Month: August 2011

2011 Book #39: The Hero and the Crown

The Hero and the Crown is Palmer‘s favorite kid-book, which is why I read it. I read The Blue Sword first because there was some confusion which of the two is actually his favorite. Here’s why: both were written by Robin McKinley, whowrote The Blue Sword first, but The Hero and the Crown is its prequel. I’m glad, though, that I (kind of) read them in the wrong order because The Hero and the Crown is so much better. I really, really enjoyed it.

This one’s about Aerin, daughter of the king of Damar. She’s a bit of an outsider because her mother was a commoner from the (evilish) North, and lots of the citizens consider her mother, now dead, a “witchwoman,” and think some sort of evil rubbed off on Aerin. Tor, a cousin, is slated to become king, and he is in love with Aerin, who keeps getting into trouble. She befriends and rehabilitates her father’s lame warhorse and investigates an ancient ointment that protects the wearer from fire, then runs off to fight dragons (which are about the size of dogs but much more dangerous). Her father is having problems with the Northerners, and while he goes off to battle, she kills the last of the giant dragons, Maur, and is seriously injured. As she lays in bed dying, she dreams about a silver lake and a blond-haired man who says he can help her. She musters her strength and makes it to the lake, where she meets Luthe, who saves her but also makes her “not quite mortal,” and once she is well, she travels to fight her uncle in a tall black tower. Then more stuff happens.

It appears that McKinley has taken care of some of her style issues that made The Blue Sword seem sooooo long. The Hero and the Crown flew by, and I found myself wishing there was more. There’s a scene about three-quarters through the book in which Aerin is climbing up an amazingly long flight of stairs, but we only find out later that it’s taken her thousands of years. McKinley made it seem like a couple hours. But there was less awkward language, and it was an easier, more pleasant read. I wish she’d write more in this series.

2011 Book #38: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I’m not sure I should count this one. The size of The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a bit daunting until you look inside. It’s 533 thick (as in good-quality) pages. I was expecting it to take a while. But no. Near the end of the book, the author, Brian Selznik, mentions that it’s only around 26,000 words, which is roughly half the length of The Great Gatsby, which is about the shortest a novel can be and still be called a novel. Below 50k, it’s a novella. So The Invention of Hugo Cabret is, word-wise, a short novella.

But the words are only part of it. It’s filled with beautiful pencil drawings – and even some photographs. It’s a beautiful mix of the traditional and graphic novel, and I loved every minute of it, though I wish it was a lot longer.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is about a young boy, Hugo, who lives in a train station in Paris. His father died, so he moved there with his uncle, but his uncle disappeared. Hugo is left all alone to perform his uncle’s job of keeping all the clocks in the station wound and running correctly. Before his father, who was also a clock-maker, died, he had been working to repair an automaton he’d found, the origin of which no one seemed to know.

Hugo is determined to fix the automaton because he thinks it has a message for him: it’s sitting at a desk, pen in hand, ready to start writing. He gets the parts for it by stealing from the toymaker in a stall nearby. Eventually, he gets caught, and things get interesting.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s different. Martin Scorsese is directing a movie based on the novel, which I’d imagine would work out very well.

2011 Book #37: Cosmopolis

cosmopolis_uk_first.jpegI don’t even wanna talk about this one.

I hadn’t read a DeLillo novel in quite a while – we’re faaaar away from the glory days of the DeLillo Binge. While I was working on the Thesis Monster (which I still have to finish), I read most of his novels and realized that he’s just writing the same novel over and over with different characters and settings. Once I saw that, I lost all interest in DeLillo and all interest in the Thesis Monster. Which is why I haven’t worked on it in a while.

Here’s the plot of every DeLillo novel I’ve read (except, maybe, of Underworld, which I didn’t finish): A guy (always a guy: DeLillo writes Man Novels) experiences some sort of postmodern angst related in some way to the media. He runs away from his life or otherwise destroys it. Sometimes he attempts to return and is unsuccessful in reintegrating himself.

There. I’ve just told you the plot of Cosmopolis. And Americana, Great Jones Street, Mao II (the three novels included in the Thesis Monster), Libra, White Noise, Point Omega, Falling Man, and all the others I’ve read. That’s right: all of them.

Really, Don DeLillo? I thought you were better than that. Or at least a bit more creative.

I still say I’ll finish the Thesis Monster, and now I have a wee bit of incentive. Next August, I want to start Librarian School, which means another master’s. Which also means I need to finish the one I’m “currently” working on. I only need thirty more pages, and I have until early April to do it. I need to get my shizz together.

2011 Book #36: Everything that Rises Must Converge

9780374504649.jpegIt took me a long time to read Everything that Rises Must Converge, but that’s not because I didn’t like it. Now that I have a job, I’ve been reading a lot less. I get up, go to work, come home, and watch bad TV. I’ve only been reading during my (very short) break at work and just before I go to bed. I’m glad I’ve gotten ahead in my quota. Also, it’s too damn hot around here to read. The high today was 109. I know I said last winter that I’d rather it be 100 degrees outside than fifty, but 109 is just ridiculous. I’m working with window units here.

Anyway. The only Flannery O’Connor I remember reading before this was ye olde high school and college favorite, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” which, I guess, I liked well enough. I’ve never been one for southern lit in general, though I’ve always loved A Confederacy of Dunces, and I’ve grown to like Faulkner a lot. I enjoyed Tom Sawyer, though I don’t have any interest in other Twain.

But O’Connor! She’s fantastic! I have a new favorite short story writer. I’m not sure which of these short stories I like best: they’re all really, really good, and they deserve a second (and third!) reading. I’m sitting here staring at the list of stories, trying to single one out, but I really can’t, so I won’t.

Everything that Rises Must Converge is O’Connor’s last collection. She was still working on it when she died. She only published one other collection, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, so I might pick that up at the liberry. Where I work.

Speaking of the liberry, I’ve been thinking about writing a series of book reviews for their blog. This post would not be a good example of a review, though I’ve been considering looking into gearing my entries more toward the formal. We’ll see if I can doff my laziness for a bit.

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