Reviews may be even shorter than usual this month (busy! lots of books read!) but as always, feel free to ask for more details about any of them.
1. The Price of Everything: solving the mystery of why we pay what we do, Eduardo Porter
Not as compelling as some of the other similar books I've read (the titles of which I cannot remember now, of course). But certainly interesting as far as talking about the psychological aspects of spending.
2. The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, Sheril Kirshenbaum
Surprisingly boring. I know, RIGHT?
3. Maskerade, Terry Pratchett
Hahahaha, Opera Ghost! Or rather, Opera Ghost!!!!! <----- five exclamations, notice. Classic Pratchett, excellent as both a spoof of Phantom of the Opera and a straight-up British humor/fantasy book. Again I say unto you: if you've never read a Terry Pratchett book, DO SO NOW. Thank you.
4. Black Heels and Tractor Wheels, Ree Drummond
Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman, is hilarious. Her love story isn't high literature and there's a fair number of eye-rolling parts (how many times to you need to tell us how great MM looks in tight jeans?), but ... well, she's our PW, and we love her. I laughed out loud so many times during this book.
5. City of Bones, Cassandra Clare
After Clockwork Angel I was eager for more of the Shadowhunters world. But City of Bones started out and it was so modern-day and there were people in nightclubs and riding motorcycles in leather miniskirts (or was it the people in nightclubs with the miniskirts?) and ugggh. The first half draaaaged and it wasn't really the book's fault - it was mine for expecting it to be all steampunk like Clockwork Angel. But then I got into the characters more and by the end I couldn't wait to get to the sequel. [see #8]
6. Bitter Seeds, Ian Tregillis
THE ENDING YOU GUYS. Give me sequel. NOW. Definitely some creepy alt.history (WWII setting: what if the Germans had created a strange race of superhumans? And what if the British had warlocks on their side?) It took a little time to get really interested in it, and I would have left out the strange warlocks-of-Britian bits, and I wanted more details on the experiments that created the superhumans, but basically ... I just want more of the story. Also, it totally wins for Awesome Cover Art.
7. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
Audio book, read by the author - a real treat, although there is something odd about Bryson's accent that would catch me off guard now and then. Basically, I love how he can make any topic interesting... Including weeks and weeks of hiking. I almost wanted to go hike the Appalachian Trail after finishing the book ... but notice I said "almost."
8. City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare
[See #5] I need book three now but it's checked out. =\
9. Anne of Windy Poplars, L. M. Montgomery
Obviously a re-read. I used to read the entire series every October until I was overcome with panic at Too Many Books Too Little Time and stopped rereading things unless I had a really good reason to. So I hadn't read them in years and I was missing them and finally realized you don't have to read the entire series at once, it is perfectly acceptable to pick one at random and read it alone. So I did.
10. The Girl in the Gatehouse, Julie Klassen
Oh good GRIEF. Why do I do this to myself. It's Christian romance, the lovely cover art of which tempted me into listening to the audio book. I found the reader annoying, which didn't help, but the story was about twice as long as it needed to be, and was full of all kinds of un-period moments and attitudes and just ... ugh. Skip it.
11. How Young Ladies Became Girls, Jane Hunter
A bit on the dry side of intellectual as far as reading for pleasure, but what a collection of information regarding the changing status of girls/young women in the Victorian period. Highly recommended. And now I'm going to go sell my copy on half.com
because it's apparently assigned reading in a lot of women's studies college courses, and thus will fetch me much monies. (YAY half.com
12. Only You Can Save Mankind, Terry Pratchett
Pratchett wrote best for kids in the Tiffany Aching books, but this series isn't bad. Cool idea (video games might be ... reality? At least for the characters inside them?) and full of the usual wordplay. [see also #16]
13. Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
A lovely collection of exquisite things (lingerie, red lipstick, pillow books, the art of hot-air ballooning, water fountains.) Gentle, thoughtful, and contained within two gorgeous red-and-silver covers.
14. Among Others, Jo Walton
This wins Book of the Month. Such a beautiful, moving book - and one that really shows (as if we doubted) that fantasy can be literary too. I'd compare it to Thirteenth Tale or The Swan Thieves except that it's nothing like them save in quality of writing and the ability to keep you up late, late into the night, reading yourself into this haunting and wonderful world.
My love for this book is also not hurt by the fact that Walton dedicates the book thusly: "This is for all the libraries in the world, and the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people." Awww. In a way the whole book reads sort of like a love letter to libraries, in appreciation of how even the "weird kids" can find a sense of belonging and acceptance there among the stacks.
Also, Walton is clearly a huge sci-fi/fantasy buff, and the book are full of moments that will have other such fans geeking out.
I did not buy a book called Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson, which has the temerity to compare itself, on the front cover, to "Tolkien at his best." The back cover attributes the quote to the Washington Post, a newspaper whose quotations will always damn a book for me from now on. How dare they? And how dare the publishers? it isn't a comparison anyone could make, except to say "Compared to Tolkien at his best, this is dross." I mean you could say that about even really brilliant books like A Wizard of Earthsea.
I read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in bed last night. I intended to read it quickly and be able to thank Deirdre for it, but it turns out to be hilarious and also wickedly clever, so I could thank her sincerely, because I'd never in a million years have picked it up for myself, as it looks like total tosh. I wonder if the book group have read it?
Finished LotR with the usual sad pang of reaching the end and there being no more of it.
Ya'll, I love this book. Read it.
15. Pop Goes the Weasel, Albert Jack
A collection of histories behind popular children's rhymes and songs. It seemed largely anecdotal, with little in the way of hard facts. The author was always saying "It seems to me ..." or "I think that ..." and therefore while it was interesting to think about some of the conclusions, I accepted very little of it as being actually likely.
16. Johnny and the Dead, Terry Pratchett
[not quite as good as #12. But yanno, it's Pratchett, therefore it's good. Why no, I'm not biased. He's just bloody brilliant, that's all.]
17. Bittersweet: thoughts on grace, change, and learning the hard way, Shauna Niequist
I find myself thinking of Ms. Niequist as the female version of Don Miller. She's so honest and real, with none of this "If you're a Christian, everything will always be okay, life is great, I have no worries" kind of attitude. She lets you know that it's okay to hurt, it's okay to mourn, it's okay to cry, life isn't always perfect but we cling to Christ anyway. Also, she's just a really great writer, and I'm always happy to see really great writers who just happen to be Christians. [see #10 for the opposite. And don't get me started on my Why Is Christian Fiction So Poorly Written, Really Shouldn't We Be Doing BETTER in the Arts than Secular Folks rant.]
18. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
I think this one has garnered a lot of controversy for no reason - it's not nearly the kind of book it's been portrayed as in a lot of reviews. Would I want Amy Chua as a mother? No. But then, I think I was happier as a child pursuing 2340923 different random interests rather than focusing on becoming the next violin prodigy to the exclusion of almost everything else. But is Amy Chua a horrible mother? Also no. And while I wouldn't parent the way she does, she makes some points worth pondering:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it's crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because children will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up.
To be honest, I sometimes wonder if the question "Who are you really doing this for?" should be asked of Western parents too. Sometimes I wake up in the morning dreading what I have to do and thinking how easy it would be to say, "Sure Lulu, we can skip a day of violin practice." Unlike my Western friends, I can never say, 'As much as it kills me, I just have to let my kids make their choices and follow their hearts. It's the hardest thing in the world, but I'm going to hold back. Then they get to have a glass of wine and go to a yoga class, whereas I have to stay home and scream and have my kids hate me.