Monday, May 18, 2009

The Glass Castle

'I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster. It was just after dark. A blustery March wind whipped the steam coming out of the manholes, and people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up. I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading.
Mom stood fifteen feet away. She had tied rags around her shoulders to keep out the spring chill and was picking through the trash while her dog, a black-and-white terrier mix, played at her feet. Mom's gestures were all familiar - the way she tilted her head and thrust out her lower lip when studying items of potential value that she'd hoisted out of the dumpster, the way her eyes widened with childish glee when she found something she liked. Her long hair was streaked with gray, tangled and matted, and her eyes had sunk deep into their sockets, but still she reminded me of the mom she'd been when I was a kid, swan-diving off cliffs and painting in the desert and reading Shakespeare aloud. Her cheekbones were still high and strong, but the skin was parched and ruddy from all those winters and summers exposed to the elements. To the people walking by, she probably looked like any of the thousands of homeless people in New York City.'
The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls about her strange and dysfunctional, yet somewhat happy childhood. I really enjoyed this book, at times intrigued and other times disgusted by Jeannette's parents. She has written her story through the eyes of herself as a child and is a wonderful story teller. Jeannette's Dad is brilliant, teaching the kids physics and geology while they travel around, never living very long in any one place. I would describe their Mom as a hippie-type, never content to settle in any one place either, hating housework and responsibility, and completely embracing her artistic self. She gives the kids her love of reading, teaches them to paint in the desert and to be creative. She doesn't care if they attend school, it's much more fun and rewarding to wander outside at will all day. Dad has a drinking problem and becomes violent when he drinks. One of Jeannette's earliest memories is of her dad trying to run her mom down with the car late at night in the desert. The kids learn, at an early age, to take care of themselves and each other, that they are really all they've got to lean on. As teenagers, they rise above the poverty they were raised in, bettering their lives as they get older, while their parents choose to become homeless as the kids grow-up.
This is an incredible storyand written very well. I'm sure that I'll read this one again someday.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


'Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain. Many years later, Meggie had only to close her eyes and she could still hear it, like tiny fingers tapping on the windowpane. A dog barked somewhere in the darkness, and however often she tossed and turned Meggie couldn't get to sleep.
The book she had been reading was under her pillow, pressing its cover against her ear as if to lure her back into its printed pages. "I'm sure it must be very comfortable sleeping with a hard, rectangular thing like that under your head," her father had teased the first time he found a book under her pillow. "Go on, admit it, the book whispers its story to you at night."
"Sometimes, yes," Meggie had said. "But it only works for children." Which made Mo tweak her nose. Meggie had never called her father anything else.'
These are the first few paragraphs of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.

This is a young reader book full of magic and mayhem. I first became interested in reading Inkheart when I saw the preview for the movie - (which I haven't seen yet.) It looking intriguing, stuffed with wonderful books and a fairy-tale like quality. My sister and I were at the movies together when this preview came on. I looked at her and said "I want to see that one!". She replied, "That's the best book I've ever read. Really!" Well, alrighty then, I had better pick it up somewhere. Pretty darn good recommendation, I would say.

The story begins with a stranger standing in the dark outside of Meggie's bedroom window. She runs to get her father, who happens to know this shady character, and the journey begins. Seems that Mo has has such a magical voice that you can actually see, smell and feel the story that he is reading out loud. Turns out that he has a special talent for reading people and things OUT of their stories, which is why Meggie can't ever remember him reading aloud to her. Nine years before, Meggie's mom disappeared into a story when Mo accidentally read the villain Capricorn, his henchman, Basta and fireeater Dustfinger out of a story. Ever since that day, Capricorn and his followers have terrorized the countryside, though they seem to keep under the law somehow. Now Dustfinger has reappeared looking for the final copy of the book Inkheart, so that possibly Mo can read him back into that old life. Capricorn has grown to like this life and has other evil plans concerning his story. What can Meggie do to save her father from his evil clutches? Is there anyway to find her lost mother in that other story land?

This book is a thick one, but a really fast read, mostly because it keeps you on your toes, wanting to know what is coming next. I finished it last night and keep thinking that I need to head to the bookstore for the next one, Inkspell. Thank you, Stacey, for the good recommendation, though I don't quite think it's the best book I've EVER read. There's way to many wonderful books out there for that...