Monday, March 19, 2007

Number seven of this year... heh, that's kinda apropos actually, given that the main character has this problem with the number seven, i.e. bad things always happen to her when sevens are around.

Anyway, number seven is Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. This is not a book I would ever, ever seek out for myself. My aunt threw it at me and I thought it would be rude not to read it. (I can afford to be polite because I read fast). Why would I not read this? Mainly because it is a *shudder* Oprah Bookclub recommended read. Generally, I swore that I would stay faaaaarrrr away from anything Oprah recommends because I'm a snob. I admit that. Oh sure, I do read best sellers, don't get me wrong, but Oprah always seems to recommend scholcky sort of reads that just don't interest me in the least. Although she did also recommend East of Eden by John Steinbeck and that's a good book... well, everybody's right now and then I suppose.

So, Where the Heart Is... its a quick read, which is nice, full of nice, quirky, Southern characters. The main character is one Novalee Nation (whom I believe is played by Natalie Portman in the movie based upon this book). She's 17, 7 months pregnant, and is dumped by her loser boyfriend at a Wal-Mart with only $7.77 to her name. Upon discovering her abandonment, she ends up living in the Wal-Mart until she gives birth to her little girl, whom she names Americus Nation. Yes, that definitely made me roll my eyes. Anyway, Novalee's plight touches many of the people in the small, Oklahoma town she has been left in, and she is given a home with one of said, quirky characters (charmingly-uber-christian Sister Husband) and a job with Wal-Mart (probably the only place you'll ever see Wal-Mart portrayed somewhat benignly). Novalee struggles somewhat, but she works hard and makes something of herself and yes, this is a rather uplifting story that things can work out for you if you actually do TRY, so its got a nice message that way. And its not actually treacly sweet; characters do die and are preyed upon in some really bad ways, but everything does work out for the best, so there are happy endings all around.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for happy endings. I especially love a good happy ending after a character has been put through hell and back, but in a weird way, I never felt like that happened to Novalee, despite all her setbacks. Maybe because I felt she had an almost Pollyanna outlook on life, and that makes it hard to see that she's struggling.

Yup, nothing great, nothing bad, just there. No more Oprah for me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Number six of 2007 was Anasasi Boys by Neil Gaiman. I bought this one way back last fall and, for some reason, have only now gotten around to reading it. I'm not sure why the delay; yes I did have some other books in line before it, but I also did some line-jumping with this one and just kept shuttling back. It's not that I don't like Gaiman; Sandman good, Stardust good, Good Omens great, American Gods really good, etc, I just couldn't seem to get into the idea of reading this one.

I think partly it had to do with the fact that I don't know anything about Anasasi or African mythology or anything like that. I have some pretty good knowledge of a lot of different mythologies (mainly Greek/Roman, Celtic, Norse, Arthurian), but anything not really 'western' and I'm at a loss. So, for some reason, I thought not knowing anything about Anasasi (other than he is represented as a big spider sometimes) would hinder my enjoyment of the book.

I was wrong. I didn't need to know a damn thing about Anasasi. I really shouldn't have worried, basically Gaiman takes these gods (as he did with some of the Norse guys in American Gods) and uses them for his own stories. Oh he stays true to the gods' particular brand of story, and so it all flows well.

This one is another nice, domestic tale of a god's family (and really, aren't most mythologies all about the domestic lives of the various gods?) and its as dysfunctional as most pantheon families is as well. The book deals with the death of Anasasi, and how it affects his son, Fat Charlie. How this affects Fat charlie the most is that he finds out about a brother he never knew he had, a brother named Spider. Seems that Spider is Fat Charlie's brother in only the loosest sense, turns out he was actually 'split' from Charlie magically, when Charlie was just a boy. But Spider seems to be everything that Fat Charlie wishes he was; cool, suave, carefree and killer with the ladies. But with such things, Spider also brings some chaos, and its not long before Fat Charlie's life is turned upside down, which is usually what happens when you're dealing with a trickster god and his offspring.

Like the tales and webs that Anasasi spun, there are many threads in this story, but they all weave together nicely until just about every main character ends up for the story's climax on a small, Caribbean resort island. Believe it or not, it actually took me a few minutes to realize that it was all coming together like that, Gaiman did a really good job of not making it obvious until really, the third character stated their intentions of going there.

There's some humour and violence as usual, but also as usual, Gaiman wraps up everything quite nicely.

Anasasi's Boys was a quick, fun little read and I really shouldn't have put it off for so long.