Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 Reading, Books 37-42

37. An Invitation to Sin by Sarah Morgan

Harlequin Presents aren't my usual thing, but I do love Sarah Morgan's because she's so good at writing heroines who can stand up to the powerful, rich, sexy alpha heroes required by the line. In this one I enjoyed how the heroine's toughness and confidence upended all the hero's stereotypes and expectations about women without ever crossing the line (IMHO) into the dreaded "I love you because you're nothing like other women" trope.

38. What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan

A recommended read for anyone with at least moderately high familiarity with the Austen canon. (If you haven't read the books or maybe read Pride & Prejudice once 20 year ago, you'll be lost and bored.) Over 20 chapters, Mullan looks at how Austen handles topics such as marriage proposals, money, and characters' reading habits across her novels, along with aspects of her literary technique in point of view, dialogue, etc.

39. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When the South Dakota Historical Society Press decided to put out an annotated version of the autobiography that became the root of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, apparently they expected it to be of interest to a few historians and scholars, and then had to rush to print copies for all the people like me who read their Little House books into tatters as children!

And if you were also such a child, you should read this book. It's interesting to see how Wilder streamlined her real life into the fictional account. The real Ingalls family was less iconic--e.g. De Smet in the novels seems a lot more isolated than it really was. (Except during the Long Winter. The trains really couldn't get through the snow for months, the settlement really was that unprepared due to the early onset of that year's snows and the fact it was newly settled and therefore no one had managed a large crop that year or had much livestock, and you get the impression people did come damn close to starving. I even wonder if Laura was so very short as an adult, 4'11", partly because of enduring such an experience during her prime growth spurt period in early adolescence, though she probably would've been petite regardless.) But in some ways the real Ingalls family struggled more, since in the novels Wilder left out the worst of the poverty they occasionally fell into, the death of her baby brother, and sundry other incidents that wouldn't seem right for a kids' book.

40. Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

A YA novel set in the early 80's at the height of the Cold War (and HOW weird is it to see my own youth become an era that gets the retro treatment) about a teenager depressed over her childhood best friend's betrayal who goes out adventuring one night with the Russian girl next door (the daughter of Soviet diplomats). A quick, engaging read.

41. Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst

First in a fantasy trilogy about a young wolf 14,000 years ago destined to become a bridge between wolfkind and humankind, and by extension between humanity and the natural world. While I wasn't absolutely blown away by it, I did enjoy it and was sufficiently intrigued to put the second book on hold at my library.

Incidentally, I thought of buying this book as a birthday present for my 11-year-old daughter. It's not YA per se, but it's a coming-of-age story, the reading level is well within her above-grade-level capacity, and she loves animal fantasies.

However, the Kindle edition is $13.99. I'm not normally one to whine about ebook pricing--to me, it's about the content, not the format, and I'm happy to pay the same price I would for a print edition, or very slightly lower because I can't give the ebook away or donate it to the library when I'm done, which lowers the value somewhat. But for a book that's been out since 2008, I don't want to pay more than a normal MMPB price, say $5.99 or $6.99 or so. Maybe I'm somewhat biased by the fact that before I was an ebook reader I was a MMPB reader for almost anything that wasn't a new release by an absolute favorite author--and even then I was willing to wait for the paperback or wait out the hold list for the library hardcover unless the prior book had ended on a cliffhanger. But that still seems high to me.

42. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers

This was a re-read of a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery I'd only read once, so many years ago that at first I barely remembered any of the plot, though it came back to me as I went along, enough so to give me the pleasant sensation of being ahead of the sleuth for a change. :-) Not my favorite Lord Peter book by a long shot--the story gets bogged down in the minutia of fen drainage and bell-ringing, IMHO--but a lesser Lord Peter book is still better than most of what's out there.

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