Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Does Bookivore Read?

Oooooo, good question.

I have written before about my mom-filter (here and here), that little part of my brain that is constantly assessing literature with my children in mind. But often I shut the mom-filter off entirely and just read for fun, with no intention whatsoever of passing those books on to my kids.

In the past six months, I've been busy. In addition to the books I've read and reviewed for this blog, I've read a number of grown-up books that are NOT AT ALL FOR KIDS. Just want to be clear on that.

Here's a sampling of what I've read ( a sampling because I can't always remember everything I've read).

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe

Loved this mainly because I had to teach the Salem Witchcraft Trials in American Lit and the premise of this book was nifty. What, the book asks, if the trials weren't so misguided as they seemed? What if there really were witches? Told through the eyes of a doctoral student trying to track down a Physick book that may have belonged to her own ancestor. Entertaining.

The Time Travelers Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

This one was like the movie The Piano; I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'll ever read it again. The time travel paradoxes will blow your mind and the love story which "will happen because it already has happened" is beautiful and tragic. The language is often coarse, which I found a little distracting. Feels like something that college English profs are going to assign -- it's got that kind of literary impact. Can't believe they made this a movie. After reading it, I just don't see how they could squeeze this into 2 hours and have it still be coherent.

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

Wow. Cannot say enough about this book and yet words fail me. Rich, layered, mysterious, painful, empowering. The main character peels away the layers of her Grandmother's past exposing a long history of lies, misdirections and myths. Some revelations are just breathtaking. So good.

The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton

Read this one because I liked The Forgotten Garden so much. This one came first and deals similarly with secrets of the past, but in this one, the narrator is the key to unravelling the mystery, and she's not at all sure she wants to tell what she knows. Excellent.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

Loved this -- amazing to think how far civil rights has come in just a little more than my lifetime. Even more wonderful to see how everyday lives were affected and the moral dilemma this presents for the main character. Liked the characters, was shocked to see how they cast the movie. Stupid Hollywood.

The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd

Hated this -- self indulgent, whining "heroine" in the midst of a mid-life crisis. She manages to wound her husband, seduce a monk and generally irritate before the big secret of her life is revealed. Here's the big secret: it's no good.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

Wicked good fun. A twisted mystery, an 11-year old heroine with an obsessive love of chemistry and a lovely, malicious sense of humor. Set in post-war Britain in a country house, it feels utterly English, though the writer is Canadian. Loved this one.

The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer

One of my comfort books. Georgette Heyer is a latter-day Jane Austen with a nice array of Regency-era novels. If you like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, you will likely fall in love with Heyer's books. Start with this one; it's among her best.

Frederica, by Georgette Heyer

More Heyer. This is a good one to start with, too, if you've never read Heyer before. Sourcebooks has released new editions of her works and given them covers which are far more dignified than the trite "romance" covers Harlequin has given them for so many years. Make no mistake, these are not "romance" novels in the Harlequin sense.

Twenties Girl, by Sophie Kinsella

I really liked this one -- Kinsella's books are like brain candy for me. Pure enjoyment. This one had a odd premise, I thought, for a Kinsella book. The heroine is haunted by a great aunt she barely knew, but in Kinsella's capable hands, it works. If you've read much Sophie Kinsella, you know she's kind of a potty mouth, but I do enjoy her books.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Oddly absorbing book, told through letters from a journalist visiting the island of Guernsey after World War II. Details of the island's occupation by the Nazi's and the fates of the residents, some who stayed and others who were taken away by the Germans, emerge as they grow closer to the stranger in their midst.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

I almost put this one down after just 20 pages or so. It's a murder mystery that takes place in Sweden and begins with a recounting of a libel trial so densely and thoroughly plotted that I felt like I was reading a law review instead of a novel. But I stuck with it and it paid off. Not a book for the faint of heart -- the main characters are a womanizer and a bisexual rape victim. It's dark -- makes me completely see what Bill Bryson meant when he joked that the national sport of Sweden is suicide.

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson

Well, after all that effort, I had to read the sequel. Much easier to jump into this one. I find the character of Lisbeth Salander very compelling and this volume takes us farther into the past that has so shaped her paranoid present. The accompanying murder mystery is just as riveting, but be warned: Larsson's books are seamy, sordid, violent and just generally Not Pretty. Interesting note, Stieg Larsson presented the manuscripts for his 3 murder mysteries to his publisher (the 3rd one is coming out in May 2010) and then promptly went out and died of a heart attack at age 50. I don't know why that affects how I think about these books; it just does.

So there you have it. This is how Bookivore occupies her time. It's also why the bathrooms are dirty and dinner is only half-made and the kids occasionally have to shout "MOM!" before I look up hazily and acknowledge their existence. And for the record, all but the Georgette Heyer books came from my public library.

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