Wendy (here_be_dragons) wrote,
Wendy
here_be_dragons

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Books - #75 through #80

#75 and #76 -
The Reptile Room and The Wide Window - Lemony Snicket

Read this on recommendation from alpheratz, and in preparation for the release of the film. I'm sure I'll want to see it, and I'd rather have read the books first. I'd read Bad Beginning a while ago, and thought it was so-so. That's pretty much the way I feel about these next two, as well. They are predictable, but entertaining, and there are moments of truly brilliant humour. I do wish someone would just shoot Mr. Poe, though. They couldn't be any worse off without him. ::grin:: My favourite quote (could be considered SPOILERISH):

"These are very serious accusations," Mr. Poe said firmly. "I understand that the three of you have had some terrible experiences, and I hope you're not letting your imagination get the best of you. Remember when you lived with Uncle Monty? You were convinced that his assistant, Stephano, was really Count Olaf in disguise."

"But Stephano *was* Count Olaf in disguise," Klaus exclaimed.

"That's not the point," Mr. Poe said.

::snort::

So, I'm not in love with them, but they're not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. These definitely read as "children's books" to me, while the Harry Potter books do not, but that's not a criticism. Just something I noticed. I'll read the others eventually, which here means, "sometime later when I don't have a gigantic pile of other books already waiting to be read, or maybe when my son is old enough to enjoy them with me." (Library)

#77 -
Strangers in Paradise, Vol 1 - Terry Moore

My first graphic novel, sent to me as part of a bookring started by syrinxkat. I was skeptical about whether or not I'd like this format, but I loved it! Plus, it was a really quick read - it's amazing how many words can be left out when there are pictures to tell most of the story. I enjoyed the story - it claims to be about two women and a man who is a friend, although David didn't have too big a part in these, as they'd only just met him. I liked the characters, even if Katchoo *is* a bit in-your-face. ::grin::, and I got a kick out of the story. I'm also in such awe of the woman who drew these. I'd love to have that sort of artistic talent, but, alas, my talents lie elsewhere. ::sigh:: There's only one thing I'm not particularly happy about . . . erm, I want to read MORE - I really want to find out what these three are going to get up to next! ::grin:: But my library doesn't have the next volume. And they didn't seem to have it at Borders when I looked earlier today, either. ::adds I Dream of You to wishlist::

I think I'll give The Sandman another try, too. I didn't realise these would be so much fun. :-) (Bookring)

#78 -
Running in Heels - Anna Maxted

Like the other book I've read by this author, "Running in Heels" deals with some heavy subject matter, but does it in a light-hearted, mostly enjoyable way. Our heroine is dealing with what turns out to be a serious problem (I don't want to say what it is, as that would be a spoiler). I enjoyed reading this book, even though a few parts where somewhat painful. And it seemed that Maxted took on a big issue and gave it enough weight to point out the seriousness, without killing the "fun" in the book (although not having suffered this particular problem myself, it's hard to say just how realistic the portrayal was). A good read, although I enjoyed "Being Committed" more than this one. (Bought at used book store; will BookCross)

#79 -
Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis

This is the first of Lewis' books that I've read (I'll admit to being a bit put-off by what I've heard is Christian propagandizing in some of his works). It was one of the books chosen this month in rapidreaders, and I'm glad I overcame my concern and read it - it was a beautiful book. It's a re-telling of the story of Psyche and Cupid, as told through the eyes of Psyche's oldest sister, Orual (reminiscent of Maguire's Confessions of a Ugly Stepsister, although this book was written first). Wow. It was brilliantly, done - taking a traditional myth and turning it on its head just enough to add more realism and depth. There are SPOILERS ahead, so beware.

In the original myth, Psyche goes to live with Cupid, and her half-sisters convince her to sabotage her new life purely out of jealousy that Psyche lives in a beautiful home and is married to a god. In Lewis' version, it's not so simple - the jealousy is subconscious, Orual's motives are far from pure, but it is possible to sympathise with her, nonetheless. I absolutely loved the twist at the end - Orual and Psyche really did go through their lives together, although Orual was unaware of this until the very end. And there was some spiritual philosophy which grabbed at me . . . most notably this quote:

And in that far distant day when the gods become wholly beautiful, or we at last are shown how beautiful they always were, this will happen more and more. For mortals, as you said, will become more and more jealous. And mother and wife and child and friend will all be in league to keep a soul from being united with the Divine Nature.

This sounds akin to the Buddhist idea of attachment - that in order to reach enlightenment, one must be willing to leave everything behind, yet others (and one's own desires) will struggle against this. Psyche's final journey into the Underworld, to retrieve beauty from Persephone, where Psyche could not speak to any of the people she met along the way, seemed like an apt metaphor. When reading the quote above, my first thought was that there was a profound truth there; my second thought was that if it is true, there is great cruelty, as well. Which, for me, was also a theme of the book. Are the gods cruel, or kind? Certainly Orual's opinion through most of the book is that they are cruel, although this gets softened a bit at the end when the Fox says that the gods could never be just (which I took to mean that if they gave us, humans, what we deserve, it would be terrible punishment, indeed). Are we loved by the gods? Or are we playthings? And this very question is mirrored in Orual's own relationship with Psyche - did she love Psyche? Yes, I think she did. But it turned into an awful, smothering, selfish love, and this brought about most of the suffering we witness in the book. (Library)

(This review was x-posted here).

#80 -
Pick a Better Country - Ken Hamblin

When I started this book, I'd never heard of Hamblin. It turns out he's considered a "black conservative," and is sometimes called the "black Rush Limbaugh," but I don't think that's an apt description at all. (After reading this book, I have a lot of respect for Hamblin, something I don't think I'd ever say about Limbaugh). It was interesting to read Hamblin's "conservative" take on the some of the issues happening in the U.S. (the book is 8 years old, but I think much of what he discussed is still relevant). He mostly talks about racism and social policies - welfare, drug abuse and crime, and the "trash culture and poverty pimps" which promote and support them. He and I seem to be on the same page with what we would like to see happen, and in many cases we even agree on what might be done to achieve it. I had a few quibbles with him now and again (I'm not sure how being politically against the Death Penalty amounts to "the devaluation of life;" in my case, I believe it's just the opposite), and I have a hard time hearing any group of people be called "trash" or "an evolutionary disgrace." But I think his main point is spot-on: that opportunity is available in this country for anyone (regardless of race) who applies him/herself to it's pursuit. And that one of the biggest problems facing huge segments of U.S. society is a lack of accountabilty - not only are many people unable to take responsibility for themselves, but many governmental policies allow this to continue unabated.

Here's what I think is a good sum-up of his "stand:"

But the doctrine and values that I and other blacks like me have embraced obviously are not those stereotypical conservative - i.e. traditional Replublican - values. Ours are American values: doing the right thing, staying the course, fighting to overcome obstacles, daring to dream, and demanding to be judged by our character and our performance, not by our skin color. Our adherance to those values legitimately should bring us closer to the rewards of the American Dream, just as it does for any other American, and it has.

I am interested in hearing what he's saying these days, though - one of the things he said is that he doesn't always agree with the policies of those on the far right, but believes that the Consitution is strong enough to withstand the anything they could throw at it; I'm not sure I believe that anymore, and I'm curious whether or not Hamblin himself still believes it. In any case, I enjoyed this book, and if anything, it made me feel that the labels "conservative" and "liberal" are limiting. Hamblin and I *aren't* on opposite sides of the spectrum in what we believe and want, although our political labels might indicate that we are. Or maybe I'm just more "conservative" than I give mysef credit for being, and am so against the Bush regime because of my pacifism, which I see as being independent of left- or right-wing politics.

In any case, this book gave me a lot to think about. I'd recommend it. (BookRelay, has already been re-relayed to another BookCrosser).
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