Friday, July 20, 2007

A Slew of Things

Just because I have been busy lately doesn't mean I haven't been reading. Actually, it is hard to imagine a life in which I wouldn't be reading. I suppose it would be a life in which my eyes were gouged out, my eardrums burst and consequently, my hearing was lost (so I could not listen to books on tape), and my fingertips have fallen off (because in the case of the first two events, I would have learned Braille). And my toes and tongue, for that matter. In other words, it would never happen.

So. I have been reading. And here they are:

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

by Donna Jo Napoli

I just finished this one a mere twenty minutes ago. I love this author!
This was a retelling of the story of Rapunzel. There were no real twists or clever takes on anything, just brilliant storytelling. (When I first read Napoli, I found her style rather...sparse, simple. Ha! She is graceful with her words, and chooses them carefully. That is all.)

Zel and her Mother, the witch, are so wonderfully characterized and crafted, and as always, Napoli blesses them both after their pain and madness with a touch of redemption...wonderful, wonderful!

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Catherine, Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman

This has been a favorite for a long time, since I first discovered it in college. I have to reread it every few years or so because it is a very funny book, and insightful. I love Catherine's character, I love how the story is told, and I love, love, love how she gets rid of her would-be suitors. Hooray for spunky women in books!

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown

I did enjoy reading this book; I enjoyed all the history, the religion, the "reveals." The action was okay, but I wouldn't have read this book for just the action. (Brown is really kind of a hack when it comes to that sort of thing--his characters offer nothing in particular, the action is pretty run-of-the-mill--it's the information that gets me.)

Not that most of the information was new to me. For pity's sake, I took a senior course in college entitled "Arthurian Legends" so of course the Grail was covered, and the professor told us about most of the stuff that was in here: how the quest for the Grail was really a quest for Christ's bloodline; what the Knights Templar were really up to; how the Catholic church perpetuated sexism and why; symbolism up the yin yang. (Especially symbolism. I wrote a twenty-page paper just on archetypal numbers in Arthurian legend, so of course the pentagram came up.)

And of course, it leaves me wondering just how much of this book is based upon solid research, and how much is Brown's fancy, but it still opens up all kinds of possibilities to me. It was cool for me to get his perspective on the Nicean council, for example. But how much of it is true? I almost wonder enough to actually go research it. Almost.

And the thing that bothers me the most: Brown can take the plunge to consider that Christ was married, that he had at least one child, that he was a feminist. But how can being married and having a child prove that you are not divine? Brown was very clear in proving everything else, so how could he leave that one fallacy unexplored and untested, making some assumption on some belief of the old Catholic church somewhere: sex is evil, and having children makes you mortal? Ridiculous, considering the rest of the book. Oh well.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted
by Gail Carson Levine

If you have not read the book, but you have seen the movie, I am so, so sorry. That movie was an absolute travesty. Really, really dumb.

But the book is wonderful. Yet another retelling of a fairy tale (yes, I know, I read a lot of those), this one of Cinderella. Like Catherine, Called Birdy it is witty and enjoyable, and Ella has some real spunk. Like the Goose Girl, it's all about girl-power, and in the end, it's Ella who saves her prince. And she breaks her own curse, of course. And it is a little silly, too, but if it weren't, would it be so much fun?

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor
Stephanie Barron

A friend sent me this one. (Thanks, Marie!) And it is a very entertaining read. Jane Austen as Columbo. Can you imagine the possibilities? Of course, I love Jane Austen, and a good mystery is always entertaining.

And that's it for now. Next up: Terry Pratchett. Can't wait!