Andrew S · Essays · Non-Fiction

Light on C. S. Lewis | Edited by Jocelyn Gibb

Light on C. S. Lewis

Light on C. S. Lewis edited by Jocelyn Gibb
(Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965, 160 pages)

This collection of reflections and remembrances came out a few years after C. S. Lewis’ death. All of the contributions, save one, come from those who knew Lewis as friend, colleague, or tutor. The subjects range from his approach to apologetics, to his methods of teaching as an Oxford don, to the scope and quality of his imaginative fiction.

Some of these essays are rather dated, and though they give helpful insights into Lewis’ personality and approach to literature or writing, not many of them stand up as excellent pieces of writing in their own right. Some have the slightly pretentious quality of long-winded literary scholars cluttering their prose with obscure references. I suppose it should come as no surprise that not all of Lewis’ colleagues were as commanding and precise with their use of language as was Lewis. That being said, there are a number of issues dealt with here that have proven to be of continuing interest for those doing research into Lewis, including his views on gender, the imaginative quality of his apologetic approach, and the particular merits of his contributions to literary scholarship.

This book will be fascinating for those looking for personal portraits of this remarkable author. I can’t help but point out one comment from the contributor Chad Walsh, an American English scholar who got to know Lewis: “I suppose that he is entering into a period of relative obscurity; future decades will determine what his final standing in America is” (115). Anyone who has seen the Narnia films, purchased any of his perpetually re-issued books, or seen notice of any of the numerous events and conferences occurring this year to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his passing will recognize that Lewis’ “period of relative obscurity,” isn’t likely to come around any time soon.

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Fiction · Suspense · Thriller · Ying L

Stone Cold | by David Baldacci

Stone Cold

Stone Cold by David Baldacci
(Grand Central Publishing, 2007, 388 pages)

The first book I ready by David Baldacci, The Collectors, ended on a cliffhanger. I took the bait and read Stone Cold. I was not disappointed. Previously, Annabelle gets her revenge on Jerry Bagger by stealing $40 million from his casino. The notorious casino owner then uses his unlimited resources to hunt down Annabelle in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, the Camel Club leader Oliver Stone is under direct threat. His mysterious past is gradually being revealed. A killer is tracking down and terminating members of Stone’s old CIA team. It’s only a matter of time before Stone is in the crosshair. The story also involves several former American and Russian spies and the former director of CIA. Baldacci is very skilled at building up the suspense. It kept me turning pages. If you are a political junkie and are into thrillers, you’ll enjoy this book.

Autobiography · Food! · Graphic Novel · Non-Fiction · Ying L

Relish | by Lucy Knisley

Relish

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
(First Second, 2013, 176 pages)

Thanks to Julia and our book club friends, I’m constantly venturing out of my usual reading zone. I was drawn to this book’s pretty and colorful illustrations at first. The story is actually entertaining and delightful. This autobiography tells Knisley’s food-related stories from childhood to her post-college days. You can get a better picture of Knisley’s food adventures from Julia’s review of this book.

Knisley appreciates both gourmet food and junk food. During a vacation in Italy Knisley ate at McDonalds just to shock her serious foodie father. It made me smile since my kids did the same thing to me in China. Some accounts are heartwarming and bittersweet, like the story about her trying to mimic the most delicious croissants she had in the city of Venice only to result in disappointment and exhaustion. A nice bonus is the graphic recipes scattered between chapters. A great, fun read!

Audiobook · Fiction · Julia P

Crazy Rich Asians | by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
(Doubleday, 2013, 416 pages)

Kevin Kwan’s first novel takes us into the world of the *super rich* of Asia. Rachel Chu, an economics professor, has agreed to go on a summer vacation to Singapore with her boyfriend (and also a professor), Nicholas Young. While Nick has met her family in America, Rachel has only met one of Nick’s cousins, an incredibly stylish woman named Astrid. So to say she’s unprepared for his world is an understatement. Nick’s family is one of the richest in Asia and the life he leads simply blows Rachel out of the water. Nick is something of a catch being rich, handsome, and from a good family, so there are a lot of people in town (including his mother) who are not happy about Rachel’s presence in his life and they do what they can to get her out of the picture.

While this “drama” is going on there are also numerous sub-plots revolving around Nick’s other family members. It’s impressive to even imagine the lives they lead and Kwan does a great job painting a picture of this rich and vibrant world that the upper echelon of Asia exists in.

I listened to the audiobook and while I wasn’t a fan of the narrator at first I’m glad that I stuck with it. It was a fun story – I’d argue it would be a good beach/travel read.

Fiction · Graphic Novel · Horror · In the Library · Julia P · Page-Turner · Suspense · Thriller

The Walking Dead: Book One | by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Book One: A Continuing Story of Survival Horror by Robert Kirkman
(Image Comics, 2013, 304 pages)

This is the second book for SCC’s Between the Covers book club and I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. Horror/zombies are definitely not a “Julia” genre, but I got sucked into this book. I would sit down to read it and it was like I was in another, much darker, world. Graphic novels offer a different reading experience because of the visual element, and I don’t think it would have had the same effect on me if I had just been reading it as text. By the time I finished I was wishing I had also checked out book two – I still can’t believe I’m saying that 😉

Rick, a police officer, awakens from a coma to find himself alone in the hospital. As he goes off seeking help he notices a room has been barred off – when he gets through he sees that it is full of decomposing monsters and runs off. As he journeys home he notices that the landscape is surprisingly empty. Cars have crashed, lawns are overgrown… when he gets to his house he meets some people that kind of clue him in to what has happened, but they don’t have much information beyond staying away from these walking dead and that hitting them in the head seems to do the trick if they come after you. Rick takes his new friends with him to the police station and provides them with guns, ammo and a car. He then sets off for Atlanta in the hopes of finding his wife and child who surely went there to seek safety in the city.

When Rick arrives he is greeted by more walking dead than he ever could have imagined. Fortunately he’s saved from being eaten and he’s taken to a camp just outside the city. In this camp are others who tried to make it in to Atlanta but reached it too late. And Rick is overjoyed to find that his wife and son are a part of this group. The Walking Dead follows this small band of individuals as they struggle to survive and keep from being bitten and turned into more of the walking dead. We don’t know what happened to create these monsters, we just know that they’re hungry for blood and, while they are slow moving, one bite is all it takes to do you in…

While I handled the graphic novel okay, I don’t think I’d be able to watch the show. I do think it’s safe to say that I’ll be picking up book two, though.

*** Don’t worry, book club isn’t meeting until 10/23! You have plenty of time to pick up this book, read it, and come participate in the conversation. Between the Covers meets in the Information Commons of the library at 2:30. Be there and be excited 🙂

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Romance · Young Adult

Requiem | by Lauren Oliver

Requiem

Requiem by Lauren Oliver
(HarperCollins, 2013, 432 pages)

Requiem is the final book in the Delirium trilogy. I really enjoyed the first two and was eager to see how Oliver would wrap things up. (FYI, there are some semi-spoilers here if you’re planning on reading the series). Lena and Julian are still out in the Wilds with their small band of other Invalids. Except now Alex is also a part of their group. He and Lena aren’t really speaking and Julian definitely knows there is something going on, but he does his best to remain neutral. The group receives some jarring news when they realize that they are now being actively hunted and exterminated as a means of getting rid of Invalids for good. Now they must raise their numbers and rally with other groups of Invalids to figure out a way to fight back.

Mixed in with Lena’s story are chapters from her best friend Hana’s point of view. Hana has had the procedure and she has been matched with the mayor-to-be of Providence. He has been married before and Hana can tell there is something a little “off” with the story behind how he came to be separated from her. Not to mention that Hana doesn’t think her procedure really “took.” She has been having dreams and she still finds herself feeling certain emotions that should have gone away after the procedure. Now she’s scared someone else will find out – especially her future husband who has a very firm stance on keeping Invalids out and maintaining order.

Now it’s a battle between the Invalids and those who believe their emotionless and “clean” way of life is the right one. Lena is dealing with her own internal struggles, unaware that she may soon be battling her best friend.

This final book didn’t really maintain the momentum of the first two. I think Oliver did a good job wrapping things up, but I enjoyed books 1 and 2 more. If you’re looking for a good YA series to read that brings both romance and adrenaline, I’d recommend this one.

Fiction · Jean R · Mystery · Suspense

The Labyrinth of Osiris | by Paul Sussman

The Labyrinth of Osiris

The Labyrinth of Osiris by Paul Sussman
(Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012, 448 pages)

The Labyrinth of Osiris is the final novel of the late Paul Sussman. Sussman returns to the characters of two of his earlier novels, Detective Khalifa of Luxor and Arieh Ben-Roi of the Jerusalem Police Dept. Khalifa is working a case about poisoned well water in Egypt. Ben-Roi is working a case of the murder of reporter, Rivka Kleinberg, in Jerusalem. As the novel progresses, Sussman is able to turn these seemingly unrelated events into a story of corporate corruption.

The Labyrinth of Osiris also shows us the personal sides of Ben-Roi and Khalifa. Ben-Roi is expecting his first child with his ex-wife, Sarah. Khalifa’s family has had a tragedy that it is still trying to accept. Ben-Roi is trying to win Sarah back. Khalifa is trying to seek revenge. Ben-Roi’s and Khalifa’s personal issues are resolved by the end of the novel.

I really enjoyed the Sussman novels. The characters and the settings were interesting. Sussman’s ability to weave disparate events together was fun to follow. If you like plots that twist and turn, you might want to give one of Sussman’s four novels a try.