Monday, September 1, 2014

Brief Reviews Summer 2014 part 1

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic CodeNonfiction is not my favorite genre, but I really enjoyed this book about genetics.  The information is conveyed through a series of interesting anecdotes that I found myself bringing up in conversation often because they were too good not to share.  The scientific explanations that accompany the stories are all told in accessible language that left me with a much better understanding of DNA than my university biology class did.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining and informative popular science book. From John Fitzgerald Kennedy to Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and from Einstein's brain to Polar Bear livers, this book has it all! The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean: buy it or check it out today!

We Were Liars I avoided reading anything about this book before I read it because I had so much faith in the author that I knew I'd like it.  I assumed from the cover and the author's previous books that it would a light-hearted, witty summer romp.  Perhaps I should have researched it more because boy howdy was I wrong!  I had an emotional ending to the school year for various reasons, so I was glad to read something light.  Then I was completely blindsided by the traumatic ending.  The tone (and genre) turned on a dime.  If you had asked me if I liked the novel at any point before the big twist I would have said I was loving it and I did read it in one sitting.  But I disliked the ending so much that it cast a pall on the whole novel.  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: buy it or check it out today!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingAs an introvert, I loved this book for naming and normalizing so many things that I do and feel.  It contained a lot of great advice on how to live a happy and healthy life as an introvert.  All of the descriptions of the horrible experiences a lot of introvert children go through made me call my mother to thank her for being awesome.  Even if you're not an introvert, this is a great book to read because chances are you'll have to teach, manage, raise, date, or befriend an introvert at some point in your life and this will help you understand why they act the way they do.  The pace was a bit slow at times, but the information contained in it is excellent.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain: buy it or check it out today!      

Longbourn This novel is set during the events of Pride and Prejudice, but focuses on the world of the servants and what is happening to them as the Bennet girls are buffeted by the winds of love upstairs.  My feelings about the novel are torn.  On the one hand this is a well-researched look into the life of Regency era servants and I enjoyed reading about all the gritty details.  The servants themselves are faceted characters and I cared about their stories.  On the other hand I don't like the way the original characters are portrayed and in some instances changed completely by adding twists to their back stories.  The tone of the novel is very modern with its focus on the social injustices of the era.  There's even an extended tangent on the horrors of war.  It has none of the sparkling wit of Austen and doesn't even attempt to imitate her style.  Which makes me question why this story was even set in Pride and Prejudice.  I would have enjoyed it much better if it was the story of Regency servants of a household invented for the novel.  As is I found myself longing for an Austen sensibility that just wasn't there.  Still, if you can put the original aside when reading it and take it on its own merits it's an interesting and compelling piece of historical fiction. Longbourn by Jo Baker: buy it or check it out today!

The Whistling SeasonThis was a great summer read for a teacher.  I borrowed it from my aunt & uncle and read it while relaxing in a lounge chair on their back porch.  The narrator is looking back on his childhood as a homesteader in Montana attending a one-room school.  The book is full of the evocative nostalgia you'd expect from someone recounting beloved stories from their childhood.  The characters are all well drawn and the period details are fascinating.  The story is at turns moving and humorous but always well-written.  The narrator was an intellectually curious child so it's full of random tid-bits that he discovers.  I wasn't a big fan of the ending, but the lessons learned in this one-room school house will stay with me for a long time.   The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig: buy it or check it out today!

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