Monday, August 13, 2007

This Week At the Library (13/8)

Smellincoffee003: I read my first Harry Potter book today.
Potterhead: excellent
Potterhead: and?
Smellincoffee003: I kinda liked it.

Potterhead: muhuhahahaha

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They're out to get me! This is the library I have gone to all of my life, by the way. I literally grew up with this library, as it added a new wing when I was in seventh grade. If you look at the second chimney, you can see where the library used to end. Everything to the right of that chimney is new, as is the courtyard below. The nonfiction and reference sections are in the upstairs of the older part, and the adult fiction is downstairs. The children's section is in the upstairs of the new wing, and the downstairs is mainly offices and conference areas. The inside hall facing the courtyard serves as an art gallery.



My first read last week was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which is first in the seven-book series. The majority of my online friends have been insisting (with varying degrees of intensity) that I read the the first book. Annoying as this was, it did prompt me to investigate. The Sorcerer's Stone is an enjoyable book. I enjoyed the storytelling, although I didn't really like "Lord Voldemort's" backstory. Too much supernatural weirdness for me, what with the "talking out of the back of other people's heads" thing. He'd better get his own body pretty quick-like.

There's little point in writing about the plot of the book, seeing as everyone who reads this has probably already read the Potter novels…but I will anyway. This is the story about a young boy named Harry Potter who is orphaned and sent to live with his relatives. His relatives don't like him and they mistreat him as he grows up. When Harry is very scared or angry or whatever, strange things happen -- like a large snake being released from its cage. Harry is magical, you see.

In this, the book reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl's Matilda. Matilda is about a young girl who is raised by obnoxious relatives who mistreat her as she grows up. When they are making her life miserable, however, strange things happen...like the television blowing up. Matilda has telekinesis, you see. Both Harry and Matilda get to escape to school. Despite having trouble there with other students and teachers, Harry and Matilda are both enormously helped by school. Matilda is adopted by her teacher, Miss Honey, and Harry gets six more books.

The Sorcerer's Stone also reminded me of The Sims: Makin' Magic, which I never bought for a number of reasons. I have read numerous reviews and Sim-stories, so I know what the game is like. Magic is treated the both way in both the novel and the game expansion. Overall, I enjoyed the book. My favorite part was the interplay between Ron Weasely and Hermione and Wizards' Chess. Much better than three-dimensional chess from Star Trek.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Turtles and Tortoises was wholly devoted to the subject of turtles as pets. I have given thought to how my life will be after university and such, and I figure I'll have a few pets -- a cat if I can, plus a smaller pet like a hamster or turtle. After reading the book, I am now certain that turtles deserve more care than I may be able to give them. I had already come to this decision a few weeks ago. Of course, if I move to a place where cats are prohibited (and that will factor in, as I want one), I may rethink this issue. The book is informative, but doesn't get into the behavior of wild turtles so its appeal is limited.

The Rising Tide is a novel of the Second World War, written by Jeff Shaara. I've read everything else Shaara has written, and had high expectations for this book. Those expectations were met; I think this is one of his better works. Shaara writes about the war through the eyes of the men who fought it. He writes in the same style as his father -- a style that attempts to convey the character's thoughts as they would think them. It's a curious style, but effective. I was pleased to learn that The Rising Tide is in fact first in a three-part series about the second world war. This one concentrated on North Africa, moved to the invasion of Sicily, and ended with the deposition of Mussolini and the invasion of Italy. The principal characters were General Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and two enlisted men named Logan and Adams. Logan was a tank gunner in Africa, and Adams was a paratrooper. I don't recall their first names. I found this book, like all the others written by the Shaaras, to be both informing and entertaining, and I look forward to the second and third books of the series. Both are as yet unwritten, but the first is supposedly centered around Operation Overlord -- the invasion of Normandy.

I checked out Blood and Iron thinking it was a novel of German history, focusing on one particular family. It turns out that this is a novel of genealogical history, focusing on one particular family, with German history providing the setting. I'm not all that interested in familial histories; I wouldn't even read a book on the Roosevelts.

The last book I finished was Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-5", a work of fiction inspired by his experiences as a POW in Dresden when it was firebombed. It is a rather curious book. It was very interesting and entertaining, but it was such a peculiar read that I'm really not sure what to say about it. Vonnegut tells his story through the character of a man named Billy Pilgrim. Pilgrim isn't Vonnegut, but he is supposed to have been one of Vonnegut's fellow POWs. The book tells about Pilgrim's war experiences, but it also tells about what happens after the war, even covering his death. The book doesn't do this in a chronological fashion, though. Pilgrim thinks he has been abducted by aliens and they allow him to experience all of life all at once, so that he can be in 1964 in one minute and in 1934 in another. While Vonnegut is telling this story, he's also commenting on greed and war. However peculiar a read this was, I think I may read more of Vonnegut's fiction in the future.

Pick of the Week: The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara.

This week, I didn't really make a reading list. I had two books I knew I would get, but I hadn't gone beyond that. First, I was planning to check out Shelters of Stone to finish the Earth's Children series (as it is written so far; Auel hasn't finished the sixth book yet). Secondly, I decided to read the second Harry Potter novel.

Last week, I visited the children's section first to covertly check out the first Harry Potter book. I was more than a tad uncomfortable being present in the children's section, seeing as I haven't fit that label for quite some time. I felt the same way when I sneaked in there to check out a Redwall book, but not as embarrassed as I felt to be walking around with Left Behind novels. After I checked out the book, I placed it my car and re-entered the library through the main doors. That way, no one saw me walking about with a "kiddy" book. This week I decided to check out my adult books first, then exit the library through the children's section and pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on my way out. After I picked up Shelters of Stone, I had no real idea what to get upstairs. I thought I should get another book on Germany, so I picked out The Germans. Then I saw a book called Storms from the Sun that looked interesting. After that, I decided to dart inside the children's section.

As it turns out, the librarians were having a meeting right beside the shelf where the Harry Potter books were. I'd be spotted by two of the main librarians! I stood there dumbly for a minute, then realized they could see my head over the short shelves and went to get the book. It wasn't there. I kneeled there listening to them speak, but the book wasn't there. I thought maybe they had isolated some of the books and put them in a special display. I went to get the movies -- I was checking out the first two movies as well -- but still couldn't find the books. Eventually one of the librarians noticed me wandering about (looking uncomfortable) and asked me if I needed help.

It turns out the web catalog was showing the book as "in" when it was really "out" and due in tomorrow. She gave me a "hold request" to sign, so they're going to call me tomorrow to come fetch the book. I chatted a bit with one of the librarians, and she says lots of adults check out books in the children's section. It was really a moot issue by then; I had been wandering about the children's books for so long by this point that whatever "adult dignity" I had was gone. I felt as comfortable as I felt when I was little and one of the founding members of the Goosebumps Fan Club.

So, the reading for this week:

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (if it's returned on time)
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I'll pick it up when I pick up the second.)
  3. Shelters of Stone, Jean M. Auel
  4. The Germans, by Gordon Alexander Craig
  5. Storms from the Sun by Michael J. Carlowicz



I'll also be watching the first two movies. I actually already watched the first movie today, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Special thanks to Mikado, for spotting the errors that I miss. I've gone a lifetime thinking Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written by "Ronald" Dahl!

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