Friday, November 2, 2012

Middle Sister's October Books

First, let me get the word out that the other sisters are fine; without power after Hurricane Sandy, but fine. Our mother never lost power. No one's house has, to my knowledge, any damage. They may be cold and bored, but they are fine--and hopefully that means they will have a lot of books to discuss when they are back online. On to the books.

My offerings may be few, but they're pretty diverse:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce Nominated for the Man Booker Prize, this amazing and charming and well-written book is a delight from beginning to end. Harold, Maureen, Queenie, David--with just a few well-chosen words, Ms. Joyce creates characters that we know, that we may see in the mirror every morning. Harold's pilgrimage is inspiring and tear-jerking and contemplative. Read this book. That's it, just read this book.

A Woman's Guide to Menopause and Perimenopause by Mary Jane Minkin and Carol V. Wright  Good, solid guidebook to the physical, mental, and emotional changes that accompany menopause and the years leading up to it (for some of us, it's been 10 years of perimenopause and frankly, we're ready for this phase to be over). Some of the medical information is outdated (e.g., there are some meds that are now off the market because of negative side effects), but overall, this guide will help women navigate this next phase of life successfully. A plus is the inclusion of many real-patient scenarios presented by Dr. Minkin, with her reasoning why some paths are more suitable for this particular case than others.

A Deadly Row to Hoe by Cricket McRae The latest in the Sophie Mae Home Crafting mystery series. Sophie Mae and her husband are trying to have a baby and still living with her friend Meghan and Meghan's daughter; and now, with the addition of Meghan's boyfriend, that house is starting to get really crowded.  This book capitalizes on the current proliferation of CSA (community-supported agriculture) groups, as Sophie Mae finds a murder victim while putting in her volunteer hours at the CSA farm to which she and her family belong. I like how the author tries to put Sophie in more unusual situations for her mysteries, which gets more difficult the longer a series continues. I liked the ending. Although I had guessed the murderer, the way the denouement played out was novel and, in some ways, far more realistic than this genre usually supports. I didn't like the way the police department was treated as composed of idiots (Sophie has to tell her policeman husband to put a guard on the hospital door of an assault victim--really? And her husband isn't insulted and Sophie isn't embarrassed when she finds out that he actually had already done this, being a professional? Oy vey!), and I got quite tired of the baby-making angle. I'm not sure I like the direction the author seems to be taking Sophie Mae's character at the end, but given that there are only so many home crafts one can do, she really has no choice if she wants the series to continue. The idyllic home life is getting to be a bit too saccharine for me. No one squabbles over whose turn it is to cook the exquisite healthy meals they eat, or clean the toilet, or take out the trash. Oh, and Meghan, words of advice: if your 12-year-old daughter is only trying make-up now for the first time, the better response is not the blow up and yell at her, but to show her how to use make-up correctly. Be grateful it's just make-up; lots of other 12-year-olds are pregnant or drug users. A little excess mascara--nothing at all.

My Bookstore edited by Ronald Rice I worked in an independent bookstore for 11 years, and I love bookstores. I also love ereaders. I don't understand why so many supposed book lovers feel it has to be an either/or situation. This paean to the independent bookstores has many essays (most good, some average, a couple bad) that share one common thread:  most rhapsodize how much the author loved visiting their local bookstore, where they could read for hours on end undisturbed by the salesclerks. Which leads me to wonder how many of these people love bookstores, or just love having their own 'private' library where there are no reserve lists for any title. No waiting, anticipation building, for that book you've been dying to read to come in. I don't want to see bookstores disappear either, and I'll say it again--there's no need unless the publishing industry decides to use the music industry as its model rather than the telephone industry (Tower Records is gone, but Sprint managed to move from landline provider to cell provider and flourish). The democratization of reading that ereaders and independent publishing offers carries Gutenberg's revolution one more step further. I hope bookstores don't get left behind. On a personal note, I was delighted to see the name of someone I went to high school with in the book--my seven degrees from celebrity, I guess. The pen and ink drawings of every bookstore were enchanting. And  I did discover some new-to-me authors whose work I'll now track down. If one measures the success of a book by how well it gets the reader to want to read more, well, then, this book succeeded. And yes, I did read it on my Kindle. So there.


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