Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday Update: "You Can't Spell Adventure Without 'Advent'" Edition

Thanksgiving holiday!  I finished/read THREE books with my time off!  It was awesome!!

The Grey Fairy Book
Edited by Andrew Lang
387 pages
Dover Publications, Inc., 1967
(An unabridged and unaltered replication of the work originally published in 1900)

One day, while stumbling around Wikipedia, I came across a bizarre little fairy tale simply titled The Bear.  Long and short of it: a king loves his daughter so much, he locks her up and never lets her leave the castle.  This makes her sad, so her fairy godmother or some such instructs her to ask the king for a bear's skin and a wheelbarrow.  The fairy then places a spell on the wheelbarrow so it will take the Princess anywhere she wants to go.  So, disguised as a bear riding in a magic wheelbarrow, the Princess escapes without drawing any attention to herself whatsoever.  She's eventually captured by a Prince of another kingdom, who takes the amazing talking bear home to do chores for him.  Eventually he falls in love with her (sans bear skin) at a party, and they get married. 

Wikipedia told me this and other similarly strange, obscure fairy tales had been collected into a volume called The Grey Fairy Book, and I knew I had to read it.  So I did.

These stories were collected from all over Europe and north Africa and it really showed, as the style and subject matter varied from demon ponies to fairy charms to thieving Jews to cannibals.  Some of our heroes slaughtered people in gruesome ways due to a simple insult.  In one story, a boy who could see two days into the future (more or less) killed his mother and father as well as an old woman, seven young boys, and his uncle's boss, mostly because his uncle was a fool.  Many of these stories were just a random sequence of events that seemed to end only when the storyteller grew bored, at which point everything wrapped up in about three sentences. Just weird, weird stuff.

There were one or two tales I really did enjoy, however.  And it was really very cool to get a glimpse at the many different types of fairy tale tradition.  I don't know that there's a lot in here for me to adapt into a children's theatre format one day, but you never know.  That delightful story where the sparrow tricks a carter into killing both of his horses before tricking his wife into cutting off his head because the man ran over her friend the dog is just screaming to be made into a musical!

The Green River Trail
by Ralph Compton
304 pages
St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2011

I'm not sure when this was originally published, but it wasn't 2011.  Actually, the copy I read was an older print, but I don't have that publishing information at hand, so I'll just use the newer info.

I haven't decided yet if I like westerns or not.  This is only my second, and I've enjoyed both of them, for what they are.  It seems to me the strength of the western is generally the Wild West mystique rather than the story itself.  Green River Trail was a pretty standard trail drive story.  Four guys decide to drive some cattle from Texas to Utah.  They buy horses, they take wives, they hire some cowboys, they drive to Utah.  There are savage Indian attacks, desperadoes, crooked sheriffs, stampedes, and all that jazz.  The women are tough, the men are tough, everybody's tough.  And then they get where they're going.  So if you're into that, pick up Green River Trail.  It's a pretty entertaining little read.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories
by Salman Rushdie
224 pages
Penguin Books, 1991

For those who say I've completely abandoned my original reading project list, I submit to you Haroun and the Sea of Stories.  Boo-yah.

This was a very clever book.  Not necessarily in the popular "Wit-as-humor" way, but in the way the idea was plotted into a story and the care with which the idea was executed within the narrative.  It's fairly silly, and the author knows and uses that effectively.  It is a story written for those who love stories.  Even if it's fairly obvious at times where the story is going, it's still a remarkably charming tale.  And a quick read, too. I finished the first 75% of the book in a single sitting.  (And I would have finished it, but it was after 2 a.m. and I had a rehearsal the following morning)  So if you're looking for something that's altogether silly, charming, adventurous, light-hearted, and fast, then this is one I'd recommend.

Am currently reading The Sacred Romance (note: Also from the original reading list) and The Great Hunt, book 2 of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.  For some reason, Green River Trail really made me want to re-read Eye of the World, but since that book's only available via interlibrary loan (until I one day own it) I figured I'd go with the more readily-available second book in the series.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's been a month: How's about some awards?

It's been a month-plus since I've written in this blog.  Sadly, it's been that longs since I've finished a book. I got crazy-busy with Winnie-the-Pooh and The Littlest Angel both going on at the same time--both plays, by the way, based on books!

I'm pesudo-back-on-track with reading now, and hopefully I'll have something new to put here soon.  In the meantime, I'm overdue for some awards.  So here's what I've read since we last gathered 'round the podium:

Cell by Stephen King
Gretzky's Tears by Stephen Brunt
The Baseball Codes by Jason Turnbow with Michael Duca
Powerless by Matthew Cody
Sometime Never by Roald Dahl
Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

The "Book That Had The Most Direct Impact On My Life the Past Two Months" Award goes to
Obviously.  Which means this book also wins the "Book That Won The Award With The Longest Title" Award

The Batman Bounce-back Award goes to:
Sometime Never!
Or, more specifically, to Roald Dahl.  Much as folks thought the Caped Crusader would never bounce back after Bat-nipples, cold puns, and Alicia Silverstone, I don't imagine many would have expected Dahl to have the wildly successful career he had after reading this debut novel.

The "Most of this Didn't Have to Happen" Award goes to
From Russia With Love!
Which wasn't a bad book.  The more I've thought about it, the more I realize that most of what occurred in the first half of the book was actually pretty irrelevant.  However, it did introduce one of the greatest Bond support characters we've seen (up to this point in the series)

The "Coolest Interpretation of the Werewolf Mythos" Award goes to:
The Graveyard Book!
Though I don't think any of the rest of these books dealt with the werewolf mythos...nevertheless, I really liked what Gaiman did with it in this story.

The "What Have We Learned Song" Award goes to
Me, Myself, and Bob!
When it was done burying you in technical information regarding computer animation, this ended up being a really insightful and challenging read on dreams, faith, and growth.  Like, uber challenging/convicting.  Not bad for a book with a talking tomato on the cover.

The "Redemption of the Internet" Award goes to
One Red Paperclip!
Proof that, yes, good and worthwhile things do sometimes happen on the World Wide Web.

The "Holding Out Hope for a Sequel" Award goes to
A really fun, innovative story for kids that starts to feel (toward the end) that it's not so much telling a story any more as it is trying to set up a franchise.  

The "Most Likely To Restore Your Faith In Baseball, Only To Potentially Dash It To The Ground" Award goes to:
The Baseball Codes
Which also gets the "Book That Won The Award That Supplanted That Other Award For The Title Of Award With The Longest Title Award" Award.

The "Oh, They'll Accept It All Right.  They'll Accept It And They'll Like It!" Award goes to
Does it ever feel like Stephen King is just daring you to say, "Okay, now that's just a little too far-fetched"? 

The "How Has Nobody In Canada Made This Into a Movie Starring George Clooney Yet?" Award goes to
Gretzky's Tears
Clooney wouldn't play Gretzky, but I think he'd make a dynamite Bruce McNall.  Alan Thicke would play Alan Thicke.

The "Hands Down Favorite Book (Of This Grouping)" Award goes to
The Eye of the World
The award title is pretty self-explanatory.  But the more I think back on this book, the more I like it.

The "I Can't Believe It's A Debut Novel!" Award goes to
Quite the opposite of what I said about Roald Dahl with Sometime Never.  I'm sure this one raised the bar sky-high on expectations for Brandon Sanderson's career.

And, done.  Close to finishing a book of obscure fairy tales.  That'll be a fun one to write about.