Monday, August 17, 2009

What I've Been Reading, Part III

Part I was here, and Part II was here.

It’s been fun to keep track of what I’ve been reading this year. Even though I’m so behind on my list of “what I want to read” (I still have Christmas gifts I haven’t read yet – yeeps!), it shows me that it’s not that I haven’t been reading.

I think it shows me I’m a distractible reader. And it also shows me that good as my intentions are regarding non-fiction (and there is non-fiction I really, truly love), I’m a fiction-lover at heart.

FICTION:
-Lord Valentine’s Castle – Silverberg, Robert. This was one that my husband and I read together during our evening chores. It was long. Silverberg is a great world-builder, but it was long.
The Surgeon’s Lady – Kelly, Carla. I love Kelly’s writing. She’s the best romance writer living, for my money.* Kelly’s characters win my heart, every time. This book was no exception. Kelly is also a historian, and so her books are always well-researched. But unlike some historical writers, the books are always more character-driven than research-driven. Great writer.
The Other Queen – Gregory, Philippa – this was staid, as Gregory books go, but interesting. It was about Mary, Queen of Scots, unhappy woman. My only disappointment was that the most interesting character never appeared in person, but was only written to (but, of course, Gregory was compelled to that by the historical record).
Handle With Care – Picoult, Jodi – great writing, as always, though there were times when the exposition was a little too obvious (“I cut myself because it’s takes my attention away from my emotional pain”), and I thought the ending didn’t work. But worth the read anyway for the fascinating situation and well-drawn people and setting.
Hood – Lawhead, Stephen. Lawhead’s reimagining of the Robin Hood legends. Fun.
On a Whim – Gunn, Robin Jones. More on Gunn’s old characters and enjoyable.
The Scarlet Pimpernel – Orczy, Baroness. I was skimming this for research, and ended up getting caught up in it again. Didn’t read it word for word, but was enjoyably preoccupied for long, long passages. Made me want to read more about Sir Percy and his band, so I have El Dorado out from the library right now. If you haven’t read it, do. (And also – and maybe first – watch the movie version with Anthony Andrews and Ian McKellan.)
A Thousand Words For Stranger – Czerneda, Julie E. A new sci-fi author! The people rejoice! Well, new to me, anyways. This was really good. I’ve never read anyone who has imagined better alien races than Czerneda. The biologies and cultures she comes up with are fascinating. Also, she mixes her sci-fi with romance, and that’s a combination I always approve of.
Survival – Czerneda, Julie E. More Czerneda, different series. Also good, though heavier on the “sci” than the above novel.
Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder, Laura Ingalls. This was read with my eldest daughter, and it was lovely to read it again. Am I the only one, though, who’s read this through as an adult, and suddenly identified more with Caroline than with Laura? My goodness, that woman worked!
The Hunger Games – Collins, Suzanne. I would recommend this with a caution: it’s gruesome, and it gave me a book-hangover for several days. It is, however, well-done and thought-provoking. Makes you consider what you’re doing when you watch reality television and makes you ponder the morality of getting pleasure out of watching others suffer. (Even if in our world, unlike in the world of her book, people willingly consent to suffer on those shows.)
Ties of Power – Czerneda, Julie E. The sequel to A Thousand Words For Stranger. Also good.

* I would warn readers of this blog that Kelly is published by Harlequin, so there are what you would call “warm” passages here and there. But, fwiw, they’re consistently after the couples in her books are married (I can think of one exception, and that was a flashback of a reformed character, and it was in the one romance of hers that I ended up not liking), and tend to be well-handled (as these things go, and no pun intended). I’ve gotten the impression that she’s a Mormon, and hence her standards on not having unmarried characters sleeping together. Never read that explicitly, but that’s been my impression.


NON-FICTION:

Never Silent: How Third World Missionaries Are Now Bringing the Gospel to the US – Barnum, Thaddeus. This was probably the best book I read, in this recent batch. It’s about the men who started AMiA (Anglican Mission in America). They were, largely, Rwandan, and they started this outreach to beleaguered orthodox Episcopalians because of what they had learned from the Rwandan genocide. (Not kidding. These men are amazing.) What they learned was, when evil is being done, Christians must never be silent. Seriously, this is an amazing and humbling story.
The Bilingual Edge: Why, When and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language – King, Kendall and MacKey, Alison. I skimmed a few chapters in this (the ones that didn’t apply to our family’s situation), but got a lot out of the rest. Very encouraging reading for anyone who doesn’t want her kids to grow up monolingual.
The Midwife – Worth, Jennifer. I’m sure this was fictionalized, but it was mostly memoir, so I’m sticking it in the non-fiction section. It’s the account of a midwife who worked with Anglican nuns in the docks of London. There are some great stories in here, including one about a couple who had a successful marriage, raised over twenty children together, all without ever learning to speak each other’s languages. Ha!
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite – Kessler, David A. This was an analysis of why Americans overeat, especially the brain chemistry of why. Basically, his explanation is that we’re addicted, and it’s the ubiquitous combination of salt, fat and sugar (layered on more salt, fat and sugar) that addicts us. You may think he’s excusing our behavior here, but he doesn’t. Instead, he explains that, like any addict, there is behavior modification we can engage in to change our habits. Fascinating.

5 comments:

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

I love the fact that you're doing this, Jess. You make it really easy for me to find good books!

Bethany said...

I love this! Thanks for putting it all together. Right before I read this, I blogged about reading The Little House in Big Woods to Clara recently. :)

SarahLee08 said...

I am also reading Handle With Care right now. I am a fan of Jodi Picoult; I agree with what you wrote about the book. But I've found it a very compelling story (so much so that I had to put it in the other room so dinner would get made).

Have you read any of her other books? I also liked My Sister's Keeper and Salem Falls.

Thanks for posting a book list!

Jessica said...

I have read several of her other books, and really liked Sister's Keeper!

Anne@Rosydreamer said...

Whenever I spill something I remember the sentence that says Caroline never spilled a drop.