Movable Type 3.2
November 13, 2008
Book for October
Yes, I only managed to finish one. (Have I mentioned how many articles about politics I read?) We're going for at least two in November. Sigh.
I read this just because my book buddy at the school where I volunteer wanted to read it, so I went into it with no expectations of being particularly impressed. Boy, was I wrong. This was great. I'd recommend it to practically anyone - it's sci fi for people who don't like sci fi, and YA for people who have never really thought about reading a YA book. I don't want to say much about the plot because I don't want to ruin anything. But it was extremely good, especially from a world-building perspective. Duprau has his totally alien world clearly all mapped out, but she does a great job of dropping in hints of how the world works within the dialogue and plot rather than describing it all. There's a sequel and I can't wait to read it. There's also a movie - anyone seen it? Is it any good?
October 21, 2008
Oops. I just realized that this post has been sitting here half-written since October 1. So I guess I should just finish it, huh?
Tippy-Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
See my review here.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
It's a bit early to say that this book was life-changing, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it ends up being so. Allen has developed a system of dealing with work - and pretty much everything you do falls into his definition of "work" - that really makes sense, at least to the way my brain works. I haven't had time to completely implement his system yet (because there's some initial set-up that takes a while but doesn't need to be redone), but I've been slowly adopting his various tips and that has already helped a lot. I just wish he had provided some more cohesive, long examples - maybe a few days or a week in the life of a few people using his system - to better show how it all works together.
God's Harvard by Hanna Rosin
I have to say that I'm a) a big fan of Rosin in general and b) extremely interested in the sociology of religion, so it was pretty likely that I'd like this book. But really, it was great. Rosin spent a few years researching a prestigious evangelical Christian college, complete with tons of interviews with students, parents, professors, and staff. And the results are fascinating. Rosin presents a relatively balanced and fair (I thought) portrait of the college and the people involved with it. This college focuses on politics and many of its graduates end up working in the field in various capacities, so if you have any interest in what the future of American politics will look like, God's Harvard is definitely worth a read.
September 03, 2008
Review: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
(I am way behind on book reviews. Sorry! I'm going to try to catch up within the next few weeks and then keep up with them more or less as I read.)
Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
I decided to go through and try to read all of Christie, at least in series order if not totally chronological order. I'm starting with Miss Marple, because it's completely ridiculous that I think I'd only ever read one of this series (years ago) before this one, especially as I love most of the TV adaptations. I was delighted to find that my library has a bunch of that black hardcover series of Christie that was coming out (as some sort of book club, maybe?) in the late eighties or early nineties - my mom has them, so in my head that's the way Christie is supposed to be.
Murder at the Vicarage was the first Miss Marple novel that Christie wrote, and it's clear that she hadn't quite decided what she wanted to do with the character yet. Miss Marple isn't as nice or as sympathetic a character in this novel as in the later ones. Her sleuthing abilities are recognized and respected by a few of her neighbors, but she is also sometimes resented as a busybody. I was also surprised to discover that the novel is narrated by a different character, the town vicar, Mr. Clement. I ended up really liking the vicar, and I hope that he shows up in later books. The mystery was intricately and practically perfectly plotted, as you'd expect from Christie, but as a novel, this early one was a bit rough. I did love the setting and atmosphere - a village in England between the wars.
July 30, 2008
Review: The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
Priya, who grew up in India, agrees to an arranged marriage with an Indian-American named Sanjay. Soon she's living in LA with Sanjay and his parents - and her new mother-in-law makes her get a job, in addition to doing all the housework and cooking. As Priya advances in her career at an entertainment magazine (and tries to hide the true nature of her job from her family), she finds it harder to keep up with her two separate lives and eventually makes some changes. While I thought that several aspects of the plot were a bit too far-fetched, and while the ending seemed to wrap up too quickly and neatly, this was a good read and hard to put down - I read it in a day. It also provided an interesting look at Indian and Indian-American life.
July 22, 2008
Review: Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
As I mentioned in my recent review of Bones to Ashes, I decided to go back to the beginning and read this series in order. Since I had read the first one last year, I started with this, the second. It was a great read. As usual, Temperance Brennan investigates several murder cases, and some of them are connected but some aren't - a feature I enjoy, because everything can't be connected all the time. This one was mostly set in North Carolina, but there were some nice Canadian winter scenes. The main mystery revolves around murders connected to a new religious movement, and there's some interesting stuff about cults, etc. There's also some nice supporting material about Brennan's daughter and Brennan's long, drawn-out semi-relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops over the course of the series. My one main problem with the book was that it seems unlikely that there are so many cases that have ties to both of Brennan's homes (Montreal and North Carolina), so I'm hoping that later books in the series focus on one or the other.
July 02, 2008
Review: The Sewing Machine Guide by John Giordano
The Sewing Machine Guide by John Giordano
I am thinking about buying a sewing machine (advice welcome!), so this book's subtitle of "Tips on Choosing, Buying, and Refurbishing" made me very hopeful that it would be a good resource to help me through the process. It wasn't. Somewhat inexplicably, I thought, the book was written only for people who already had at least one sewing machine and were considering buying a new one. I guess that's a pretty big market, but it seemed weird that first-time buyers were not even mentioned. Giordano assumes that his readers know a lot about sewing machines and nothing about computers, so much of the book is devoted to explaining this newfangled computerized stuff that machines have these days. But my problem is the opposite - I know a fair amount about computers, but next to nothing about sewing machines. So I guess what I'm saying is that this book isn't necessarily bad, but I was not its proper audience, and I didn't think the target audience was properly telegraphed by the title/cover/etc. There were also a few general life philosophy-type statements that the author assumed all his readers agreed with that bothered me, but of course at the moment I can't remember any examples. Something about his attitude toward the use of leisure time and/or money. Yeah, I know, that's very specific and helpful of me. Oh, and he also pretty much said that if you don't have $1000 to spend on a machine, just don't bother, so that was disheartening (and, I'm hoping, not quite true?), since I can't spend that much right now.
Review: Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
Kathy Reichs is the inspiration for (and one of the producers of) the show Bones, about a forensic anthropologist who works with the FBI solving crimes. Since I love the show, I picked up the first in the book series last year. It was fine, but I wasn't thrilled with it - possibly just because it was so different from the show. But a few days ago, I was at an airport shop looking for something to read, and the most recent Kathy Reichs seemed like the best among the (very limited) options. And I'm so glad I picked it up, because I loved this one! I liked the main character, Temperance Brennan, much better in this installment, although that is probably partially because I had had some time to get over the fact that the character in the book is completely different from the character on the show. Brennan is working with the police department in Montreal when an officer brings her bones that just might belong to her childhood friend who went missing forty or so years before. At the same time, her sometime lover Ryan (also a detective) enlists her help with a string of murders of teenage girls. A few other cases are involved as well, and there are various subplots involving Brennan's friends and family. The book also provide an interesting glimpse into traditional Acadian culture. The plot is quite complex, and it's definitely a page-turner. I thought the major flaw in the book was that one of the big twists at the end seemed pretty obvious way before the characters realized it, and I got frustrated that they were being so dense. Other than that, though, I loved it, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.
Review: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
As you can see from my rating, I love love loved this book. I am a Sarah Dessen fan in general, but I think this was one of her best. It's the story of Annabel, who finds her life falling apart after a traumatic incident that she finds she can't talk about. She tries to hold herself and her family together by denying her feelings and acting as though everything is fine. But then she meets Owen, a well-known "bad boy" who always tells the truth, and finds that she can't keep all her secrets any longer. As with most of Dessen's novels, Annabel's story combines personal growth, family issues, and a great love story. Owen is passionate about music, and his attempts to widen Annabel's musical horizons provide an interesting element to the story. Dessen writes great complex male leads, and Owen is no exception. The secondary characters are unusually well-drawn in this one, too, and Dessen has several characters and locations from her previous novel make cameos in this one. My only issue with the book was that I thought Annabel's big secret was a little too obvious from the beginning. But all in all, it was a great read.
June 20, 2008
Review: The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle
The Joys of Love by Madeleine L'Engle
This is actually one of L'Engle's first novels, set in the 1940s and written in the 1950s or so, but it was just published this year. It's a bit rough - perhaps because it was edited for publication after her death - and certainly not one of her best novels, but it was still very good, and it provides an interesting look at her early development as a writer. It's the story of Elizabeth Jerrold, a young woman who is trying to pursue acting while not completely disobeying her aunt/guardian, who disapproves of the theater for various reasons. She is an apprentice at a summer theater company, and learns a lot about acting and about herself while also falling in love for the first time. She falls for a flashy young director, but by the end of the novel has pretty much figured out that another apprentice is actually the right match for her. It's interesting to look at these men as prototypes for some of L'Engle's later male leads, such as Zachary Grey and Adam Eddington. And as always, L'Engle manages to create a romantic interest who is complex and realistic while simultaneously seeming pretty much perfect for her heroine. Joys of Love is somewhat dated at this point, but it's a must-read for any L'Engle fan.
April 03, 2008
I just realized I didn't really read any adult novels in March. Huh.
March 05, 2008
January 31, 2008
Books for January
Apparently I only finished two this month. Ah well; it's been a crazy busy month, and I'm currently in the middle of about four books, so February's list should be longer!