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08:16 pm: Books
Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is getting a crapload of press. Time Magazine. Talk shows. Cain’s going to be a keynote speaker at the conference I attend each fall, fer pete’s sake. Either she has a fantastic publicist or this is really striking a chord with people Maybe both. In any case, it’s a fascinating book about how introverts function (with difficulty, sometimes, especially when surrounded by extroverts), how they differ from shy people (shy people are socially fearful; introverts find sociability tiring), and how introverts’ contributions are important (more thinking, more contemplation, less impulsive, etc.). It’s a fascinating book, though I suspect I’d be more enamored if it felt like a more exclusive relationship. As it is, Cain and Quiet are all over the place and I’m almost sorta sick of them.

I picked up Julia Child’s My Life in France at CostCo 'cause it was cheap and what the heck. I enjoyed it far more than I expected and am likely to read it again. Her writing is a bit stilted; Alex Prud’homme, her co-writer, is more fluid, modern, and pithy. This memoir’s primarily about the time she spent writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is far more interesting than I would have thought.

Harlen Coben’s Live Wire is the new entry in the Myron Bolitar series, and is quite good. I think I must’ve missed at least one, because Myron has acquired a fiancée whom I don’t recall. It’s a gripping plot and it includes many characters I like. It also elucidates some Bolitar history in unexpected and entertaining ways. Good stuff.

A colleague recommended Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and they’re certainly gripping. I question whether they’re really appropriate for young adults. The language is fine – Teddy could read them easily – but the themes? DARK DARK DARK. Nihilist. Depressing. Deeply disturbing world view. Not something I would want anyone with the angst reading, y’know? And teenagers kinda define angst. Yikes.

Elizabeth George’s latest Lynley, Believing the Lie, is fine. Not enough Barbara Havers for me. I’m glad about the developments in Lynley’s latest relationship. The mystery is not all that mysterious, but still reasonably compelling.

In a fit of desperation for brain candy (lots o’ stress these days), I re-read Jacqueline Girdner’s Kate Jasper series, and enjoyed it. A bit predictable, a bit clichéd, but solid. I do tend to like protagonists named Kate, even if they’re anxious, vegetarian Marin Country creampuffs who do t’ai chi and meddle.

I enjoy Chris Hardwick’s website and podcasts, so I expected to enjoy his book – The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (in real life). And I did. It’s an entertaining self-help book written for geeks. A lot of it is the usual self-help platitudes, but Hardwick shows real respect for his audience (he has geek cred in spades), which is more than plenty of self-help authors do. Good advice in most areas, though there’s perhaps a bit more dependence on financial flexibility than he may realize (or maybe he thinks all geeks do fairly well financially… dunno).

Jonathan Kellerman’s latest Alex Delaware novel – Victims – is fine. I read it fairly quickly (less than 2 hours, anyway), didn’t get unduly annoyed by Robin (who’s occasionally as annoying as Faye Kellerman’s saint-like Rina, but only mildly so this time ‘round). I keep hoping to learn more about Rick, Milo’s partner, and it keeps not happening. Oh well. Petra makes a brief appearance, which is always gratifying. The mystery is a bit contrived, but reasonably compelling.

Linda Lael Miller wrote one of my favorite romance stories (about a soap opera writer), but none of the ones I’ve read since have lived up to its promise. The two from the McKettrick’s series I’ve recently read have been the closest. Solid, contemporary, cowboy romances, set in the wilds of Arizona. I’ll read them again.

Carol O’Connell’s latest Mallory story, The Chalk Girl, is very disturbing. Of course. Mallory is always disturbing. There’s always nasty stuff happening to children, though this one is particularly so. Strangely enough, that made it easier to read. It’s over that edge of realism that makes it easier to take (that same edge that James Bond is waaaay over). Dunno how long I’ll keep it, but I’ll certainly read it again at least once. Learned about Williams Syndrome too, which I’d never heard of.

I broke down and bought a new copy of Peter O’Donnell’s first Modesty Blaise book because I hadn’t read it in so long (and my old copy was battered anyway). I so love Modesty and Willie. Implausible, almost absurd, but really entertaining. I also inadvertently bought a set of the comic strips (didn’t know there’d ever been a comic strip, though I knew there were graphic novels) – The Head Girls, the Black Pearl, and the Magnified Man, which were amusing enough. It was sorta interesting seeing the overlaps with the novels (bits and pieces used in various different places). I won’t buy any more of those, but I’ll likely read this one again. It’s quick, anyway.

Thomas Perry has finally written another Jane Whitefield, Poison Flower, and it’s a good one. Jane faces more peril than she has in the past (which is saying something, I suppose). Very little Cary here, but lots of action. Reprehensible villains, of course, but also somewhat ambiguous victims in some ways, which adds a bit of flavor. Good stuff.

Dana Stabenow’s Restless in the Grave, her latest, brings Kate Shugack together with Liam Campbell for a little something different. Their respective partners are peripheral, but still present. It’s a reasonably good addition to the Shugack canon (more so than Campbell, who’s the second lead in this one), though not my absolute favorite. I like Kate and Jack and I like Kate and Jim. Kate and Liam are fine, but the no-sex thing is less interesting (though sex is never a big part of Stabenow’s books, the tension of those relationships adds a certain je ne sais quoi).

Current Location: Longmeadow
Current Mood: okayokay


Date:March 19th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)

Hunger Games Trilogy

Many people told me that these books were AWESOME, and when I saw the trilogy in hardcover last year, I got them for Kyle for Christmas (the boys always receive hardcover books for Christmas). I started reading them aloud when Kyle was 11, and yowza! I had no idea how dark they were. By the time I realized how deep the themes were, he was totally immersed, and wouldn't let me stop. Which reminds me that I should always preview books before reading them aloud (I've gotten stuck a few times before too). Kyle loved them. It opened up A LOT of conversation about politics, government, and humanity. We were in the later books during the Egyptian uprising last year, and it really helped Kyle understand what was happening over there in real life (and we were also able to connect it to Star Wars and the Rebel Alliance ;-). Good discussions. But super deep. I wasn't ready to do it with my then-sixth grader, but I'm really glad that I did. And I was super glad that we read them aloud - just so that we COULD discuss. I'm not sure that it would have meant the same if he would have read them on his own.

[User Picture]
Date:March 19th, 2012 11:28 am (UTC)

reading aloud can make all the difference

That hadn't occurred to me. I read to Teddy every night (at least), and will probably still be doing so then. That could work.

7 is definitely far too young, so I have a few years to figure it out.
Date:March 20th, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)

Re: reading aloud can make all the difference

A teacher friend read aloud to her boys through high school. That always stuck with me (I didn't have any kids at the time). We've been reading aloud since they were babes. Some books are shared between two or three kids, and sometimes we have three different books going on. Sometimes only daddy can read the book (I disliked the Eragon series), some I read, and some anybody can read (when we were reading Harry Potter, either parent or Kyle would read aloud). It's a neat family affair.

It's actually more fun reading with Kyle now - he's in 7th grade. We've read about the Chinese Revolution, accidentally read a weirdo Boston Red Sox book (the book jacket said for kids 9-up - which was fine, but it had fairies and super natural entities that were unexpected - but was ultimately about a boy building a relationship with his mostly absent dad while the Red Sox Curse was entwined in the story), Johnny Tremain (which I hadn't read since junior high myself). Lots of other good ones.
[User Picture]
Date:March 21st, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)

ooooh... I hope we do that too!

I love reading to Teddy. So does he, and I hope he keeps on loving it. I would love reading Johnny Tremain to him (I'd forgotten that one! I know I have a copy in my Box of Books I Saved Forever and Now I Have a Reason: Teddy).

I started reading to Teddy when he was in the womb, though a lot of things made me cry (Good Night Moon, Make Way for Ducklings, whatever... pregnancy brought out the hardly-dormant sap in me). I wonder if that's why Teddy still hates it when I cry when reading. Hmm.
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