways to get the muse fueled. Reading this book was like taking a writing class. I'm going to read it again and this time, try all the exercises, or "invitations" as she calls them. This book would be a great one to read for mothers of any age to find a way to express themselves.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sci-Fi and fantasy, gotta love it

I know it must appear that I've forgotten I have a blog, but honestly, I was entrenched in some really good books. I've been on a sci-fi and fantasy kick lately. Maybe it's a side-effect of losing Harry Potter and I'm craving to fill the void, but I noticed the other day that all the books I've been checking out lately have fallen within those categories. One of them was a doozy. Last spring, I read "Inda" by Sherwood Smith. As far as fantasy novels go, this was a gem. The irritating things about fantasy novels? Learning the vocabulary. Every fantasy novelist feels compelled to make up new words for everything, preferably unpronounceable. In "Inda" the royalty all have bizarre made up titles that I have to guess at the pronunciation, which frustrates me. Then you have to remember what all these things mean later when they bring it up again. That almost stopped me. But the action and characters kept me going. It was really compelling discovering this fascinating culture. It honestly only felt like a fantasy novel in the sense that there's a tiny smidgen of magic and the entire world is, well, made up. It was more of a political novel, with different factions, plots, maneuverings and such. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, despite it's weird made-up words. When "The Fox" came out, which was the sequel to "Inda", I grabbed it. Again, action-packed, thrilling adventure story. Loved it. The author gives us a glimpse of different cultures within the world that are so different from the one that was focused on in the first book. The main character, Inda, is so likable, so noble, that you yearn for him to succeed. That's what makes a character convincing, making the reader empathize and worry over them. These books are no casual reads, either. At 650+ pages, I can tell how long it's going to take me to read it because I can't hold it with one hand. Therefore, it'll require my two-handed attention while I read. No nursing a baby while I read it, or standing over a stove. I'll have to sit down and use both hands, which won't happen all that often during the day. But well worth the effort and tired arms. The only thing that is perplexing is this sexually amoral society they live in. It is expected to have relationships outside of marriage in all forms and variations and considered abnormal not to. Huh, whatever. Another take on "fantasy" I guess. Nothing is pornographic, but plenty of allusions. Just to warn you.

Another great fantasy read, while I'm on the topic, was the second Fablehaven book. I wrote about the first Fablehaven book here and I finally got a copy from the library. Let me tell you, there's a darn good reason why there's a dozen holds for that book. I thought the first book was good, but I think the second was even better. More action, more excitement, more twists and turns, and less forced preaching from the grandparents. One thing that annoys me about sequential books is the way the author tries to remind you of what happened. I hate it when they just spout it out verbatim, like a "Previously on Lost" deposition. Boring. I'd rather it be covertly included and Brandon Mull did a good job of that. Another thing that annoys me in books is pathetic bad guys. Either they are so grotesquely evil that you can't even read about them or they aren't convincing enough to give you chills. Fablehaven has some evil guys that you haven't even met yet, but they are there, enticing you with hints of their dastardly deeds. You almost dread meeting them in future books. I love that word "dastardly". I wonder if I can find a way to include that in my daily life.

Last on my list of books I recently enjoyed is "One Jump Ahead" by Mark L. Van Name. This is pure, unadulterated science fiction. No magic or fairies here. It's been said that the difference between sci-fi and fantasy is that sci-fi has bolts and rivets and fantasy has trees. "One Jump Ahead" is full of bolts and rivets. My husband is a gadget guy. He loves technology and toys of that nature. When I read this, I thought to myself that he would love to live in this world. The hero is great in this book. Jon has a tortured, mysterious past that is enough to make you read more books about him just to uncover it all. He's also virtuous in a deadly way. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley, unless he was already with you and had his vehicle, Lobo, nearby. It also helps that the action keeps it moving and the bad guys are, well, I already expounded on that.

It's time for me to explore some other genres. I've got some great non-fiction books on my bedside table waiting my attention, so that's where I'm headed now. If you haven't sampled any fantasy or sci-fi yet, these are good places to start. Broaden your horizons!