31 August 2012

What I am Reading: August 2012

Trying to get through more books, so that a bunch can hit the discard/donate pile and more can be sealed up and dropped into the basement:

  1. Rose Cottage (1997) by Mary Stewart: Only a few left to read in the 13 re-issued "A Mary Stewart Modern Classic" and this is the only one that I had not read before. A sweet novel, with a flashback to the earlier (50 years earlier, in 1947) life of the narrator. A redeeming story of reclaiming life after the war as Kate Herrick, a war widow, returns to the village where she was raised by her grand-parents to pack up the cottage which is slated for renovation and sale.
  2. Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes (2010) by Elizabeth Bard: Now this is more like what I am looking for in an expat story than the poseur one I read last week (although it was lightly enjoyable). A real expat, going through much the same trauma as the rest of us, with recipes (some of which actually sound worth trying).
  3. The Trouble with Chickens (a JJ Tully Mystery) by Doreen Cronin (illus by Kevin Cornell) (2011): A hard-boiled detective story with a "retired" search and rescue dog as the reluctant noir hero. A chicken comes to him for help finding her missing chick and there's betrayal, a nemesis and the "start of a beautiful partnership". Not certain either of the kids are ready for this, as my 9 and 6 year old would have no concept of what noir actually means and therefore I am not certain they could get the humor. I found it funny, but not enough. The tentative grade level is 3-7 and ages 8-12 and I'm not certain if that will work, but I will put it on T1's book shelf and see whether she is interested in the next few years.
  4. damsel (2009) by S.E. Connolly (illus by Axel Rator) (2009): A charming book. Aimed at age 8-10 and in my view exactly fitting that spot (and under and over as well: I enjoyed it). Annie Brave is a damsel-in-training, but her father, Tristan Brave, hero-at-large is missing and she thinks that she would rather be a hero and save him than wait for someone else to show. Many adventures and a friend later (whom she rescues from a giant spider), Annie finds her father and lots of other heroes, who all assume that the boy must be the protagonist. A wonderful story and it's going right on my daughters' book shelf. I only wish that S.E. Connolly had written more and hope she is taking time (between taking care of animals, as she is a vet) to write more wonderfully feminist childrens' books.
  5. Berlin Game (1983) by Len Deighton: I'm trying to read more local color books as we consider leaving Berlin this year. Reading this made me realize how very well I now the area that Bernard Samson is travelling in: he was raised in Berlin after the war, works for Britain's Secret Service, and is being called back to Berlin to attempt o rescue the Brahms 4 network. Brahms 4 trusts no one (and should not, as there is a high level leak in London) except Bernard, whose life he saved. Because this is the first of a trilogy, and the first trilogy of a set of three, this will go back on my shelf to be referred to as I acquire the others (and I will). I had forgotten how much I enjoy Deighton's work.
  6. Chalice (9/08) by Robin McKinley: This is just a re-read before I pack it away. I do love McKinley. This is basically Beauty and the Beast, but with a world where demesnes are held together with earthlines and individuals of a Bloodline and power hold the world firm.Mirasol's demesne lost its Master and its Chalice and she became the Chalice, with no preparation or training, leaving behind her woodright. The Master's brother had been sent to the Elemental Mages and there is no other left: the brother attempts to return from the path to Fire, but he has gone almost to far. Together, the new Master and his Chalice attempt to re-enforce the stability of the earthlines against internal and external stress.
  7. Nom de Plume (6/11) by Carmela Ciuraru: A who's who list of pseudonyms: Bröntes, Sand, Eliot,Carroll,Twain with many others ending at Pauline Reage. I enjoyed it very much and it was a great book to pick up, read a story (and learn something, even if I had already been aware) and put down again- for me less than 10 minutes a chapter and thus a great book to have going while reading something else.
  8. and I shall have some peace there (trading in the fast-lane for my own dirt road) (2/11) by Margaret Roach: Not unexpected that after both 9/11 and the worst Depression since the Great, there area  spate of books about being downsized/leaving jobs/changing one's life. Ms. Roach was the former editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and after 9/11, she decided that it was time to make a change in her life: to make her 20-year weekend retreat her pepermanent home. It took several years because of the issues occurring at her employer as well as externalities and so she managed to "retire" into the Depression and need to worry about her freelance income. But the hardest thing is for her to just "relax" into a non-frenetic lifestyle and to become happy inside her own head.  It was hard for me to empathize with her, even as she (a non-cat person) adopts a cat and seems to exhibit some warmth. The following book was more my speed.
  9. Slow Love (8/11) by Dominique Browning: Ms. Browning was the editor-in-chief of Conde Nast (famous for its cannibalistic and back stabbing ways) House and Garden when it folded in 2007 with little notice. Unlike Margaret Roach's decision, it was involuntary and as a divorced mom she had two children to be concerned with (although both were out of the house, one in law school and one in college). As Browning learns to slow down, re-discover a sense of worth without a f-t office job, sells her Westchester home (to decrease her expenses), discovers that a long-term relationship (Mr Big-style) could only exist when she was too busy to actually value herself,  re-shapes her life and moves to her second home, she deals with her own fears and those of her children as she finds new work that allows her to have a "slow"er life, working at what she loves from home. I liked this book and what I discovered of Ms. Browning and her family.
  10. following atticus (9/2011)by Tom Ryan: Tom Ryan adopts a puppy and changes his life- going from a non-athletic truth-seeking newspaper owner/editor in a small New Hampshire town to someone who, with his small dog, climbs all of New Hampshire's 48 (over 4,000 foot) mountain peaks to memorialize a friend. Then they climb them again in the winter and again and again until it culminates in a life change. I used to hike the Adirondacks and a few other peaks and I miss it: it's great to read that someone can start (again) in his 40's and that even a puppy can do so as well! (Although I have no urge for winter camping and I love staying in the mountains, not bagging peaks, per se.)
  11. Plain Truth (2000) by Jodi Picoult: This was in a bag of books an expat leaving Berlin gave me. The alleged murder of a newborn in the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA brings defense attorney Ellie Hathaway to defend the accused girl. We get a look at some of the intricacies of the Amish, how the young are treated, how one is in the Faith and the relationship with the excommunicated or banned. Not my usual type of book, but I finished it.
  12. Cassandra Rising (1978) ed. by Alice Laurance: I ordered this from Amazon used (it's a library discard) some time ago because it includes several stories that I had not read from authors whose stories I always want to read. The foreword by the editor makes it clear how women were still on the outskirts of SF normality in the late 70's. Some of the comments on the stories also make it clear that sexism is the standard, not the exception.  The concept was (19) stories by women in the SF field, some already top names, some up and coming (think Chelsea Quinn Yarbro before the first St. Germain novel!). As one would expect from the title, the general tenor is dystopian (before that became a standardized theme), with a few exception. In the Garden by Zenna Henderson, a favorite, is the best in the book. Night-Rise by Katherine MacLean was very different than anything I remembered, The Vanillamint Tapestry by jacqueline Lichtenberg made me remember why I had enjoyed her work so much in the past, and there were many others worth reading.

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