Wednesday, July 6, 2011

7 in the 7th Month

My 4th of July weekend was spent in the best way possible--reading a ton of books. After traveling to Niagara and my family reunion the past two weekends, it was exactly what I wanted to do. Working fulltime has really made me appreciate the big blocks of free time. I have to squeeze so much out of my mornings and evenings that it's nice to just have the day.

Other things certainly happened. Mike was on deck for leading worship July 3rd. We visited a couple families afterward. We're housesitting/dogsitting for a family while they go down to Destin next week so we went to learn where dog food was and the like. Then we visited with the family I normally do laundry with--though not so much now that my weekdays have been squished to reconnect with them.

Anyway on to the books.

Sisterhood Everlasting
I love the Traveling Pants books, really deeply truly. They were my reentrance into the YA world. And I thought because of that, I'd really like this book. However, I forgot how much those books made me cry. And this one was about 10 times normal. I cried through the entire book. Lesson learned: do not divert yourself from your reading list. (That's a lie; I'm always up for a good diversion.)

A Circle of Quiet
This is the first in Madeleine L'Engle autobiography series. And it was really fascinating to glimpse inside her world. Since I had my list, I knew A Wind in the Door was next so I could see the themes of maturity as freedom and naming that are so prevalent in the novel clearly on her mind in this first journal. Also, I kind of want to live her life (which is totally not the point--the point is to live my life within the structure God has given me). Sigh.

A Wind in the Door
We return to Meg and Charles Wallace in their big drafty house which I now know is very much based on Crosswicks, her New England home. This time Charles Wallace is sick, and Mrs. Murray believes it has to do with his mitochondria. Meg and Calvin are helped by a teacher Blejany and a cherubim, Progonoskis, to help the farandalea in Charles Wallace's mitochondria deepen and mature. It means giving up the freedom of movement for conversations (kything) with the stars. However, they are hindered by the Echthroi who wish to annihilate, well, everything, but they're happy to start with Charles Wallace. Meg must use naming and the love behind naming to combat them. It sounds ridiculous, but I forget how much this book typifies what I love about L'Engle. The plot's okay, the themes are fantastic.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This fifth book of Harry Potter takes the series deep into the darkness. I remember being surprised at how Harry hard took Cedric's death, but I get it now. But it's still an awfully hard book for me to read. Harry gets so much piled on him that it doesn't seem fair and I don't understand how the other characters don't get that--and least until I realize exactly how inward focused I am and would probably react the same way. This is a book I just like to get done.

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother
This is the second in the Crosswicks Journal series. In it, L'Engle recounts one specific summer at Crosswicks where her mother spent her last days with the people who loved her most. It's a touching memoir where L'Engle wrestles with the mother she knows, the old woman she sees before her and the young woman who existed before Madeleine was in the world. It becomes a family history and I learned that most of L'Engle's fantastic storylines came from her ancestry. And here I thought she had to work to attain the Southern Gothic tones in her novels.

Dragons in the Waters

And right on the heels is a story which uses some of her family history. An adult Calvin O'Keefe with his oldest children, Poly and Charles, take a freight ship to Venezuela. Also on the boat is an adolescent boy, Simon Bolivar Quentin Phair Renier. Simon is traveling with his recently discovered Cousin to give their last family treasure, a painting of the South American revolutionist Simon Bolivar, to the Venezuelan government. However, most people on the boat are not whom they appear to be. And intrigue abounds. Also, check out the Amazon link!!! They're re-releasing the book with a new shiny cover.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Gah! This book causes so much angst. I love the Dumbledore/Harry relationship. I wish it had been that way the entire series. But mostly I like this as a prequel to the last book as so much of what goes on in this book finds it fulfillment at the end of the series. And as I mentioned in the Chamber of Secrets review I love the Voldemort history.

So 7 books since the start of July. Not too shabby, eh? AND I'm almost done with Harry Potter and I'm officially 1/3 done with L'Engle's complete works. (I did skip 3 books I'm waiting for via ILL--just to be on the up and up.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

The End of June--Mostly Harry Potter

We're halfway through the Cincinnati Public Library's Summer Reading Program. While working fulltime, taking two classes, and teaching a class has cut into my book-a-day reading habit, I ended June with a total of 23 books. Not shabby as my husband would like to remind me when I pout about having to do class reading. :-)

On to the reviews:

First up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Is there a book better than this one? Actually, yes, there is. I like the later books better, but there's just something about that first glimpse into the JK Rowling's magical world. Harry's so young and small and really doesn't have a clue what he's getting into, but he displays that integrity, determination, and goodness which will persevere through the next six books. Love.

Lines Scribbled on an Envelope and Other Poems.
Madeleine L'Engle's first book of poetry. People, I was not excited. I can barely force myself to read through all the poetry she puts into her novels. I had that really horrible experience with Tricks. There just wasn't much hope. But despite my prejudice, I liked the book. I even copied out a couple poems I wanted to remember. She has this one that's based on the story of Eutychus from Acts that has this really gritty New York in the 60s/70s vibe. The summer I worked at AMC, I saw The Summer of Sam for free (I wouldn't have gone to it otherwise), and that movie just left the deepest impression of hot, muggy, irritable, about to explode city pressure tinted with nostalgia. The nostalgia's from a bit of Spike v. Disco-Slayer and Austin Powers/Studio 54. :-) Still gritty, not my place, but very interesting, evocative.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
For so long this was not my favorite HP by a long shot. Now I appreciate it in reading with Book 6 and all it's Voldemort history. And I really love Fawkes and Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart. The movies are inextricably intertwined with the books for better or worse.

Goldfinger
This book got me halfway through James Bond. This one seemed to me like the most classic Bond book. There are about 5 impossible scenes that Bond manages to escape from in various dashing ways in some of the most unlikely settings (the golf course??). There's the "you think we've reached the end... think again" ending. And yeah, lots of womanizing--so offensive you've got to laugh womanizing. Odd, Moonraker is still my fav, but I'm looking forward to this movie.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Until Books 6&7, this was my favorite Harry Potter. I love Lupin and Sirius--the connections they bring to Harry's parents even when it causes pain. It's the last non-uber-dark ending. It's the last book that doesn't end in someone's death. There's a lot of reasons to like this book if you're an optimist who loves Harry Potter. :-)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
While I still maintain this book would benefit from editing, I've moved from it and CoS tying for last place. They still aren't my favorites, but they hold their place in the Harry Potter canon well. Plus I really like the wizard who wears a woman's nightgown because he "likes a healthy breeze about his privates". :-) The Priori Incantatem chapter is just heart-breaking.

And here we are. Halfway through the Summer Reading Program. Halfway through James Bond. Halfway through Harry Potter. Still not a third of the way through Madeleine L'Engle. However, it's a three day weekend and we aren't traveling so I plan to spend much of it reading--until I convince myself to do homework and grade. Stupid real world commitments.