Monday, June 22, 2009

at long last

One of my favorite books ever is Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, a magical and mysterious book that is not to be put down until finished. In Franco's Spain, Daniel is eleven years old when his father takes him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books and tells him to choose a book. Daniel chooses a book: Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. He reads and rereads the book and then asks his friend the bookseller for more books by the same author. The bookseller tells him that someone else is also asking for books by Julian Carax and is destroying them. Daniel is determined to find out why the books are being destroyed as well as find more books before they can be destroyed. Several years of his life are spent unraveling the mysteries of Julian Carax.

I was captivated from the first page and absolutely devoured this book. I wanted everyone I know to read the book, I recommended it to everyone who came to me for a recommendation, even if it didn't fit their reading interests at all! Imagine my delight (joy! elation! anticipation!) when my library cohort the Floating Lust, er, Lush (sorry!) told me there was a companion book coming soon. I checked the library's catalog and there was the book. I requested it and waited and waited and waited. Last week the book arrived! I raced to finish the two books I was reading and, at last, this morning started reading the new book.

The Angel's Game is about David Martin, the unwanted son of a mother who deserted her family and a father who abused him. His father is murdered in front of David's eyes and, with no other family and nowhere to go, David is hired by his father's employer and becomes the office boy at a newspaper. When he is in his late teens, the editor of the newspaper offers David the chance to write a serial fiction column to fill the last page of the newspaper. David writes a lurid murder series that becomes very popular with customers but makes David very unpopular with his coworkers, who envy his success. Soon, the editor bows to pressure and fires David. Jobless, he turns to a wealthy friend who has made arrangements with two seedy publishers to give him a chance to write cheap thrillers and crime books. David jumps at the chance since the money they offer him is beyond his hopes and dreams.

I've read about six chapters and, just like The Shadow of the Wind, I've been hooked since the first word. I can't wait to go home tonight and stretch out on the daybed with book in hand and lose myself in the Barcelona of the 1920s. Doesn't that sound perfect?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

back to enjoying a book

I've been reading The forgotten garden by Kate Morton. It has a gorgeous cover of a little cottage in a flower-filled garden. Its endpapers are an illustration by the legendary Arthur Rackham. Both are clues that a reading adventure lies between the covers. I read and read and read and I was still on page 78 after a week. Since there is a long waiting list for the book, I could only check it out for two week and the end of the second week was fast approaching. So what did I do? I gave up. Too many storylines, too many character viewpoints, too slow, too slow, too slow. (I'm at the point in my reading life where I don't feel obligated to read everything that I start--there are plenty of books waiting that I will enjoy. Try it, it's very liberating!)

So, yesterday I started two new books--one in my purse, one on my bedside table--and they both look to be winners!

My bedside book is Silver Phoenix: beyond the kingdom by Cindy Pon. I've read three chapters about Ai Ling, a seventeen-year-old girl who is approached by several young men, but can't get a betrothal from any of them. This is fine with her but her parents are unhappy that none of the young men see the value and beauty of their beloved daughter. Her father, a former servant to the Emperor, returns to the Imperial palace on a mysterious, but, he hopes, short trip which stretches into a year's time. Ai Ling, to avoid the unwanted attentions of a lecherous merchant, decides to go to the Imperial city to find her father. I can't wait to see what happens next.

My purse book is Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. Set in the early 1940s, Pearl Harbor has just been bombed and America is at war. Young Ida Mae, an African American girl in her late teens, longs to be a pilot. She knows how to fly but, due to her race and her sex, she cannot be licensed for solo flight. Her goal is to go to Chicago where there is a flight school run by and intended for African Americans but doesn't know how to accomplish her dream without her mother's support and approval which are not forthcoming. Ida Mae is fairskinned and could pass as white--what will she decide to do?

So the question is, why do some book grab your interest at the first word and you read effortlessly and happily while others slog along and you never get anywhere?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

oops, she did it again!

My day off was yesterday so where did I go? The bookstore, of course! And what did I buy there? A travel guide to Chicago (at the end of the summer, maybe?) and Martha Stewart's Cupcakes by you know who. The Book Besotted Librarian and I have been discussing this book for months. It's pub date was June 2 so I headed for B&N after work on the 2nd and they did not have it!!!!! I had to wait 3 whole days before getting my frosting-encrusted hands on this book. Harumph.
I am hopelessly devoted to her cookie cookbook and I foresee a similar devotion to Cupcakes. The salted caramel chocolate cupcakes are eating away at my baking curiousity at this very moment! I did a quick flip through the book and was pleased with what I saw. Floating Lush (my reference desk cohort today) is encouraging me to try many recipes and bring them to work. I just may have to do that!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

another quirky kid

I just finished Anything but typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a children's novel about autism. It was really good. Baskin worked with several autism groups to get her facts right and she does a fantastic job showing how the mind of an autistic boy works.

Jason Blake is 12 years old. He has loving, and sometimes frustrated, parents who really go to bat for him. He has an adoring and caring younger brother, Jeremy, who is 8. Jason sees an occupational therapist and a talk therapist and has graduated from needing a one-on-one aide during the school day. He doesn't talk much but is in love with words--he is an enthusiastic writer, posting his stories on an website called Storyboard. Another writer, a girl whose screen name is Phoenixbird, comments on Jason's stories. He responds to her comments to the point of telling her his real name and signing one of his emails to her "love." Jason thinks he now has a girlfriend. As a reward for his imroved control over his behavior, Jason' parents make arrangements for him to go to a national convention of Storyboard writers. Something Jason greets with mixed feelings--as a writer, he is excited but he is also very nervous that Phoenixbird/Rebecca may be at the convention and see him only as an autistic child, nervously flailing his arms about and spouting inappropriate things since the connection between what he should/wants to say and what he actually says is not reliable. I'll draw a veil over the story right there.

Jason is an awkward (isn't that typical of a 12 year old?) boy but he is also very bright and very communicative. He is often confused between what he knows he should do and what he does, often not realizing that he has reacted physically to a situation (for example, kicking his cousin who is taunting him about his disabilities). The wiring in his head frequently goes awry. But he is also very endearing and, as a reader, I really cared for him.

I hope I look at the autistic children who come into my library with new eyes...and more patience.