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Coming up with titles for these nightstand posts is hard. Any suggestions?

Well it’s that time again! Time to look at what I’ve been reading and what’s on my overwhelmingly-large stack for next month, time to wonder again at my greed in saying “yes” to so many books, time to ponder anew how much time I realistically think it’s going to take me to get to these. But seriously, there are so many great books out there! You’d say yes too, you really would. Don’t be a hater.

Also, just so you’ll be really impressed, I turned in 5 (FIVE) book reviews this weekend. My editor is in shock–she still hasn’t spoken to me. I like to store them up, you know, and then announce to the family that I’m busy and crank them out. You can take the girl out of undergraduate school, but some of us are destined to retain that college-student last-minute freshness all our days.

Ok then! This month, I read:

The Uninvited Guests. This one was fun! Delightfully creepy. Author Sadie Jones (no relation, but isn’t that a cute name? Maybe we could change Ilsa’s name) did an incredible job of writing a modern book that feels like it was written in Edwardian times, overall. It’s a ghost story too. It has quirky eccentric characters and fair young maidens and impossible younger sisters. Oh, the plot? It’s Emerald’s 20th birthday and a few select friends are invited for dinner. When they go to meet them at the train station, a guard tells them there’s been a terrible accident and could the victims be put up for a few hours till the Railway can come for them? These are, of course, the uninvited guests, and they set in motion an improbable chain of events that takes us through the evening, down into the depths of human depravity and cruelty, up to the heights of love and loyalty.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. With a title like this one, you’d raid your daughter’s bookshelf too! Ilsa requested this one, but she’s worse than I am at getting her reviews written. So I read it in an hour Sunday afternoon and made her write a paragraph on it. It was okay, we agreed. Perry’s a typical senior in many ways, with an overbearing father who puts a lot of pressure on him to go to the right college, and a life filled with college application essays, when what he really wants to do is play in his band and rejoin the swim team. His mom makes him take their foreign-exchange student Gobi, a plain, dull, unexciting girl, to their prom. Of course Gobi turns out to be an international spy seeking revenge on 5 people who are all in New York city that night, and she drags Perry on a wild, fast-paced ride to find and kill them all. Each chapter starts with a question from an actual college application essay, which I thought added some fun.

Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later Packed full of balanced parenting advice, this excellent book would be a great present for any new moms in your life. Seriously. What I love about her is how balanced she is. Of course you love them to death and meet all their needs that you can, but you also keep in mind the goal, which is to get them to adulthood, to raise them.

More Like Her: This book ended up being really interesting. It starts off like it’s going to be light and fluffy chick-lit, with Fran dealing with a painful break-up and having to see the guy at work, and meeting the new headmistress who oozes perfection from every seamless pore. But then it swerves, first of all into the idea of how much you as a woman are willing to change in order to attract/keep a man, and then into how you deal with the aftermath of a trauma. The trauma is when the seemingly-perfect headmistress gets gunned down at her birthday dinner by her husband. Fran and her friends are all there. It’s an interesting treatise on marriage, and relationships, all wrapped up in what feels like a light read. Would be excellent for book groups.

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale: I didn’t like this novel at first. It felt too quirky, like the author was trying too hard. I ended up liking it though, and if you like what are touted as “southern novels” you might love this. Faith has Alzheimer’s, and feels God has told her to sell off her household of priceless antiques for pennies, “whatever you can afford, dear.” Various people try to stop her, and as the day goes on, we learn about her family and several people are able to find peace. Meditations on the value of things vs. people.

Monkey’s Friends. This does too count. It is a book. I read it and I wrote a review. It’s very cute, and the illustrations are great, and although my 3 are long past picture book stage, I do get a lot of young visitors.


When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man Oooh the person in the basement–ok I’m not saying any more. But this book is incredibly well written and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Go read it and we’ll discuss.

An aside: last winter I got an enormous stack of books–like 6 of them!– from Harper Books and they’ve all (almost) been exceptionally good! The Invisible Ones, The Street Sweeper, The Forgotten Country, and now Capt. Flint–all exceptional! The other 2 in the stack were fine, but these were over the top good! Whoever is picking their books deserves a raise.

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948: I am enjoying this account of Madeline Albright’s early life and family history, but I haven’t had the time to sit down and get through it. Also she’s telling the entire history of the Czech Republic, which is fascinating. Elliot’s reading it too, in between his IB Chemistry exam and beginning a 4000-word essay on the Battle of Stalingrad. The kid’s not normal.

The New Republic: I’ve only read the first page but the prologue sold me. Something about a foreign correspondent and a homegrown terrorist network and it’s supposed to be droll and tongue-in-cheek. I’ll let you know.

To Read:

Oh the stack, it’s toppling! Could I just take a picture? No? Ok. I am just going to list and link.

Listening to Africa: a collection of poems. The author traveled mostly in East Africa.

The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate, and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem: seeing a theme? It’s no secret that I’m attracted to writers who travel. This one travels to do volunteer work, so I’m expecting to like it. Author Ken Budd went to New Orleans (after Katrina), Costa Rica, China, Ecuador, Palestine, and Kenya. His goal is to find purpose by helping others. I’ll let you know if I think he succeeds.

A Bitter Truth: number 3 in the Bess Crawford series. Yaay! I’m just in the mood for it. (Once I finish what I’m in the middle of reading, that is)

Game of Secrets Jane Weld was 11 when her father was murdered in 1957. Now, 50 years later, she’s still searching for the truth. Rumour has it he was killed by the jealous husband of his mistress, a woman Jane meets weekly for a game of Scrabble…

Grace Among Thieves (A Manor House Mystery) I read the previous one in this series, Grace Interrupted, last year. It was light and enjoyable and I expect this will be a nice summer read.

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living I hope I read this. I feel it would be worthwhile, but since non-fiction takes so much longer to read than fiction, and since I actually have some July stuff already that I’m not even telling you about, well… A French philosopher, Luc Ferry, sums up the history of philosophy basically. If I go on vacation, I am going to take this one and get it read! Wish me luck. It really does look good. Or, you could get it and read it and tell me all about it in about 600 words.

I’m going to have to read it now, aren’t I? Ok, hold me to it! Also you can hope I finish some other unfinished stuff in my stack that I’m not going to remind you of. And yes, you can now finish sentences with prepositions.

Also, my plans to take an Iraqi couple for the day got cancelled. Also my car broke–to be specific, the knob came off the gear shift, leaving me in the fast lane of a busy road puttering along in 2nd gear. Sigh. Managed to get it going, but I guess I’m stuck home for the day. And if you think I’m going to waste a perfectly good day with laundry or cleaning, think again–I’m off to finish some books! 🙂

What are you doing today? What are you reading?

May 2012

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