Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quick notes on two weeks of summer reading

Here's what I've been reading lately, over half of it on the plane to and from Pennsylvania this week.

1. Linnets and Valerians, by Elizabeth Goudge
Genre: Children's fantasy
Format/source: trade paperback, library

A lovely classic children's fantasy, lyrical and wry, that deserves to be better known. I discovered its existence through this review at, and recommend it for anyone who hasn't let being a grown-up stop them from reading the likes of LM Montgomery and CS Lewis. Not two authors I usually compare, but this book reminded me of both.

2. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Genre: Humor/memoir
Format/source: hardcover, library

Snarkily hilarious memoir of Tina Fey's life and career, including her stints at Second City Improv and SNL as well as her work on 30 Rock and the whole Sarah Palin thing.

3. The Viscount's Betrothal, by Louise Allen
Genre: Historical romance (Regency)
Format/source: mass market paperback, library

A tender Ugly Duckling romance that mostly adheres to the traditional Regency pattern, though it's a relatively recent release from the Harlequin Historical line.

4. Hillel: If Not Now, When? by Joseph Telushkin
Genre: Nonfiction (Jewish theology & practice)
Format/source: Kindle, purchased

An examination of the views and philosophy of one of the most influential rabbis in the history of Judaism. The book was written primarily for a Jewish audience, but I found it interesting to read from outside the tradition, both because I'm fascinated by religion in general and for the light it sheds on my own religious background (since Hillel was a near-contemporary of Jesus).

5. Short Straw Bride, by Dallas Schulze
Genre: Historical romance (Western)
Format/source: Kindle, purchased

A 1990's historical romance, re-released as part of Harlequin's effort to digitize its backlist. (Something I'm all for, whether it's publishers or individual authors behind the effort. More books available for the reader, and the author gets royalties for the sale, unlike if you tracked the title down through a UBS.) It's a fun Western historical, something of a riff on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I was a bit put off by the very physical fight the hero and heroine have in the middle of the book, but the fact that it's a mutual fight started by the heroine kept it from coming across as abusive--I just feared for the crockery and the spines of the books in their house whenever they happen to fight in the future!

6. Bumped, by Megan McCafferty
Genre: YA (near-future dystopia)
Format/source: library, hardcover

In this take on dystopian near-future-fic, 75% or so of the population is afflicted with a virus that renders them sterile by the time they're 18 or 20, and efforts to preserve eggs and sperm for later use also fail. So to survive, the species needs teen pregnancy, and bright, attractive girls are in high demand as surrogates. As an aside, I wonder what it says about now vs. my teen years in the 80's that there are so many dystopian YA novels? Yes, this is a stressful time to live through, but I grew up worrying about WWIII, and to the best of my knowledge the YA books that weren't straightforward romances or whatever ran to "my girlfriend is dying of cancer." (I never read those.)

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