October Book Reviews: The First Half of the Month

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I’m again breaking my book reviews into first and second halves of the month. There’s just been so many great books that I don’t want to short-change any of them!

rainshineWe’ve watched them grow up like kids in our own neighborhoods. The thrown-away kids who found love in Mitford. Father Tim’s adopted son, Dooley and his beloved Lace. It’s finally their day. As they prepare the start married life in their new home while coping with the demands of Dooley’s new veterinary practice the new Mr. and Mrs. Kavanagh have a surprise up their sleeves.

This book is so much better than a few of the recent Mitford/ Father Tim books (all were excellent, don’t get me wrong) because there was no time wasted telling everything what happened before in the series. This is a great annoyance in series reading–the publisher’s understandable desire to hook readers where ever they first land in the series, clashes with devoted fans who know all the characters already. Happily, this story favored the Mitford-lovers hands down. No “Here’s how X met Y or what happened to Z before he met ZX.” Just Mitford at its best. Father Tim and Cynthia and all sorts of others we all love. Truly wonderful. Come Rain or Come Shine, by Jan Karon.

pathappearsThis is a “feel good” book with a very serious side, but it is so well written you won’t notice that scholarly research is slipped in. I promise. I’m a librarian so you can trust me. The authors of Half the Sky, the best-selling book on empowering women worldwide, are back with a new survey of inspirational individuals and their ideas that are helping change the world for the better. People who gave up their old lives to help others improve theirs. In the Peace Corps I saw billions of dollars in wasted, unsustainable foreign aid projects. This book showcases only projects that are sustainable and that have some proof of being effective at improving some area of life for the local recipients of the programs’ products or services. Over the next few weeks I will be writing about programs I support and about my Peace Corps years. This book is a great starting place for anyone wanting to do more for those with less. There is sound advice for giving to any charity or for volunteering on any project. What I liked most though was credit given where credit is due. It is seemingly fashionable to bash conservative Christians today. One thing that surprised me was that evangelical Christians were given special notice for doing some tremendous work in helping improve various aspects of life. That’s huge today and it speaks volumes about the authors that they would make a point to say that. And I agree. Less sanctimony is better to counter it.  A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

5bridesWhen I read the blurb on this book I immediately thought of my Mom and my aunt–both of whom went to Purdue, met their husband’s and married in the mid-1950s. My aunt is even more representative of the girls in this story than my mom for she shared an apartment in Chicago with several girls before she married. She took the El to her job as a chemist and they took the El or the bus to their jobs as secretaries or lab techs or whatever. They took turns sleeping on the couch so that no one got stuck with it every night. She had a difficult time, too, with my rather overbearing mother-in-law who was a George’s mother-wanna be.

I loved the premise of the story–this little band of friends have a splurge and buy the wedding dress “cooperatively.” I would have scoffed but seeing my daughter’s friends–who are the age of the young women in the story–they could easily do this too with careful, no-cutting alterations since there is only a size or two between them all. I loved the way, too, the girls “came of age.” The generosity of spirit that never once went all “goody-two shoes.” Yes! In fact, since I got this as an e-book from the library and skipped the preliminary pages with the copyright and all those details, it wasn’t till I was almost half way done that I realized  it was a Christian novel! You see, I love it when books are written with the manners and morals of their time–the era in which the story is set. Lucy by Ellen Friedman is a good secularly published example of this type book. I enjoyed Five Brides so much I most certainly will buy it soon to keep and re-read. That’s the highest compliment I give: buying the book rather than just reading it from the library! As a writer I know I should be buying more books so people will want to buy mine, but as a one-time public librarian, I know that people get hooked on writers at the library and then start buying the author’s later books. Win-win. Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson.

whereshewentI admit it, I tend to shy away from books labeled “Young Adult.” I tend to think “vapid” and “vampires” and walk on. Happily, in addition to the marvelous books of John Green, I’ve found a few other Y.A. authors I enjoy. Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett series, for example,  is a joy. So what that it’s another New York book [honestly, does anyone live anywhere else?] it’s great.

Gayle Forman’s If I Stay hooked me from the first word. I loved it all. I even cried reading it–it was that good. Since then I’ve been trying to get to book two of this two book series, Where She Went. I was a bit afraid–If I Stay was just that good. I seriously underestimated Gayle Forman’s talent. Where She Went might even be better. Might. Don’t make me pick a winner. I’ll cry. Again.

Mia and Adam are so real to me. Their successes, their emotional tight-rope walk, their flashes of childish immaturity even with their very old, very musical souls–I know these two. I had to stop the car once to re-listen to a part. It was that emotional. This is a series not to be missed. Don’t fuss over the ages of the characters–remember Romeo and Juliet? Well these two are like that but with maturity. That memorable, I mean. Just read this series, ok? Where She Went by Gayle Forman.

IsaacstormAfter recently reading the second Calpurnia Tate book this summer, I went off in search of more information on the Galveston Flood. The search led me to Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm. Like all of Larson’s books, this is a riveting non-fiction tale that  creates more suspense than a good thriller.This story has it all–politics, back-stabbing, cronyism, junk science, real science, colonialism,  nepotism–you name it, its in here. Oh and there’s bad weather, too. I read Five Days at Memorial about hurricane Katrina. Imagine Katrina with no Super Dome, no buses to evacuate anyone, no 24/7 t.v. coverage. But this story is also one of lessons learned. Lessons that would later help save lives. At the end I wasn’t sure who I wanted to slap and who I wanted to reward, but I was glad I’d read it. Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.

What have you read so far this month? Leave me a comment. I love comments. Love ’em. Nice to know someone other than me reads these posts. Comments seem to have gone out of fashion. If that’s the case, tweet this! I love to have folks stop by.

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