Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Ancient Child


On Amazon
My experience:
My mind is full, and I am heavy with disquiet, but this I will say: the writing is exquisite and entangling and engrossing; the characters baffling, beyond understanding, beyond knowing; the imagery -- oh! -- reminding me without preamble how, even as a child, I loved the vast, flat plains of Oklahoma.

This too: much of the language and context is coarse, lewd, sometimes terrible, and though many times I wanted to set the book aside and pick up another, something easier and lighter and less invasive, I could not. I picked it up to begin it, and I set it down complete.

The book:
... Well... it's complicated, see? I can't remember when I've had to concentrate -- to work -- so hard to simply understand a book.

Okay, so there are a whole bunch of sections, right? Chapters, in a way, but sometimes they're long and tell a story, and sometimes they depict a scene and sometimes they paint a picture. Sometimes they're poetry and sometimes they're prose.

Sometimes the chapter speaks from the point of view of Set, an artist and a man who hardly knows himself, who struggles with understanding his identity. Sometimes the sections are from the perspective of Grey, a "medicine woman" in training, and sometimes she has visions and sometimes she's daydreaming and most of the time you have no idea which is which. Their stories are meant to be interwoven, but there's no way to tell that or see it coming, not until it does happen, and at that point, there's no way to know how it is that Set seems to live ten years while Grey lives one, and then, when the story finally comes together, both stories woven close... I don't know if it ends happily or sadly or mysteriously or terribly.

I -- my brain aches.

The writing, however, is exquisite. I wish I would have kept a pad of post-its at hand because there are at least a half dozen passages I would have liked to have marked to read again and share and write on little slips of paper to use as bookmarks, to read again and be amazed again. Rather, I'll no doubt have to reread the book at some point in the future, this time with a better knowledge of what to expect from the story and with a pad of post-its to mark the beautiful passages that took my breath away and shook my brain and kept me turning the pages though I was already disquieted and burdened and baffled.

The verdict:
This is not a book to rate on a Netflix scale, but even if I had to invent a scale, ranging from a pole of "I want to pretend I've never heard of this book" to "I want my thoughts and speech to mimic every intonation and breath of this," I still wouldn't know how to rate this one. I can't say it's  5/5 because the story is too confusing and complicated, coarse and terrible, and if my mother or mother-in-law were to read it upon my recommendation, I might die of shame. However, the writing is beautiful. The setting is beautiful. The characters are fascinating and mysterious, and through the circuitous telling, I believe the story is mesmerizing. I'll affix a 4 out of 5 here and call it good enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Graveyard Book


on Amazon
...and it was fantastic. 
See the medal on the image of the book cover? Yeah, totally belongs there.

Gaiman's storytelling is impeccable; his writing is impeccable; his characters are excellently three-dimensional.

On a (sort of) side-note, Neil Gaiman has a way of describing characters so that only the most pertinent qualities are highlighted. I was a handful of pages from the end before the descriptions of an important character clicked together in my brain to form a complete picture. I couldn't believe it had taken me so long -- but at the same time, I love that it surprised me.

The Graveyard Book is a story about a boy raised by the ghosts of a particular graveyard. There's more to the story than simply that, of course: a (horrifying) beginning, Bod's adventures,  and a perfectly conclusive conclusion, every thread tying into the story as a whole. Chapters that seemed like little more than adventures cycle back to become significant. There's a particular neatness to that kind of storytelling that I can't help but appreciate.

The book has a similar residual creepiness as Coraline had, but it also bears a similar innocence and sweetness. I recommend it -- as well as pretty much anything written by Neil Gaiman -- but with a brief reminder that it is a creepy, nightmare book. Don't say I didn't warn you.

4 1/2 out of 5 and a lot of gushing from me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Music - David Crowder*Band

I have nothing but respect for those artists who love their God -- our God -- with every cell of their beings and use every talent in their treasury to serve him better. I salute David Crowder and his bandmates (as well as others, such as Matt Redman) for speaking exactly the noise I can hear inside myself and never quite translate into sense. Thank you.

"I Need Words"
I need words
As wide as sky
I need language large as
This longing inside
And I need a voice
Bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing You
That I've yet to find
I need You,
Oh, I need You
I need You,
Oh, I need You
To be here now
To be here now
To hear me now
To hear me now

God of wrath
God of love
God of Earth
And God above
God of hope
God of peace
God of you
And God of me

God of day
God of night
God the just
And God the light
God of the strong
God of the weak
God of you
And God of me

My love for You
My heart for You
My life for You
All I am for You

Blood through my veins for You
I give my world to You
All I am and all I have
I lay it down for You
Dancing 'round with You
Spinning 'round with You
Laughing loud with You
My love

And a little something extra...

I can't seem to recall when I first heard "End of October" nor can I explain why I got so excited tonight when I heard it again, but I love it. Consider it a musical cookie from me to you. ;-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud


Yay for my first grown-up book of NaNoReaMo 2010!

Charlie St. Cloud is a gentle book all about how death can cripple the living. It's well written and satisfying; the characters are believable and lovable, and twice it took me by surprise, which I appreciate in a book.

Do I think my life will be changed for reading it? Probably not. However, I do think that it has the spark to affect someone else, touching them in a long-lasting way. Isn't that why we read?

I don't have much more to elaborate upon, really. 3 1/2 out of 5, and I recommend it as a good read. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Matilda Bone


On Amazon
While I was at the library the other day to pick up the Neil Gaiman books, I picked this little thing up. It's historical fiction, which is not necessarily my usual cup of tea, but I like this author (Karen Cushman, author of Catherine, Called Birdy & The Midwife's Apprentice), and this was a good afternoon read. Simplistic and frustrating -- the primary emotion the main protagonist functions under -- and sweet. Easy three out of five.

Three small (kid's) books in two days... Is it too early to admit I wish I were writing?



 ... and I was dozing off by 10:15. That's unheard of in this household, so rare and shocking, it borders on crazy talk, but there it is.

Coraline is another novella, actually shorter in length than Bree Tanner, but Neil Gaiman, the author, is a master storyteller. This is my third of his that I've read, and, honestly, of the three, my least favorite. Not that it's bad, by any stretch of the imagination, just not my favorite.

The story is very simple, which it has to be to be satisfying in 162 pages, and I would like to sum it up without spoiling it for anyone in this way: it's the story of a nightmare -- only the author never resorts to the "and then she woke up" device. It's simply a creepy little story that any of us could imagine we've dreamed at some point in our lives, laid it out in story form.

I'd also like to add, partly in defense of my criticism of Bree Tanner that the characters lacked depth, that Coraline's characters were real people. As a matter of fact, I related to the mother and father a little too well, and Coraline was a perfectly normal little girl, containing both virtues and vices, as well as this pleasant little thing we call a personality. She was even a little on the obnoxious side, but she's a little girl. We were all a little on the obnoxious side as children.

All in all, I did like Coraline. I hesitate to rate it now because I feel quite strongly that I'm going to need to reread it, maybe after the New Year, just to see if some of the writing doesn't itch at me like it did upon first reading, but I'm going to pop a 4 out of 5 on it for now, and recommend it as a quick read.

...Oh, and to those who wonder *coughcoughBethandJoAnncoughcough* I did not sit on my backside all day with my nose in a book, promise.

Of course, both books I read were tiny, so there is that. ;-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner



Granted, it's only 178 pages long, and it's basically a rehashing of Eclipse from the perspective of a minor character, so it's not exactly a taxing read, but, hey, it's the first down, and I read it during a couple quiet hours this afternoon. That means I can move on to another this evening. I just have to decide which one...

As for the book itself, I did enjoy it. It's a quick, easy read without too many of the writing glitches of Twilight -- you have to appreciate growth in a writer -- that might distract a reader (me). I found Bree's recounting of the days leading up to the Eclipse battle... interesting... I guess, but the characters weren't handled with enough depth to truly satisfy me. I hardly had a chance to get to know them before they're gone. What was interesting, however, was her perspective of the altercation between the Volturi and the Cullens, details that Bella was oblivious of, including a little insight into information Edward was catching -- that we simply didn't know about in the primary books.

All in all, it was a satisfying read. I don't regret the time spent, though, regardless of Mrs. Meyer's improvement as a writer, it's not exactly fine literature. If I were rating this on a Netflix scale of 1 to 5, Bree Tanner is an easy 3.