Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Good Book?

Kris and I made what may possibly be the most fool-hardy and self-destructive New Year's Resolution on record: to read more in 2012.  I know, sounds wholesome, right?  What's that thing about the devil luring you in with flaxen cords, later to become chains of steel...Yeah, that's the trouble.  While reading may be a whole hearty lot better for your brain than TV, it's a bottomless pit for time. And it's sucking us dry!  I've already consumed somewhere around 2,000 pages in the last three weeks.  That sounds like a pretty moderate pace, considering I used to read about that much every two days in college (word to the wise, NEVER take 18 credits of English in one semester, and especially DO NOT make French and Russian Novels three of them).  But still.  I've got a baby to care for and play with, crafts sitting undone, Sunday school lessons to prepare, dinners to make and bathrooms to clean and, heavens, I don't have time for this!  I think that I may have to give up on this resolution for the unheard of reason that I'm actually keeping it!  Sigh. 

So what's been on my reading binge list?  Here they are, with brief reviews:
  • East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.  I think that this might possibly be the best book I've read in ages.  The prose is as sublime as the characters are flawed and fascinating.  It's a 600-page re- imagining of the Cain and Able story, and I adore the layers and shadows Steinbeck develops through the narrative.  It's pretty dark in some ways (full of murderous wretches and "ladies" of the night), but there are also characters like Lee and Samuel who fairly shimmer against the story's backdrop.  Plus, it's about truth, which is my #1 requirement for a great book.  Not that a story has to lay down an obvious and deliberate moral for me to enjoy it...more like I need to see the characters wrestling with the very nature of truth and coming up against their own flaws in search of a thing that life's messy circumstances can make appear so ephemeral, but which in reality is so adamantine (the subject of an excellent Roethke poem, but I digress...).  In short, I loved this book.
  • The Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale.  This was an impulse read, nabbed when I chanced to see it in the YAL section as I picked up some books for Kris.  I guess I just remembered that one of our nieces loves the author, so I decided to try it out.  Pretty good.  The narrator has a strong, engaging voice and it's a neat retelling of an old myth.  If you're looking for a princess locked in a tower, this one's all you. 
  • Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger. I've been trying to check this one out for two years now, because I liked Enger's second novel so much.  I was not disappointed.  It's the story of a family in search of their outlaw son/brother, but it's highest appeal is in the quirky characters and playful narrative voice.  This is another truthy book, though much lighter and easier to read than Steinbeck.  And if you don't laugh during the goose hunt, there might be something wrong with you.    
  • The Ranger's Apprentice Series, by John Flannagan.  Kris absolutely adores these books.  He imagines himself as the knife-toting, arrow-slinging hero, off to save the world.  Me?  I'm not too big on fantasy.  It's just that the genre tends to rely heavily on stock characters and trite plots, each dressed in some funky new name from book to book, but not fooling anybody.  The first two books in this series seem doomed to fall right in line with every other fantasy book, but by book three there is definitely a welcome shift toward new paths for worn feet to follow.  This still isn't my favorite set of books (and obviously I'm not their target audience), but they're good for light reading.  Hey, Twilight kept me from dying of boredom during a SLC-ATL-Columbus flight, even with it's vain repetitions of amber eyes and russet skin...every book has a time and place :) 
So that's the skinny.  What's your definition of a great book?  What are the best books you've read lately?  It's ok, you can tell me, since I promise not to read them.  I'm quitting...remember? :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Glamour Shots, By Mom

At seven months Eden is a connoisseur of fine solids, master roller, supreme cord chewer, expert dog tormentor and general ruffian.  But she sure is pretty!