Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Middle Sis' January 2012 Books

Final tally for 2011: 68 books read. Not bad, not bad at all. If I could get up my gumption to get rid of the dish, I'd get even more reading done. On to 2012...

  1. 97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile by Jenny Langbehn Amusing little book with few new ideas on how to get your pooch to smile at you, but one I hadn't tried and was inspired to--flinging rice cakes as if they were Frisbees. Got me to buy some rice cakes at Trader Joe's, and yes, they do fly. And yes, the dogs did spew rice everywhere eating them. And yes, I did discover that TJ's rice cakes are actually quite tasty to humans, too. And of course, with photos of dogs on every page, how could I not enjoy it---especially when one of the first photos is of a Samoyed?
  2. The Outdoor Girls in Army Service by Laura Lee Hope We all thought, gentle reader, that my coincidental reading of World War 1-related books was over in this new year, but then I saw this one in my folder of children's books on my Kindle. And with fond memories of the Bobbsey Twins, I selected it. Written in 1918, just as the Yanks were entering the war, this, unlike the other WW1 books read last year, was written at the time. I knew propaganda had been heavy, but I hadn't realized how nasty and heavy until I read this book, aimed at young girls, and the snide and mean and jingoistic comments sprinkled throughout. It'll be a good long time before I play with the Outdoor Girls again; must let that bad taste recede.
  3. Welsh Fairy Tales by William Elliot Griffis One of the first books I started when I downloaded the Kindle for PC app, I've sporadically read a tale here and there over the past two years, finally finishing the book this month. Interesting insight into Welsh cultural beliefs.
  4. Coffee Break Mysteries by William S. Shepard Short story anthology of mysteries, some with recurring characters, some without. Some better than others, but still an enjoyable short break from a longer reading effort (Eugene Onegin by Pushkin in my case, which was recalled from the library, so I need to finish that tome at a later date).
  5. Eliza by Barry Pain Edwardian-era gentleman who's not the brightest bulb is lucky to be married to a patient and much smarter woman. Probably not interesting to most modern readers, but gentle humor and an interesting contemporary view of Edwardian England's home life.
  6. The New World by Patrick Ness Short story that provides background to Ness' science fiction series. 
  7. The Case of Jennie Brice by Mary Roberts Rinehart Easily the best book read this month. It is Rinehart, after all, and there's a reason her books are still in print. This one, published in 1913, is set in 1904 Allegheny City, PA (now part of Pittsburgh), a small city suffering through one of its periodic floods. Absolutely fascinating look at what was clearly the normal behavior in American turn-of-the-century towns beset by disasters, the mystery begins with people rowing via boats into the first floors of flooded houses to get to the second stories, where the inhabitants have all moved until the river recedes. Rinehart's physical descriptions of the flood, the noises, the eerie setting are all superb. If you like novels written during the gilded age of mysteries; if you like mysteries where the detective has to rely on brains and instinct and not modern technology; if you like psychological mysteries, you will like Jennie Brice. It holds up exceedingly well for today's reader. Recommended.
  8. The Schmoldenese Falcon by John Northern Short story that combines mystery and science fiction, this parody of the Maltese Falcon is quite a good read. Very amusing in some sections, it's a very fast read.
  9. Lunch with Miss Hepburn by Simon Worall Dull essay about the author's lunch with Katherine Hepburn shortly before her death. If you're a fan of Miss Hepburn, skip this. Her own autobiography is much more interesting and less irritating. If you're not a fan, skip it because it's very dull.
  10. Design on a Crime by Ginny Aiken First in a new series about a decorator. I found the first three-quarters of the book extremely irritating. The author tries to build suspense by repeatedly hinting at some terrible trauma the heroine has undergone, but rather than build sympathy, all it made this reader want to do was commit her own personal reading sin--skip ahead to get past those sections. One knew, of course, what that trauma was the moment it was first breathlessly mentioned, although we had to wait until three-quarters through the book for the author to tell us. The murder itself was not mysterious nor cunning. The only positive I can say about this book is that unlike some Christian books, the main character spends most of the book  angry at God because of her trauma. Once she capitulates to her faith, it's almost saccharine how instantly she is 'healed.' Free, and worth the price, sadly.
  11. A Very Holly Christmas by Sheila Roberts Boring short story that did not get me into the holiday spirit. 
  12. The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton Excellent short story anthology, with some stories completely taking this jaded mystery reading junkie by surprise. One story was painful in its anti-Semitism, but ignoring how people really spoke and what they really believed at one point in history will not ensure people never believe those things again. Sometimes we need to face the ugly, to remember. Recommended.

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