Sunday, September 1, 2013

Middle Sister's August 2013 Books

Happy September!  August was full of good books, with a nice variety of fiction and nonfiction, bestsellers and advanced reader's copies. And despite reading them all, I finished ahead of schedule on my class lectures.

Knit Christmas Stockings by Gwen W,. Steege Ms. Steege is a well-known knit pattern designer, and her latest offering is a beauty--handmade knitted stockings for Christmas stockings. Want a traditional stocking--it's in here. Want a stocking with animals on it--it's in here. One with flowers--it's in here. These are so gorgeous they are even tempting me to try to knit one. Or, if I'm lucky, two. As usual, gorgeous photos and a nice layout of directions, with room to mark where you stop or write your own notes to self. (Net Galley)

Cat Sense by John Bradshaw For the cat lovers of this blog. Mr. Bradshaw is a British scientist who has studied cats and cat behavior for many years. My guess is this was supposed to be the feline answer to recent popular dog books, like Inside a Dog. Unfortunately the book fails on a few levels--some of the experiments Bradshaw and his colleagues have undertaken seem poorly designed (let's watch cats interact with humans by putting a human in the room with them when their owner feeds them--all this is going to show is that a recently-fed cat is a happy cat, especially when it's just eaten wet food). However, the historical and archaeological history about human's long relationship with cats is interesting. The line drawings are very nice. Mr. Bradshaw ends the book with a very interesting question--are we encouraging the very behavior we don't want in cats by our selective breeding--we're neutering good family cats and letting feral cats run free, breeding at will, which he argues means more of the feral genes will be found in domestic cats. Interesting idea to contemplate. (Net Galley)

A Cruise to Die For by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins I'll 'fess straight away that I am a long time Aaron Elkins fan. I first encountered his Gideon Oliver character in graduate school and loved those books. I've even read some of his Lee Ofsted golf mysteries and enjoyed them--and I don't like golf. His latest series stars Alix London, an art evaluator and daughter of convicted art forger. In this book, Alix goes on a mystery auction cruise, where old Masters and modern masterpieces are up for sale. But is every painting authentic?  When Alix discovers some may not be what they purport, a difference that could cost the owner millions of dollars, murder and mayhem ensue. And it's all aboard a luxury yacht cruising the Greek isles--perfect summer reading. (Net Galley)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Jones by Rebecca Skloot I've just joined a new online nonfiction book group, and this is our first choice for discussion. Extremely good book about the devotion of a journalist to her story, an easy introduction to medical research and how it's changed over 50 years, and a less-than flattering look at the poverty and lack of education that affected a significant population. I have to admit, Henrietta's daughter at first elicited a lot of sympathy from me. But her irrational behavior over the course of years would have driven me crazy--which is why I didn't want to ever be a cultural anthropologist. However, if readers get nothing out of this except exposure to a subgroup of people they had no idea lived in such circumstances in the US, then it's all to the best. (Kindle)

Between Urban and Wild by Andrea Jones I love nature books, and I love memoirs of people writing about their interactions with nature, either in crumbling old farmsteads or on wind-swept Cape Cod dunes.The premise of Between Urban and Wild intrigued me--a study of living beyond the suburbs, but not in complete isolation, and how the ever growing intrusion of ranch subdivisions here in West is affecting nature and public lands and open spaces. The middle section irked me, though. Ms. Jones got a little high-handed and condescending in her attitude towards city dwellers whose interaction with nature is nonexistent, in her view. Really? Tell that to all the city folks whose lives were destroyed or at least upended by Hurricane Sandy, or who bluster through blizzards every winter. They may not interact on a daily basis with birds and horses like Ms. Jones, but they are not oblivious to nature. And personally I find their deliberate seeking of nature--be it lunch outside on the edge of a public fountain in downtown Chicago or a walk through Central Park in NYC--far more inspiring than her very fortunate financial ability to live on a ranch in the Colorado mountains and indulge her desire to have horses. The last quarter of the book deals with wildfires, which all of us out here in the West either one day face ourselves or live in constant dread of having to face. That discussion was very personal to her and handled far better than other parts of the book.  (Net Galley)