16 January 2008

Books Read (Excluding Christmas) Since November 14

• Fair Weather, Richard Peck
I've always enjoyed Peck's books—I read several of the Blossom Culp books after Disney adapted Child of Glass—because he seems to capture the spirit of the era he writes in (turn-of-the-century America) with little anachronism. This is the delightful, humorous story of three children who are sent to visit their aunt in Chicago during the 1893 exposition, the unconventional grandfather who accompanies them, and what happens to them at the fair.

• Timmy's in the Well, Jon Provost and Laurie Jacobsen
As a Lassie fan, I have been awaiting this book for a long time. Having read some reviews, I must say I have to agree in part with the person who wanted a lot more Lassie stories, but then this is the story of Provost, not Lassie. Provost also addresses the problems of child stars, with insights from other young actors who were his contemporaries, including Jay North, who was abused by his guardians during the tenure of Dennis the Menace, Jeanne Riley, forever branded as "bratty Margaret" on the same show, and others. He also provides some biographical data on Tommy Rettig, whom he replaced on Lassie and whom he remained friends with for the remainder of Rettig's troubled life. Provost talks frankly about his problems and relationships as his acting career dwindles, and while I felt a bit voyeristic reading about his youthful sexual exploits, I enjoyed the book.

• Sherlock Holmes: The Man and His World, H.R.F. Keating
An interesting biography of Holmes and his times through his stories. In what ways did Holmes resemble "Chinese" Gordon, the British general? How did Holmes' philosophy compare with that of Darwin? Or Oscar Wilde? What drew him to the works of Carlyle? Why was Holmes a true Victorian and never Edwardian? All these are discussed and more.

• The Forties in Pictures, Parragon Books
This is a simple bargain book of photos of the decade. Interesting, nothing special. The publisher also has a collection of photos from the 1950s and 1960s, plus books on the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

• Disney: The Ultimate Visual Guide, Dorling-Kindersley books
This volume came as a package deal with a Disney animated film (I got the new version of Robin Hood) and a collection of Mickey Mouse shorts, packaged for Costco. I have many Disney books, so almost nothing was a surprise, but there are many facts and wonderful images in this volume. It's worth having for a Disney collector.

• Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants, Lee Goldberg
What would happen to Natalie's job if Sharona ever came back? Goldberg addresses this possibility in this newest paperback offering in the Monk novel series. Sharona is back in San Francisco after leaving her husband yet again; he has been accused of murder and Sharona believes he is guilty. More to get Sharona out of her life and not endangering her job, Natalie visits Trevor in prison and after hearing his story, truly believes he is innocent. But she's going to have a job convincing Monk, since he's all aglow with the idea of having two co-assistants. Goldberg seemed to have trouble with Sharona's "voice" at first, then about midway everything clicked.

• China Bayles' Book of Days, Susan Wittig Albert
Why did I buy this, since I loathe gardening and have never read the China Bayles novels? Well, I like daybooks, and I enjoyed learning the lore of the herbs and how each has been used through history. Projects and recipes abound, good use of quotations—in short, just plain interesting. When I get through the pile, maybe I'll even give China a sample...

• Re-read: The Open Gate, Kate Seredy
I've written about this book elsewhere, so I won't bore you with the details about this story of a city family who accidentally buys a farm and learns to love living there. I first read this book in college and reading it can still take me back to the little desk in the alcove where this particular book was stored. I try to read it every year, and although I love The Good Master, The Singing Tree, and The Chestry Oak, this is my favorite of all Seredy's novels.

• Windows XP Power Hound, Preston Gralla
From the bargain rack at MicroCenter; tricks and tips with WindowsXP. Finally learned to keep all those useless things from loading and opening in Windows.

Library Books:

• Lord John and the Private Matter, Diana Gabaldon
I have only scratched the surface of Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, about a 1940s woman who is swept back in time to the Battle of Culloden and falls in love with a Scotsman, so I have no idea who Lord John Grey is in the context of the novels; he's apparently a gentleman soldier that Jamie Fraser meets in prison. While the Outlander books are historical romances, this is a historical mystery, involving Grey in the matter of a spy and stolen military secrets that coincide with Grey's investigation of a man who is going to marry his favorite niece; it appears the man is a victim of syphilis. This leads Grey to a "molly-house" (a bordello for homosexuals) and all the secrets that this lifestyle entails; Grey himself is homosexual and covering his lifestyle, knowing the danger it poses for him in 18th century society. I did find the story interesting, but the characters keep you at arm's length.

• Beany Malone, Lenora Mattingly Weber
Weber's "Beany Malone" books were standard texts for 1950s teen girls; the story of a large, loving Irish family and the growing up adventures of the youngest child, Catherine Cecilia, nicknamed "Beany." I've always loved Weber's first Katie Rose book and wanted to see what the Malone books were like. They are typical of 1950s books, with high school and college as idealistic places where the worst thing that can happen is being "cut" from a sorority rush, but Weber also addresses issues in all: in Beany it is teenage reckless driving as well as the rehabilitation of World War II veterans. If you love vintage young adult books, this is a series well worth finding.

• Laura Ingalls Wilder Country, William Anderson
I went through a Wilder urge on the last trip to the library and withdrew a total of three books; this one is an oversized picture book of photos of the people and places portrayed in the "Little House" books. Modern snapshots of the sites mix with vintage photographs; if you want to know what the real Ingalls and Wilders loved like, rather than the television version, this is the book for you.

• Laura's Album, compiled by William Anderson
This is a fascinating collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder memorabilia, including compositions done by her mother, her teaching certificate, photos of people mentioned in the books, etc.

• I Remember Laura, Stephen Hines
Hines, who "rediscovered" Laura's Missouri Ruralist essays and reprinted them as Little House in the Ozarks, has compiled this book of memories of Laura written by people who knew her. There is even an essay by a woman who was a close contemporary of her who also writes about the town of DeSmet, South Dakota. Some recipes by people who knew Laura are included. As happened in Hines' Louisa May Alcott Christmas Treasury, his introductions sometimes seem a bit over-the-top, but this is worth looking up if you are a LIW fan.

09 January 2008

What's on Your Night Table?

That to-be-read pile, which is actually on and under, and in the bookcase nearby and on the DVD case behind the sofa and even a couple still under the Christmas tree, which, yes, needs to be taken down.

First the list of those which need to be finished:
• China Bayles' Book of Days - Susan Wittig Albert
• The Gun Seller - Hugh Laurie (you can hear Laurie's voice in the narration; love it)
• Flax: Police Dog - Svend Flueron (my order from Germany; the book I read so long ago in the Arlington Library)
• Hummingbirds: My Tiny Treasures - Arnette Heidcamp
• The Adams Chronicles - Jack Shepard
• The Neandertal Enigma - James Shreeve
• American Science and Invention: A Pictorial History - Mitchell Wilson (from 1956!)
• How Was It Done - Readers Digest books (I usually love these RD coffee-table books, but finding it hard to get through this one)
• My Day - Eleanor Roosevelt
• The Outermost House - Henry Beston (classic nonfiction about Cape Cod; although it is very similar to Gladys Taber I'm struggling a bit with it)
• La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience - Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale
• Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
• Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor - Stephanie Barron (another I'm struggling through)
• The Trouble With Harriet - Dorothy Cannell (Cannell's humor comes highly recommended, but it's dull for me)
• Going to the Wars - John Verney

Books not yet begun:
• The Time Travelers - Linda Buckley-Archer
• Inside the Victorian Home - Judith Flanders
• By Permission of Heaven: the True Story of the Great Fire of London - Adrian Tinniswood
• Buffalo Bill's Wild West - R.L. Wilson with Greg Martin
• Murder in Baker Street: New Tales of Sherlock Holmes - anthology
• Corpus de Crossword - Nero Blanc (one from the dollar spinner at Dollar General)
• The Sunken Sailor - novel by 14 mystery novelists (ditto)
• The Tale of Hill Top Farm - Susan Wittig Albert (the first of her Beatrix Potter mysteries)
• Hex Marks the Spot - Madelyn Alt
• Animation Art - ed. Jerry Beck
• Oh, Yikes! History's Grossest, Wackiest Moments - Joy Masoff
• A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
• The Strictest School in the World - Howard Whitehouse
• Crime de Cocoa - Joanna Carl (compilation of three of her chocolate mysteries plus a short story)
• Road Trips USA: Cross Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways
• Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
• Murphy's Gambit - Syne Mitchell (SF novel I picked up in our breakroom "freebee" pile)

The Christmas books:
• The War - Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns
• London Then and Now
• Matt and Shari: Great Weekend Projects - Shari Hiller and Matt Fox

And also a couple of James's books that I'm interested in:
• Moondust - Andrew Smith
• World War II: A Day-by-Day History