Friday, September 16, 2016

What I've Been Reading: Earthrise, Stir, Kim, and Feeding Your Family's Soul

Rose Point
by M. C. A. Hogarth

(The "Her Instruments" trilogy)

This is a really fun space opera series which is continually flirting with becoming romance novels.

I'll just review Earthrise because you need to read these in order. And if you like Earthrise you'll do as I did ... run off to get the next in the series as soon as you finish the book.

Earthrise is fun Firefly-esque space opera featuring a feisty, resourceful captain and her rag-tag multi-species crew. Struggling for funds to keep them going, Reece takes on a few jobs she probably should investigated more before accepting the pay up front. The book begins with the crew heading into slaver territory to rescue one of the mysterious Eldritch race who live only in legend (and in Reece's guilty pleasure, her romance novels).

From there things go from bad to worse ... and for us, of course, the story gets more fun all the time.

Recently I read a popular space opera, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which kept coming to mind because it had so many similar elements to this book. The big difference is that this book avoids the flaws of the other which is that it was all talk and almost no action. In Hogarth's books action always has a point, the elements come together in the end, there is character development that the characters have to work for ... and everyone isn't always happy in the end because they don't always get what they want.

In fact, I'd say the flaw with Earthrise is that the captain has a hair trigger and is so consistently angry (the long way to a small angry captain could've been the title). However, it was a forgivable flaw because of how enjoyable the rest of the book was. One of the things I liked most was how many romance novel elements this story packed in without ever really quite turning into a romance novel. As I said — fun.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home
by Jessica Fechtor

On a day like any other, 28-year-old Jessica Fechtor had an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died and lost her sense of smell, the sight in one eye, and suffered a long string of setbacks that continually interfered with her long fight back to normalcy. A key part of her recovery was working toward being able to cook again.

I was interested in this book from the moment I heard of it. It was inspiring in many ways and should I, God forbid, find myself in equally dire straits I hope that I remember her courage and spirit. The story is interesting and I appreciated the author's honesty as well as wanting to try a lot of the recipes. Yet I still felt fairly detached from the book. Eventually I really just wanted to see how the story came out. If there'd been a Wikipedia entry with enough of the details I'd have gone to that about halfway through.

Which is to say, I guess, that her writing wasn't gripping although her experience was. So not a book to savor but good enough to read.

by Rudyard Kipling

Most people know at least the basics about this novel. Kim, the orphaned son of an Irish trooper, grows up as a street urchin in Lahore, India, during British rule. Befriending a holy lama, Kim sets off to help him find the "River of the Arrow" which will cleanse him of his sins.  Kim's been earning cash for some time by carrying coded intelligence messages and this when this him to the attention of the British his fate is changed.

I have tried this multiple times and never gotten past the first few chapters. A friend brought Kim up as necessary to fully appreciating Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy, which I love.

So I bit the bullet and plowed through those chapters and straight into India and the Great Game. I admit I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book and then lost interest toward the end. I think that's my problem, not the book's.

I can see why this is a classic. I really loved the descriptions of India and the people. The enduring love of the lama and Kim was endearing and what carried me through the book. I think I'll try it again sometime as an audio book. I kept wanting someone to read it to me.

Feeding Your Family's Soul
by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

This is for every mother who ever wished they could transform dinner into a more spiritual experience. I feel as if many families will now have Sunday dinner with more purpose if they use the 52 lessons in this book.

Each lesson has a theme ranging from topics like one of the ten focusing on a commandments to how to live a Christian life (example: doing small things with love) to Catholic teachings (example: honoring Mary).  There's a paragraph for contemplation, opening prayer, table teaching to read aloud, reflection questions, closing prayer, optional activities for later in the week, and usually a recipe.

This is the sort of guide that would be great for any Catholic family. It's practical, not sappy, grounded, and the recipes are family friendly (both for collaborative cooking and for turning out something a wide range of people would enjoy). Also, for those who might be trying to make cooking and dinner time more of a family focus, this would be a good place to begin.

There's a GoodReads giveaway you can sign up for through Sept. 23


  1. As for Earthrise, I agree - fun. Not a spacesuit Bodice ripper at all, despite the allusions. I enjoyed the trilogy for not being the usual space opera and being more character focused. The whole story arc was not what I would respect.

    I have been following her twitter feed and it is rather cool. She is also a good artist and shows her quirky lunchbag drawings.

  2. If you loved the descriptions of India in _Kim_, try The Peshawar Lancers by S. M. Stirling. It is set in an alternate history India. My older boys liked the action. I loved the descriptions and the Hindi loan words the "English" speakers use. I bet you'll also find some of the theology interesting.
    The book has been criticized for not defining each foreign word as it is introduced. Gathering meaning from context is a useful skill I'm sure you possess. I don't think the book would have been as charming with definitions, footnotes, or a glossary. Fair warning to your blog readers: a movie faithful to the book would have to be rated R. I find violence bothers me less in print than video, but I know not everyone feels that way. It's one of those books that if someone leaves it out, I end up picking it up, opening it at random, and then reading for far too long.