It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My Book (burp) Binge

All right. Here’s my list. All of you who participated, please leave a link in the comments, so we can go check yours out!

1. Larry’s Party, Carol Shields
This was a reread. Enjoyed it both times, though the last chapter – the actual party – didn’t work for me. The conversation was stiff, the guest list too contrived. It simply didn’t ring true. But the rest of the book? Loved it.

2. Hot Flash Holidays, Nancy Thayer.
Fluff. A quick, fun, inconsequential read for a lazy day. What was it about now? Can’t remember…fluff…

3. Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
A short book based on a contrivance. What would happen if we eliminated one letter at a time from speech (written and spoken)? The chapters get shorter and shorter as the alphabet is steadily eliminated. It might also be read as a political commentary, but if so, the comments are obvious and have been said many times before. Still, a quick, fun read.

4. Belonging, Nancy Thayer
Meh. Hard-working, talented, wealthy woman discovers her married lover is an ass – but only after she finds herself pregnant with twins. Not to worry! She takes a year off work so she can buy a million-dollar fixer-upper on Nantucket, hires a bunch of people to take care of her, her baby, and her home, and learns, so we are to believe, lots of Good Lessons about belonging, meaning, and one’s place in the world.

5. The Hatbox Letters, Beth Powning
A book about grief and recovery. Excellent. My only quibble: I was disturbed that she is rescued from an obviously destructive new relationship not through her own good sense and experience gleaned from her long and loving marriage, but through an arbitrary turn of circumstance. Still, well worth the time.

6. Long Spoon Lane, Anne Perry
Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, police officer and his wife, once again tackle the bad guys of Victorian London, this time in the form of anarchists and corrupt politicians.

7. My Latest Grievance, Elinor Lipman
Nerdy, brilliant and earnest parents raise an opinionated, intelligent, confident 16-year-old daughter who discovers, through the advent of her father’s flamboyant first wife, that perhaps normality isn’t such a bad thing after all, and that there are more nuances to goodness, badness, life and its choices than first apparent to opinionated, intelligent, confident 16-year-olds.

8. Ammonite, Nicola Griffith.
Sort of SF, sort of fantasy, this is an exploration of the idea of an all-woman planet, complete with pregnancies borne of psychic mind-body melds. Some of the ideas are fascinating. Many are just silly. Still, if you’re able/willing to suspend disbelief long and far enough, you may well find it to be an engrossing read. It kept me compulsively turning pages till the end.

9. Wait for the Day, Denise Robertson
A quick, easy read. Four friends return from their service in the second World War (which was fun! fun! fun! apparently) to resume normal life. If you’re looking to plunge the depths of human emotion, you can skip this one. If you’re looking for an unchallenging read about everyday people working through everyday – and a few exceptional- human dramas, you could do worse. I enjoyed it.

10. Raintree Rebellion, Janet McNaughton
A young adult book that I read on Emma’s recommendation. Excellent. Set a few hundred years in the future, after the “technocaust”, 18-year-old Blake learns that truth and justice, good and evil, are not as clear and easily defined as she might wish. The subject matter could be more nuanced, and some of the observations are pretty obvious to adults, but the book is for teens, whose tendency is to deny the presence of shades of grey in their moral dilemmas. Great stuff.

11. Picking Up, Kate Fenton
A lovely piece of chick lit. The protagonist is a woman in her forties whose staunch refusal to take herself and her circumstances too seriously gives this book a witty, ironic edginess that much of this genre lacks. Well worth the time.

12. Eggshell Days, Rebecca Gregson
Meh. Some parts of the book I truly enjoyed, some strained credibility a bit, and some annoyed me to death. The book left me feeling sad. Poor little 10-year-old Maya doesn’t deserve the mother she’s saddled with – or rather, Emmy, her mother, doesn’t deserve her amazing daughter. (She deserves a swift kick, is what she deserves, and though the author seems to be suggesting she’s received one and learned a lesson by the end of the book, I’d say that’s far from a given.) Evidently a compelling book, given how it annoyed me, and even though I couldn’t say I enjoyed reading it, I’d probably wouldn’t discourage someone from reading it..

1. Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks
History of the deaf, their language (ASL) and their culture in the US. Fascinating. Read it, read it!

2. The Weather Prophet, Lucretia Stewart
Woman leaves for a year’s wandering about the Carribbean. Sounds promising, no? No. This book reads like a ten-year-old’s diary: “I did this and I did that and then we did this and then we saw that.” This woman has no idea whatsoever how to spin a story. Who knew that months spent soaking up the scents and scenes of the Carribbean could be so unutterably boring?

3. A Bad Woman Feeling Good; Blues and the Women who Sing Them, Buzzy Jackson
Starting with Ma Rainey and continuing through Tina Turner with a brief mention of (of all people) Whitney Houston (?!?!), this book follows the history of blues-women. Jackson writes very well; some descriptive passages are pretty enough to frame. The book starts strong, but the final chapters lose the thread and dissolve into an unconvincing, pointless pile of words. Good book if you’re interested in the subject, but don’t feel you have to finish it.

4. The Attachment Parenting Book, William and Martha Sears
Time for a second look after many years. I confirmed what I’d been suspecting for some while: many of today’s AP parents have lost some of Bill and Martha’s founding attitudes. Additionally, understanding the parenting culture of thirty and more years ago, which the Sears’ are rebutting, goes a long way to helping us know how best to apply their principles to today’s families.

5. It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, Robert Fulghum
We all know Fulghum. Short, warm essays; little nuggets of kindly wisdom. Some better than others. Particularly liked his wedding stories. The tale of the human hand grenade bride is laugh-out-loud funny.

6. The Sayings of Dorothy Parker – At 64 pages, it’s not really a book – but it’s Dorothy Parker, woman of caustic wit. Dorothy Parker who? When asked to define “horticulture”, said “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” You know, that Dorothy Parker.

Started, but not finished
1. vanishing point, a novel , David Markson. Quit at page 30, dipped into ten or twelve more pages here and there, then read the final three pages. Lots of quirky info-bits, but, despite the subtitle, it’s not a novel, it’s a gimmick. A long and eventually tedious one.

2. A Feather on the Breath of God, Sigrid Ninez. Read the first 60 pages, then skimmed the remaining 120. Nope. Couldn’t connect with the book, couldn’t get a sense of her point: either it was too bloody obvious, or so oblique I missed it entirely. Or maybe there wasn’t one…

3. The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson. I started this only this morning, which is why I’m not done yet! But I love Bill Bryson, and don’t imagine I’ll be disappointed.

4. A Man Without Words, Susan Schaller. I started this last night as I waited for a friend after ASL class, and borrowed it from the Deaf Centre library. The author meets and works to teach language to a 27-year-old deaf man who had had no language at all, not even (and I can’t for the life of me imagine why not) a form of rudimentary, personal sign. Can a prelingual adult learn language? I’m only 75 pages in, so I don’t know yet!

Emma’s List
1. Sister to the Wolf, Maxime Trottier
(4 stars – kinda dragged on at parts, but good.)
2. Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
(5 stars – fun to read)
3. The Watcher, James Howe
(1.5 stars – really, really sad, and dumb)
4. You Can Run, Norah McClintock (3 stars)
5. EAST, Edith Patou
(5 stars!! Very interesting, even though it was so long.)
6. Seule au Nouveau Monde, Maxine Trottier (Fr. text, Martine Faubert)
(2 stars. It’s hard to get into in the beginning, which makes it hard to want to continue. Sort of slow.)
7. The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne, Barry Jonsberg
(0 stars. Funny at points, but with a ridiculously stupid plot. Way too far-fetched.)
8. Raintree Rebellion, Janet McNaughton (4 stars.)
9. Jilted Angels, (short story collection, published by Broad Street Publishing, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia) (Varied stars.)
10. The People of Sparks, Jeanne Duprau
(3 stars. Good, but not as good as the other two in the series.)

1. L’Etranger, Camus (3 stars, so far.)

May 1, 2007 Posted by | books | 22 Comments