Sunday, February 27, 2011

Middle Sis' February Reads

Actually, I think one or two of these may have been read at the end of January, but does it really matter? They got read, and that's what's important. (Can I have 2 contractions in a row?)

  • The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (1906) Classic early treatise on the Japanese consumption and use of tea and Japanese culture and philosophy in general. Still an interesting read, even if some of the political and social allusions are a bit dated.
  • The Bake Sale Murder by Leslie Meier (2006) Stronger entry in the Lucy Stone mystery series set in Maine. I was disappointed by the St. Patrick's-themed mystery from a few years later in the series, but this one was better. Probably most readers find the intimate details of her family life the appeal of the series, and while I don't, I admit Meier's portrayal of how children and adults interact and speak is quite realistic.
  • Cape Cod and All the Pilgrim Lands by various authors (vol. 16, no. 4, 1922) Digitized version of a local Cape Cod magazine available for the Kindle, so with my secret desire to someday visit Cape Cod in full sway, I read it. Bits of local history and lore, including some less than interesting information on agricultural produce, but still an interesting slice of life in the 1920s in rural America, and Cape Cod before it became inundated with summer tourists. I'm including it here even if it isn't a real book since I read a book version of it.
  • For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose (2010) Interesting light historical read about the journey of botanist Robert Fortune to China before it was opened to the West with his explicit intent of stealing tea plants and tea seeds and anything he could smuggle out re: tea manufacture and propagation for the East India Company. Could have been improved with photos and maps, and footnotes for the extensive quoted material. A good read nonetheless.
  • A Mysterious Disappearance by Louis Tracy (1905) Edwardian mystery set in London centered on the mysterious disappearance and death of Lady Dyke. Enjoyable historical mystery.
  • Adopting an Abandoned Farm by Kate Sanborn (1891) Think it's a recent phenomenon that ignorant city folk move to the country to buy an old farm and experience the peace and serenity of rural life? And then pen comical stories of their plight? Nope, it's not. Kate Sanborn, early twentieth century writer and lecturer, rented an old farm and then wrote a short reminiscence of everything that went wrong. Amazingly modern in many ways and thoroughly enjoyable.
  • My Trip Around the World by Eleanora Hunt (1906) Privately published in 1906, this account of her journey was written by Mrs. Hunt for her grandchildren. She and family journey from Chicago through the Orient and India, through the Suez Canal, visited Egyptian monuments, and spent some time in Paris and London. Definitely dated re: perceptions of native culture and peoples, but a quick read that offers an interesting perspective on the Edwardian phenomenon of touring the world and some sites, like the Taj Mahal, that were already tourist Meccas.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Sis' January Reads

It was a light month - only three books.  The funny part is I don't really know what it is I did instead of read.  Sure, hubby painted the hallway and the living room and my share of that work was decluttering and then reorganizing both spaces.  Yes, I did go to a funeral which, with the repast, took almost an entire day.  We didn't spend whole weekends at the lake so it's not like I was scrapping instead of reading...  Oh, well, FYI, February isn't looking to break any records either...

Secrets to the Grave, Tami Hoag - I LOVE Tami Hoag.  She's one of only two authors to whom I've written a fan letter...  The twist to this book is it takes place over 20 years ago, before the days of DNA testing and CSI-like crime-solving, although the main characters are waiting for the day that DNA will help prove who the killer is...  We have a few repeat characters: Vince Leone and Anne are now married and it's nice to see him in love with Anne, but he's still suffering from that bullet in his head...  There are a couple of characters that really are quite off-putting - the child who is institutionalized but gets out to kill Anne, just to pique your curiosity...

What the Night Knows, Dean Koontz - This ghost story has a horrible twist:  can the murderer of John Calvino's entire family come back from the dead to murder his wife and children???  John thinks so.  And while I was reading this book, I was convinced.  Leave it to Dean Koontz to scare the bejeezus out of me AGAIN!

Sing You Home, Jodi Picoult - Back in the day I used to have publishing connections and I would get books in galley format WAY before pub-date.  Now I have to rely on the kindess of strangers - and it's not even their kindness to me, but whether or not they are being nice to Little Sis!!!  She's still in contact with multiple publishers and stands a chance to score some ARCs (advance reading copies).  Me?  Not anymore.  I work for a single publisher, and I love my job and my employer, but I DO miss that perk...  Sing You Home isn't due out until March 1 so I did manage to read this one ahead of time.  Ms. Picoult can certainly weave a tale that draws you in, and this was no different.  I didn't like it too much at first, I didn't feel as though the characters were enough.  But midway through the book I realized I was loving them both, Vanessa and Zoe.  And I wasn't liking ex-hubby Max at all.  I felt he turned into a weak man, a weak man who fell prey to a cult-like born-again sect...  Not that I have anything against born-again Christians, mind you - but in the story you felt it was less about their faith and more about their leader/minister...  Even though the book ended, ultimately, the way I wanted it to, it almost seemed too easy by the last couple of pages.  It could have used a little more soul-searching on Max's part, a little more about his epiphany...  But all in all, a great read, as usual, from Ms. Picoult!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Middle Sis' January Books

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe  Read for my 19th century literature book group. Loved it! Haven't read Poe in decades and had forgotten how atmospheric and Gothic and eerie he was.

The Evil Guest by Sheridan Le Fanu More nineteenth century Gothic creepiness. Maniacal husband, saintly wife, beautiful yet treacherous governess, isolated mansion--this book has it all. Perhaps a little stilted in its language, as befits a book published in 1851, but still enjoyable in 2011.
Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer More historic fiction, but more recent, Golden Age of Mysteries novel by the romantic writer, published in 1935. I read a couple of her mysteries when they were republished in the 1980s/1990s when I was at the wonderful Printed Word Bookstore. So naturally, when this was digitized for e-publication and Kindleized, guess what--I bought it right away. And I loved it. My favorite kind of mystery. 
Lies, Damned Lies, and Science by Sherry Seethaler Nonfiction book that explains the scientific method to a lay public, with specific discussions of how media, advertising, politicians, and others can misrepresent and/or distort, either willfully or accidentally, scientific data. Very readable, with good graphics. Focuses on hot button issues for examples, such as genetically modified food.

Pets on the Bed

Hey, Li'l Sis, remember your poll on your blog about who lets their animals sleep on the bed. The New York Times has an article about the practice, possible side effects (zoonoses), and interviews with people who do and don't let animals sleep in bed with them. I have no problem with the cats and dogs (if I didn't have a very furry dog who prefers to sleep on cool tile to additional body heat), but I think I'd draw the line at the potbellied pig.