Friday, September 14, 2007


THE SPARROW/Mary Doria Russell: A re-read for book club. I've reviewed this here before, so will only say that, after re-reading, it's still one of my favorite books ever.

A WALK IN THE WOODS/Bill Bryson: More funny travel writing. In this book, Bryson decides to hike the Appalachian trail. From worrying about bears to the joys of finding a shower after days on the trail, this book almost--I stress, almost--made me want to hike the trail. But then I remembered that any exertion beyond yoga is not for me, not to mention camping anywhere except a luxury tent in the Masai Mara. So when the (temporary) urge hits me to experience the great outdoors, I'll just pick up this book again.

RUINS OF GORLAN/THE BURNING BRIDGE/THE ICE-BOUND LAND/John Flanagan: My oldest son got me into the Ranger's Apprentice series, of which these are the first three books. Will is a castle ward until he turns 15 and is apprenticed to a ranger named Holt. Rangers in this world remind me a lot of Rangers in Tolkien's world: just think of Aragorn's many skills when we first meet him as Strider. But the story is interesting in its own right, from the first book's evil warlord coming out of banishment to the second book's sacrificial stand that saves the kingdom at the expense of Will's freedom to the third book's search for Will and the king's daughter.

THE WATER'S LOVELY/Ruth Rendell: I love everything she writes, under this name or that of Barbara Vine. In this psychological suspense stand-alone, the Sealand family is at the heart of the twists and turns. Did Heather Sealand drown her stepfather, Guy, twenty years ago? Is it her sister's responsibility to let Heather's fiance know what might have happened? Beyond the main tension, there are wonderful subplots and secondary characters, full of their own wishes and plans and romantic entanglements. The surprises of this book continue to the very last page.

ECLIPSE/Stephenie Meyer: The third in the TWILIGHT series. Bella is finishing up her senior year, drawing closer to the deadline she's given herself for being changed into a vampire. Edward is still demanding she marry him before he'll change her. And Jacob Black, her werewolf friend, wants more than friendship. Throw in a psychotic vampire still on her trail and a supsicious father, and Bella's got all the trouble she can deal with. Lots of people didn't like this book. Me, I'm willing to overlook flaws for a writer/series that can pull me so thoroughly into another world and make me feel like I'm a teenager in love again.

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING/Joan Didion: The title refers to the first year after the death of Didion's husband. She talks about grief and mourning (and the difference between the two), as well as the nature of marriage and the power of information and the limits of our control. I recommend this highly to anyone who's lost someone they love. Though Didion keeps her own experience veiled to a degree, she provides an opening for others to recognize the commonality of grief.

THE MEMORY-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER/Kim Edwards: This was a book that never quite got off the ground for me. The premise is intriguing (a doctor in the 1960s delivers his own twins on a stormy night and, when he realizes the girl has Down's Syndrome, sends her away and tells his wife she died.) The girl is raised by the nurse who took her and the story goes back and forth between the two families. I didn't really feel that anything happened, however, that it was just a very long character study that occurs over decades. Not my type of story.

GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS/Joanne Harris: A wonderful British novel about St. Oswald's, a fictional boys' school, and the mysterious newcomer who wants to bring it down forever. Only Roy Straitley, a teacher of the old school and dedicated Classicist, can stop the destruction. This was my first novel by Harris, but it won't be my last. Told in alternating chapters by Straitley and the school's mysterious enemy, we learn as we go the motive behind the mischief. But is the enemy who you think it is? I'll admit that I was wrong--and happily so, since I love a writer who can surprise me.

THE YOUNG MASTER/Sheldon Novick: A biography of Henry James in his early years. Beginning with his family and ending with the publicaiton of PORTRAIT OF A LADY, this biography is easier to read than most of James's novels :) Not a book I'd have picked up for fun, but my birthmother did her doctoral thesis on THE GOLDEN BOWL and this book belonged to her.

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