Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's on Your Nightstand?

A good month for reading!! Lots of interesting books this time.

The Coldest Night was an Amazon "Best of April," pick. Poor boy meets rich girl, falls in love, they drive off to a perfect future in her convertible, then..........well, then the Korean War happens big time and poor boy experiences the most realistic, hellish battle scenes I've ever read. The writing style is "sparse" and a tad odd, but it flows in its own rhythm. A fast, but satisfying read.

Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat was a fun afternoon's read. Part memoir, part how-to and part cookbook it's made me actually WANT to try Miso soup again--something I swore I'd never eat again! And, it's encouraged me to find a SECOND way I can stand tofu. [The Moosewood Mapo Tofu is the only way it passes my lips currently.] Although she tends to assume everywhere is really sort of like Manhattan, she is right and many of the things you need to cook Japanese ARE actually available even where I live in nowhere land (not all, but many).

I love a good series and several friends have said I should read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, so I finally did it and listened to book one. There IS a story here and for once the words "time travel" didn't make me hurl the book across the room. BUT, and there's a lot of butts in this one (yes, that was  pun!) the amount of almost pornographic sex made me nearly wreck the car on one occasion. This book should have a warning label. Just about every known form of sexual activity, including sexual torture, is graphically described or discussed in this book. So why would I finish it? There IS a story and the story was compelling and, once I learned about how many tracts a sex scene typically took, I just fast-forwarded thru them. I liked the actual story well enough that the print version of book two is up for this month--yes I'll be skipping anything too awful.

Daughter of the Saints is yet another first-hand look at polygamous Mormon culture. On the surface all is pretty good, if not well. Dad is a doctor, the wives get along well enough and no one is starving. Later on that will change for the worse. While not FLDS, this family, like the FLDS, shares so much with Christian Quiverfull culture it's a little scary. Not only keeping women at home an uneducated (this family doesn't have quite as much problem with girls going to college than FLDS families often do), or getting boys working in a "skill" early on, but also the emphasis on women's salvation thru birthing and raising up "godly seed." Think the Duggars with Jim-Bob, Michelle, Judy, Brenda, and Kiki. This is one of the most interesting stories of the genre. You can also go to Google Books, click on LIFE magazine and see the photos she talks about from the World War II era raids on polygamous families.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in cultish, separatist religion.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo was brought to my attention, not by the new movie, but by a news story telling of a night at a London Theatre production of the play "War Horse," in which an elderly couple slipped into seats near the front seconds before the curtain went up. At the intermission those around them discovered they were enjoying the play with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip who wanted a night out with no fuss! Prince William and Catherine did the same thing to enjoy the show in a low-key way! So, with the movie coming out I knew I had to read this one! It took me a while to get up the library waiting list for the audio but it was well worth it. While this book is NOT for the very young children Scholastic is selling it to, it is an incredible story of the bonds between people and their animals. Had I read this as a child I'd likely have had a breakdown though--I was too in love with horses to not see and feel the very real pain in parts of this story. Parents, be cautious about giving this book to young children.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is likely going to keep the Carnarvon family's gift shop open for years to come! This is the family that owns and lives in what we know as "Downton Abbey." The family includes the man who found King Tut's tomb and Queen Elizabeth's late dear friend and racing manager. While the writing is very amateurish, the story is fabulous. I love the way "Downton" names and events come up!  While it helps to know a lot of English social history for the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, it isn't strictly necessary. You'll get the gist just fine even if you're totally new to it all. This is a must read for Downton-freaks like myself!

Anne Tyler is a favorite of mine, so when Amazon named The Beginner's Goodbye of the best books of April I knew I'd have to read it. I got it on audio and while it did not disappoint it reminded me too much of "The Accidental Tourist" to really say it was wonderful. It has a typical Tyler Baltimore setting with an old Baltimore family, a few quirky characters from outside the family, the family publishing house, etc. I liked it, enjoyed it, but kept thinking of how it was like "Tourist" instead of getting into THIS story.

I also listened to:
The Orchard by Theresa Weir which was a shrill public humiliation of her real-world mother-in-law. It does not deserve the praise it is generating.

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith. I love two of  Smith's other series, the Number One Ladies Detective Agency and 44 Scotland Street, but this one is only so-so. I will probably listen to more when I'm between books.

Need some new books to read? See what the others are reading this month at "What's on Your Nightstand" at 5 Minutes for Books.


Kara said...

I believe that Daughter of the Saints has an alternate title- Predators, Prey and Other Kinfolk. I read it under the other title, and it was amazing.

Hopewell said...

Yes, I think you are right--it was republished with a new title.

Susan said...

Yes, my now-deceased Japanese lady neighbor never topped 100 pounds. Amazing -- I need to read that. Daughter of the Saints sounds good - I'm hooked on all things Mormon (loved "Under the Banner of Heaven" -- I think that's the title?). I read about Will and K seeing "War Horse" too! My almost-13-yr-old is a true animal lover - do you think it would be okay for her? I'm assuming it involves horses getting killed, etc - which might be too much for her. Downton Abbey ... must see, one of these days, one of these days ...

Hopewell said...

Yes, 13 would be fine. No spoilers but there is a death in the horse characters. Scholastic is saying 9--12 and I think 12 and up.

morninglight mama said...

I haven't read an Anne Tyler book in a while, but this one that you mention sounds good.

Happy reading!
-Dawn, 5M4B

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

Boy you have some interesting ones.

Here is my April 2012 Nightstand