16 November 2008

Books Read Since September 23

• Re-read: Friday, Robert Heinlein
I'm sorry, I like this book. Yeah, Heinlein was obsessed in his later years with sex, especially young, always sexually receptive women, and Friday is definitely that, but I see the story as a young woman looking for a home. Embarked on a series of truly "picaresque" adventures, as my junior-high English teachers would have categorized them, Friday, an "artificial person" raised to think of herself as less than human and a special operative for a mysterious organization run by an elderly man known as "Boss," loses a family but finally gains another as she avoids one danger after the other.

• Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, Lesley M.M. Blume
I don't know what to say about this book: the summary, about a girl whose pianist mother overshadows her life and who finds a friend in an elderly neighbor who traveled the world as a young woman sounded delightful. And truly, the story of Cornelia, her feelings of inadequacy next to her mother, her friendship with Virginia Somerset and her awakening sense of self-esteem is delightful. I was less delighted with Virginia's stories—they all seemed to be about four spoiled sisters who went into foreign places where they weren't wanted, although I had to admit the story with two of the sisters' rivalry while taking painting lessons was pretty funny. But for the most part, the sisters' behavior reminded me why so many Europeans label those from the US as "ugly Americans." I guess I'm reading too much into something that's just supposed to be a kids' book.

• Mad for Decades
This is one of two MAD magazine compilations being sold at Barnes & Noble; this is the one with the television and movie spoofs, which includes one of my all-time favorites, "Lizzie the Wonder Dog," a laugh-a-panel spoof of Lassie.

• Deja Demon, Julie Kenner
What's next for Kate Connor, the the supposedly former demon hunter who's now the wife of an respected attorney running for office? She's already adopted a half-crazed elderly demon hunter who helped her when demons invaded her home town, is raising a toddler and a teenage daughter from her previous marriage who knows her profession and who is training at her side, and, oh, yeah, she somehow brought her late husband, whose spirit has been residing in the body of the high school's new gym teacher, back to life, and he naturally wants to be part of his daughter's life. How can Kate fight demons, keep her daughter safe, ignore her love for her ex-husband, and keep her present husband out of the loop—not to mention help make a bunch of Easter baskets for a civic project! Action, tongue-in-cheek dialog, and some interesting relationship questions in this series described as "Buffy the vampire slayer grown up."

• Marley and Me, Josh Grogan
A long time on the bestseller list and now about to be a motion picture, this is the story of the Grogan family and their delightfully loopy golden Labrador, the obedience school dropout. Marley will worm his way into your heart.

• The Adams Chronicles, Jack Shepherd
This is a novelization of the television miniseries, highlighted by numerous engravings, paintings, and documents from the lives of four generations of the Adams family, starting with second President John Adams. I enjoyed it, but it's not light reading.

• The Dance of Time, Michael Judge
This is a short book I picked up on the remainder shelf about the cycle of the year and the holidays and seasonal changes that accompany each month. The prose is lyrical and provides lovely reading, although the information imparted may be a bit thin for some.

• The Tale of Hawthorn House, Susan Wittig Albert
Imagine Beatrix Potter's surprise when she wakes up one morning in the new annex at Hill Top Farm and finds a baby sitting on her doorstep and an elderly woman disappearing over the stone wall! At the same time, young Emily, a servant girl, disappears from her position in order to take a job in London, one less grander than she was led to expect. As care for the child passes on to Dimity Woodcock, the voices of gossip begin spreading in the neighborhood, about Beatrix, Dimity, her brother Captain Woodcock, and the unfortunate Major Kittredge, not to mention baby Flora. In the usual animal subplot, Jemima Puddleduck is wrestling with her attraction to the evil fox who tried to seduce her into a dinner plate. These are charming little whimsical tales; beware if you are a procedurals fan!

• The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
This is one of the classics of mystery fiction, and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Inspector Alan Grant is hospital-bound due to an injury sustained in the line of duty. Bored out of his mind, he is intrigued by the face of a portrait his girlfriend brings him, a sensitive face that turns out to be that of the "murderous" Richard III. With the help of history books and an unassuming American history scholar, Grant sets out to prove who really killed the little princes in the tower. The supporting characters, including Grant's two nurses, are really a plus!

• Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon
This is the first of a series of police procedural mysteries about Commissario Guide Brunetti, who works as a detective in the city of Venice. While he's married to a warm loving wife and has two children, Brunetti's work life is a little more tense: his superior is a rather stupid and very vain and imperious know-it-all. When a famous German conductor is poisoned between acts at a performance at the famed Venice opera house La Fenice, Brunetti's superior is insistent that the crime be solved quickly. But the longer Brunetti investigates the evidence, the more he discovers that the conductor's past was not as exemplary as anyone would like. I had a bit of a struggle to get through this. I enjoyed the characters very much, and the mystery was well-plotted, but I'm just not a police procedural fan.

• A Foreign Affair, Caro Peacock
Just as young princess Victoria inherits the throne from her deceased uncle, a young Englishwoman named Liberty Lane receives a shocking note that her father was killed in a duel in Calais. Knowing that her father abhorred dueling, she travels to Calais to claim the body, only to be swept up in intrigue. Finally Liberty is coerced into "going undercover" as a governess to uncover the activities of Sir Herbert Mandeville. I enjoyed this one a lot, but couldn't help thinking the story was a bit of deja vu, as this is the third novel I've read about pretenders to the throne in two months! My main quibble is that Liberty lives up too much to her name for a 19th century woman...much too much wandering about unescorted, a big no-no for a woman in those days. But I can't help liking a woman who chooses what path she's going to take because of a horse!

• All Shots, Susan Conant
When a mysterious biker shows up on Holly Winter's doorstep looking for Holly Winter, "our" Holly knows he must be looking for the other Holly Winter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a Holly who loathes dogs. But while "our" Holly is on a mission to find a lost dog, she discovers a murder victim...who's also named Holly Winter. And this Holly looks she might have been involved with something illegal. Frankly, the combination of Hollys make this outing rather confusing.

• The Neandertal Enigma, James Shreeve
Fascinating book about the newest theories about Neandertal man and what happened to them...although much of the book seems to be about feuds between anthropologists and their theories!

05 November 2008

Vacation Books

I always find books, no matter where. These are books I picked up at the Book Warehouse in Pigeon Forge, TN:

Shadows in the White City, Robert Walker: 1893 Chicago-set detective story (second in series; haven't read the first).

The Avion My Uncle Flew, Cyrus Walker: originally published in 1946, now in a Puffin edition, young-adult novel about an American boy overseas in postwar France.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1, Hergé: Would you believe I've never read any Tintin? This is a compilation of three different stories.

Crusader Nation, David Traxel: the US between 1898 and 1920.

The other two books I bought were gifts. My order from Hamilton Books also came while we were gone. Again, two of the books were gifts, but I also bought a volume called Cross Stitch Greeting Cards (for only $3!) and A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving by Godfrey Hodgson.