Tuesday, August 30, 2011

summer reads

Not a very thoughtful selection this quarter, being busy with the g'kid visits as I was. All but the first two and the last two I got from my daughter, who like her father is a voracious reader, while trading one kid for another.

Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear – science fiction tale about a dying earth that sends ships out to colonize new planets. This is the story of one ship. The ships are mechanical and organic both at the same time and the people are in some sort of state of suspended animation except that there are no bodies stored. When they get to their destination, or close, the bodies will be born and will have to grow up. In the meantime, the 'ids' live in Dreamtime. The story starts when a Teacher falls out of a cocoon fully formed, is pulled to safety by a girl and told to run, to chase the heat. His memory comes slowly and we eventually learn that the Ship is sick. The rest of the story is about the other 'people' he encounters and what they learn about their past, what happened to the Ship and what they try to do about it. It was pretty good. A different take on a much used theme of colonization.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - This one gave me weird and disturbing dreams. The central character, Anna, is 19 in Nazi Germany. She falls in love with a jew and hides him until he is discovered and sent to Buchenwald, the labor camp outside the town. She turns up pregnant and leaves home to avoid being married off to a high ranking Nazi. Anna is taken in by a local baker who is part of the underground and who is eventually caught and killed. Anna continues the bakery and the underground work they were doing (feeding the inmates secretly) until she is found out by the camp commander who makes her his mistress, a trade which saves her and her toddler daughter's lives. The allies liberate Germany, she marries an American soldier and leaves her old life behind, refusing to talk about her past with her now grown daughter who is haunted by a picture she found, a family portrait of sorts of her mother, herself as a small child and a Nazi soldier whom she has dim memories of. The daughter, Trudy (I think) inadvertently learns the truth, or part of it anyway, through her own academic pursuits. The central character remains Anna though and you see the events of her life unfolding through her eyes. A complicated tale.

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus – This is supposed to be a funny book but mostly I found it to be sad, a sad statement about how rich people treat their kids when they can be bothered to deal with them at all.

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky - stupid. It is, of course, about teen pregnancy but I really think she could have come up with a better title. This book was published last year and takes place in modern times and although the setting is a small company town in Maine, I find the reactions of the town to be completely unlikely. The backstory of the main character: a single, never married mom who accidentally got pregnant at 17, disowned by her mid-western family, moved east and started life anew becoming the principal of the high school. Four high achiever 17 yr old best friends make a pact to get pregnant. Three of them succeed, one of which is the daughter of the high school principal. The characters work their way through shock, anger and reconciliation while the school board conducts a witch hunt.

A Woman Betrayed by Barbara Delinsky - OK, I think I get it now. She writes romance novels that are light on the steamy sex part. This one was about a woman who thinks she has the perfect marriage, the perfect life with a successful husband and her own successful restaurant and catering business. One day her husband fails to come home from work. Turns out he was embezzling money from the IRS and he had a mistress. The black sheep of the family, her brother-in-law and the man she loved first, comes to help her pick up the pieces.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – got this one from my daughter (as well as the three previous). Historical fiction about the life of the Boleyns at King Henry VIII's court as seen through the eyes of Mary Boleyn, lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine and sister to Anne Boleyn who becomes Henry's second queen. A very good and well told tale. I enjoyed this one a lot.

The Footprints Of God by Greg Iles – not really sci-fi but it's about artificial intelligence. Or rather about machine consciousness. A team of nobel laureates is put together to develop the next generation of computers, the self-aware conscious one, the AI, all on the hush hush for the NSA. They finally succeed (a lot of quantum physics and super MRI stuff) and it becomes, of course, a total dictator that punishes swiftly and mightily. One of the scientists starts having visions about consciousness after his brain scan which eventually lead to how to deal with the all powerful all knowing entity that brings all the worst parts of being human to bear. Some interesting concepts.

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory – This one was about Queen Mary who inherited the throne after her younger brother Edward died at 15. She became known as 'Bloody Mary' for bringing catholicism back to England and the Inquisition along with it. But that's not really what the book is about. It's about a young hidden-jewish girl whose mother was burned at the stake in Spain, her arrival in England with her father to begin a new life, her betrothal to a young (also hidden) Jewish man. And she has visions which brings her to the attention of the English Court. The book is about her life in the court of Edward and Mary and Princess Elizabeth, her eventual marriage and subsequent life.

The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory – Queen Elizabeth finally takes the throne of England. This story is centered around her first year or so and her love affair with the (married) Sir Robert Dudley.

Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner – This is about the pursuit of love and happiness by a 'larger' woman. Cannie breaks up with her boyfriend of three years and regrets it after discovering too late how much he really loved her, even though her best friend reminds her that she broke up with him for very good reasons. In a failed attempt to win him back she inadvertently ends up pregnant. A very good read, not fluffy.

Still Life With Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – another Special Agent Pendergast novel. Pendergast arrives in a blink of a town in Kansas after a particularly gruesome and creepy murder. He hires the local 'bad girl' to assist him in his investigation. More murder and mayhem follow before the final confrontation. Another good read by this duo.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls – this is a 'true-life novel' about the life of the author's grandmother. I enjoyed The Glass Castle, Wall's own story of growing up the daughter of her drifter parents so when I saw this one in the library, I picked it up. It's a well told tale of a pretty remarkable woman who grew up and lived from west Texas to Arizona homesteading and ranching and teaching in remote communities. By age six she was helping her father break horses and at fifteen she left home to teach in a frontier town traveling the 500 miles alone on her pony. And that was just the start of her life.


  1. Jeesh Ellen - you only managed a measly 13 books with your g'kids around this summer? Slacker!

    I kid, I kid. Great picks. I read a lot of vacation, but I might have to get a few of yours for the fall. It is awfully quiet around here now.

  2. Nice selection - although I see you got caught up in the Tudors there! have seen that series of books over here and wondered f they were worth pursueing - will give them a go but at the moment have a pile about two feet to through! Fell abit this month ...

  3. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
    This sounds like a good read, and I think I'll pick it up.
    The Tudor books were fun to read and so easy to get caught up in.

  4. Interesting list. I like Barbara Delinksy sometimes - I think she writes well, but I don't always care about the story.

    You've created a monster - I'm on the NINTH Pendergast novel. I decided to read them in order. Crazy!

  5. I read the Nannie Diaries and I found it sad as well
    I thought the movie was sad too

  6. Some of them are known over here, but I probably wouldn't read them. If I want light stuff, i read thrillers; otherwise my reading material is a bit more literary or non-fiction.

    Having said that, I don't read nearly enough at the moment, my pile is about 50-60 unread books strong now.

    Winter coming, perhaps I'll have more time.
    Damn blogging!

  7. You are way a head of me, I barely get through the paper on Sunday most weeks od summer. I delve down more in the winter.I like the first one and of course any historical fiction.

  8. I loved Half Broke Horses!!

    I have not read this one by Greg Iles but have read many of his and each were winners.

    Those Who Save Us is also good...very haunting.

  9. Interesting selection Ellen. I was intending to get "Those Who Save Us" - but would prefer to avoid disturbing dreams.

    Saw the movie "The Other Bolyn Girl" with Scarlett Johannsen and Natalie Portman - it was good.

    I just finished reading "fathermothergod" by Lucia Greenhouse about a woman being raised in a Christian Science family and her mother's horrifying, unattended death. Guess if I didn't get bad dreams with this one, I won't with Those Who Save Us.

    Thanks Ellen!


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