Saturday, June 20, 2009

catching up with more mini-babble

What I read the past few weeks:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

*As I just read and reviewed this a couple years ago, there's really no need to say much now. But it might be worth mentioning that I loved this book even more this time around. Not sure I would have thought that possible.

Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham.

*Damn. This series just keeps getting better and better!
*These books are making me want to delve deeper into the world of fairy tales and folktales. Occasionally I come across a character that I have no idea who it is. While this doesn't detract from the story, I know that I would likely get even more from the books if I had more background knowledge. And not only that, these characters are just so dang interesting that I want read more, more, more. (And many thanks, Nymeth, for continually answering my questions, and never making me feel like a pest.)
*Misc. thoughts: I would occasionally like to smack Prince Charming across his smug pretty face. I hope we get to see a lot more of Rose Red in the future; I've missed her since she's been more in the periphery. The wooden soldier "assembly line" cracked me up. Frau Totenkinder can kick ass, huh?

The History of Us: Reconstruction and Reform, 1865-1896 (Book 7) by Joy Hakim.

*I know I don't usually talk about the books we use for homeschooling. (Well, with the exception of the ones we read for "literature" units, that is.) But I just felt the need to mention this series, because it is just so awesome! And I was confident they would be as it was Dewey who recommended them to me. I don't know that anyone who reads this will be in the market for middle grade U.S. history books, but if so, you just can't go wrong with these.
*A few of the things I love: They cover more obscure pieces of history, along with the more well-known events. They look at things from various points of view. They don't try to cover up or put a pretty face on the uglier parts of this country's past.

Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee by Dean Cycon.

*To be honest, when I read the introduction, I worried. Despite the fact that I already fully support Fair Trade, I worried that Dean Cycon was going to come across as "holier than thou." Happily, I was wrong! Is he passionate about making sure farmers get fair prices for their labor? Yes! Is he passionate about preserving indigenous cultures around the world? Yes! Is he passionate about taking care of the Earth? Yes! But he is not in any way condescending or arrogant. In fact, he's really quite a goofball. (And I have a very soft spot for goofballs.)
*This book is full of the stories of unfairness. I won't lie, some of these stories break the heart. But it doesn't stop there...from these heartbreaking stories come stories of hope. Beautiful, touching stories of hope. Does he claim that Fair Trade can solve all the problems of the world? Of course not. But in countries around the globe, we hear stories of creative solutions and of differences made.
*Yes, I did just say that this book is full of heartbreak and hope. But it's also full of humor. Often at the author's expense...he's definitely not afraid to laugh at himself. I found myself smiling often, and one time laughing heartily aloud.
*And on top of all that, this book provides a fascinating look at several cultures around the world. We visit countries as diverse as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sumatra, and Papua New Guinea (and others, too).
*Though the copy I read was from the library, I'm hoping to have a giveaway later when things settle down around here (please, please, please let that be soon). In the meantime, if you'd like to see what this fellow Dean Cycon and his company Dean's Beans are all about, visit here.

No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa, interviews by Tim McKee, photographs by Anne Blackshaw.

*One thing I love about homeschooling is the amount of wonderful books I read that I otherwise probably wouldn't. (Of course, in a way, it's one of the things I hate, I'm left with so little time for spur of the moment fun reading.) Anyway, this is one of those books that I probably wouldn't have read on my own, and well, that would have been my loss.
*This book features interviews of twelve teenage South Africans, each with a very distinct background. Among others, we meet a teen born in exile as her mother worked for the ANC, a Afrikaner teen living the rural life, a teen living in a small village that is still ruled by a chief.
*These interviews were done just a few years after Nelson Mandela was elected president. The varying viewpoints were fascinating. The one thread that seemed to run through them all was hope. Not naivety. But hope. I would so very much love to see a follow up to this book, to hear what each of these teens thinks now that another decade has passed. How their lives and views have changed since then.
*Oh, and I also wanted to mention that this book is filled with truly lovely black and white photos.

Legend of Chun Hyang by CLAMP.

*To be perfectly honest, the reason I read this book right now was because I still needed a book for the folklore category of the Once Upon a Time challenge, and the cover of the book said, "The Legend of Chun Hyang is one of Korea's most enduring folktales..." I'm not at all familiar with Korean folklore, and I have no idea how much this book reflects the original folktale. But now I am really interested to find out, because I fell in love with the spitfire heroine, Chun Hyang.
*This is the first manga by CLAMP, of whom I've heard such good things. And I did enjoy this book, but I didn't out-and-out love it. Honestly, it could be that I still need more exposure to manga in general, as it at times felt a little disjointed to me.
*The art in this book is beautiful.

The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman.

*I've finally figured out which, The Sandman or Fables, is my favorite. Whichever I'm reading at the time. ;)
*I have really, really loved this series from the beginning, even Preludes and Nocturnes, which I know some people aren't overly fond of. But I think this may be my favorite book so far. I so adored these characters! I liked Barbie far more sans Ken (not that I disliked her previously, but I didn't feel like I knew her all that well before). And Wanda, and Hazel, and could one not love them?!! And Thessaly...well, she's definitely left me wanting to know more about her, that's for sure.
*It may take some effort not to have nightmares of George's face on the wall...shudder.
*I really wish I could say something about the end, but I don't want to give any spoilers. Let's just say that Death allowed me to end the book with a smile, when I had been seething over ignorance and intolerance.


Amanda said...

I started trying to read The Secret Life of Bees recently and didn't make it through 10 pages. It wasn't because it was bad, though. More like, I grew up in the south, and books about the south where everyone's poor and abusive are books that really fry my nerves a little bit, and I don't think I'm up for that kind of stress right now. Not when school's out and the kids are around 24/7 and there is no peace in my house, haha! So I decided I'd try it again another time.

Debi said...

I hope when you do read it that you'll enjoy it as much as I did. There are characters in this book that I just love with my whole heart!

Eva said...

I really loved Secret Life of Bees when I read it! Have you seen the movie? Mom and I watched it, and I was shocked at how much I loved it too. But I also hadn't read the book in two years, so the details were a little fuzzy.

So glad you liked Javatrekker! Isn't he a goof? lol

Scrap girl said...

I have the Secret Life of Bees waiting upstairs to help me finish the Southern Reading Challenge. Can't wait.

Chris said...

Um, I'm just going to pretend that maybe I didn't see this post? Oh damnit, I did! Now I have to buy all of the ones I haven't read :p I haven't read that CLAMP manga, but they have always been my favorite manga writers mainly for their art...each book is like an art book! Just amazing. I highly recommend X/1999...though I may have already recommend that to you ;)

Fyrefly said...

I've finally figured out which, The Sandman or Fables, is my favorite. Whichever I'm reading at the time.

Ha ha, I'm right there with you! :)

Nymeth said...

Well, you are not a pest, so why in the world would I make you feel like one? Prince Charming never ceases to be slap-worthy, but he does get a lot more interesting. You'll see :P

A Game of You is just lovely, isn't it? I love everything about The Sandman, but my most favouritest thing of all just might be the characters. I always care about them, and that makes the stories so much more satisfying. And actually, this goes for Fables too :P

Trish said...

You know, I just didn't get Secret Life of Bees when I read it years ago. I've thought about checking it out on audio to see if I "get" it this time around. Still need to try Sandman and Fables!! I need like 4 extra hours in every day.

Kim L said...

I really enjoyed "The Secret Life of Bees", but it has been a while since I read it. I wonder if I would still feel the same way about it, since there have been some other books I've read by the author and not cared for as much.

As far as Fables goes, I hear ya. I don't know all of the myths either, but it is fun googling them afterwards. Like Weyland Smith... I had no clue! Yeah, Prince Charming is pretty annoying. I come pretty close to hating him in this series, but somehow he keeps winning me over :-)