Monday, July 12, 2010

Books ...

It's been a while since I ran down the reading list, as we can see from the length of this list. I'll have some more for you tomorrow.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Major Pettigrew is living a quiet life in the village of Edgecombe St. Mary when the news that his brother has suddenly died comes and sends him into a (very quiet) tailspin. It sparks a sudden friendship with Mrs. Ali who has also lost her husband. Both are struggling quietly with relatives who selfishly want to force them to behave differently.

A brilliantly told tale in which no character is perfect but also no character is without a nuanced personality, which means no one is all bad either. A gentle tale of love, second chances, and self realization. #50.

Assam and Darjeeling
If there is any justice in this world, then this book will become a classic. I was enchanted by it when listening to T.M. Camp's audio version on iTunes (want a sample? go listen.)

Picking up the published version, I was afraid that the story wouldn't hold up to what I remembered. I need not have feared. The printed version is superior, in fact, because the eye can linger over the beautifully written phrases, which add a depth that the ear doesn't convey in quite the same way.

A masterful and nuanced book, Assam & Darjeeling is the story of a quest straight into legendary, mythological landscape. Two children’s efforts to save their mother serves as a lens through which we see pure love, redemption, and sacrifice. (For my complete review, go to SFFaudio. Highest recommendation. #51.

The Help
This is a brilliantly written book. Honestly, if I’d really known what it was about I’d never have been interested but once I was engrossed in it I was glad to have read this excellent book. Told by two different servants and one young woman who doesn’t fit into the Jackson, Mississippi society because she didn’t immediately get married and begin a family, this is a story of their unexpected collaboration on a secret project that results in all of them crossing lines that are not acknowledged aloud but which must be crossed in order to truly know themselves. I raced through the last fourth of it. Highly recommended. HIGHLY! #52.

The Guernsey Island Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
This book of letters back and forth between a London author and members of a literary society on Guernsey is a light and easy read. It takes the reader into what it was like on Guernsey during German occupation of the island, while simultaneously communicating just how much books can change a person's life. Very good. #53.

Trouble is My Business
Having suffered through City of Dragons, I realized I'd never really read any of the prototypical genre she was attempting to emulate. My random selections of Raymond Chandler from the library yielded a book of short stories and a novel. Beginning with this book of short stories, I discovered that Chandler is an author I am enjoying. These pithy stories are exactly what you would expect from the creator of Philip Marlowe, except that they show the quintessential hard-boiled detective from a developmental stage through many different stories. The last four stories have Philip Marlowe in them. Great fun. #54.

The Rookie
THE ROOKIE is set amongst a lethal pro football league 700 years in the future. Aliens play positions based on physiology, creating receivers that jump 25 feet into the air, linemen that bench-press 1,200 pounds, and linebackers that -- literally -- want to eat you. Organized crime runs every franchise, games are fixed and rival players are assassinated.

Follow the story of Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old quarterback prodigy that has been raised all his life to hate, and kill, those aliens. Quentin must deal with his racism and learn to lead, or he'll wind up just another stat in the column marked "killed on the field."
I was listening to Luke Burrage's excellent review of this audiobook when I realized I had set it aside about halfway through in order to listen to something else (can't remember why) and forgotten to go back to it. I'm finishing up the last few chapters now. but as always Sigler writes completely entertainingly. Not a deep story but more of a coming of age story in space. The alien races created are very creative, as are the adaptations of the football rules to accommodate their participation.

Warning: when the author says with glee "lots and LOTS of violence" he means it. #55.

Katish: Our Russian Cook
Picked up this Modern Library edition using a Half Price Books gift certificate I received for my birthday. Just began it as I hadn't read anything food related in so long and after a while I've gotta have a fix. A charming, gentle memoir of a time when you could afford a cook and it might just give a Russian immigrant a home in America. In the process you will be fed many Russian delicacies and jot down the recipes so that others may enjoy them also.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
I read this for the SFFaudio read-along and found it very difficult to get into, although having found a definition of a pyrotechnic book in the introduction (which I read after finishing the book) helped a lot. Essentially the book is one firecracker after another, each bigger than the next so that the reader is rocketed (ha!) through the plot.

At the most basic level, this is the story of Gulliver Foyle who becomes obsessed with finding the ship that refused to stop and aid him when he was stranded aboard a wrecked spaceship. There are many other levels or themes to this story, most prominent of which is transformation. I will not expound upon this further as I want to discuss it on the podcast in July. However, I found it thought provoking, especially Foyle's statement about faith.

Definitely recommended, but be prepared to be patient as you adjust to the clipping pace. You may find yourself bewildered. It is intentional and you'll catch up as you read along. #57.

This Tremendous Lover
A bestseller over 60 years ago, written to act as an introduction to the spiritual life for every day Catholics, this book still speaks to us over the years on a highly practical level. Although sometimes the points Boylan is making have an emphasis that does not strictly apply to our modern lives, it is never a point wasted. As my husband has pointed out when I've read examples to him, quite often those points are still true for people today but they are just not spoken of as much. Really a wonderful book but time is needed to read in segments that allow for thought afterward. (Provided for review by Tiber River.)

Completely brilliant, both on a theological level and a personal level. I will be reviewing this in further depth later. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! #58.


  1. I read Bester years ago when I was in my "SciFi Golden Era" phase. I'll look forward ti your podcast as I don't recall it very well.

    I wanted to mention that I have about finished "Quo Vadis". It ties in with recent mass with Martyrs as the memorial. I have to say that it has helped me a great deal to consider those who have died for Christ as marytrs. I cannot help but imagine how I would do in similar circumstances. Not quite as well I suspect.

    Anyway... it was definately enjoyable--archaic dialogue and all. Very memorable characters in Vinicius, Lygia, Chilo and Petronius.

  2. My copy of the book (library) was a 1993 translation so I didn't experience the archaic dialogue. I'm glad to know it is coming through despite that. I'll be picking it up for the second half now that the book club met last night.

    I haven't gotten to the martyr part, although it is being foreshadowed pretty heavily now with thousands of lions roaring and Ligia shivering with a nameless fear. Etc. Altogether an enjoyable book though and one that makes me consider if I am a faithful an example as the Christians we see in their daily lives. I realize they are a "pure" example but what is idealism if not to show us a way to emulate?