Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Update: Irregular Update Schedule edition

Work, writing, and church are all going better now. Which means reading is down. Nevertheless, I ought to post about the last couple of books I read.

The Eye of the World
by Robert Jordan
Published by Tor Fantasy, 1990
670 pages

My good friend Helena has been raving about the Wheel of Time series for pretty much as long as I've known her. I've actually tried to pick it up before, but I could never find the first book at any library. I assumed this was because they were so incredibly popular. Turns out, the Houston Public Library does not have the first book in the WoT series, so I ILL'ed it from Richmond, TX.

Very long, fantastic novel. I thoroughly enjoyed just about every element of it. The characters are clearly its strongest point, in my opinion, and the characters are generally the most important part of any story, fiction or non, in my mind. The book is amazingly clean, especially for a fantasy novel. I've become so accustomed to reading crass language or explicit sex scenes that I was a little discombobulated to pick up a GOOD novel for grown-up people with none of that. So, A+, late Robert Jordan.

Interestingly, there was nothing about this book that made my jaw absolutely drop. It was just a remarkably solid effort the whole way through. I found no glaring weaknesses and very few weaknesses at all. It's long (670 pages, and they are DENSE pages) but constantly engaging, and things happen at a pretty quick pace, which is also a plus for me.

If you're looking for a good epic fantasy adventure that you can commit a sizable amount of time to, Eye of the World looks to be a pretty good place to start. (I'd probably be able to write in better detail, but I actually finished this book something like three weeks ago)

The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh
by A. A. Milne
Collects Winnie-the-Pooh and The House on Pooh Corner
Dutton Children's Books, 1994
(Original books published 1926 & 1928)
344 pages

Yes, these pages are large type and some of them have pictures, but with Eye of the World ahead of it, I'm pretty sure it all evens out ;-)

I'm playing Winnie-the-Pooh in a children's play right now and picked this up as research. Turns out, it is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time. It's so charming and innocent yet chocked full of child-like wit and whimsy. You can really sense the love between the narrator and his own son, Christopher Robin, in the voice and the action of each individual story. As a father who makes up stories about zoo bears for his own son every night before bed, I freely admit that I started to tear up over the end of Pooh Corner, where Christopher Robin takes Pooh to a special place where they can always play and explore together, "no matter what happens" as life goes on.

Really, this book is just wonderful. The characters, the stories, the language, the miscommunications, the hijinks...I really think this one would've been a beloved classic even without Disney's help. (That said, I really like the early Disney cartoons and think they stayed very true to the intent of the author. But that's another blog)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday update: Labor Day 2010 edition

Bah, regular updates. Bah, reading lists. I think this is officially just another "What I'm Reading" blog, and I think there's nothing wrong with that. ;-)

From Russia with Love
by Ian Fleming
The James Bond Classics Library edition
MJF Books, 1997
253 pages

And, back to James Bond. This was a strange sort of Bond book; the first half of the book featured Russian spykilling organization SMERSH plotting and planning. That's it, just half a book of plotting and planning. The second half of the book is the plan that was plotted in execution. And even then, it was more positioning and lovemaking with a sudden burst of action in the middle and then a hair-raising showdown on a train at the end. Of the Bond books I've read so far, this one was easily the talkiest, with some "Bond going out for dinner" scenes thrown in for variety's sake.

Needless to say, I wasn't terribly excited by this book, though I thought the story was pretty good, and I actually enjoyed most of the new characters. It just felt (to me) like it took an awful long time to get going, and there wasn't much in the way of actual spy work for Bond to worry about. The conniving trap wasn't all that complicated, and the whole thing had already been spelled out for you in advance, so there wasn't a ton of intrigue until Bond was finally face to face with his executioner. Which was a good scene, don't get me wrong, but even that felt a bit more pulled-it-out-of-a-hat than usual.

That said, all the quotes on the back called this the most exciting book of the series, and it's well-documented that I'm in the minority of a lot of popular opinions, so it may just be me. Again.

Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables
by Phil Vischer
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008
260 pages

This book really surprised me. I knew the Christian children's entertainment mega-giant-hit-machine Veggie Tales had gone from humble beginnings to major empire in a time when computer animation was far from the norm. I also knew that, at one point, there were some money issues and bankruptcy going on. What I didn't know was that Vischer, the company's founder, creator, and owner, lost everything at the height of its popularity and was forced to sell the company. The story is startling and surprising, but Vischer's honest and contemplative look at the rise and fall of his Veggie empire is a profoundly challenging look at what it means to have and follow dreams, especially when you believe that the following of those dreams is God's plan for your life. How do you respond to failure when it felt as though your success was preordained by God Himself? Really beautiful story, entertaining and personable. There are times when the earlier chapters about the animation technology of the early 1990's may get a tad too technical to be interesting to the casual reader, but on the whole this is a book I'd recommend to just about anybody.

Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen
by Roald Dahl
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948
255 pages

Yeah. Good luck finding this book, because they never reprinted it after its initial release in either the U.S. or the U.K. has 4 used copies starting at $144. Interlibrary Loan had to go to the University of Oregon to find a copy for me. RARE BOOK.

So, why is this one so rare? Why was it never reprinted?


This book has all of the bizarreness of one of Dahl's children's books with none of the charm. It's like he came back disillusioned from the war and had some issues to work out, and he did them all here. The book starts with strange gremlins that sabotage English planes during World War II. They eventually stop, though, deciding that eventually mankind will destroy themselves, since all they can do is invent more efficient ways of destroying one another. One hundred and fifty pages later, mankind finally dies completely, and the gremlins inherit the earth. A few days later, they disappear from existence completely. The end.

In the middle, there's lots of thinly-veiled social and political commentary as well as doomsday prophecies for every corner of the world, along with strange gremlinish things.

Of note: Apparently this is where snozzberries came from, because they're the only thing the gremlins appeared to eat. All righty then.