Wednesday, July 27, 2011

making my brain tired

I think I've exhausted my brain with all the reading I've been doing. This is what happens when all your holds at the library come in at the same time.
I've obviously been in need of nourishing my imagination and having plenty of time just to sit around with piles of books. I don't get to do this very often, and when I do, I'm apparently a glutton for it. Surprise surprise. I'm a glutton for lots of things. books, ice cream, kitty snuggles...and we all know that when I get obsessed with something, I just go until the end. It's why I can watch whole seasons of tv shows (well, ok, *good* tv shows) in a weekend, or spend a day doing nothing but watching the Lord of the Rings, or playing facebook games until I'm perfect at them, or working until a whole program or idea is completely finished and ready for a whole year. I have a serious need to learn moderation.

I began the glut of library books with Mistress of the Art of Death (a book I received free from the library summer reading program!), and then its sequel The Serpent's Tale (which I started reading first, but a few pages in realized that it must be a second book--I was so glad to find I already owned the first book, thanks to my Reader's Quest prizes!). I kind of love this series and can't wait to see how the strong independent woman main character (a doctor from Salerno who lives in Tudor England) develops. She solves mysteries, refuses to be boxed in by cultural taboos, and is in general just super interesting. I like her a lot. I think there's a third book out, or will be soon...or at least I hope so!

I read two historical novels about the same time period and the same family (basically) by two different authors, which was a really interesting experience. Leonardo's Swans and The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi are both about life in Renaissance Italy, a period and location I haven't read many novels about. Big names (Lorenzo di Medici, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, etc) are littered throughout the stories. Small names too, like Jewish families and illegitimate children and servants and priests and such. Both were engaging stories, and each portrayed their main characters (the d'Este princesses) in really different ways. In one, Isabella d'Este (who married into the house of Gonzaga) was a rabid collector of beautiful things, a woman who would do almost anything to get herself painted by Il Magistro (Leonardo). In the other, she was a cruel woman who would stop at nothing to have the power she wanted, including crushing the spirits of people around her. However, in both books she seems to be a hospitable woman, helping her friends in times of need. Interesting.

Murder of a Medici Princess, which I hoped would be in the same vein, was a disappointment--it looks like a novel, but it's actually a history. With that cover art and that kind of title, it seemed like it would be an awesome intrigue with mystery and romance and art, but..... :-( I skimmed, but it was not engaging and read like a textbook on an important family rather than a story. Which, I suppose, is what it is. But again, the cover and the title seem so misleading!

The Song of Hannah is a lovely little book about Hannah, Peninah. and Elkanah (and Samuel, of course). The cover says it's in the tradition of The Red Tent, and I suppose it kind of is. I liked this book a lot. I wouldn't call it the best written novel ever, but I still really enjoyed the way the author imagined the story of two childhood friends who become two wives of the same man. They're both literate girls, teaching local kids reading/writing/Torah. They both know about love and pain. They are such interesting characters, and their children become interesting characters, and the way their stories intersect with the story of's all very interesting. This is one flight of imagination I wish more people would take.

I just finished The Parrot's Theorem, which was such a different kind of book I thought my head might explode. It's about math, kind of. Well, mostly. It's a LOT of math. And I do mean A LOT. Equations, history, theorems, and whatnot. But there's a story in there too, a mystery and a found-family and a trip to Paris for my imagination. So that was awesome. I did guess the answer to the mystery about halfway through, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the second half of the book. I confess that I still don't remember/understand any more high-level math than I did when I started the book, but I know more of the history of math than I ever thought about before. It's always so bizarre to think about math-related things being "discovered." I mean, wasn't there always a number 1? well, no. Weren't there always equations that could be solved by balancing? Well, no...the whole business of learning the story behind math was interesting. I enjoyed this book a great deal, even if a lot of the actual mathematical stuff was well beyond me.

In between all that reading, I've also watched a few movies that we've been considering incorporating into the confirmation class curriculum. Let me just say: Karate Kid is so much more 80s than I remember it (which is not surprising, since, well, the last time I saw it was probably the early 90's), Legend of the Guardians was wonderful, and I think How To Train Your Dragon may be one of the cutest movies (and with the best message) ever.

And now, though I have three more books from the library here and another waiting to be picked up (and let's not even talk about the new books I got with the $100 worth of gift cards I still had hanging around when Borders announced they were closing!), I'm going to have to take a little break. I need some time to process, or to just go without any more intellectual stimulus. I can't decide whether to do that via mindless tv or just sitting around, or getting a coloring book and just playing with crayons, or playing the clarinet (a thing I'm doing sometimes now, though not very often), or what. I'm sure I'll be back to let the three of you who still read my blog know what I decided. ;-)


  1. I vote for the clarinet! I need to get back to playing Gertie, too. She's a lonely horn. :)

  2. Thanks for the recommendations for good reads.