Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
(Reagan Arthur Books, 2013, 544 pages)
The Carmichaels haven’t been the same since their mother, Beth, passed away. Before Beth died, she wrote a notebook to her youngest daughter Jenna helping to plan her future wedding that Beth knew she would never get to see. Years later, the Carmichaels have arrived at Nantucket to celebrate Jenna and Stewart’s wedding where almost every detail (minus the rehearsal dinner dress) was followed according to Beth’s plan. But what happens over the weekend is nothing that Beth could have planned for and all the Carmichaels must survive without her.
I listened to this read and thought it was pretty good. Although there was not a character that I particularly rooted for, the situations they each got themselves into over the wedding weekend were entertaining. The characters were all flawed but I think that was a reflection of them all still being a bit lost from Beth’s death. I really liked how Hilderbrand gave each character their own unique personality and quirk that made them easy to remember as there were a lot between the bride and groom’s family.
Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock
(Gallery Books, 2012, 416 pages)
Lucy and Mickey are a married couple that have stayed together despite the many present obstacles in their lives. Lucy has a family history of breast cancer that she already beat once some years ago and Mickey is bi-polar and fights to remain stable. After Lucy beat cancer, they decided it was too much of a possibility to pass on their risky genes to a child and added a no children clause to their marriage contract. After a routine checkup though, Lucy is surprised to find out that she is pregnant against all odds. As Lucy and Mickey prepare to add another member to their family, they have to face another decision that will change everything.
I thought this book was fine. I liked the idea behind the story as the many different problems Lucy and Mickey had to face definitely added a different sense of drama. The book is written from Lucy’s point of view with Mickey’s journal entries adding his perspective throughout the read. The dialogue was a bit too cheesy for me but I admit, I usually am too hard to please when it comes to the dialogue. But my biggest problem was the ending. It was a nice way to end a pretty tragic story but I can’t imagine that being realistic with how much the reader saw Mickey struggle.
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
(Little, Brown and Company, 2006, 193 pages)
Winter’s Bone is both a beautifully written novel about poor inhabitants of Missouri’s Ozark hills and a gripping story of a young women’s search for her missing father. Jessup Dolly has disappeared, and his daughter, Ree, is determined to discover what has happened to him. Jessup cooks meth and has had numerous run-ins with the law. He has recently been released from jail, having put up the family’s house and land for his bond. In order to save the house for herself, her two brothers, and their ailing mother, Ree must either find Jessup to convince him to show up for his court date or produce evidence that he is dead. However, to do this, Ree has to go around asking questions of some of the other residents of the Rathlin Valley. This puts her in the path of a backwoods crime syndicate, and the more questions she asks the more danger she finds herself in.
Daniel Woodrell has commented in an interview that, as a writer, “I always think what I’m trying to do is take characters you normally wouldn’t care about and make you care about them.” The tiny inbred community of meth producers and criminals living in the Ozarks, of which Woodrell writes, would be easy enough not to care about. However, he immerses the reader so effectively in the lives and troubles of a particular family in this community, that one can’t help but develop a deep sense of the worth of people who it would otherwise be tempting to dismiss as ignorant hicks. Similarly, Woodrell made me care deeply about the landscape of the Ozark hills. His atmospheric descriptions of hills, creeks, weather, and rocks were not simply ornamental, but rather, they become an essential backdrop for understanding who the characters are and how they inhabit the world. These people, their grudges, their ways of life, and their landscape are given a kind of mythological significance that saturates the world of the novel.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013, 310 pages)
Our narrator, Rosemary Cooke, starts her story in the middle when she’s a Junior (or Senior?) in college at U.C. Davis during the mid-90s. Rosemary spent the first half of her life defined by her sister, Fern. Then Fern left Rosemary’s life, and shortly after that so did her older brother Lowell. The reason Rosemary’s life was defined by Fern was because Fern was a chimpanzee being raised as a human in the Cooke family. Rosemary and Fern were essentially twins. The Cooke family patriarch was a psychology professor and he is the reason the family was able to procure Fern. So while she was being raised as a human she and Rosemary were also constantly being observed and analyzed.
Fern’s disappearance from 6 year-old Rosemary’s life was incredibly traumatic for both of them. Starting the story in the middle we see how Rosemary learns the truth about Fern and tries to reconcile what she thought she knew with what the reality of the situation is. Her brother, Lowell, is wanted by the FBI for incidents related to the Animal Liberation Front. Her parents haven’t been the same since Fern and Lowell left the house… This is a touching story about family, loss,and love. Parts of it were hard to listen to and it certainly makes you think about the ethics of animal treatment/experimentation.
I enjoyed this book and the narrator did a great job bringing Fowler’s words to life. The title was named a “Best of 2013” book in a number of publications including: The New York Times Book Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and Library Journal.
Cross My Heart by James Patterson
(Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 419 pages)
James Patterson raises the stakes to their highest level ever when Alex Cross becomes the obsession of a genius of menace set on proving that he is the greatest mind in the history of crime.
Detective Alex Cross is a family man at heart–nothing matters more to him than his children, his grandmother, and his wife Bree. His love of his family is his anchor, and gives him the strength to confront evil in his work. One man knows this deeply, and uses Alex’s strength as a weapon against him in the most unsettling and unexpected novel of James Patterson’s career. When the ones Cross loves are in danger, he will do anything to protect them. If he does anything to protect them, they will die. Cross My Heart is the most powerful Alex Cross novel ever, propelled by the ever-ingenious mind of James Patterson, the world’s #1 bestselling writer.
This is the 21st installment of the Alex Cross series – which I love reading! The books in this series are always full of suspense and excitement. James Patterson is one of my all-time favorite authors and when he puts out his books I just can’t wait to delve into them. I thought I was going to be disappointed because at the end he seemed like he was just going to keep you hanging. But then in the final chapter he explained why he ended it the way he did. So there will be a continuance to the story and I will so be looking forward to it. He saved himself on that one. I was ready to lay into him about ending it like that.
I hope it won’t be long before he writes the sequel to Cross My Heart. I hate to be left hanging and having to wait. I found it to be a pretty interesting read. It’s definitely a good thriller with plenty of twists and turns and it leaves you wondering why this man wants Alex Cross so much. The plot thickens, and I can’t wait to read the continuance of it!
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou;
art by Alecos Papadatos ; color by Annie Di Donna
(Bloomsbury, 2009, 347 pages)
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Mathematics (online 4 ed.) had this to say about Bertrand Russell (1872–1970):
British philosopher, logician and writer on many subjects. He is remembered in mathematics as the author, with A. N. Whitehead, of Principia mathematica, published between 1910 and 1913 in three volumes, which set out to show that pure mathematics could all be derived from certain fundamental logical axioms. Although the attempt was not completely successful, the work was highly influential. He was also responsible for the discovery of Russell’s paradox.
This graphic novel is about the life of Bertrand Russell and his contributions to many fields. The book also offers a glimpse into the lives of other great mathematicians and logicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as Boole, Frege, Whitehead, Hilbert, Wittgenstein, Turing, and Von Neumann. If you are a librarian, you should know Boole (Boolean operator) and Turing (father of computer science and artificial intelligence) 🙂
Not having studied philosophy in college, I had a hard time comprehending the comments on Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Still, the interesting content and beautiful drawings made the book fun and stimulating. I enjoyed the brief coverage on the two World Wars as well. Russell was imprisoned and fined because of his anti-war activities. I’m interested in finding out more about that. If you are interested in history of mathematics and logic, this is the book for you.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
(Vertigo, 2005, 288 pages)
I’ve been intending to read some graphic novels for a while now, and I decided to start with Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. I remember enjoying the movie when it came out, and since the graphic novel is considered a classic of the genre, I thought it would be a good place to start. Originally published in the early 1980s, the story is set in the late 1990s. England is now a totalitarian state that has been purged of minority groups. Literature, music, and film have been effectively stamped out. Only a vigilante in a Guy Fawkes mask provides a voice of protest against these atrocities. Himself a mysterious victim of medical experimentation, V is either a terrorist or a symbol of justice and resistance. He is committed to beauty, truth, and freedom, but he strikes a blow for these by creating chaos and causing destruction. In addition to creating a chilling depiction of a fascist dictatorship, V for Vendetta effectively raises questions about the nature of freedom, the limits of authority, and the lengths to which resistors should go in in their protests.
I really enjoyed this book. I think that, more than anything, Moore and Lloyd created a really iconic symbol of political resistance (not to mention insanity and genius) in V. However, I do have to admit to having a little bit of trouble getting into the flow of the graphic novel format. At times, the panels and balloon wording feel too much like storyboards for a film, and therefore, if feels like reading something that is as yet incomplete. Actually, it strikes me that this might be a weakness for a lot of graphic novels, especially those like V for Vendetta which contain lots of action and movement – that is, they are too derivative of the tropes and techniques of films. A story that uses the techniques of film is going to be better portrayed on film than on the page. Despite a the protests over the movie of V for Vendetta by people who loved the graphic novel, I think that it was ultimately a better movie than a graphic novel. That being said, it was very enjoyable, and I would recommend it to those who like the novels of George Orwell or Aldous Huxley.
Athanasius by Peter J. Leithart
(Baker Academic, 2011, 224 pages)
This is the first book in the Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality series. This series is a meeting of historical and biblical theology, attempting to apply the insights of patristic biblical exegesis to issues in contemporary theology. Each book deals with the exegetical method of a particular church father and brings that figure into conversation with contemporary theologians.
Athanasius was a fourth century bishop of Alexandria. He was a defender of the doctrines concerning the full deity of Christ and the nature of the Trinity forged at the First Council of Nicaea. Most of his writings are polemical works against the Arians, detractors from Nicaea’s pronouncements. Peter Leithart provides a careful and comprehensive reading of Athanasius’ works. Athanasius is often accused of forcing Greek metaphysical concepts into the debates regarding Christ’s divinity and Trinitarian doctrine. Instead of allowing Scripture to speak for itself, he injected Greek terminology and philosophical ideas in order to advance his particular ecclesiastical agenda. Leithart, however, makes the case that Athanasius’ concepts of God are firmly rooted in biblical theology, although he employs interpretive methods that are foreign to modern readers. Yes, Athanasius made use of technical philosophical terms, but he did so only in so far as they served to elucidate his understanding of the narrative flow of Scripture. In doing so, Athanasius offers what Leithart describes as an “evangelization of metaphysics.” It is not philosophy that controls his reading of Scripture, but Scripture which transforms his understanding of philosophy.
Leithart effectively brings his reading of Athanasius to bear on current debates about the doctrine of God, the Trinity, Christology, and the distinction between nature and grace. He shows that Athanasius’ interpretive approach to Scripture is radically Christocentric, and he effectively shows how the thinking of this fourth century figure is important for contemporary theologians. This is a challenging book, and it requires careful attention to extended analyses of the nuances of Athanasius’ interpretive methods. This sort of rigor is all the more important considering the revived popularity of patristic and other “pre-modern” approaches to Scripture. It can be easy for those who advocate such approaches to take a romantic view of pre-modern interpreters, offering characterizations of their methods instead of sustained engagement with their actual writings. Leithart avoids this mistake. This was an excellent first entry for this series, and I’m excited to read the next installment (St Vincent of Lerins and the Development of Doctrine by Thomas G. Guarino).
Fever by Mary Beth Keane
(Scribner, 2013, 306 pages)
You’ve surely heard the name “Typhoid Mary,” but you probably don’t know the story behind it. Keane’s book is a fictional recreation of the life of Mary Mallon (AKA Typhoid Mary). An Irish immigrant, Mary lived in New York City where she worked as a cook for numerous respectable families and “lived in sin” with her partner, Alfred Briehof. Sickness was everywhere in the late 19th and early 20th centuries so Mary didn’t take much notice when some of the family members she cooked for became sick with fever and died. But just because she wasn’t taking notice didn’t mean someone else wasn’t.
Dr. Soper of the New York Department of Health launched an investigation with Mary Mallon at the center. He was convinced she was spreading Typhoid to individuals through her cooking. He arrested her and had her isolated on North Brother Island, an island north of the city that housed diseased individuals. Mary couldn’t understand how it was possible that she’d been getting people sick when she felt perfectly fine. Regularly examined and forced to offer various bodily samples Mary felt that she was intentionally being left in the dark. When she was finally released it was with the understanding that she would never cook for hire again and that she would agree to regular check-ins at the Department of Health. Cooking was Mary’s life. The other work she tried to perform didn’t give her any sort of satisfaction and eventually she chose to ignore the guidelines she’d agreed to upon her release.
Mary has been identified as the first person in America to be a healthy carrier of Typhoid fever. This novel immediately grabbed me and I finished it in just a few days. Keane’s writing style is accessible and I just wanted to see what would happen – especially since I didn’t know anything about “Typhoid Mary” beyond that name. Keane did a great job depicting life in New York City during Mary’s time there and she made you care about her and understand what it must have been like to be in Mary’s position.
If you enjoy historical fiction, especially set in early 20th century America, and/or just appreciate a well told story I think you’ll enjoy this book.
Murder of a Sweet Old Lady by Denise Swanson
(Signet, 2001, 272 pages)
Murder of a Sweet Old Lady is the second book in the Scumble River Mystery series by Denise Swanson. Skye Denison, school psychologist, returns to help solve another murder mystery. In this novel, Skye finds her elderly Grandmother Leofanti dead in her own bed and her grandmother’s caretaker is missing. Since Grandmother Leofanti had just been given a clean bill of health, Skye thinks that her grandmother might not have died of natural causes. Over the protests of the rest of Skye’s family, an autopsy is performed. It turns out that Skye is right. Grandmother Leofanti was poisoned and it appears that a family member may be responsible.
Murder of a Sweet Old Lady will keep you guessing. There are lots of potential suspects. There are several clues and some red herrings. For good measure, there is also a dose of romance. If you like light murder mysteries, you might want to give this book or this series a try.