Sunday, November 4, 2012

October reads

This is why I should post more often--so I don't have a month's worth of reading to review!

Here are some of the more noteworthy books from the past 3 weeks:

1. Erin Duffy, Bond Girl. I'd heard about this book, so when it came up as a Kindle deal of the day, I snagged it. It's not my usual genre, but I actually really enjoyed this story about a young woman's life in the highly sexist and competitive world of a Wall Street Bond trader just before the 2008 crash. (I imagine that Duffy, herself a former trader, drew on some of her own life experiences writing this book). It was sharp, funny, and made me very, very grateful that I'm not financially ambitious and will never have to work in that kind of environment.

2. Jean Webster, Daddy Long Legs. This book is free on Kindle, and if you haven't read it--you should! It reminded me of childhood favorites like Anne of the Island and Girl of the Limberlost. Jerusha Abbot is an orphan with a miserable future ahead of her, until one of the orphanage's trustees decides to pay for her college education, on the condition that she write him regular letters about her progress. (But she is not to expect any letters in return). Jerusha--who calls herself "Judy"--agreeably complies, and this book is the collection of her letters. She calls her benefactor "Daddy Long Legs," because when she last saw him at the orphanage, he cast a long, spindly-legged shadow. Judy herself is a delight, and the letters are fascinating for what they reveal about college in the early part of the 20th century.

3. I also read the companion novel, Dear Enemy, where Judy convinces her college roommate, Sallie McBride, to take control of her former orphanage (which Judy's new husband has purchased). Sallie takes on the job, with the understanding that it's just temporary, and this book is comprised of her letters to various friends (including Judy) about her struggles to bring the orphanage in order. While parts of the novel were charming, it' contains some very odd--and old fashioned--ideas about insanity and eugenics that, while presented as forward thinking in the novel, are pretty backward today.

4. Charlaine Harris's Lily Bard series (books 1-3). Lily is a fascinating character--a survivor of a very traumatic gang rape who tries to go about her business as a cleaning lady but is inevitably drawn into some of the mysterious (and murderous) goings-on in town. I'm not sure that I liked all of the murder plots, but I do like Lily, although I don't imagine she'd be a comfortable friend.

5. I also read a couple of Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly mysteries, about a woman (Harper) who can locate dead bodies and determine their cause of death. Not surprisingly, she also winds up involved in some murder mysteries. I'm not sure I will read more of these, although there are several. The last one I read, an Ice Cold Grave, was about a serial killer in a small town--and it was seriously disquieting. I imagine that was intentional, but while I like mystery novels, I'm not up for gruesome ones like this was.

6. Mariana, by Susanna Kearsley (another Kindle deal of the day). I was intrigued of the premise of this story, about a young Englishwoman, Julia Beckett, who finds herself drawn to an old English house as a child, and purchases it as an adult. She discovers herself unexpectedly reliving moments from the life of Mariana, who lived some 500 years earlier, and finds that she is the reincarnation of Mariana. Okay, the reincarnation bit was a bit hokey, but the writing was smooth and convincing and I enjoyed the story--up until the very end, when everything seemed to resolve a bit too quickly.

7. Cinda Williams Chima, the Warrior Heir--the first book Chima sold, an interesting story about a young boy at the center of a centuries old Wizard war. I thought the world Chima created was more interesting than the individual characters, and while I'll read the sequels, I liked her Seven Realms books better.

8. Susan Cain, Quiet. I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction, but I really enjoyed this book, about the power of introverts in a culture (America) that values extroversion over introversion. She made some pretty compelling points (suggesting, among others, that the Wall Street collapse was fueled in part by our valorization of extroverts, who are more likely to act impulsively in such situations). Mostly, as an introvert myself, I liked her careful research into the strengths of introverts.

9. How to Marry an English Lord--also non-fiction, about the wave of American heiresses who married English nobility between 1870-1910. Fascinating stuff, particularly to anyone who's fans of the BBC series Downton Abbey, Edith Wharton, or Henry James. Now I want to go read more Wharton.

10. Miranda Kinneally, Catching Jordan (another Kindle Deal of the Day). This novel follows Jordan Woods, a high school quarterback whose father is an NFL great, who loves football and friends--and who happens to be a girl. All Jordan wants is to play college ball at Alabama, and she's focused on having her best season yet--until new quarterback shows up to play at her school. Not only is he potentially better than she is, but he's the first boy to make her weak at the knees. What I liked about this book was how realistic her friendships were--she wasn't romantically interested in all the boys around her and she had some great friends. I also liked that the romantic angle wasn't totally predictable, and that Jordan had some complicated issues to sort through with her dad (she calls him, sarcastically, the great Donovan Woods) and some of the cheerleaders at her school. What I did not like was some of the language (Jordan swears a lot, which I guess is in character) and the really casual attitude toward sex. I know lots of high school students sleep around--but not all do, and not with the ease and frequency of the characters here.

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