29 July 2012

Lois Lowry's The Giver

In truth, I had never heard of Lois Lowry or The Giver until a few weeks ago when a friend of mine mentioned it as being a book that has a unique view of dystopia to share.  As Into the Shining Sun also deals with a veiled dystopian future, The Giver was uniquely suitable reading.

What I found most interesting about The Giver is how the story manages to start off weaving a tale that seems utopian and idyllic, and only gradually reveals the more sinister problems of the world.  The narration, told from the point of view of an 11-year-old (later a 12-year-old) boy, was easy to follow and engrossing.  Lowry managed to infuse Jonas with a rich depth of character, while at the same time leaving him open enough for a reader to imprint themselves easily on to him.  I am always impressed when an author manages to so successfully capture the spirit of childhood, and it's all the more impressive capturing the spirit of the childhood of the opposite gender.

Philosophically, I found the book quite enjoyable as well.  The tension between uniqueness and sameness is one all people feel, especially as children wanting to fit in.  To take that tension to a societal level was, I think, an excellent way to explore the point.

I really enjoyed The Giver and look forward to reading the other two (soon to be three) books in the trilogy (soon to be quartet).  Meanwhile, I continue onward with my reading list!

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Books: Reading "Slouching Toward Adulthood," and after that another volume of "Echoes from All Our Conversations," and then "A Feast of Crows."  Which is exciting.

Bottles: Nothing lately, but next weekend opening several bottles for a tasting, trying to teach some of my friends to love wine.

Writing: Two-thirds done re-reading ITSS, so should be right on schedule for starting the rewrite.  Whether I finish it in the time I want is another matter.

Guitar: "Bouree," "On an Island," and some exercises.

25 July 2012

Esk Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

I got this bottle as part of my wine club membership at The Cellar Rat.  I've been in love with New Zealand wines for a while, and this has got to be one of my favorites so far.

I have never seen a wine so delicately pale, it was not much darker than water, but it was a beautiful color.

The nose was overwhelmingly peachy, sweet and fruity and crisp.  Upon first taste I was surprised - I had been expecting something rather tart, but it was in fact buttery, the acidity taking a back seat to the mellow fruitiness of peaches.  There were hints of citrus and herb, too, a surprising strength to it.  The finish, a taste of peach, lingered on the mid-palate for a long, long time.

One of my new favorites!

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Books: Reading A Storm of Swords right now.  Going to read The Giver afterwards.

Bottles: The above.  Also been trying some other things, some not as tasty.

Writing: Re-reading ITSS in preparation of starting my fourth draft.

Guitar: Started "On an Island."  Finishing "Bouree."  Also still working up speed on "On the Turning Away."

06 July 2012

La Gareta Cabernet Franc 2009 - Colli Berici, Italy


This is the first pure Cabernet Franc I have tried.  It was interesting to see the difference between it and Cabernet Sauvignon, although I don’t know if my wine vocabulary is developed enough to quantify it.
The wine had a beautiful plum color in the glass, with a medium body.  Its nose had a strong scent of walnut tree, an unusual scent I’ve encountered only once before, in a bottle of Opus One.  Its taste revealed plenty of walnut, too, but also a smokiness that made me feel it might go well with barbecue.
It was smooth and round on the tongue, but the finish was rather too strong and bitter for my taste.  Perhaps a bit more age would have mellowed it out.
All in all, it was a fun experience.  I received a single bottle from my wine club membership at The Cellar Rat, so I don’t know how likely I am to get more of it, nor do I know the exact price, though I suspect it’s in the $10-$15 range.

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Books: Just finished reading A Game of Thrones.  Probably not going to review it - I feel there's not much to say at this point that hasn't been said, but hopefully after I've finished the other four available, I might have something worth saying.

Bottles: The above, plus a few sort of unmemorable bottles.

Writing: Just having a little fun right now, thinking about new stories and new ideas.  Work resumes 1 August!

Guitar: Doing some practice on my slide, trying to get a little better at "High Hopes."


01 July 2012

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

It's been a while, and while I've been reading quite a bit, it has mostly been things I either didn't feel up to reviewing or had already read so many times as to make it kind of hard to review.  Foremost was the time I took to re-read all seven Harry Potter books when I got the eBook versions from Pottermore...which is also quite fun.

I did, however, finally finish Stephen King's The Wind Through the Keyhole, an interquel of sorts set in the world of The Dark Tower, taking place between the fourth and fifth books.  Though it took me a while to get back into a Mid-World frame of mind, once I got there I remembered why I loved The Dark Tower so much.

Wind is a tale-within-a-tale-within-a tale: a brief story of Roland and his ka-tet, on the way to the Calla, who have to hole up for a while to wait out a storm; and the story Roland tells them, of a time when he and Jamie deCurry went in hunt of a skin-man (shapeshifter); and the tale that the younger Roland of the story tells to a little boy whose path he crosses, the titular The Wind Through the Keyhole - which, it transpires, was a tale Roland's mother told him in his long-forgotten youth.

I must admit that, at first, I found reading the novel kind of hard - after all, the Tower series had been finished, I'd made my way through it and gotten my reward, heartbreaking though the ending was.  To delve back into that world, and at a mid-point as well, seemed unnecessary and in a way, cruel.  As I got further in, though, and let down my guard, it was, strangely, much easier to place myself back in that past, as the book so clearly intends you to do, to imagine it taking place between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla.

As I read, I could not help but find myself reflecting that the entire novel seemed as much a narrative as a meditation on narrative - stories within stories, and the power that stories hold over us, and over the world, are at the heart of the novel.  Even within the three main tales, characters within those tales tell stories of their own, or else recall them, or wonder if they are true.

What was most interesting to me, though, came at the very end of the story, where Roland receives a letter.  Though not a story in and of itself, the letter's impact was quite profound, and really turned the whole story on its head, and made me rethink what much of the book might have been about.

The Wind Through the Keyhole ended up being a fantastic read.  I almost feel guilty that it took me so long to get back into it.  But I'm glad I did.

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Books: Finished The Wind Through the Keyhole.  Going to read A Game of Thrones next.

Bottles: Joined a wine club, and experiencing many different budget bottles, but none have stood out to me yet.

Guitar: Working on lots of stuff right now, plus reviewing.  "On the Turning Away" is the main project right now.

Writing: Finished my third draft of Into the Shining Sun toward the end of May, and letting it rest a little.  Had an idea for a sort of comedic murder mystery that might be fun to write next.