Books: Dictator

April 25, 2016

If I had realized that Dictator was the final book of a trilogy I’d have tried to read the other two books first. I knew Robert Harris had written other novels about ancient Rome – I just didn’t realize they were part of a single story.

I wonder now how far I’d have gotten if I had started with Imperium. It’s been a long time since I took this long to get through a library book – I actually had to go back to the library to check it out a second time (after using up my 3-week renewal period).

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Books: The Invention of Wings

April 17, 2016

The Reading Challenge 2016 I’ve been using calls for me to read a “book from Oprah’s Book Club,” and I had been wondering what book I could find that I wanted to read from that list. The books I prefer to read and the books on that list do not generally coincide.

But our book club selection this month was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, which I learned from the back cover is a selection of the Oprah Book Club 2.0. I don’t know what is different about the 2.0 list from the original, but all of us in the book club (well, those few of us who made it to this month’s meeting) thought this novel was well worth reading.

Before the meeting someone asked me if I enjoyed the book. I explained it’s hard to speak in terms of “enjoying” a book that describes the suffering of slaves, but it certainly was an engrossing book. I had thought, from the subject matter, it might take me a couple of weeks, reading it on and off, to finish it. But I finished it in two days.

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Books: Alexandria

March 26, 2016

Since I enjoy both historical fiction and mysteries, a mystery set in the Roman empire sounded interesting. I had not read anything previously by Lindsey Davis, but thought Alexandria sounded interesting.

When I check it out of the library, I was more interested in the fact that the ancient library of Alexandria featured prominent, than in noticing the book was part of a series. I generally like to start those at the beginning, and Alexandria turns out to be Davis’ nineteenth novel featuring Marcus Didius Falco. (For future reference, I found someone’s list of the books in order.) Read the rest of this entry »


Books: Dear Committee Members

March 20, 2016

The “What We’re Reading Now” section of a recent library newsletter listed library director Pam’s most recent read, Dear Committee Members, as “a┬áhysterical novel told through meandering letters of recommendation written by an academic who has passed his prime in every way.” I don’t always enjoy the same books Pam does, but it sounded worth checking out.

It is indeed a funny book. I didn’t find it laughing-out-loud funny, but then there is little that really makes me laugh out loud. (Humorous lists like this and this, as well as more than a few minutes of reading Damn You Autocorrect, do sometimes actually accomplish that.) What I find laugh-out-loud funny, though, rarely has any purpose beyond making me laugh.

Julie Schumacher’s novel, however, does have a serious side to it. Jason Fitger, the cranky professor of creative writing and literature who pens the dozens of letters of recommendation that make up this novel, voices the frustrations of many professors at real-world colleges.

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Books: The Martian

March 13, 2016

My co-worker recommended The Martian to me, after she and her husband went to see the movie based on it. I might decide to see the movie at some point, just for the visual enjoyment, but I’m sure the book is better (as is almost always the case).

It also turned out to be our book club’s selection for March, and we all agreed it was a great choice (except for one person who couldn’t make it to our meeting, who found it rather dry). We were impressed by Mark Watley’s ingenuity and enjoyed his humor.

What I really wanted to know after reading it, though, was how much The Martian gets right – and wrong – about science. Finding online articles on the subject turned out to be easy, though I was frustrated to discover that nearly all of them deal with the movie, not the novel, and at least one of the things the movie gets wrong is where it differs from the novel. But I finally found one that is specific to the novel.

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Books: A Likely Story

March 5, 2016

My criteria in selecting this book were simple: an entertaining book of a size easy to carry with me to the caucus on February 1. I knew there would be a long line, and that I’d have quite a wait until the actual business of the caucus began, so I hurried grabbed something off the library shelf that would help pass the time that evening.

A Likely Story by Jenn McKinlay was a good choice. With a library director as the protagonist, books and people who love books are much in evidence – along with all the other interests and activities that keep modern libraries busy. (I’ll have to ask my friend who is the director at our local library how well McKinlay captured the essence of her job.)

The book even manages to meet one of the requirements of my 2016 Reading Challenge, which is a book set in my home state, Connecticut. Life in Briar Creek is not much like life in Newington, but then Newington is right outside the capital, Hartford, while Briar Creek is on the coast. I never visited a town in Connecticut that small, where everyone knows everyone else, but I suppose some must exist even on the crowded East coast.

The plot is, as the title ironically implies, a most unlikely story, but that’s par for the course with cozy mysteries. The characters are quirky and interesting, the overall tone is upbeat despite the murder and mystery, and the story has enough twists and turns not to get boring or give too much away too soon. Hardly great literature, but an entertaining read. I might want to check on what else the library has in the same series.


Books: Remarkable Creatures

February 28, 2016

I vaguely remember learning of Mary Anning when Google celebrated the 215th anniversary of her birth with a special doodle. But the little that I read didn’t interest me enough to read more.

By the time I came across Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures in the library recently, I had forgotten whatever little I knew of Anning. I wasn’t sure how much of the novel was based on fact, but it seemed interesting enough to check out.

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