Monday, September 10, 2007


I'm taking a break from practicing Gavotte from "Mignon," a Suzuki book 2 piece that is insanely difficult for me for some reason. My fingers are sore. I need to build up my calluses again.

I haven't written about books for a long time. Several people have mentioned that they always enjoy my book posts. I can't imagine why, but I'll give the people what they like. :-)

I took Inkspell, sequel to Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, to Europe with me. I got about half way through but when I got home Georgie absconded with it and I haven't seen it since. I want to finish it. We loved Inkheart, which we heard on audio with Lynn Redgrave narrating. When I started reading Inkspell I tried to imagine her narrating and it added a lot to the experience. Ave mentioned that she didn't much like Inkheart and I'm curious to know why. Sis?

I read Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence. I found it fascinating, though the first couple chapters were hard to get through with the multitude of names thrown at the reader. After a little while you realize why you are learning of all these people. They have interaction and influence on Jane eventually. But good luck keeping them all straight. There are many Janes and Cassandras. As I read this book I couldn't stop thinking about how Regency England was not a land of opportunity. People were so dependent on inherited wealth!

Our book club pick for September was Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. It was certainly a unique book. Williams writes about the flooding of the Great Salt Lake and resulting destruction of the bird refuge there relating it to her mother's struggle with cancer. I read about half of the book and scanned another fourth. I did not feel especially inspired by it. It's not my favorite style, but even then, if I'm going to read about people connecting with nature I prefer Annie Dillard or even Thoreau. I identify with William's insistence on the importance of place, but I am more inspired by Willa Cather's writings on that theme.

I've been reading various books on Basque history and culture. I came back from Europe and read what I've written of my book so far and hated it. More on that later.

I discovered a new favorite children's book author: Joan Aiken. I read Wolves of Willoughby Chase and loved it. I look forward to reading the others in that series which imagines an "alternate history" in England. I read the details of it but I've forgotten since I don't know enough of the history of England. I'm ashamed to admit if I read the two different versions, I might not recognize which was the imagined history and which the real! I found that Aiken also wrote a three-book series that takes place in 19th century northern Spain! So I have the first one on reserve at the library. They were out of print for awhile and were just reprinted this year: Go Saddle the Sea, Bridle the Wind, and The Teeth of the Gale.

I read Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman, a Newberry honor book. It is extremely clever. I'll give it that. Look, has anyone else out there read this? What did you think? I think the premise is very good. It's the diary of a "regular" girl of the Middle Ages, so she's not a princess or a peasant but something in between. So, middle class in the Middle Ages. And guess what? Teenagers of the Middle Ages suffered from terrible angst. Who knew? I would have thought that the holy wars, Black Death, and daily struggle to eek out a living would have filled their minds with other thoughts, but seems not. Seriously, I was very interested in the historical details in the book. The author obviously did painstaking research. So thumbs up for that. However, I have two issues with the book. One is that it is crass. Why do modern writers of children's lit feel this compulsion to write about bodily functions? Do they mistakenly think the "juvenile" in juvenile literature means "marked by immaturity; childish" rather than "of, relating to, characteristic of, intended for, or appropriate for children or young people" as I'm pretty sure is the correct sense of the word in this context? Elizabeth George Speare didn't write about gross things. Neither did Scott O'Dell or Madeleine L'Engle or Elizabeth Enright. So why the gross stuff now in actual Newberry honor books, supposedly the best literature out there for young reader? My second issue is that while this book is very clever, it does not strike me as having much heart. The protagonist is obnoxious. She only has hatred and contempt for most of her family. There are a couple of instances in the book that she demonstrates concern for someone besides herself, but it's very rare. I see that the intention is that she shows growth and progress toward the end of the book, but I didn't see enough for my satisfaction.


ave said...

I have several comments about this post, but I will try to keep it brief. 1st, I didn't completely dislike Inkheart, I did think that it was a bit of a bore with all the obsessive writing about the glory, smell, and feel of books. Yes, I love books, but I probably love food and pretty things more, so that is that.(shallow? perhaps). 2nd, Terry Tempest Williams, I cannot stand to read more than a couple of pages of anything she has written. I get lost in her prose. Her writing dosen't flow well for me, nor do I find it interesting, but rather maudlin. 3rd, I think that you should try reading one of my Victorian mystery favorites. You could start with "The Cater Street Hangman." I read Eclipse, the third in the Stephanie Meyer vampire sereies and I really hated it. I was very disappointed with the way she chose to twist the story. In fact just thinking about it is nauseating me so I will stop now.

Calandria said...

yikes about eclipse. I saw a girl reading it at the Irish Fair and she said "It's really bugging me but I can't stop reading it."

I don't think you're shallow, Ave! Far from it. But I liked the book stuff. Inkspell has far less--maybe you'd like it better.

Cater Street Hangman sounds familiar. That's not an Anne Perry, is it? I've read those.

ave said...

Yeah, it is an Anne Perry book. Mum and I just finished her World War I series, which we liked above all other series she has written. The first one is "No Graves As Yet."

Mama Ava said...

I didn't like Catherine, Called Birdy at all. It's been quite awhile since I've read it, but distinctly remember thinking "what's the all the interest?" It just never grabbed me. I do remember the scatalogical references, too. I wonder if it's to attract what they think is interesting to readers that age? Except Newberry books don't often have to stoop to that and that kind of stuff seems to appeal much more to boys than girls. I wonder if it was more of an attempt to convey how crude life actually was. Even here in Africa life is lived on a much more "real" basis. Seeing people peeing by the side of the road (men/women/children)is a many-times-a-day occurence and it's not a head turner any more to see a man taking a full-frontal bucket bath not that far off the road! And in plain view! They are very prudish about some things, but living in such close quarters with different cultures, they have a different view of being "proper." Maybe life in the Middle Ages was like that as well. Life was messier, rougher, and just not as pleasant in general!

Julie said...

I read Catherine Called Birdy. It has been a while now, but I remember having the same impressions. It was an interesting portrayal of life in medieval times, but I remember being a bit turned off by the main character's obnoxious nature as well.

I remember borrowing the book from my niece along with Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix which I just loved. Thus far I've really enjoyed every book I've read of her's. Have you read any of her books?

Life ticks on said...

I have ready Catherine, Called Birdy and I liked it. Then again I really like those books as does my 10 yr old. She brings them home and we both read them. She particularly likes the Dear America series and there is another similar that she likes. One post says she doesnt like her obnoxiousness but that is what actually made it good for me. Its nice to know that even back then they had people like today :)

Right now I just picked up The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall this is what my book club is reading. It is a quick read and supposed to be good...

Calandria said...

Mama Ava, that is a good reason you offer that maybe she had all the scatalogical references in there to show the crudeness of the times. Canterbury Tales style. That's interesting what you say about how Africa is in that regard. (Congrats on getting school started there, btw!!!)

Julie, I have not read anything by Haddix but I'll have to check her out. I remember you talking about that book. Hey, I'd like to see your blog. Can I get the password? My email is calandria4 at comcast dot net.

life goes on, let me know how you like The Ultimate Gift. I've heard different things about it. And thanks for commenting on my blog!

Auntie Lee said...

Accually in the history of man the idea of privacy is extremely new. If you look at the past 3 thousand years the idea of peeing, cleaning, sleeping and so on in privacy is only something of the past 100 years and it is culturally bound.