Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Reviews

One thing I have a lot of time for these days is reading.  I read when I nurse and I read when I hold my sleeping Freddie.


*Aside: Right now, Freddie is sleeping in his crib.  Probably a fluke, but I’ll take it!  I brushed my teeth, put on makeup, did the dishes, and started a load of laundry… and it’s amazing how good those accomplishments make me feel.


So, in the past few weeks, I’ve done a lot of reading.  I read a lot when I was in the last week of pregnancy, too (when I wasn’t sleeping), because the couch was, by far, the most comfortable spot for me to repose.  I abandoned a couple of books partway through (why spend my time on something that doesn’t amuse me or isn’t interesting?), including both Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit and The Missing of the Somme, and I’m still slogging my way through Guns, Germs, and Steel (required reading for the freshman class – I think – when I was a senior at Whitman, so I figured it had some merit, though so far it is soporific), but for the most part, I’ve read some pretty great books lately.  Here is a brief synopsis:


The Painter by Peter Heller: I really enjoyed Heller’s debut novel, The Dog Stars, but The Painter really didn’t do it for me.  It was convoluted and weird and I didn’t identify with the characters much.  But The Dog Stars was great, so if you haven’t read that, do.


Blackout by Connie Willis: The first in a two-parter, this was a fun novel about time travel to the London Blitz during WWII.  Okay, that’s not a compelling review, but if you’re looking for something fun and interestingly-written and not too challenging, I highly recommend it.  Plus, there’s some neat history.  I have since read several of Willis’s other books and have enjoyed them all.  A good starting point is The Doomsday Book, which was a little long, but To Say Nothing of the Dog is also engrossing, and has a caper-like quality.


A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell: Russell’s books are beautifully-written, full of heartbreaking detail and captivating plot.  Since I was reading the Willis books about WWII, this fit right in – it’s set in WWII Italy, a theater of the war I didn’t know much about before reading this.


In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson: I thoroughly enjoy Larsen’s take on history, and this book was no exception.  Richly detailed and using personal accounts, it follows the rise of Hitler in Berlin from the viewpoint of the American ambassador and his daughter.  Isn’t it great that people kept diaries so that we can experience history in this way?


Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: I’d never read it as a kid, and it was funny and poignant and I look forward to reading it to/with my kids in a few years.


Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell: This book made me want to see Lawrence of Arabia, a movie I’d always passed over.  It also provided an interesting character sketch of Winston Churchill based on his bodyguard’s writings.  Oh, and, it’s a typical Russell novel, in that the characters are well-developed and the plot, while not as insistent as her other books, is good.


The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: Chandler essentially created the noir detective novel in the 1930s, full of metaphors and similes and slang that call to mind Humphrey Bogart and Dick Tracy.  I’m going to buy this book for my brother.


The March by E.L. Doctorow: A novel of Sherman’s March to the Sea told through the accounts of infantry, freed slaves, nurses, and Sherman himself, this book was exceptional.  The detail of the March is all there, but so, too, are the details of the interpersonal (often funny) daily lives swept up in the March.


Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: I don’t have any idea why I had never picked up a David Sedaris book before.  I laughed all through this book and have added more of his books to my e-library shelf.


Like so many blog posts to come, I started this one this morning and am ending it close to 2 PM.  The baby is in my arms and he just vomited down my cleavage (which is substantial – the one benefit of the post-partum period for us small-breasted women), I’ve been to work today, the grocery store, and managed to eat some chips with tuna salad and salsa and several Oreos with a glass of almond milk (calcium!).  Shall we call it an accomplished day?  Yes, we shall.

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