I’m so behind on writing about the books I’ve read, it’s really rather sad. And I just finished one of the all time best books I’ve EVER read, so I feel like I have to catch up before I can go on at length about it. So, a quick sum up of the 16 books I’ve read since I last posted about books.
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell: This book has a great premise (and is based on true events); a woman feels stagnant in her life and decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking in one year. There are more recipes than there are days of the year, so this is quite a challenge- besides the fact that some of the recipes are really rather insane. It’s interesting to watch what the ups and downs of accomplishing her goal do for her; especially toward the end when it looks like she may not finish, and her reaction is that if she doesn’t finish it’s all been worthless. I’ve totally been there, and it was a lesson in how dumb that mindset is.
The Woman Who Wouldn’t by Gene Wilder: This is Gene Wilder’s second novel (yes, that Gene Wilder) and like his first, it’s a lovely, short little gem. A famous violinist gets packed away to a sanatorium for a rest because he loses it during a performance (pouring water into a tuba because it was thirsty), where he meets a beautiful, sad woman who completely fails to fall for his charms. It’s a perfectly lovely little book.
Raising a Reader by Jennie Nash: A memoir by a mom who loves to read, chronicling her attempts to pass that passion on to her children. Really good.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell: A twenty-something woman discovers that she has an aunt she never knew about, who has been living in an asylum for 60 years. The asylum is closing, and they’re releasing the aunt to her. The woman’s discovery of why her aunt was in the asylum and the truth of what happened make up the book. It was good, and intriguing, despite the truth being telegraphed fairly early on.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: BECKY, READ THIS BOOK AND THEN GIVE IT TO IVON!! This is a fantastic book about young misfits who are called upon to complete a secret mission to save the world. That sounds cliche, but it’s cleverly done, and each of the kids has a “weakness” that they eventually turn into a strength. Reviews I’ve read say that each of the kids falls into a diagnosis- Aspbergers, ADHD, that kind of thing, but I’m not sure I can back that up. Either way, it’s really good, and one of those books that’s as enjoyable for adults as for kids.
Autobiographies of Mormon Pioneer Women: This is just what it looks like, a collection of autobiographies of women who crossed the plains to Salt Lake. They were amazing in their faith and endurance, and their writing is really honest.
Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler: I got this because it’s set in Santa Cruz. Well, and because it looked interesting, but mostly because I wanted to see how accurate it was. And it was pretty good! The plot is pretty simple, a woman goes to live with her godmother who writes mystery novels, and tries to delve into the truth of her father’s relationship with her godmother. It actually gets a bit more complicated, but that would be giving things away. The Santa Cruz presented is totally recognizable, I knew the stores and beaches she described. The only slip up was in having a Santa Cruz native refer to Highway 17 as “the 17″- just wouldn’t happen.
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry: I picked this up capriciously at the library, and since reading it I’ve discovered it’s being touted as “the book” for the summer. It’s about a woman who goes back to her home town after her aunt disappears, and of course, while she’s there, all kinds of skeletons come out of closets and truths are revealed. It was good, there’s a twist that was fairly unexpected, and while it worked for shock value, I’m not convinced it resonates as truth through the rest of the book- it’s one of those that makes you go back and look at how things happened, and I’m not sure that it holds up. But overall it was a good read.
Phoenix by Steven Brust and Jhegaala by Steven Brust: Oh Steven Brust, how I love you. I’ve been waiting for the most recent installment of the Vlad Taltos series for what seems like ever, and it finally came out in July. I reread the book with events leading up to the new one (Phoenix) and I’m glad I did, because I’d forgotten half of it. And the new one (Jhegaala) is fantastic. There can never be enough of these, I’m convinced of it.
Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood: Also the latest in a series, this is part of the Phryne Fisher mystery series, which I love. This was a good one, although there was a little plot point that seemed off, although I may have just not been paying attention.
Your Child’s Strengths by Kimberly Fox: This was for the parenting book club I’m a part of, and it was really, really good. It’s about focusing on your children’s strengths instead of their weaknesses, and how that can build not only self-esteem, but skill and facility. What’s interesting is that she goes far beyond “they’re good at math, concentrate on math” to having you pinpoint exact strengths, (she defines strengths as things that when you do them make you feel strong- as opposed to talents or skills, which may or may not make you feel strong). Anyway, I’m not doing a very good job of describing it, but it’s a really good book and I highly recommend it.
Comic Book Tattoo: This book is an anthology of short comic stories based on Tori Amos songs. It sounds like it should be right up my alley, but I actually was a bit disappointed. The design of the book is gorgeous, and it’s massive, but it feels like it could have used a lot of editing, and more story direction. It kind of has the feel that anything that anyone submitted was accepted, with that being great for the creators who are included, but detrimental to the project overall. Most of the stories have either too tenuous a connection to the song they’re inspired by, or are the most simplistic possible reading of the song. There are a couple of stories that absolutely scream out, being just the right balance of inspiration and interpretation; lovely as a companion to the song, but also firmly able to stand on their own as a comic story.
Heads and shoulders above the rest is The Beekeeper by Neil Kleid and Christopher Mitten, and I would say that even if I didn’t personally adore Christopher Mitten, who must always be referred to by his full name. The song is about trying to bargain with death, and the story is so poignant and touching as a hospice worker neglects her relationship with her boyfriend to worry about a woman she takes care of whose impending death has become a symbol to her.
Here. In My Head by Elizabeth Genco and Carla Speed McNeil is also lovely, as is Winter by John Ney Reiber and Ryan Kelly, who accomplishes the amazing feat of depicting cold and snow just as well as the master, Steve Leiber. Cornflake Girl (Seth Peck and Daniel Heard) and Devils and Gods (Jessica Staley and Shane White) were also strong, but that was about it for me, and trust me, there are MANY more stories in the book.
I think I was so disappointed because I had such high expectations; some of the songs I was looking forward to most, which I thought (and still think) had the most potential for awesome pieces turned out to be the most facile. Anyway, enough about that.
When You are Engulfed by Flames by David Sedaris: Is it just me or is David Sedaris not quite so funny anymore? Maybe it’s the subject matter. Anyway, the writing was good, and the book was highly enjoyable, it just wasn’t as laugh out loud funny as his previous work has been. Man, I’m being kind of negative, huh?
The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club by Kim Newman: This was a really fun read. The Diogenes Club, founded by Mycroft Holmes, investigates paranormal activity, and this book is a collection of short stories about the exploits of its agents. Part dark fantasy, part Lovecraftian, it was cohesive and strong throughout, and I highly enjoyed it.
The Bible: I finally finished the New Testament, and as I’d already finished the Old Testament, I can count them as a book finished. This is the first time I’d read the Old Testament all the way through, and it really was fascinating. I feel like I have a much better understanding of not only the New Testament, but the Book of Mormon- seeing as both groups of people came from the Jews of the Old Testament. The New Testament flew by, and I actually plan on rereading it once I finish the Doctrine and Covenants, because a number of the epistles of Paul just went over my head and I couldn’t concentrate properly on them.
Whew, done! The next post will be about Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh- as I said, one of the best books I’ve ever read. Reading it got me thinking about all kinds of Lit 101 things- what makes great literature, that kind of thing, so it will get a post all of it’s own where I will attempt to sort out my thoughts. Aren’t you so lucky?