TOUCH NOT THE CAT/Mary Stewart/B-: I finished this in the hospital that first week with Jacob. Pluses: it didn't require a great deal of mental attention. Minuses: definitely dated by its 1960s publication. Briony comes home to England after her father's death to deal with inheritance issues. She's also looking for the man she's been communicating with mentally since childhood. If a hospital stay is in your near future, this is an easy book to swallow.
ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION/Temple Grandin/B+: A fascinating book about animal brains, autistic human brains, and non-autistic human brains. Who knew a book about animals could teach me so much about how my own brain functions and why autistim produces the differences it does. It also has a chapter about rapist roosters that should be required reading for anyone who thinks genetic trait selection is a good idea for babies.
GIRL, INTERRUPTED/Susanna Kaysen/B+: I caught the tail end of this film (with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie) on TV a few months ago. The book is the account of Kaysen's 18-month stay in an upscale Massachusetts asylum for the mentally ill. I didn't give it an A only because I would have liked more about her life after the asylum, thought that clearly wasn't the point of the story. The writing itself helps give us a sense of her fractured life at the time.
WILDWOOD DANCING/Juliet Marillier/A-: You all know I'm a huge fan of Marillier's historical fantasies. This is a YA book, set in Romania in roughly the Renaissance years. Five sisters have been crossing into the fairy kingdom once a month to dance. But now strangers have come to the kingdom, and trouble is threatening at home, and the sisters have to figure out how to save both worlds and stay together. I didnt' give it an A because, being written for a younger market, it's not as deep and layered as I like her books, but I still read it in just two days.
MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING/Victor Frankl/A-: The classic text about his years in concentration camps and how men and women choose to cope under such circumstances. I picked it up for obvious reasons (Jacob) and appreciated his stories about extraordinary people in extraordinary situations.
THE HARROWING/Alexandra Sokoloff/A-: A haunted house story, set on a college campus during Thanksgiving break. Five kids skip Thanksgiving and have the old dorm building to themselves. When they find and use an old ouija board, they release more than just a simple ghost. Her character development helps set this book apart from a normal horror story.
THE CHAMELEON'S SHADOW/Minette Walters/A: I don't think Walters has written a single book that I didn't love. This one isn't always easy, but it's gripping and real. When a British lieutenant is disfigured in Iraq, he shuts himself off from everyone around him, especially his former fiance. Then he's named a suspect in a string of killings in London and has to trust someone if he's going to save himself. Very powerful.
STILL LIFE/Louise Penny/A: Hooray! A first book in a series that I loved! Armand Gamache is an inspector in the Quebec police force. He's called to the small village of Three Pines to investigate the death of a local artist. It's a classic closed-circle mystery, where the reader gets to learn all about the villagers and their lives and secrets and try to figure out which secret led to her death. A fabulous traditional mystery that I adored.
NOTES ON A SCANDAL/Zoe Heller/A-: A book I picked up because I was intrigued by the movie trailers. Teacher Sheba Hart has been arrested for having an affair with one of her students. Fellow teacher and friend Barbara Covett tells the story from the beginning, revealing as much about herself as she does about Sheba. I don't think there was a single wholly likeable character in the book (except Sheba's Down Syndrome son), but Heller's writing and characterization are compelling. It's one of those stories that are messy and complicated and leave you with no black and white thoughts, just lots of questions.