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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Austen + James=Great Story

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

Death Comes to PemberleyI liked this book.  I think James did an excellent job of writing in the Austen style.  The characters stay true to who they were formed by Austen to be, but the mystery spun by James is adds a wonderful component to Pemberley.  Probably, my favorite part of this book, was actually the Epilogue.  Darcy and Elizabeth spend time sharing with each other, the thoughts they were having during their unorthodox courtship.  I liked hearing the gaps filled in.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All the Elements of a Good Book

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the ElementsI am a huge fan of the periodic table!  However lame that may sound, it's true.  The periodic table rocks (and it still would even if it wasn't made up mostly of rocks).  As soon as this book came out, I bought...on my nook and started reading it.  Then life showed up, and it was so much cheaper for me to buy books with my discount, I rarely used my nook and my memory of the book disappeared just like a spoon made of gallium.  Then I saw Sam Kean was coming for an author visit.  I reproached myself for not having read the book yet.  Some fan I was.

But, I did read it.  And, I did love it!  The book is full of stories about each of the elements.  You learn about the periodic table and the elements, but you learn about them from interesting anecdotes and stories.  The side notes are just as enjoyable as the main text.  This is now one of my most favorite books, perhaps even my most favorite non-fiction book.

Not only are the stories engaging, Sam Kean has a scholarly wit in his writing.  At least, that 's the best way I can think to describe it.  An example, though, comes to mind from his newest book, out yesterday, The Violinist's Thumb.  When Kean describes the copying of DNA in the cell, he introduces the image of tiny monks transcribing away within the cell.  It's those types of images and thoughts that takes The Disappearing Spoon from being good to being great.  I'm very excited to read his next book.  And it's not going to be in a year.  Now that I know how well he writes, his next book will be read as fast as my thumbs can turn the pages.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Old is New

Absolution by Murder  (One Sister Fidelma Mysteries) by Peter Tremayne
Shroud for the Arch Bishop (Two Sister Fidelma Mysteries) by Peter Tremayne

I have thoroughly enjoyed learning ancient history with my kids as we homeschool. Since I'm Irish, I really enjoyed the time we spent on the Celts and the early Irish Monks. I also love mysteries. So, to me, a mystery series taking place in the 7th century focusing on an Irish nun sounds like the perfect book. This series has been around for a long time, but I just recently discovered it. 

In the first book, Absolution by Murder, we meet Sister Fidelma, an advocate for the Brehon court giving her investigative and judicial authority, and Brother Eadulf, a Roman monk from a family of magistrates.  The King of Northumbria has called a conference to finally decide whether his kingdom with follow the Columba Liturgy or the Roman Liturgy.  A murder take place.  In order to ensure peace between both sides, Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf are ordered to investigate together.  As the religious' chance to catch the killer dwindles, the chance of war grows rapidly.

I enjoyed the book.  The author does a good job of helping readers understand the culture and politics of the period without tedium or complication.  You don't need to be familiar with ancient history to enjoy this book.  The plot is not overly complex, but the story is enjoyable.  I hoped for better books as the series progressed.

In the second book, Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf again must pair up to solve a murder to prevent fighting between the Celtic and Roman Christian communities.  In the previous book, the two religious sometimes verbally sparred or let fall a terse comment, but both took it with some patience and understanding.  I felt in the second book, Sister Fidelma just came off like a condescending jerk and Brother Eadulf like her lapdog.  I didn't see it as verbal sparring as it is once referred to in the book.  I was quite disappointed. 

There are over twenty books in this series.  So, I imagine things must get better and the cattiness of Sister Fidelma is tempered.  Many of the early books are out-of-print but are available as ebooks.

Absolution by Murder (Sister Fidelma Series #1)Shroud for the Archbishop: A Sister Fidelma Mystery

Such a Good Book I'm Sad

Insurgent by Veronica Roth  (Divergent Series #2)

Insurgent (Divergent Series #2)I read Insurgent over the past few days, staying up until all hours of the morning because I couldn't/wouldn't stop.  It was so good, that now, I feel depressed.  I want to feel that excitement and suspense and the pure joy of reading a book I love, and I don't know what book to turn to for that experience now.

I do have some good books waiting to read and so I press on, but I'm not expecting them to be anything close to the experience I had reading Insurgent.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fairy Tale Books for Boys

I've been gone travelling, so I've not posted for quite a while.  I didn't get as many new books read and I thought, but it was a good thing.  I finally got my boys into the Sisters Grimm series.  I made them listen to the first book in the car and they were hooked.

I've got a book I read a while ago and should have blogged about before this and a new book to blog about, too.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark and GrimmI had looked at this book when if first came out and dismissed it as a book that could be good, but I didn't want to read.  Quite a while ago, I needed and audio book for a trip, so I picked it up hoping my boys wouldn't complain.  Boy did they love it!

The main characters, Hansel and Gretel, are followed through their Grimm tale.  But then, they are also the characters in other Grimm tales.  It's like one long story but I could recognize some of the tales they were in.  It was a very clever idea and done very well.  This is a great book for boys.  The narrator warns you that the Grimm tales used in the book are not cuddly, Disney fairy tales.  They are the genuine gruesome Grimm fairly tales.  The narrator also pauses throughout the book to warn the reader that a very scary, or graphic, or bloody scene is coming up, so anyone with young siblings listening should make sure they leave the room.  My boys absolutely loved this.  I've written before about how much I think kids can benefit from fairy tale adventures, so I won't go on about that.  I'm thankful this book exists and gives boys (and girls, too) a great option for a fairy tale adventure.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your KingdomI just finished this new book.  I loved it!!!!! The bards have entertained us all with the tales of Prince Charming and Cinderella, Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming and Rapunzel, and Prince Charming and Snow White. If you ask the Sisters Grimm {Buckley} they are all the same guy, but here, they are four different princes.  The bards didn't have the decency to include the princes' names in the stories!  We are introduced to each prince and his story (after the bard's story).  They are not the Charmings you may have thought they were, and the princesses may not be the ladies you thought they were.  Through magic luck, or coincidence, the four princes find themselves together and together try to save the kingdom from a witch who's also miffed about the inaccuracy of  a bard's tale.  This story is full of adventure, humor, and the meaning of friendship.  I kept trying to think how I could describe this book.  I think the best way I can do that is to say it's like The Princess Bride (movie at least).  It has real action and suspense, but it also have some really spoofy humor that fits right in with the story.  The book also contains wonderful illustrations most presented as Figure 1, Figure 2, etc. to help elucidate the handbook.  I really really enjoyed this book.  It ended with the opportunity for more to come, and I sure hope there is.  This is a book that should not be missed.