Saturday, April 19, 2014

Randomday Book Roundup

It's been awhile.  I blame my Kindle Fire.  Here are some of the books I've been reading:

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, by Alan Bradley.  In the second book in the series, the obnoxious but (very) vaguely endearing Flavia de Luce meddles in a grotesque murder involving traveling puppeteers, cannabis consumption, a tragic death of a young child, and friendly ex-Nazi fighter pilots in post-war Britain.  I am enjoying this very well-written series, but as I am around at least one strong-willed 11-year-old constantly, I'm planning on spacing the books out.  Flavia is better in small doses.

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson.  This stand-alone book by a prolifically imaginative author is intriguing, an exercise in world-building, with some insightful things to say about leadership, and some enjoyable characters.  Even granting its fantasy world setting, though, the human characters are not completely human in some important aspects, and I found it off-putting, perhaps an offshoot of the author's Mormon religion. Daniel and I were able to attend his book-signing a few months ago, and he strikes me as truly talented and happy in his successful writing career, as well he should be.  I look forward to reading more (preferably by audiobook) in the future.

Red Rabbit, by Tom Clancy, is one of the Jack Ryan series I had missed somewhere along the line.  This one is set in the early 80's, and a young Ryan, through a series of completely improbable coincidences, becomes enmeshed with a Soviet defector who has important intelligence about the plot to kill Pope John Paul II.  As always, the plot is a page-turner, the F-bomb shows up on just about every page, and the research is so well done that it's completely possible that large portions of the book are pretty close to the way it happened.

The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is the next episode in the Shakespearean rendering of the immortal epic.  There's much to enjoy here: Yoda's haiku, R2D2's soliloquys, the Ugnaught chorus, Chewbacca and Leia's duet. There's an added scene where two random guards discuss the oddity of Imperial architecture that inexplicably requires hazardous, bottomless shafts to be inserted where anyone could stumble into them.  It's a valid point, and even the bit characters get their moment on stage.  I look forward to when the Jedi Doth Return.

Freddy and the Ignormus by Walter Brooks -- If you haven't yet encountered Freddy, one of the great pigs of children's literature, try to find one of the charming audiobooks at your local library.  Full of old-fashioned wit and a cast of humorous animal characters, Freddy and friends are great for the under-10 set, and fun to read aloud, too.

Several other books are in process.  Also making good progress is Italian.  I'm almost to 1500 words in my DuoLingo vocabulary, and I've informed Steve he can take me to Italy any time now.  They recently upgraded the Kindle Fire interface from the DuoLingo app I originally installed and in the process I discovered the online community and a lot more opportunities to enrich my own language study.

I'm not making much progress at all in quilting or knitting.  Getting a little worried about next week's trip to Pennsylvania and the choir songs I'm supposed to have ready.  My voice has not fully recovered from the walking pneumonia and my high notes are not what they should be.  In fact, I have yet to sing more than 2 songs in practice without getting the cough back.


Anonymous said...

Flavia! How could I have forgotten her after reading the first one you recommended? Love Sanderson, but was puzzled by the connection between not completely human aspects and possibly being an offshoot of his being Mormon. =) Always love a Jack Ryan book, even if I've previously read them. I never heard of Doescher - someone new to read! The Freddy book sounds good. I read a LOT of children's lit and hadn't come across Freddy before, either. Thanks for all the leads for new books. I've been reading the St. Cyr mysteries by C. S. Harris and loving those - set in Regency England. Read in order from 1 to 8. I've read 8, 5, 6, 7, and I'm going for 1-4 now. Wish I'd read them in order!

Kathy said...

I probably should expand on the Sanderson review... without trying to give spoilers, Elantris has some characters who become magically transformed into godlike beings. As a Christian I embrace the idea of fallen human beings who are redeemed through Christ and wait for an ultimate, spiritual, glorification. The idea of humans becoming gods is found in a lot of fantasy literature, but because I know Sanderson is Mormon and does not share the same view of redemption, I had a hard time letting my theological guard down enough to enjoy an otherwise fine fantasy world. I'll keep trying with Sanderson on some of his other books. Most of them are so long that it will take me quite some time to get around to them! It's something I look forward to discussing with my son, who is a more devoted reader of fantasy lit than I am able to be. I've placed a hold on the 1st C.S. Harris book - thanks for the recommendation!