Saturday, March 28, 2009

Still a Weekly Geek!

Greetings, fair Geeks. Doing the Weekly Geeks tasks that I enjoy so much is another thing that has fallen by the wayside in my pursuit of the Bad Blogger 2009 Ultimate Prize which has precluded me posting about pretty much anything. Bad bloggers don't write blog posts, you know. This is a major fail in my quest for the title. Last week's question about historical fiction definitely piqued my curiosity, and I was all like "Oh yeah, I can definitely do this. I'll do this like...Monday or sometime." Needless to say, I didn't do it on Monday or Tuesday or well, any of the days that ended in Y this week instead opting to go to work, and celebrate my great-grandma's 93rd birthday (note to self: attempting to position a new TV for someone who is almost blind is an often fruitless and very time-consuming task), try to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, watch TV, and other assorted pursuits that kept me away from the glowing box that leads to the internets. I've decided not to make the same mistake this week and am henceforth doing this week's Weekly Geeks right now before something shiny comes along and disturbs my fragile attention span. Let's just hope I can make it through the post before the shiny thing, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow, this week's Weekly Geeks is a repeat of something we did long ago when we first began. Dewey encouraged us to start a new policy of linking to others' reviews of books in our reviews of those same books. I enacted this policy at that time and have since been truly dismal at keeping up with it, you know, in the spirit of the Bad Blogger 2009 (and 2008!) title. I notice other people linking my reviews and make lists and vow to edit those posts with links to their reviews despite their not expressly asking and then ultimately fail to do so. This week is the week that, with your help, I renew my pursuit of this task. Here's what we're (I'm!) doing:

1. Write a post encouraging readers to look through your archives (if you have your reviews in a particular place on your blog, point them there), and find the books that they have also written reviews. Tell them to leave a link to their review on your review post. For example, I've written a review for Gods Behaving Badly and Jane Doe leaves a link to her review of Gods Behaving Badly in the comments section of my review.

2. Edit your reviews to include those links in the body of the review post.

3. Visit other Weekly Geeks and go through their reviews. Leave links for them.

4. Leave a note somewhere on your blog to let people know this is your new policy.

5. Write a post later this week letting us know how your project is going!

This is the post encouraging you to look through my archives, so if it tickles your fancy glance off to the right over there. Up under that picture of me with the tree and its accompanying words are some links, that is, if I remember rightly, I'm not exactly looking at it right now, uhm, three of them start with "Books Read." You can find all the books I've reviewed on this blog linked from that list. Beware the 2007 list, though. I didn't start blogging until October of 2007 so only the linked books after number 44 will be reviewed here. So, anything after and including number 45, No Great Mischief, is fair game. The rest of the books from that year are not in play. All you have to do is leave me a link to your review of any of the books I've reviewed on this post please, and I will link to it from the review post itself. Obviously, I'm hoping you'll link back to my review from your review in the spirit of things and everything, but if you don't, I promise I won't hunt you down and bludgeon you to death with a particularly large and heavy copy of War and Peace or some other epic tome.

Oh yes, and I do have two reviews on deck, one for Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach and the other John Burnside's The Glister, so if you want to leave links to your reviews of those two titles as well, I'll be sure to post them when I get around to writing the reviews.

All right, there you go, go find a book we have in common! =)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Still Here - and *gasp* A Book Review!

I have not been much of a blogger lately. I'm in a sort of funk, I guess. I'm doing things, but they are definitely not the things I normally do. I think part of it is that I've come to a place in my life again where it's time to make some choices and fight against the inertia that seems to hold me in place whenever I spend too much time in my hometown. It's been probably a year and a half of holding what I always imagined would be a nice temporary job in a field so far removed from anything that I ever really wanted to do for a living that it's hardly even funny anymore. I have to make a choice at this point, and I think maybe I've already made it but haven't come to terms with it, about whether I want to take the safe route and have some education paid for by my employer so that I can be something I don't very much want to be but also something that will offer me pretty much definite job security and a decent wage for, well, ever, should I choose to accept. Or whether I need to break loose from this unexpected detour and go back to school or get a job or whatever doing something that I actually have some passion for even if that means taking a pay cut or getting into more debt going to back to school or moving somewhere else and trying to make a go of it again just scraping by. I think I know what I want, but I also don't much trust myself as I don't seem to be a good hand at making decisions. At least not in my own view. So, yes, I'm in a bit of a "Now what should I do with my life?" funk where I have to decide if it would be complete idiocy to turn down a very viable opportunity just because that career path doesn't call out to me...

So I've been thinking a lot. I've been working a lot. It got warmer here, and so I've been walking a lot. And watching this this stupid show that I swore to myself I wouldn't get hooked on this year because it's such an incredible time suck, but I can't seem to make myself stop caring once I've watched a show or two. And on Thursday I had to chase a lost bird out of my house, but that's another story for another time.

In doing all these other things, I've failed to muster any enthusiasm for reviewing books, but I really should because, despite the fact that I read like a turtle (okay, maybe a little better than a turtle - turtles don't really read, you know), I'm getting woefully behind.

So today, I bring to you a selection provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers - yet another of those that the "oooh, shiny free book" went to my clicking finger before my brain caught up. I didn't realize it, but it's Christian fiction. I try to avoid such stuff when reviews are called for because I don't have a good track record with it despite actually being a Christian, and it's usually nice to pick for review books that I, you know, might actually like. Nonetheless, the TBR randomizer chose it for me out of all the languishing ARCs and I read it. I wasn't totally blown away, but you know, I didn't hate it. In fact, I rather enjoyed it at points, but here, let me get to the real thing here.

It's 1975 and Amy Monteiro, a slightly high-strung Christian teenager, has but two goals in life and they are to start her life at college in California and leave her irresponsible mother behind. Imagine her frustration, then, when her mother decides to accompany her in her move to California compounded even further when she finds herself stranded in the one-horse town of Cordial, Colorado waiting for a replacement transmission for her mother's beloved Pontiac. Summer stretches out forever for Amy as she settles into her new job working for the pious if not exactly Christian Mrs. Clancy at Clancy and Sons Funeral Home dealing with "death calls" and being generally creeped out by the thought of dead bodies in the basement. Even while Amy sets about making contingency plans for her escape to California, with or without her mother, the many and sundry people of Cordial are slowly breaking down Amy's walls and teaching her lessons about her life and her God that will last far beyond her summer within the town limits.

I had ambiguous feelings about Patti Hill's The Queen of Sleepy Eye. I will, however, say that it was better than I expected it to be. It does suffer somewhat from what I would say is a typical problem of Christian fiction based on what I've read. It favors message over writing. Hill gets her quite valid points across well, but there's a certain artlessness to the writing. A bit more telling than showing, dialogue that feels stiff and contrived on occasion. That said, though, I did enjoy this story. Hill certainly has a knack for storytelling and the pages went by without my even noticing. She has populated her small Colorado town with characters that might at first seem a bit on the cookie cutter side but ultimately develop into lovable, if flawed, people that the reader can really sympathize with. I noted the points Hill was making with her story, but I never felt like I was simply being "preached to" instead of being told a story.

Overall, I wouldn't say that The Queen of Sleepy Eye will make my short list for top reads of the year, but it is a sweet and very readable story about growing up that reminds Christians that, at the end of the day, what we really need is grace and that God has a limitless quantity to offer.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Giveaway Winners!

Thanks everybody for coming by to enter the giveaway and for eight of you for taking these eight books off my hands. My shelves thank you! Without further ado...the winners are...

*drumroll and everything*

The Lady and the Unicorn goes to Clenna.

Turning Angel goes to Demmi.

Love Medicine goes to Deltay.

Songs for the Missing goes to Irene Yeates.

The Rest of Her Life goes to toohotforturtle.

Even the Stars Look Lonesome goes to PeachyTO.

Twilight goes to Michele P..

and finally...

A Tranquil Star goes to Sarah.

If I don't e-mail you first, you can send your addresses to me at toadacious1 at yahoo dot com, and I'll be making a trip to the post office soon!

Oh - and how about some creepy giveaway trivia? I was #107 on the Mr. Linky for the Giveaway Carnival at Book Room Reviews, and I ended up cutting off the entries at 107 and comments. Oh, and just loved a bunch of you people in the middle of the list. Several of you in a row won! Which seems very unrandom but is probably just a fluke. Oh well. Anyhow, if you won, send me your address pronto so I can enjoy an exciting outing to the Post Office, mmmmmkay?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Rats. I've done it again. Nearly disappeared. And I've gone and left this excellent book all unreviewed until I've mostly forgotten what I intended to say. The end of February was just merciless at work, a few of those weeks back to back where you leave work feeling totally used up and still have to deal with all the other stuff of daily life stole me out of the blogging world. The good news is, for my birthday, I gave myself a very long weekend. A little time to refresh and catch up on all the things that have been falling by the wayside (and to drive two hours to eat at the Cheesecake Factory! Yum!). All right, now we must see if I can still write a book review after all this time.... ;-)

Or better yet, I am a changeling - a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own. The hobgoblin becomes the child, and the child becomes a hobgoblin... The changelings select carefully, for such opportunities come along only once a decade or so. A child who becomes part of our society might have to wait a century before his turn in the cycle arrives, when he can become a changeling and reenter the human world.

The Stolen Child opens on the day that the changelings steal 7-year-old Henry Day. Frustrated with his mother and his twin little sisters, Henry runs away to the forest. Someone returns to fill Henry's place, but it is not Henry. Henry, meanwhile, is abducted by the rest of the changelings and made into one of them, condemned to endless childhood until the opportunity arises to steal the life of some other unfortunate child. The changelings christen him Aniday, and as he becomes a part of their tribe, his former life and even his name slip away from his memory. Meanwhile, the changeling who became Henry Day struggles at once to embrace his new identity and discover the truth of his first life while vehemently trying to forget his many decades as a changeling.

Both Aniday and the new Henry Day make uneasy homes within their unexpected lives. Donohue reveals the lives of the twelve changelings who make their home in the forest growing, scavenging, and stealing enough provisions to get by and preparing for the time when the next in line will reenter the human world. In alternating chapters, Donohue follows the fake Henry Day as he executes a believable imitation of Henry at the same time as he rediscovers his great talent from his first life. Both strive against the forgetting to know again what their lives once were and these desperate strivings will inevitably cause their two paths to cross once more.

The Stolen Child is a fascinating book. It's beautifully executed literary fantasy that grapples intriguingly with ideas of art, memory, and humanity while at the same time causing us to think, "What if?" Donohue works the angles of this story with ease never allowing us for a second to lose our sympathies for each and every one of the characters despite the fact that their mere existence and their potential to steal away children is the stuff of parents' worst nightmares. Donohue makes it easy to comprehend the desperation to regain a human life that drives the changelings to steal a child after decades of ageless boredom in the forest, but then he doesn't let us forget the real Henry Day, unwittingly robbed of his life, either. I was totally caught up in Donohue's tale. Each and every character is totally fleshed out and so engrossing that readers will desperately want to know them even more. Donohue's prose is stunning, bringing to surreal life the ultimately ordinary forest dwelling of the changelings in all seasons and bringing to the surface the clouded memories of the changelings.

Despite their less than human existence, this story about faeries is ultimately about being human. It's about how music and the written word and the act of creation in itself are what preserve and renew our lives in our memory. It's about the wonders of an endless childhood but also about the need to grow old. It's a story with so many characters and layers that I can't hope to enumerate them all here. It's book that will intrigue you and leave you thinking about it long after you've turned the last page.

Memory, which so confounds our waking life with anticipation and regret, may well be our one earthly consolation when time slips out of joint.