05 December 2014

September, October, November Book Report

Nearly everything I usually do - reading, knitting, sewing, breathing - has been out of sync lately.  So before we move on to CHRISTMASTIME!!!, I wanted to let you know what I've been reading over the past three months.

A Walk in the Woods : Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson.  A few years ago, my husband read this book and really enjoyed it.  He kept telling me I should read it, and I meant to, but never got to it.  Then a book club got started at the yarn store near me, and it was the first pick, so I finally read it.

I'm so glad I did!  I really enjoyed this book.  The basic premise is that Bryson decides he will challenge himself by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail (approximately 2,000 miles).  He has a childhood friend that he hasn't seen for years who responds to his call out for companions.  They set off, full of hope, determination, and a sense of purpose.  Along the way, they run into all kinds of people, learn a lot about each other and themselves, and see America in a completely different light than most of us ever will.

The thing I particularly enjoyed was the conversational style of the book. Whether Bryson was giving you background on the U.S. Park Service, describing a vista at the top of a mountain, or bemoaning his companion's lack of training and perseverance, it's like having someone in the room with you, telling you the story in person.  Whenever Bryson starts to feel smug about what he is doing, something happens to bring him back to reality.  

The book is just a lot of fun in my opinion.  Glimpses of small towns along the way are funny and sometimes depressing, and it's frustrating to think that the Appalachian Trail and the land around it are not handled in the best manner they could be.  But I enjoyed reading about all of it, and found the various types who undertook the adventure to be an interesting group.  When Bryson and his companion's plans get adjusted, you feel for them, but can't wait to find out the next part.

I love to walk, and I love to hike. But I have no desire to undertake something like this, as I am too fond of my creature comforts.  I guess I have no sense of adventure!  But I do enjoy things vicariously, and this book is interesting, informative, and funny. Bryson is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers.

The Silkworm, by Robert  Galbraith.  This is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series. Strike is a former military intelligence officer in the British army who is now a private investigator.  He gets a visit from a woman whose writer husband has disappeared. He has done it before for a few days, but it's been longer than usual and she is worried.  Strike takes on the case, and what he thinks will be fairly open and shut turns out to be much more than he could have expected.

The missing writer, Owen Quine, is a minor author with a huge ego, and some strange personal quirks.  He loves attention and publicity.  When he was last seen, he was arguing with his agent about his latest book, parts of which have been leaked within the various publishing houses in London, and people are out to get him.  It seems that his latest book has thinly veiled, extremely unpleasant characters that others are sure to recognize.  Then, during his investigation, Strike comes across Quine's body.  Now everyone knows where the author has been, but they need to find out who killed him!

While all of this is going on, his assistant Robin is feeling unappreciated, and his former girlfriend of sixteen years, Charlotte, is getting married.  Add in his client being arrested for the murder of her husband, and Strike has his hands full.  

This was enjoyable.  I will admit to being surprised at the end when the killer was exposed, since I had written them off earlier in the book.  (Which is just one of the many reasons why I am not a detective!)  I liked the descriptions of the various different areas in London, and there was enough going on to keep me reading.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker.  OK, so I may be the only person to have never read this in school as part of a class, but I have read it now.  This is truly one of the creepiest books I have ever read, and of course I wanted to read it during the month of October, when vampires and creepy decorations are around for Halloween.

I liked the fact that it was told in letters and diaries.  Partly because you didn't get a lot of backstory about the characters, so you were spending a lot of time worrying about people even though you didn't know them well, and that was as interesting as the main story - you found out about them a little at a time.  Also, I love reading epistolary novels because I love to write, receive, and read letters.  

The only thing I found disappointing about the book was that, when it finally got to the end, it all seemed very quickly wrapped up.  Which I realize is pretty common in Victorian novels, but I wish it had all been as leisurely as the rest of the book.

Creepy, interesting, and well worth the time to read.

A Rule Against Murder, by Louise Penny.  When Armand Gamache and his wife go to their favorite secluded spot for their anniversary, they never expect that the only other guests there will be a wealthy family of unpleasant people having a family reunion.  They are surprised to find that their friends Peter and Clara Morrow, of the small village of Three Pines, have arrived to attend the reunion.  But perhaps the biggest surprise comes when one of the members of the family is murdered, and Gamache and his team begin trying to find out what happened and who the murderer might be.

Because the only people for miles around are the Gamaches, the rich family, and the people who own and work at the lodge, the suspects are few.  Everyone has their own reasons for not sharing a lot of information, and the members of the Morrow family are as busy jockeying for position in the family as they are pointing fingers at each other and even at Gamache.

The staff at the lodge are also a varied and possibly mysterious lot.  Particularly the head chef, who both Gamache and his assistant, Beauvoir, feel they know - even though they are sure they have never met her before.

On top of this, we learn the story of Armand Gamache's father, which is complicated and controversial.  When Daniel (Gamache's son) and his wife want to consider the name Honore for their unborn child should it be a boy, the issue causes a temporary rift between father and son.

I enjoyed this book, as I have all of those in the series I have read so far.  Admittedly, I like the ones that take place in Three Pines better, as I love that little village!  But Louise Penny manages to make the characters and the place work for whatever story she is telling us, so I was not disappointed.

Knitting Yarns : Writers on Knitting, edited by Ann Hood.  I received this book for Christmas last year, but just now got around to reading it when it was the book choice for a book club.  I enjoy Ann Hood's work, and liked that this was a collection of stories by well-known writers, writing about knitting.

I enjoyed this book overall.  The reason I didn't give it more stars was because it was just a little bit too much what I expected.  Not a bad thing, but nothing incredibly different or amazing either.  As with any collection of stories by different people, there were some I liked better than others.  I guess I was just expecting the stories to be more of a variety than they were - instead, they were mostly what I would have expected.  

I did enjoy the fact that even "famous" people have some of the same issues with learning to knit/their knitting than the rest of us do. 

I could see myself going back to parts of this now and then - and who knows, at different times, it may have a different effect on me.

Ship Fever : Stories, by Andrea Barrett.  I have been curious about this book and when I found it in the stacks of the library where I work, I decided to make it a book I would read at work. I started last July, but then with surgery and recovery, didn't finish until today.  (We are not allowed to take books out of the library, so it had to stay there.)

This is a series of stories, rather than a novel.  As is the case with these types of things, I really liked two of them, liked most others well enough, and only really wasn't interested in one.  I do like Barrett's writing style, and her characterizations are generally spot on.  
The first two stories "The Behavior of the Hawkweeds" and "The English Pupil" were my very favorites.  The second particularly intrigued me since I had just finished working on a presentation about Linnaeus for a tour of some students studying the history of science. But overall I enjoyed all of the stories, and I think if you are interested in good writing, and the history of science and/or natural history, you would enjoy reading this one. 

Turkey Day Murder, by Leslie Meier.  I have not read any of the previous entries in this series, and this is #7, so I'm sure that a lot of background has been missed.  But anyway, Lucy Stone lives in a small town in Maine, where she is a reporter on a local weekly newspaper, a wife, a mother of one son and three daughters, and apparently an amateur detective.  She regularly covers the town council meetings, and though they are usually boring, she inadvertently learns that part of the reason a local tribe of Native Americans are hoping to receive recognition from the federal government is so a casino can be built.  Needless to say, everyone in the town is worked up over that.

It's also Thanksgiving, and she is really excited that her son is coming home from his first semester of college.  However, when he arrives, instead of bringing just one friend along as was planned, he brings four!  Besides the wrench in things that extra people cause, Lucy feels like she is with a completely different person, which really upsets her.

When one of the tribal leaders is found murdered, a friend asks Lucy to please look into it, since she feels the police won't solve it at all, or not anytime soon.  Somewhat reluctantly - but also to answer some of her own questions - Lucy agrees.

So between all of the preparations for, and the celebration of, Thanksgiving, and her investigation, Lucy starts to feel that neither is going well.  

As with most books of this type, it ends with things neatly tied up.  I didn't *not* like this book, but will likely not go out of my way to read others in the series.  Having said that, it was nice to find a book focused on the Thanksgiving holiday.


What about you - have you read anything good or interesting lately?


elns said...

Bridget I love LOVE it when you do the book report. I like your blog for many reasons, but I grin silly when I read the book report! You read such a variety of interesting things.

I admit to not reading lately. My son would like to choose my reading for me, and I will probably follow him, since I like it when he wants to talk about his reading.

thanks for the inspiration, I'll pick SOMETHING up to read this weekend. Be well! Knit and read happy!

Mereknits said...

Love your suggestions, Dracula is indeed creepy. I have not had any really great reads lately, just okay reads but since I feel so busy right now with the Holidays that might be best.
Hugs and happy reading,

Lorraine said...

Bridget- I love those adventure and back-to-the-land stories too, but me and no-toilet-and/or-shower is not a good mix.

I've read Sylvia Jorrin's "The Improbable Shepherd" and loved it!

KSD said...

You with "Dracula," me with "Frankenstein" --- afraid to fess up to not having read them.

And I know what you mean about "Knitting Yarns," though there are some quite enjoyable chapters.

Caffeine Girl said...

You do a great book report! I've added a few titles to my list, like the Bryson book. A lot of my friends have read it and they all loved it. You're not the only one who hasn't read Dracula! I didn't know it was told in letter, so that makes it sound more interesting.

I loved Ship Fever and Knitting Yarns.

I've been mostly reading for work. Right now I'm on The Maze Runner. It's OK. I'm a bit burned out on the whole dystopian thing.

Kym said...

I LOVE the Three Pines series! Some are better than others, but taken as a whole, it's an excellent series and a wonderful story. (Also . . . Dracula is one of my all-time favorites! Very creepy. . . )

Marie said...

I often get some of my reading suggestions from your reviews. I just ordered Knitting Yarns, and I'm seriously considering the Bill Bryson book. Thanks!

Also, there's a slim possibility I may be visiting your city in March. I'll let you know if it works out and maybe we can meet for dinner or something.