This is sort of ... realistic fantasy for techy, book-loving nerds. I mean that in the best possible way: the overwhelming feeling I had reading this book was "these are my people!" even though I am not technically that techy of a person. The plot was almost secondary for me compared to the general feel and atmosphere of the book. (Also the writing is super top notch, and very clever.)
2. Tuesdays at the Castle, Jessica George
A lovely little fantasy about a trio of royal siblings and their enchanted castle; I personally would have enjoyed it more if it had been written for a little older audience (I often wished for more details/emotions being explored more fully) but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to its intended age group.
3. The Girl Is Murder, Kathryn Miller Haines
There aren't that many young adult period mysteries out there (What I Saw and How I Lied comes to mind). This is one; and it's quite good. It's set in the early 40s, so it has some great discussion about the war, but it also is just really a good old detective story.
( More under the cut )
Finished up the trilogy. *sob* <--- pretty much my reaction
2. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks
I think I read this book once before, years ago, but it's been so long that it all seemed new to me; very interesting stories of bizarre neurological disorders.
3. In Small Things Forgotten, James Deetz
When ransomedsea , jkgeroo and I visited Jamestown, the part I found most interesting was the museum of "small things forgotten" that were dug up while excavating the ruins. Dice, buttons, pins, teeth-and-ear-picks (really!), keys ... all the little bits of everyday life that get lost and forgotten. So when I found this book about the American archeology, I was interested. It was very good but focused less on the "small things" (WHEREFORE THE TITLE, HUH, AUTHOR?!) and more on the architecture, pottery, and gravestones. All very nice, but I was curious about those small things, dangit!
4. Queen Hereafter, Susan Fraser King
A fictional account of Margaret, queen of Scotland and later, saint. I wasn't sure if we were supposed to admire or be disturbed by her religious-inspired neuroses (Hey Margaret. I'm pretty sure God doesn't find anorexia a suitable expression of devotion), but the gradual building of love between Margaret and her wild Scottish king husband was sweet and realistic.
5. The Water Wars, Cameron Stracher
Absolutely gorgeous cover art. Unfortunately the plot was hurried in a introduction-action-action-action-BOOM-B
6. As Always, Julia, Joan Reardon, editor
Book of the month. :) It's a collection of the letters Julia Child and her dear friend Avis DeVoto wrote to each other during the writing and publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There's a ton of goodness here for foodies, but plenty of other topics as well. I'm hoping against hope that Avis and Julia's witty and conversational writing style will rub off on my in my own correspondence; the letters were absolutely delightful.
7. Save the Males, Kathleen Parker
Excellent subject matter - the subtitle is "why men matter and why women should care" - but I disliked the crass language Parker often used to make her points, and I just found that her style rubbed me wrong. I still recommend it for the simple fact that it's a message that more people need to here: Men are important.
Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Didion writes about life in the sixties/seventies...but she writes in a unique way. I'm not sure if I can describe it. She writes in first person and almost like she's talking/thinking out loud, and she writes with a lot of slang. At any rate, this was a book I had to read for school and for the most part, I didn't enjoy it except for one chapter which was also called "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" where she talks about the drug culture in San Francisco. I found it particularly interesting because my parents were young people in the sixties, so some of the "hippie culture" that they talk about is exactly what Didion writes about.
Major Problems in California History edited by Sucheng Chan and Spencer Olin
Another school book which was important and interesting for the class, but I wouldn't recommend it for fun reading. It was a bunch of primary sources (i.e.: documents) for various periods of California history.
Kate's Choice by Louisa May Alcott
This is a short book of three short stories that I got for Christmas. The stories are sweet, but not nearly as well-developed or enjoyable as Alcott's complete works, but the stories were of a similar nature to An Old Fashioned Girl.
Bomb Squad: A Year Inside the Nation's Most Exclusive Police Unit by Richard Esposito and Ted Gerstein
These two reporters spent a year following, training, and working with the New York City Bomb Squad. Focusing on the year 2004, the authors focus not so much on the events or stress-filled situations, but the bomb technicians themselves. As appropriate, the authors do "go back" and tell the history of the Squad, important people and events. I'm fascinated by law enforcement and all that that entails, so I found this book to be very interesting. A few facts that I learned:
- The Bomb Squad has been in existence for about 103 years.
- During that 103 years, only 225 police officers have been part of the elite Bomb Squad (compared to the NYPD force which consisted of over 500,000 officers over the century plus).
- In 2004, the Squad consisted of 33 men.
- They make about 3,000 "bomb runs" a year. Thankfully a large portion of them are false alarms, but in these cases, it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Their protective suit weighs something like 90 pounds, and is so hot that the tech can lose three pounds on a 12-minute walk to and from a suspicious package.
Hehe, okay, so I'm officially a weirdo, but I found those facts to be very interesting. At any rate, if you're interested in this type of stuff, I would suggest reading it. :-)
Total books read in 2008: 60
Young Adult/Children: 15
This book is about a woman in Botswana, Africa, who starts the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency--even though she has no experience whatsoever with mysteries/solving crimes. Still, she manages to solve some problems in some very unique ways. I had heard so much about this book/series, but I must admit I found it to be somewhat disappointing. It was still a good, light, fast read, but there wasn't much substance to the story. That is, it's a very sweet, enjoyable people story and sketches of people's lives, but if you're looking for a crime/mystery type book, this wouldn't be it. The other books in the series have nothing to do with this book, right? Each book is a stand-alone? Or do some/all of the characters "move over" into the other books?
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
"Little Dorrit" is the nickname for the youngest Dorrit, Amy, who is quite small in stature, but big in character, and quite mature. She has grown up in the Marshalsea, a debtor's prison, where she takes care of her father. Having read only one other Dickens book to completion, Our Mutual Friend, I found this book to be less confusing, partly because the storyline is much more straightforward, and partly because there aren't quite as many sub-plots going on at the same time. The storyline is wonderful and there are definitely Certain Characters whom you absolutely love and admire at the end of the story. :-) I would highly recommend it--don't be intimidated by its size. (And they're currently playing a mini-series of Little Dorrit on BBC One which looks stunning, but unfortunately, I don't get that channel! :-()
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas
I've been wanting to read a good Wilberforce biography since Amazing Grace (the movie) came out last year/early this year since I am/was woefully ignorant of the subject (although my Atlantic History class last year helped a lot). Wilberforce was an absolutely amazing guy. Very, very normal (well, as normal as one can be when one is born to a noble and very wealthy family in 18th century England). Perhaps he seemed like a "normal" guy because he didn't have a lot of airs and pretenses.. He managed to have a life in politics and very much in the public eye while being Christian; he was brilliantly able to mix the two together without categorizing his faith and his work/politics. However, assuming that what Metaxes wrote to be true, Amazing Grace (the movie) is not quite up to par. Things were much more romanticized in the movie--big surprise. But if you have any interest whatsoever in reading about the man who helped to stop the British slave trade, I would definitely suggest reading this. One tidbit of information I learned, which I thought was fascinating, was that Wilberforce purposefully moved his family close enough to Parliament so that he could save money and walk to the House of Commons. During his walks, he would often recite to himself Psalm 119 (yes, the long one--but an absolutely amazing one, all about keeping His statutes).
Mr. Knightley's Diary by Amanda Grange
Jane Austen's Emma from Mr. Knightley's point of view. I had never heard for Amanda Grange and her series of diaries (she has one for Knightley, Darcy, Edmund Bertrum, and Captain Wentworth) before, but since I often enjoy other people's parallels or continuations of Austen's works, I thought I'd give these a try. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and found it to be clean, amusing, and, for the most part, pretty realistic (meaning she kept Mr. Knightley in his character). There were definitely a few spots that made me laugh out loud. And, of course, knowing the story from the heroine's point of view, it was vastly amusing to see how some of the miscommunication came about. A very fast, easy read, but enjoyable.
The Secret of the Mask created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Ghost in the First Row created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Two more Boxcar books. :-) I should count how many I've read. LOL
In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
Until I took this California History class, I had never read any of Steinbeck's works. I know, bad me. In Dubious Battle takes place in the 1940s in California during the Labor Movement prior to unionization, when agriculture growers were reducing the pay of the pickers and some of the pickers were protesting. I really don't care for labor history, so I didn't find this book to be particularly enjoyable, although it was an easy read and though fictitious, it gives a good picture of what the labor movement was like as well as "life on the ground" for the pickers. This particular book follows Mac and Jim, two guys who help unite the pickers and get them started protesting--some would consider them to be "Reds," that is, Communists. I still don't know what I really think about the Labor Movement, how much I support, what was good or bad, etc.
If He Hollers, Let Him Go by Chester Himes
Another text for my history class, If He Hollers follows four days in the life of Bob Jones, a black man in Los Angeles during World War II when race relations were very tough. Californians treated blacks very differently than the way people in the South treated them. There was a much "cooler" relationship where they weren't flat out racist, but very coolly showed the black people that they were. For instance, one even Bob takes his girlfriend out to dinner at a fancy "white" restaurant. Rather than being turned away outright, they were taken to and out-of-the-way place, served their meal, and then attached to their bill was a small note saying, "please don't come back." However, in the workforce, they did hire blacks to such positions as supervisors (which would not have happened in the South), but there was still a marked difference in treatment. In the four days of Bob Jones' life that this book covers, you can see all the anger (some of which I think was founded and some of which I think was not) built up inside of him. During those four days, Jones is accused of a major crime (which he did not do), and the book ends in a very interesting way...making you see the injustice, but also the grace that was given Jones.
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen- 17-year-old Ruby suddenly finds herself in a whole different world when she comes under the care of the older sister she hasn't seen in years. This book was a fast read. I do love Dessen dearly, but I feel like something wasn't quite right with this one. I guess my problem is that, whether consciously or not, nearly every plot point was pretty clearly foreshadowed. Also, the symbolism was a little clunky. Yes, I know the book is aimed at teenagers, and not 20-somethings with B.A.s in literature. But I've really liked Dessen's other books, and I feel like this one didn't quite live up to her other works.
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell- 17-year-old Molly Gibson's world is thrown into upheaval when her widowed father decides to remarry. This is a cozy novel, and if you like Jane Austen, I think you'd like this one. Unfortunately, the author died before she could finish it, but you can pretty much tell how it will end. I also highly recommend the mini-series.
Storm Surge by Rene Gutteridge- FBI agent Mick Kline investigates a suspect's death, as well as the strange case of a death-row prisoner who insists on his own innocence. Now, I usually like Rene Gutteridge, but she's not exactly the greatest at characterization. That really, really shows in this novel. Plus, some of the writing feels unrealistic, and the plot is too predictable to really be suspenseful. Also, the ending of the romantic arc felt rushed. Disappointment all the way 'round.
The World's Last Night (and Other Essays) by C. S. Lewis- Essays on topics including "good work" vs. "good works"; religion vs. science; and the Second Coming. Lewis always makes me think about my own theology, which is good. There was one essay in this book that I didn't really like (or maybe I just didn't get it- I'm definitely not ruling that out; Lewis= way smarter than I am), but for the most part the essays were good. You can see Lewis developing the ideas he would use in Perlandra in "Religion and Rocketry", and "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" is always convicting.
Mom read Robinson Crusoe to my brother and me when I was really, really young (I'm guessing when I was 6 or 7), but I didn't remember much of it. I have to admit that I really didn't care for it. I liked Swiss Family Robinson much better. Robinson Crusoe was just so..vain! I did think that it was neat that he found the Bible and was able to read/study it....but his vanity really bugged me. Still, I'm glad I read it since it's such a classic.
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
This summer, my goal is to read several of Shakespeare's plays since I've only read a few and am extremely lacking in that department. :-) I didn't even know the story of Midsummer, and haven't seen a movie or play of it, so I have to admit that I really struggled with it. I'm sure I didn't catch a lot of his meaning and even much of the storyline. What little of the storyline that I understood, I didn't really enjoy at all... And I didn't find it to be funny as I'm sure it was supposed to be. I think I'll have to maybe watch a movie see a play of it--it might help with my understanding a bit. :-)
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
We listened to this on the way to the Jelly Belly factory in San Francisco and on the drive home (which ended up taking an extra long time because of the fires along Route 1). It's a young person's book about a girl, Hollis Woods, who has been in more foster homes than she can remember. She has a talent for drawing, so she has "pictures" of the various events in her disjointed life. She longs for a family, and well, you'll have to read it. :-) It's written in first person, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth by Ric Edelman
Ric Edelman, a financial adviser/speaker (or something) interviewed...or had his staff interview...five thousand of his clients to see how these ordinary people (teachers, policemen, engineers, homemakers, blue collar, middle-class people) became wealthy. Through the interviews, he found eight things that most of these ordinary people did to create their wealth:
1) They carried a mortgage on their house, even if they could afford to pay it off. Their thinking was that the amount of money they made by investing the "extra" money (money that many people would use to pay off their mortgage faster) and the tax exempts they have by having a mortgage is higher than the amount of interest they have to pay by "stretching" out their mortgage.
2) They diversified among different asset classes; they take full advantage of their 401(k)s.
3) They invested whatever they could, whenever they could as often as they could. Even if it was just $5 that month. It adds up. Much of the book was quotes/advice from the clients. A majority of them said that they always put something away for savings/investing, and that the best advice they could give was to start doing it as soon as possible. Many of them said that they wished they started saving sooner. And that they wished they would've taken advantage of their 401(k)s when they were younger.
4) They buy stocks/mutual funds and just hold them for years. Time and the law of compounding interest are your friends.
5) They ignored the Dow, S&P, NASDAQ. Basically, they didn't freak out of the Dow went down that minute, hour, day, week, month, etc.
6) They didn't spend lots of time analyzing your money. See #4 and #5.
7) They talked with, and educated their family about money. (Something all parents should do. Schools don't teach personal finance.)
8) Tune out the fodder the analysts are constantly spewing. See #4, #5, and #6.
So yeah, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Not sure if I agree completely (especially #1)--haven't done enough research--but I really enjoyed hearing all the quotes/advice from the clients. The main thing was: save now.
I listened to it again because it's so good. It's about two old men in Ireland who make cheese. They're getting old and they need to find someone to replace them. There's a bunch of other fun characters too who have conflicts to solve.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
This is an eerie, but good, book. It's the first in a series. The main character, Dexter, is a serial killer who will always have a sort of nagging feeling to kill. He has learned to keep it under control though, by only killing other serial killers. Kind of ridding the world of horrible people. But he's kind of horrible himself. It's somewhat gory, but it also has a strange humor. Dexter feels no real emotions, and his attempts to pretend like he does are funny.
Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
This is book one in the Tales of the Otori series. It takes place in Japan a long time ago, but it creates a different history of Japan, and there are fantasy elements as well. The country is divided into tribes that are at war with each other. A young man named Takeo escapes from his village when it is attacked, and he is rescued by Lord Otori Shigeru. Shigeru trains Takeo to fight in the hope that one day, he will be able to sneak across the nightingale floor and kill Iida, the bad guy. Another story going on at the same time is that of Kaede, a girl who has spent most of her life as a hostage/servant at a castle. I really enjoyed this book, and now I'm almost done with the second one in the series.
The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith
BOOK OF THE MONTH AWARD
This is the fourth Isabel Dalhousie book. Isabel is still pondering philosophical issues, and she has yet another small mystery to solve. I can't really tell anything about the story, because I'd be giving away things that happen in previous books. I'll just keep saying that these are really good.
A month after reading this, I still don't quite know what to say. I count it among a handful of novels published since 2000 that are truly literary works of art. I usually get frustrated with books that ever so slowly reveal the truth, but this - each layer peeled away kept me fascinated and involved in the story. I thought the timing was excellent, and the gothic yet realistic aura wonderfully presented.
2. Quiet, Please, Scott Douglas
It seems that my favorite books all make liberal use of footnotes: Terry Pratchett's oeuvre, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, even The Mezzanine, which I read solely for the footnotes!
And this book, written by a librarian about the absurdities and oddities of working in a library, has such wonderful footnotes.
Also, I think I will force a copy into the hands of any patron who dares utter some variation on the theme "so this must be such a lovely, quiet job, getting to sit around and read all day."
I attempted to read aloud to my mom the section towards the end about the Romantic Spanish Song-Singing Bathroom Man (complete with sombrero and fake cactus) but failed utterly; I'd be able to gasp out four or five words before having to spend several minutes wiping hysterical tears out of my eyes and composing myself enough to read another half-sentence. It was wonderful.
3. More Book Lust, Nancy Pearl
Yet more book recommendations. THIS is why my paperbackswap wish list has maxed out. *sob*
4. Stuffed, Patricia Volk
Different than I expected; I saw it marketed more as a food memoir and it turned out to be more a series of funny, poignant and often bittersweet vignettes about Ms. Volk's (extensive) family - who happened to be in the restaurant business. But I'm not in the least sorry to have read it.
5. Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
A re-read before the movie. I think this is probably Lewis' weakest Narnia book. You have to admit it's a little thin on plot.
6. Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl
Here I got my food memoir fix at last. Reichl is quite a legend in the food world; restaurant reviewer for the New York Times, editor of Gourmet. I have her next book, Comfort Me With Apples, sitting next to the bed waiting to be read.
7. The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery
I absolutely loved this one! I think it seems more adult-oriented than her other books, perhaps because Valancy is older than Montgomery's usual heroines.
8. The Wallflower #1, Tomoko Hayakawa
If you're looking for a place to start with manga, this probably isn't that place. But then I always did start projects by jumping in over my head.
(Don't ask me what made me start reading a manga; anyone who knows me should be able to confirm the fact that manga is among the Top 100 Things Guaranteed Not To Interest Marie.)
(... Except, of course, that I have this habit of being interested even in things that don't interest me.)
9. The Wallflower #2, Tomoko Hayakawa
Give me an old-fashioned book with lots of text and no pictures any day - yet I found this surprisingly fun. Given some really good examples, I might even like it more. This particular series seems even more melodramatic and silly than the majority of manga.
10. Uncharted Territory, Connie Willis
A space-age novella, clearly not one of her best works, but I loved the use of gender and gender issues (if you've read it, you'll know what I mean). I didn't so much love the non-explanation of terminology. I mean, yes, it's better to show than to tell, and she did a fairly good job for the most part, but it was too short of a book to work effectively. I felt like I had to struggle the whole way through to understand what the characters were doing and talking about.