December 31, 2008

Lewis Carrol: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

There are many books I missed as a child that others generally read enough times to sometimes even memorize. It wasn't that my mother never read to me because I remember reading in the rocking chair with her many times. It was my favorite thing because it was when I had alone time with her in a single parent family of four people in those days. I just for some reason never got to some of them. I was a poor reader until my teens. Before anyone misjudges and thinks it was a call for attention, I had a partial learning disability that I didn't overcome until I was older. Two of the stories absent from my childhood were Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

I spent the first half of my childhood with four other kids in the house, all of them younger. Our favorite things to do involved watching movies again and again before playing and acting them out in the backyard. We'd have them memorized. This is one way I came to know a good deal of the Alice stories without ever having read them until I read the first of the two this month. It was from the movie that I came to recognise and fall in love with the Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, a much-loved and favorite series of mine.

I first heard about Fforde's books while in high school but never got around to reading them until college. This was about six months after I first read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in a women's literature class, a book which strongly ties to the first in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair. About that time was when I really and truly began to fall in love with books, and after getting further along in the Thursday Next series the thing I thought most amazing would be to have a stuffed Cheshire Cat toy. I wanted to keep one amongst my own small pile of books to mimic the Great Library in Jasper Fforde's created Book World. As of Christmas last week I now have one, and quite a good deal more books since then that it can actually be considered a small library for him to sit amongst. I was very excited and happy for the gift.

The Thursday Next series pretty much taught me all that I didn't learn from Disney's created Alice film up until now. It's usual for one to watch a book made into a movie and say, "What did they do with this or that scene?" For some reason I had it in my head that there was a good deal more in Disney's film than what I've read in Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I dare say I need to re-watch the film I once knew by heart. Speaking of hearts, the deck of cards is hilarious. Alice is a peculiar sort of girl in a time not quite our own any longer. I'm happy to be reading it at last. My book is a two-in-one and I plan to begin the second story very soon. After that I may at long last read the much curious Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.

December 30, 2008

Vicki Myron: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

I first saw Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World when LibrayThing announced the Early Reviewer books that were available a few months ago. It immediately appealed to me and I requested it but was chosen for a different book instead. I saw it in stores while shopping with my mother before I'd known I wouldn't be receiving it and had to tell her about it right away. Cat lover that she is as well, she took it home that day.

Those of you who've seen the cover know Dewey is an orange tabby and so it sat for a while before either of us would read it. We lost our own sweet blond tabby, Aloof, in March and so each of us had a desire for reading and yet not reading this book. We knew it would come with heart ache.

My mother wasn't half way through reading Dewey when she announced that she wasn't going to allow me to read it because she said it would hurt me too much. She said Dewey shared many of the same characteristics as Loofy. This is a woman who seven months ago held her tears for him away and cried alone to keep me from her pain because she knew mine was great with him being extraordinarily special to me as well. She didn't tell me much from the book at all as she read but eventually announced (SPOILER) that Dewey would die and that it was the biggest reason for her keeping it from me. (END spoiler.)

I waited but as the holidays drew nearer and this was to be the first Christmas without Loofy, I asked for the book one night. I didn't begin reading it until the morning during a free half hour before work. All I got through was one chapter before turning up at work blurry-eyed after clearing away tears.

Dewey remained a very touchy and emotional book for me but many of the tears weren't just for my sadness but for reminders of happy memories of my own sweet tabby. I cried for the little kitten who was abandoned early on (Dewey and Loofy), the cat who had to have the Dewey-Carry (Dewey and Loofy), and the cat who had to be right there in the middle of everything (Dewey and Loofy). Part of my avoiding writing about this book (yes, I avoided it) was as one might guess because of Loofy. I want to read this book again some day and yet it is one of those books that need only be read once because of how it touched me.

(SPOILER.) Like Vicki Myron, I knew my baby's time was limited as the life of all things must be. She knew Dewey's day would come and prepared for it while I was never able to. I could not see a life without Loofy. It seemed the clock should have stopped with his failing heart. I was almost hit by a car the morning after he died on the way to work feeling at the time that I didn't care if it would or not. (END spoiler.) While our dear furry friends are our pets, sometimes they are a great deal more than any non-animal lover could imagine. They are our companions, our children, and our greatest friends. (SPOILER.) I am sorry Dewey's last day was reached but am happy he lived his long and full, something my sweetie did not.

(SPOILER continued.) I can understand why this book was written. It was to share Dewey's story to those who knew part or all of Dewey's life already. It was also to share it with those who never had the pleasure and opportunity of meeting or knowing about him. Further still, it was so Dewey would always have a place on a bookshelf as he did before, not in one but now in many libraries. It also placed him as always before in the lap of a reading human, where he so often slept in the small town library of Spencer, Iowa. (END spoiler.)

I recommend this book not simply to cat lovers, but those of small towns, those fond of books and libraries, and those who are perhaps looking for the beauty of a very special connection between not two beings but between many. Dewey is a book to be cherished not simply about the love for an amazing cat by a small community but for the love of the world at large for him and his own great love for the world.

From the last few photo shots of Loofy taken in February of 2008 while we were on LibraryThing. "Get off the computer and pay more attention to me!"

December 14, 2008

More Books

It's been over two months since I posted a bookpile, so here is the latest pile of books that have made their home among my bookshelves.

Bought new: Cancer Vixen, Rebel Angels, Love & Lies, You Suck, The Journal of Curious Letters
Bought used: The Book of Lost Things
BookMooch: Firefly
PaperBackSwap: Dreams Underfoot, Blood and Chocolate, Orxy and Crake, Then He Ate my Boy Entrancers, Beauty
Gifts: Shade, The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Early Reviewers: Mistress of Mellyn

It'll take me a while to get to all of these so I will say a little about some of them now. I've just realized I didn't include the two books I got copies of but have already read. These are Dreams Underfoot and Blood and Chocolate.

The first of these two remains the first book of one of my favorite series, Newford, by Charles de Lint. It's not a novel, however it's full of many short stories and is therefore great at introducing people to Newford, a fantasy series. The author insists there isn't any particular order for this series and says to jump in anywhere. One of my favorites was The Onion Girl, which I strongly recommend to anyone who was sexually abused. It's a book about healing and conquering your fears, or in this book's case, your torturer. Widdershins is likewise great, though should not be read before the previously named book. Another great novel and favorite of mine in the series is Memory and Dream, a book about an artist whose paintings come to life.

Blood and Chocolate is something I haven't read in ages but which was made into a movie not all that long ago. The movie is terrible and a completely different story than the book.

Cancer Vixen is a comic book of a true story about one woman's battle with breast cancer. There was actually a line of nice-smelling beauty products selling alongside this book by the brand C.O. Bigelow beginning in October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I'm hesitant to say anything about Rebel Angels since I'm currently reading it. However, I've been reading it since the start of November, so this will tell you it does not hold my interest. Book one in the series was far better. Book two took one idea from book one and went off on it, wandering away from my mind's interest.

Love & Lies is a follow up of a character I read about in another book which she'd been a side character in. It's about a girl with a passion for writing and a goal to write a novel within a one year time span.

I wasn't doing my homework when I picked up You Suck. The series came highly recommended to me by friends and so I checked all through it in search of some type of book order. Finding none, I bought this one...and then found out in the car on the way home that it's actually book two. (Book one hadn't been in stock, or else I would have known upon seeing it's title. I had forgotten what it was.)

The Journal of Curious Letters is another book that came as highly recommended to me. Some say it's a great book to read for those that are fans of the Harry Potter series and are in search of something to read. I'm eager to read it but think it will have to wait till after the holidays.

Beware should you find yourself wanting to read The Book of Lost Things. It may only be found among the lost things. I lost it the very day I purchased it and found it a month later. Others have very similar stories, so I dare say it comes with a curse for those who get their copy from a library. It does sound like a very good book, however. My best advise is not check it out and, if you are going to borrow it, only borrow it from a very good friend. Also, read it quickly so as it will not do a disappearing act during your reading.

I've only read the first four books from the Georgia Nicholson series but purchased book six despite not yet reading book five. I did this for my thirteen-year-old sister who has taken a great interest in the series. She loves humor and so this is perfect for her. I likewise find them humorous, love the English phrases, and they are perfect quick reads to finish in a couple of hours. She has learned what the phrase 'boy entrancers' mean from me since I was quick to make sure she didn't get any ill ideas from it, and one day I heard our mother shouting, "You played with my fake eyelashes?!" I knocked on my sister's door and discreetly told her she was wanted for messing with someone else's boy entrancers. I found the whole thing very amusing.

I've heard some great things about some of Robin McKinley's books. Sadly, my first experience with one of her books was a bad one. I think it was Spindle's End that I had purchased and opened the book to the first page to begin reading when I found every other sentence to contain parenthesis around it. I couldn't read like that. I tried anyways, scanned some pages in advance, and soon gave up. All the pages were the same. Hopefully Beauty will be much different. I believe it's one of two books I've heard to be the author's best. I'm going to try to give her works another shot. Beauty is the retelling of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast.

Shade does not sound like any other other vampire story I have ever read. It's an adult fiction (versus young adult fiction) mystery book. I'm very curious how it will turn out.

Mistress of Mellyn is part romance, part mystery, part gothic, and part fiction. It's said to be good for those who really enjoyed books such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca, the first of which I've read a few times and is one of my favorites. I've as of yet to read or purchase the other.

My TBR pile is currently 151 books, though one of these is a book I am currently reading and borrowing from someone else.

December 11, 2008

J.K. Rowling: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

It was one year ago this month that the miniature and extreme limited edition of perhaps six copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard was auctioned off online. It dazzled us after we spent our summer reading the last installment of the Harry Potter series, but what were the chances of getting a copy. Handled by white gloves in such an extremely tiny print and high price (to an excellent cause, of course), I had given up on ever being able to read this book as I think others did, too.

One day many of us grew excited that the secretive stories within this book would actually become available to not a select few but to the general public for all to read. The release day came a week ago today and I have deliberately waited for the time to pass before writing about it here. As a Harry Potter fan and bibliophile, I know the pains of reading spoilers and will give not a detail away.

That said, all there is left to say is that this was a wonderful book. I really enjoyed reading the fairy tales, stories read within the original series which as readers outside the story, we do not see until our eyes may rest on it themselves with this book. With the reading of this story, I want to reread the final book, something I used to do with the most recently published Harry Potter book every December. It's left me sad because the series itself is complete and there isn't any more to come. The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book I plan on rereading. It will make a wonderful addition to my Harry Potter books and reference books. I'm very grateful Rowling has allowed us all to read it, happy about the charity it's purchase goes toward, and hope she will write again soon.