Monday, July 30, 2007

Book Catch-up

Desperately needing to get away from non-fiction and food books, I picked up Andrea Camilleri's Sicilian murder mystery Excursion to Tindari in the guest bedroom of the siblings-in-law. It was a great read while waiting for the train and escaping from Economic Botany. Despite my stated desire of avoiding food books, I salivated at the detailed descriptions of the detective's meals and thought they added to the passions portrayed in the book. I was also pleasantly amused by the constant digs at the Italians. Altogether highly recommended for those who enjoy a character centered mysteries.

I bought my mother Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for her birthday. I then decided that, even though the book was for my mother, and I wasn't reading food books, I needed to read it before handing it over. After all, it isn't every day that one of my favorite novelists writes a book on my favorite subject. Like many such books, it dismayed me, "This is the book that I was supposed to write," yet I still very highly recommend it. It will receive a complete review and discussion of ideas here one of these times.

While still in Canada, I scored a Canadian copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I read it completely as a fan and not a critic, and, not surprisingly, adored it. I was actually overall very impressed with some characters ended, and look forward to discussing with other fans. The Canadian, lay-out, by the way, is not as nice as the American.

Last week I hit the library looking for the two of the seven Harry Potter books I don't own so I could sit down to a true H.P. marathon. Instead of H.P., I decided to pick some featured unheard-of-by-me new novels. From the juvenile fiction section, I pulled Before the Lark by Irene Bennet Brown. The heroine is a 12-year-old in Kansas City with a harelip who decides to take on farming in Kansas in 1888. Despite a conclusion that is far too tidy, I enjoyed it and would lightly recommend it for Prairie Quilter, Sunflower Spinner, Lindsey, and others who liked young-adult prairie fiction. If you happen to read it and find the same version I had, do not be turned off by the glaring error in the book jacket: "It is 1888, and Kansas, just to the north of them, is still pioneer country" (my emphasis). The author's geography is very detailed (and they clearly head west from Kansas City), and given that I felt a flaw of the book was how much the author wanted to inform readers, including characters thrown in just to inform about immigration or Kaw people or cleft-palate surgery, I assume the glaring error is from someone at the publishing house.

In the adult section I found Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. Like most good historical fiction, this book left me feeling completely ignorant and amazed. I began the book knowing absolutely nothing about the Mughal Empire. Upon completion, I looked up a few characters (on wikipedia, of course) and found that the characters were real people and the major events have been well-recorded. I know more for having read the book, and I want to know more: Sundaresan was definitely successful. Given an outline of recorded history, the story is the motivation: how and why these characters behaved this way. I think it is here that Sundaresan shines. She did make the characters believable with plausible motivations for irrational acts. The book is not perfect-- something is amiss with the pacing, and there is an issue that the hero and heroine are not particularly sympathetic. Still I would highly recommend it for Moonbeam, Janet, Sunflower Spinner and those fond of novels like The Red Tent. If I owned my own copy I would give it to my seattle-sister-in-law for her birthday.


Maria said...

I've enjoyed all of the Camillieri mysteries so far -- the author was apparently a professor of drama in Sicily before turning to mystery-writing, so perhaps that's where he gets his fine sense for creating intriguing characters.

And though you may not be reading any food books now, I thought you might be interested in the following websit, based on "The One-Hundred Mile Diet" book:

You're almost close enough to PIttsburgh to be able to remain a locavore and still enjoy one of these:

janet said...

very nice book reviews. you have been doing a lot of reading! why aren´t you on goodreads with me??? (

Irene said...

Now that you're back home, you should give me a call sometime and we can discuss Harry Potter and Barbara Kingsolver to our hearts' content. It took immense self-control to avoid telling my husband all about #7 and how it ended.

The Prairie Quilter said...

Sounds like some good books. I will look for them when I get to the library.