Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books finished in July 2017

It's the first of August and I'm already blogging the books finished in July!! There IS such a thing as catching up!!!

Fools' Gold, Philippa Gregory This is the third book in "The Order of Darkness" series, and although I continued to be irritated by the denseness of some characters, I was also getting to like quite a few of the characters by this point, and was very disappointed when I went on-line to discover that Philippa Gregory has not yet published more books in the series, although she said the fourth one would be out in 2016.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory  Having read the three supposedly "children's" books by this author, I finally picked up one of Marie's books. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I know I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn at some point as a teenager, but I don't really remember why. Especially as everything I've read since indicates that she wasn't a particularly nice person at all! This is mostly about Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, and there are many more details about her relationship with Henry VIII (and many other women's relationships with him...) than I was happy about. Also, enormous liberties were taken with the historic facts, more so than I feel justified in historic fiction. In a way, the story made out of the (not all that many) known facts reminded me of a movie made from a book. It was more that the facts inspired a novel than that Philippa Gregory actually set out to write a plausible "it could have been this way" story.

The Truth About Melody Browne, Lisa Jewell  It was quite fascinating to find out about the main character's childhood at the same time she, as an adult, did. She'd lost virtually all of her memories from before the age of nine, and is completely surprised by them as they start coming back. The more she remembers, the more she goes searching for more memories and explanations.

Blue-Eyed Son, The Story of an Adoption, Nicky Campbell  I think this may have been a book that Jörn gave me long ago. In any case, it had been on my shelf for a long time, but I'd never read it. This is yet another British celebrity of whom I'd never heard (like Alan Titchmarsh), with a writing style I like very much, writing memoir-type non-fiction. It's mostly a very uplifting book about his search for his birth parents. There's nothing tremendously traumatic, but certainly issues that give him serious pause for thought.

The Potluck Club, Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson  Finally, a free book for the Kindle which I enjoyed very much! I got a little bit confused at first, with each chapter being from the viewpoint of a different person, but as I got to know the characters, I was able to know immediately who was talking without the name even being said. I never quite understood the point of the existence of the reporter guy, though, but at least his chapters (between almost all of the other chapters, which alternated between half a dozen or so women, all in first person) were very short.

Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn  None of the other books I've included this year (except some of the books I've read to children, and those I only listed in January) were books I'd read before. We went up to Rocky Point (a private campground in the Troodos Mountains--this was our seventh year in a row to go!) last week, for five days, and I READ. I'd read a tiny bit of The Potluck Club before we went up, but I finished that by reading it at night after the others were asleep and I couldn't use a regular light. (I love my Kindle Fire for reading at night!) I do read at home most evenings, too, but less, because I first spend time on the computer (such as right now...it's 10:54 p.m. at this moment...) And I read this book, as well, one that I read when we went last year, and which I was pleased to see was still on the shelf in the lodge. Although I haven't included any other books I've re-read, I just had to include this one, partly because I enjoyed it very much, and partly because it almost didn't feel like reading the same book as a year ago. Last year, it was just amusing. This year, I saw so much deeper meaning in it, about how easy it is to get stuck having to go along with something that you totally disagree with, how easily that starts and how nearly impossible it is to escape. Basically, the entire book consists of letters written by Ella Minnow Pea, her cousin, her parents, and a few other people. They live on the island of Nollup, a utopian (quickly becoming dystopian, of course) society off the coast of North or South Carolina. (I don't remember which, but it's not important.) Their country is named after the person who came up with the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs," which includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet, and they of course have a monument to him, with the sentence on it, in tiles. And then the tile with the Z falls off. The council decides that this is a sign from Nollup that they should no longer use the letter Z...and the story goes on from there with fewer and fewer letters available for use, and almost nobody left on the island. The people who really feel it is absurd and have enough guts to put actions to their beliefs all emigrate or are exiled, leaving people who increasingly realize that they're in trouble but feel helpless to do anything. Which reminds me of a LOT of situations throughout history, and at this moment particularly, of the situation for home educating families in countries where home education is not allowed...

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson I borrowed this the day before we left, started it in the mountains on Monday, and by Friday had read about 450 pages (as well as the other two books, and playing a lot of games with my family, and taking naps, and going for short walks (no hikes this year, not one!!), and hanging out with people, etc. The last 125 pages took me Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning before church, mostly in hurried moments of a few pages at a time. I very much enjoy Bill Bryson's writing style, the first book of his I read being Mother Tongue:English and How It Got That Way. Even in that first book, though, I knew that I didn't agree with everything he says, but that doesn't bother me. (I don't even agree with everything I say...) Overall, the book was a fascinating history of HOW people have researched and come to conclusions about many aspects of science. I did find it amusing, though, just how many times a chapter basically went, "First they thought this because of that. Then they realized they were wrong and thought that instead because of the other thing. Then it became clear that that wasn't right either, so they..." etc. over and over again, until the final sentence of, "But now we know this to be the fact." Really? After just spending a whole chapter explaining how many people sincerely believed something to be true, and then it was disproved?

I got in trouble three times that I remember in second grade. (Not counting all the times I got in trouble for reading. That was just constant, all through school.) One of the times was because I talked back to my mother in the hearing of my teacher, and my teacher gave me an extra page of math to do. Totally logical. Yep. Once was because we were given brown, orange, and yellow construction paper to make an owl, and the eyes were supposed to be yellow and the beak and feet were supposed to be orange, but I insisted on doing them the other way around. I was Wrong. That was Bad. (However, I got an A on the poem I wrote about it for a college English class.) And the other time was because when the teacher said that brontosaurus was the largest land creature that had ever lived, I asked how they could know that there wasn't anything bigger that just hadn't been found yet? I got told off for talking back. A couple of years later, we learned about several bigger dinosaurs. And MANY years later, I learned that "brontosaurus" didn't ever actually exist, because the specimen that was labeled as such was actually the body of one (already known) creature, with the head of another (already known) creature. Maybe. And much more recently, I researched some of the dates of discoveries, and learned not only that the so-called brontosaurus had been disproved a couple of years before I was in second grade, bigger dinosaurs had been discovered more than 70 years before I was in second grade!!. And even more recently (2015--I had to google to check on that, though), brontosaurus has been reinstated as having existed. They now "know." As they "knew" before. Basically, my take on it is that I wasn't there and I don't know, and that's cool.

Books finished in June 2017

June looks rather better than May as far as books finished, but at least two of them were started before June (one of them many months before), and one was very short.

The Very Thought of You, Rosie Alison I've read SO many books set during World War II, and a majority of them set mainly in England, and this is another one. It's also far from the first one I've read about children sent to the country to avoid the bombing in London. This one still stands out for many reasons, though. For one thing, it keeps switching points of view, so it's hard to say that the eight-year-old girl who first seems to be the main character IS the main character, but although most of the other characters are adults, and the book is intended for adults, the child's voice is very real and realistic, a child without being childish. This isn't a book about everything ending up wonderful, though. I had a premonition that certain people would die, who did, but other deaths took me totally by surprise. I think the thing that bothered me the most was the completely omniscient viewpoint. I don't mind when the reader knows what a particular character is thinking when other characters don't know, and when the author switches back and forth between characters (and these were not at all confusing, which some books are), but I think I generally feel that that's acceptable because that character COULD have written it down or told someone later...but it bugs me when there are things that nobody could possibly have known, such as a person's last thoughts before they died.

Changeling, Philippa Gregory Marie left a pile of Philippa Gregory books here, and a friend was here when Katie picked one up and asked if she could read it. I didn't know the book, but our friend Dena happened to be here at that moment and suggested that it might not be appropriate, but said she had some other books by that author, which were written for children. This is the first of the three books Dena gave Katie, and Katie talked me into reading it. I wouldn't have said it was "for children," so much, as I'd say Katie (just turned 12 last week) would be more or less the minimum age for this book...except then later I read one of Marie's books that is targeted at adults, and all of a sudden, Changeling (and the sequels) seemed totally innocent... Anyway, this book is the first of "The Order of Darkness" series, set in the 15th century in Europe (at least, the first three books are, and no more have been published as of yet). While it (and the others) CAN be read independently, there's definitely a story thread going through all of them that make them better to read one after another, and some plot points that only make sense when taking them together.

The Wings of a Falcon, Cynthia Voigt I have maybe a dozen or so of Cynthia Voigt's books, most of them from when I was a teenager. Homecoming is probably her most well-known one, contemporary and totally realistic fiction, along with its several sequels or spin-offs. Jackaroo was always my favorite of her books, though, set in an undetermined place or time, but giving the impression of being Medieval times in Europe, and never entirely clear about whether there was an element of fantasy or not. This book I picked up from the give-aways at the library, very excited to see a Cynthia Voigt book I didn't have (and the price was right!), then even more so when I noticed it said that it was a "companion" (not a sequel, but somehow related) to Jackaroo. I don't remember when I started this...probably last year. I found this very hard to get into, starting with a Lord-of-the-Flies situation, really (and THAT's a book I HATED...), and it mostly stayed on the shelf next to my bed. Sometimes I would pick it up and read a page or two, usually having to backtrack to figure out what on earth (or wherever this is set...) was going on and who the people were. (It didn't help any that one of the main characters didn't even have a name for quite awhile...) But at some point in June, I started to get into the book and I probably read 90% of it over two or three days. The connection to Jackaroo is extremely loose (I think the name of the possibly mythical character of Jackaroo is mentioned once, and that's it), but I take it that it's the same country, more clearly a made-up country in this book. I did enjoy the book...mostly. One person died who most certainly should NOT have died, but then, not a single one of Cynthia Voigt's books go for unequivocal happy endings, although possibly Jackaroo comes the closest. (Maybe that's why that's one of my favorite books. I like neatly tied up and basically happy endings. Real life doesn't have many of those, and I read to have something DIFFERENT from real life...)

Stormbringers, Philippa Gregory This is the second "Order of Darkness" book, and the "Order" gets "darker". I had many moments of wanting to tell off dense characters. But it was compelling enough to finish...

At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider This one is proof that my husband reads my blog! I'm pretty sure I never mentioned the book to him, but I did mention it in a blogpost, and all of a sudden, he presented me with this book. :-) Tsh's family (and no, her name is not a pseudonym nor is that a typo...her parents had decided that her name didn't need vowels) traveled around the world for one year, and this is a chronicle of that trip, with quite a lot more than just "we went there and did that." I enjoyed it very much.

A Miracle in the Making, Patricia Batoba Jones Well, once again...there's a reason that some books are only available free for Kindle. My main complaint about this book was that it would have seriously benefited from some decent proofreading. From ANY proofreading. Anyone can make typos, anyone can write run-on sentences, anyone can use non-standard grammar...but if one is going to get a book published, I think it's reasonable to at least make an attempt at having it proofread. This was about the author having a micro-preemie who (spoiler alert) survived, and that's wonderful. And her own spiritual journey during that time. Cool. Completely the kind of book I like, and with a happy ending. But exhausting to read, because there wasn't a page in it without multiple typos and weird grammar. And sentences starting with conjunctions. Fragments, too. It reads like a collection of blogposts. Maybe it was.

Books finished in May 2017

So now that it's August 1st, maybe I'll blog the books I read (or at least finished) in May, June, AND July??

Starting with May, anyway...

Ah...and now that I've gotten my list out, this is impressively short.

the totally and completely perfect even when you feel like the worst mom ever, Michelle Wilson Yes, that's how the title was written. Very irritating. And the book was too. I shouldn't even count it. I don't know how long it was. It was another free book for the Kindle that was worth what I paid...

Running Wild, Victoria Clayton This book on the other hand, was awesome. Even though there are similarities (of course) in style and plot, Victoria Clayton's books don't seem "same-y" to me. Yes, there was one rather major plot point that I think was meant to startle people but I guessed pretty much immediately, but that didn't spoil it. And there were a LOT of characters that really beggared belief (one of which I also guessed very nearly immediately was the person I thought he was, even though the main character didn't have a clue), but it still managed to feel realistic.

And...that was it. I did start or continue other books which got finished later (or haven't been finished yet), but May was rather consumed with drama rehearsals. Mondays I helped in the class for three- and four-year-olds (okay, no rehearsal, just an hour of FUN); Tuesdays when I could I helped in Helen's class (mostly ages 8-9, I think), rehearsing The Giant's Giant Pizza (Helen made an awesome queen), although I usually could only help for part or not at all because I was babysitting a little girl; Wednesdays I helped in Elisabeth's class (ages 6-8, although Elisabeth was the only one who was six, and she turned seven the day before the exam performance), rehearsing Daffodil Scissors; Thursdays I had adorable little girl again as well as going to Midi-Club with Helen and Elisabeth, where I sometimes helped (and Katie and Lukas had their rehearsal for Shut Up, followed by Jacob's for Nuts, but I wasn't involved in either of those at all); Fridays I only had to show up ten minutes before the end of Elisabeth's other drama class (for ages 5-7) to watch their weekly performance; Saturdays there were a few rehearsals; and Sundays there were rehearsals with Helen and with Elisabeth and sometimes for Katie and Lukas. Then the performances were on two Sundays in May, plus the exam performances (of all four plays) in June.