June 16, 2011 @ 8:07 pm | Filed under: Books
I think I should tackle the “what’s Jane reading these days” questions next. I’ve been asked for YA book recommendations from multiple friends and readers lately, and Jane said I could crib from her reading log. She reads way more than I do, so there’s a lot of stuff on there I haven’t read myself and am itching to—she has intriguing tastes!
I mentioned here that I’d ordered three new Rowan Jacobsen books—
• Shadows on the Gulf (oil spill aftermath and other threats to the Gulf wetlands);
• American Terroir (about distinctive regional flavors of particular American foods—how the soil, climate, etc affects flavor and cuisine); and
• The Living Shore (a hunt for rare oysters leads to a deep appreciation of the magic of coastal ecology and how shorelines have helped shape human history).
They’re still on my nightstand awaiting the end of Shakespeare Club, but Jane borrowed them one by one and said they’re all fascinating. She came running out and read me a passage from American Terroir, and said, “Isn’t he just the best writer?” (His Fruitless Fall and Chocolate Unwrapped certainly captivated me.)
Let’s see, what else…she loves mysteries and has read just about all of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers. Big fan of Josephine Tey (see my Daughter of Time review) and the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley. (Here’s a post I wrote on the first Flavia de Luce, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.) And she is especially keen on the Case Closed series: Japanese detective manga by Gosho Aoyama.
Another big hit recently was Girl Genius, a webcomic (some of which is collected into graphic novel collections) and set of novels. We met the author at the Steampunk Convention and the look of the books caught Jane’s eye. She has since devoured the entire eight-and-a-half years’ worth of webcomic archives.
Connie Willis—The Doomsday Book; To Say Nothing of the Dog (and I myself am wild about both of these—the former moving, rich, sad, suspenseful: a female grad student time-travels to the Middle Ages; the latter screamingly funny: an endearingly inept male grad student time-travels to the Victorian era and gets in all manner of comedic scrapes with the locals).
Shannon Hale’s fantasy novels—Forest Born, River Secrets, Book of a Thousand Days, and others—are popular with both my older girls, and our copies are in nearly constant circulation with their friends.
Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This was mentioned in the third Penderwicks book and she recognized the author’s name as the host of the NOVA tv show. She says she’d like to read more of his work.
The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
You know I have to mention the Maud Hart Lovelace books. Ain’t just me: I see Jane (and friends) pulling them off the shelf on a regular basis.
The Throne of Fire, sequel to The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. Jane likes the Percy Jackson books better, but Rose is partial to the Egyptian pantheon as portrayed in the Kane Chronicles.
The Diane Duane Young Wizards series—High Wizardry, A Wizard Alone, Deep Wizardry to name a few.
James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small & the others in that series. (Such love!)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Mature language, barracks humor, violence. And, as Mental Multivitamin put it, “a can’t-miss.” Jane told me recently that she can’t imagine growing up without it.
A caveat about this list: every parent I’ve ever known draws his or her “appropriate reading material” lines in different places. Mine may not be in the same place as yours. Jane is sixteen, and we don’t monitor her book choices the way we do for kids thirteen and under.
Related post: Nonfiction for Teens. Same caveat applies.
More book recommendations here.
July 5, 2009 @ 6:21 pm | Filed under: Books
I know not many of you have had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve had a couple of requests for discussion of this book, so I’ll go ahead and open a post for it now. Chime in when you can!
Here’s my post about it.
You can read the first chapter at author Shannon Hale’s website.
WARNING: There will very likely be spoilers in the comments below, since it’s difficult to discuss any book without discussing its plot. That’s why I’d rather do most of my book-talking in the comments rather than in a post. These open threads are an attempt at a compromise between my oh-I-just-read-this-and-am-dying-to-talk-about-it urges and my deep abhorrence of plot spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
Well, June’s just whizzing past, isn’t it? I must have picked about thirty tomatoes this afternoon. And that’s not counting the ones I harvested at Farm Town.
A moment to hold: standing in the kitchen with Rose, eating sunwarmed tomatoes with fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, while Rilla practiced snipping stray basil leaves.
A book I really enjoyed: the one Scott stole from me the other day, Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife. He finished it quickly and I got my turn. It’s a unique sort of book; I’ve never read anything like it—and yet it felt comfortably familiar in a very good way, as if I’d been expecting this story to come along. I hadn’t, but that’s how it felt. The novel opens with a chance encounter between Becky, a 34-year-old Mormon housewife seven months pregnant with her fourth child, and Felix, the world’s most devastingly handsome and charming British movie star. I kept shifting between picturing Hugh Grant (he’s a little too old for the beginning) and Colin Firth (because, well, duh)—but really I think there was more Hugh in Felix than Colin, and probably I shouldn’t have been picturing anyone specific at all but I couldn’t help it, because the whole thing is about the unlikely friendship between Becky, my own personal Mary Sue if ever I met one, and this British actor. You know who else would work? For the movie version, because there is bound to be one? That guy, what’s his name, tall and charming dark-haired fellow, played Julia Roberts’s other best friend in My Best Friend’s Wedding. And was also in The Importance of Being Earnest. I could look him up in two seconds. I’m being stubborn here. Wanting to grab his name, but all I’m coming up with is Rupert. Everett? Rupert Everett? Is that a person?
Jude Law would also work. Oh! EWAN MACGREGOR!
But really the guy is a total Hugh Grant.
Enough already. What is my problem tonight? See, this is how my brain really works, and then I try to scrub out all the nonsense for you before I hit ‘publish.’ Tonight I’m too punchy to bother polishing the prose. Feh.
Anyway, the book. The book that I really really enjoyed. Becky and Felix meet because Becky has managed to sell a screenplay, something that happened quite by accident and wasn’t remotely a lifelong ambition or anything like that. Felix wanders into the office at the production company that winds up optioning the screenplay, and he and Becky do not hit it off, except that really they do. They fall easily into sarcastic banter with one another, and the insults quickly escalate, but it’s really a connection between two quick-witted minds, and one thing leads to another, and—they become friends.
Both are happily, swoonily married. Neither finds anything remotely appealing about the lifestyle the other leads. There’s a question floating underneath their first encounters, a worrisome will-there-be-romance question (worrisome because of the happy marriages), and since that question is part of what this book is about, I won’t say more right now. HOWEVER, I would love to discuss the book (or any book I mention on this blog, always, got it?), so if you’d like to chat away in the comments, let’s do so—just lead off with a big spoiler warning if you’re going to get into particulars.
Of course I know it’s a new book so maybe not many of you have had a chance to read it yet. If you’re wanting one nice fat book to take on vacation, this is a good pick. I have to say I really enjoyed Becky as a character. Which is, I guess, something one should NOT admit after having already named that character a Mary Sue. But, you know, she’s a type we seldom see in contemporary fiction. Unlike the whiners who had me rolling my eyes throughout The Ten-Year Nap, Becky’s a woman who embraces the wife-and-mother gig with her whole being. She loves creating a home for her family. She’s got no restless itch—the screenplays are something that bubble out of her creative energy, not the product of unfulfilled longing or restlessness. Fabulous character. It’s about time.
However, I will say this—she’s so awesome she makes me look bad. 🙂 I said to Scott, about halfway through, “Wow, I don’t come close to measuring up to Becky!” and he replied with appropriately Felix-like snark, which is exactly the sort of thing I married him for. Becky, let me tell you, is the kind of supermom readers of this blog sometimes mistakenly think I am, and whereas I have to gently set those folks straight with posts like this, Becky really is kind of super. I mean, she cooks! And bakes pies, extra pies for giving away! Just because!
Thank goodness she’s a fictional person. We needn’t envy her; we may simply enjoy her. Her story made me laugh out loud a good many times, and I cried at least three times. And right here is where I run into the problem I always run into when I blog about books. So much more to say, but I don’t want to give anything away. Have many thoughts (both positive and negative) regarding specific things, but don’t want to affect anyone’s first reaction. Oh dear. This is a complication of blogging I will never resolve. I have no wish to write reviews in the official book-review sense; I write about books out of my enthusiasm for the things I have read and enjoyed. So what I need you to do is read it and tell me if you enjoyed it too, and if, hmm, you had the same reaction to the ending as I did. Comparing notes! That’s what I like to do. Right.