29 October 2012

October Reviews

Wow! Three reviews ALREADY -- and I still have a week and a half left in October!
I recently got a new job (ack! like a month now!) and since then, I have been reading like crazy. Why?
(You ready?)
I work in a library.
Oh man, it is so nice to be working in a library again! Really. Not only am I surrounded by my books again (and get to read over my dinner every day) but I'm helping students and that, I think, is really what I love. Still working on figuring out exactly what I love, but being around books and students isn't such a bad gig. 
Anyway, I've been reading a ton over the last month. I actually have a drawer in my desk that is full of books that I've checked out to read next. It doesn't matter that I have about 10 books in my room to read. No. I have to have more! It has finally gotten to the point when I have to make myself (ha ha) read the public library books first...because they won't let me renew them any more! So I am still working on The Amber Wizard, the first book due back. And even though a dear friend tried to stop me, the last time I visited the public library I picked up another book. The newest DekKer--how could I not?! 
Ok enough excuses. Back to the reviews. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Where to start on this one?! It's been on my list for a while and was one of the first books I picked up at my new job. Back in 2006, two films were released about magic and a magician's life: The Prestige and The Illusionist. Two very different films but oh, so interesting. The Night Circus reminds me of these stories. Two master magician's have constructed a contest: two protege's are pitted against each other to discover which one is the best...and which one is dead.
I was going to write more but as I was reviewing the book, I came across a few reviewer's opinions of the book and a few of them caught my eye. 
Olivia Laing says that even if the book doesn't quite meet the mark, " it still functions as an eminently intriguing cabinet of curiosities." Her turn of phrase really caught my eye because she is right.
Laura Miller  likens the book to a beautiful piece of pottery...except it has been fired with the potter's thumb print on it. Craft without being art. She also says it is "an aesthetic fantasia with all the trimmings" but that the "plot is this novel’s flimsiest aspect."  And again, on both counts I must agree. It was a good and interesting read. I even got my mother to read it. Her images and scenes were beautiful, but the motivation was slightly lacking. 

Lenten lands by Douglas Gresham
I grabbed this book on a whim during my last bookstore trip. Well, not entirely on a whim. Hmm. Let me explain. 
The book is marketed as the story of Douglas's childhood with C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. I'm not sure that is completely accurate, but whatever. If you haven't figured by now, I'm a huge C. S. Lewis fan. I have a lot of his books, written more than a few papers on him and his work and even had the opportunity to visit his home in England. So even though I didn't plan on getting the book at the bookstore, I've been meaning to read it for awhile. So...there's that story.
The book was a bit of a let down. For me, anyway. I guess I was expecting there to be more personal stories with Douglas and Jack (Lewis's nickname). Instead, I found it to be more of a general autobiography, mentioning Jack a handful of times through the whole thing. Actually there were more stories with Warnie, Jack's brother, than with Jack. And perhaps, that was the case. Perhaps Jack, though he tried, was just not around enough for Douglas and his brother. 
Insult to injury is that the book is a bit discombobulated and meandering. It comes out sounding more conversational than narrative. I believe he said that he recorded his story and from the transcripts came the book. It is very to easy to believe that that is indeed how the book came about, and with little editing.
I'm rather glad I didn't try to read this in school as research for a paper. I would have been sorely disappointed with the underwhelming amount of new information. 

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
I kind of fell in love with Zusak's The Book Thief the other year in Gettysburg and I was convinced that anything he touched would be gold. This book does not disappoint. When a book speaks to me in a certain way, I struggle to explain it to people. Kinda of like when I tried (and possibly failed) to tell you about If I loved you, I would tell you this by Robin Black. It's haunting and beautiful at the same time. Ed Kennedy is coasting through life when we meet him in line at the bank. We discover that he is an underage taxi driver and the least successful and least loved child in his family (No, seriously. This comes out later in the book.). His life keeps to the same boring pattern until that day in the bank I mentioned earlier. He helps the police catch a bank robber. He thinks things might be looking up...until he receives an ace in the mail. The card has three addresses & times on it. Ed learns that these are three opportunities for him to make a difference in the world around him. But it doesn't stop there. 
While Ed is striving to reach out to members in his community and spread a little bit of happiness, he ends up discovering more about himself than the people he helps. It reminds me of something C. S. Lewis said: if you want to see what’s really in your basement, surprise your basement. The playing cards that gave him the instructions turned the light on in the basement of Ed's life and showed him what he was and what he could become. See? I told you I had trouble explaining books like this.

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