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04:44 pm: books (mostly fiction)
I’ve read a lot of fiction in the past month or so, and not much else. Not sure why. Prolly need escapism as much as anything else. Or I’m intellectually lazy. Or both. Or something entirely different.

Walter G Bradley’s Gib’s Odyssey is the (true) story of a man with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) who takes a solo voyage through the intercoastal waterway from the Florida Keys to New York City. Certainly foolhardy, but he did survive (though he was steering with his feet and typing with one finger by the end). Bradley (who is the father of a guy I dated in high school and college, and a very nice man) was Gib’s neurologist, one of the people with whom Gib stayed in touch via email during his journey. It’s not spectacularly written, but it’s a damned good story and very touching as well.

Catherine Coulter’s Twice Dead combines two FBI thrillers I’d somehow missed (Riptide and Hemlock Bay, both of which titles I would’ve sworn I’d read before, but definitely not). I’ll re-read them. Pretty good, for the genre (trashy romantic thrillers).

Mary Margret Daughtridge seems to have written a whole series of Harlequiny romance novels about Navy SEALS. I read SEALed with a Kiss, thought it was OK, but feel no need to read it (or any others in the series) again, though I wouldn’t object if I stumbled across one. In their favor, they’re about twice as long as Harlequins and the sex scenes are reasonably well written.

Sue Grafton’s Q is for Quarry is another one I somehow missed from years ago (2002). The fact that I read it completely out of order (V is for Vengeance is due this fall) and still enjoyed it says something good about the series, I think, in that the books stand up well on their own. I think it also says that they’re not so much a series as, I dunno, a set of connected books? Not sure.

I missed Faye Kellerman’s Hangman in hardbound (one of my [far too many] book indulgences). I quite like it. Chris Donatti makes a brief appearance and lurks through the story a bit; his son Gabe takes a much larger role and I like him very much indeed. It looks as though he’ll stick around, which I’m looking forward to seeing play out in future books. An excellent read, and Rina is human again (having ventured a mite too close to sainthood in recent books). Highly recommend.

Sophie Kinsella appears to be classic ChickLit. Can You Keep a Secret? is the first I read and will likely be the last (too bad, as Kinsella appears to be prolific). I thought I was going to give up about halfway through it, as it’s trite and poorly written and not terribly interesting. It did get better about midway through, but I won’t buy another unless I’m truly desperate. Other Kinsella books might be something to pick up at a yard sale for $1 (except that I don’t go to yard sales… so much for that strategy).

I don’t remember where I read about Heda Margolius Kovály's Under a Cruel Star, though it might have been in Roger Ebert’s blog. Maybe not. Anyway, it’s an autobiography, told semi-chronologically, of a Jewish woman who lived in Czechoslovakia through the Nazi occupation and the following Stalin era. It glosses through some of the most appalling bits (ovens, mass graves) and gets into the psychological impact. Very moving. Highly recommend.

Not a book, but rather an excerpt from a classic paper (1988) on white privilege that I’d never read (OY am I out of it), Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack was referenced in Ask Moxie in part of a discussion about discussions about race, which itself originally stemmed from Bronson & Merryman’s Nurture Shock. It is a must-read. In 4 short pages, McIntosh identifies 26 “daily effects of white privilege” that opened my eyes – everything from being able to live where I want to live to finding band-aids that match my skin tone to shopping without harassment to being able to swear without its being perceived as reflecting the illiteracy of my race and more. Basically, these effects reflect that my skin color is an asset in my life.

McIntosh asserts that if there is under-privilege, then there is also over-privilege, but many are uncomfortable acknowledging it and few will admit to benefiting from it. She talks about earned strength vs. unearned power and suggests that we need better words than “privilege” to describe the phenomenon, which really refers to an (unearned) entitlement. Fascinating reading.

I tried to read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things again and again (being the stubborn sort) and ultimately failed. It reads more like a series of short stories than a novel, which isn’t in and itself a bad thing, of course, but I didn’t find it sufficiently compelling to want to read the next story. And some of it is very disturbing. So I quit.

Quitting on books is still a new concept in my life, and one I struggle with. I have so many stacks of things I want to read that it seems a good idea to make the piles smaller, but I also hate to cast any aside. :sigh: I’m working on it.

Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls and its sequel Dreams of Joy are about two Chinese sisters and their families through Mao’s (spectacularly failed) Great Leap Forward. They’re extremely well written, as always, and include many details of Chinese culture at a specific juncture in history. Alas, every bit that I thought was poetic license to add to the horror turns out to have been true. Egads. There’s some dreadful stuff (intermittent, thank goodness for my poor, faint heart), but they’re fantastic books.

I bought Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed on the strength of Little Earthquakes, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked Good in Bed as well, perhaps particularly because the protagonist is overweight and insecure. And Weiner writes well. Solid ChickLit with less of a trashy feel and more like something I will happily re-read of a rainy afternoon. I re-read Little Earthquakes too, and liked it on the second go-round. I’ll be looking for more Weiners (Anthony notwithstanding :sigh:).

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