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07:14 pm: books, books, books!
Heather Armstrong (aka Dooce) compiled her monthly blog letters to her daughter in Dear Daughter. Meh. I think they’re better in the context of the whole blog. It’s a bit… treacly without the edge of her other writing. I seem to have a preference for original media: I like books better than the movies made from them and blogs better than the books made from them (if I follow the blog, that is; I liked Julie & Julia just fine as a book – and the book better than the movie, except Meryl Streep as Julia Child, who was fantastic). I did like Clublife and Thanks for the Tip very much, but those were blogs I followed for months before the books came out, not years. Next up is The Bloggess’ Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which looks marvelous (funnier than the Bible). Allie Brosh has a book coming out too (eventually), which I also look forward to reading.

occhi_cinesi gave Teddy The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy, edited by Gregory Bassham, so of course I read it first. As it turns out, Teddy probably won’t be ready for it for some years yet, but I enjoyed it anyway, in dribs and drabs (some bits manage to be sort of pretentious and academic, which is quite a feat when the subject at hand is the ultimate in pop lit). It reminded me anew that I wish I’d read more philosophy in college. Fascinating stuff, all those big questions. Marrying them to themes from HP is rather brilliant – and probably more palatable than Greek theater for current audiences.

I’d not read any Elizabeth Berg (that I recall), but picked up The Pull of the Moon on someone’s recommendation and quite liked it. The protagonist is a post-menopausal woman who goes on a sort of back-roads quest. There’s not much action to speak of, but it’s quite engaging nonetheless and I do sympathize with Nan’s uncertainty about herself, what she’s accomplished, and who she wants to be.

I re-read Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy after seeing the movie, to make sure I was justified in my (mostly minor) irritation at things that were different in the movie. I was, though each medium is quite compelling in its own way. (I was most frustrated by the movie’s depiction of Peeta as manipulative, rather than the more… pure, somewhat stupid character from the book). The omission of Madge was more understandable to me, as were other minor alterations.

Stephen Fry’s The Fry Chronicles is excellent. Moving. Occasionally self-consciously pedantic. Fry does these odd, semi-sequential memoirs that overlap, each with a slightly different focus. He’s also written 4 novels (I think), the only one of which I’ve read is The Hippopotamus, which is odd but good. In any case, I enjoyed The Fry Chronicles very much, as it focuses primarily on his years at Cambridge. My own time at Oxford was sadly brief, but I continue to be drawn to tales of Oxbridge, particularly unflinching accounts of the fakery sometimes involved in examinations (I’ll admit that I probably found Fry’s modest and apologetic description of how he achieved his firsts particularly charming because it was so very close to my own – semi-cogent essays liberally sprinkled with citations).

Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs is as good as the reviews say, though it’s hardly a quick read. Having followed Jobs avidly for a few decades, I wasn’t often surprised by it (except that Jobs let it be written at all, given how unflattering to him it often is). Essential reading for the geek masses, of course, and excellent reading for the hoi polloi as well.

Taylor Mali’s What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World originated with his “What Do You Make?” and is clearly a heartfelt tribute from an experienced and passionate practitioner. I would love to see Mali perform some time – he’s quite fantastic. The book is small and might seem slight, but it’s full of Truth and is really rather wonderful. Highly recommend.

Kat Martin’s Against the Night is a silly romance/(not very mysterious) quasi-mystery. I seem to recall reading a galley proof of a Kat Martin years ago that I quite liked, which was a mystery with a soupçon of romance. This one is not as good (and now that I’ve looked at her website, I can’t find anything that looks like what I remembered. Maybe I’m confusing her with Karen Kijewski?).

Judith McNaught’s Remember When, which I somehow missed (1996), from the halcyon days when McNaught wrote straight romances (though I like her mysteries just fine). This one is the Diana side of the Diana-Corey story (the Corey side is in a seasonal compilation I’ve enjoyed for years. Good stuff.

I thought Linda Lael Miller’s Bridegroom was one of the McKettrick trilogy but it wasn’t. Still OK. Very Harlequin-y, but in a better-than-average-Harlequin way.

I’d read one of Rick Riordan’s Tres Navarre books before and enjoyed it, so I picked up The Last King of Texas, which is earlier in the sequence. I didn’t like it as much, perhaps expecting something different because now I’ve read all the Percy Jackson’s? Dunno. There was also very little martial arts or professing (professoring? professorialization?), which had been two of my favorite parts of the last one.

Speaking of Riordan, Teddy got The Demigod Files in his Eastover basket. It has a couple of excellent new additions (short stories) to the Percy Jackson canon. I also read the two Heroes of Olympus books – The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune, both of which are good. There don’t seem to be as many proofreading problems in these as in the Olympians series. Teddy isn’t as interested, because the protagonists are just a smidge older and more interested in smooching ‘n’ stuff, but I liked them.

Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale is a wonderful story of two writers, one a reclusive best-selling author, the other the reclusive daughter of a rare-book dealer who has herself written some short, obscure tracts. It’s sort of a mystery, but the plot, while sufficiently interesting, is eclipsed by the fascinating unveiling of the characters involved. Terrific book.

I started to read Jacqueline Winspear’s Elegy for Eddie, which I’d ordered months ago (in hardback! :gasp:), and realized I was missing bits, whereupon I discovered that I’d missed A Lesson in Secrets. Both were very good, though I marginally preferred A Lesson in Secrets, perhaps because the characters seemed more familiar to me (academics, rather than tradesmen).

Current Location: Longmeadow
Current Mood: okayokay


[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)

I love your book review posts...

...and wait. Teddy's not in college yet? I was sooo sure.....

Have you gotten ahold of Fifty Shades of Grey yet... there are over 700 request holds in the local library system and it is just now getting published in the US from Britain... After the roomful of books I need to read for school (and the second and third Hunger Games books which have sucked me in), I will read it...

[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)

haven't read 50 Shades yet

Dunno if I want to, as it's apparently not very well written, which tends to make me... peeved. I do like a saucy tale, however, so I'll likely succumb eventually.

I'll probably end up buying the e-version. It'll be a change from Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle, anyhoo. (That's what I get for only reading free books on my iPad.)
[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)

Re: haven't read 50 Shades yet

I haven't heard about how poorly (badly?) it is written, I've only heard of how saucy it is... perhaps the ebook won't offend all the actual books you have on your shelves and you'll still get the sauce... ;)

[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)


and I can always skim over the bad writing and go right for the sauce. :)
Date:April 21st, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
I will never get caught up with my reading. (Just realized -- wouldn't want to anyhow, so good thing!)

I don't quite like 50 or so hanging around that I can't quite get to, though!

[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2012 07:42 pm (UTC)

I know the feeling

I'm perpetually behind as well - though the nonfiction considerably lags the fiction. And somehow I manage to get through the trashy fiction almost immediately and the "real" literature much more slowly.

It's always a balance, isn't it? I do so wish my favorite authors would write more quickly (but never sacrificing quality, of course), yet I'm always behind. I wish my reading appetite were more skewed toward "good" books, but it's just not. :shrug:

I guess I have more need for escape than enlightenment or somethin'.
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