Monday, June 30, 2008

July 2008 Theme Read

Well, I've decided that every few months I will try to do a Theme Read. July's theme?

That's right. I've always had this fascination with/respect for nuns. Medieval nuns. Renaissance nuns. Modern nuns. Singing Nuns. And yes, I suppose even Flying Nuns. I'm not Catholic, but the cloistered life has always intrigued me. Evidence of this fascination is plentiful on my bookshelf of unread books. Most of the selections for the month are from there. Two out of the three library books I checked out today are nun-related (unintentional!)

So here's the list (keep in mind I have about 7 other books (un-nun-related) going). The genres vary wildly:

Aimée & David Thurlo, Bad Faith (A Sister Agatha Mystery) (2002); mystery
Deborah Larsen, The Tulip & The Pope: A Nun's Story (2005); memoir, non-fiction
Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (2004); memoir, non-fiction
Mark Salzman, Lying Awake (2000); fiction
Anne H. King-Lenzmeier, Hildegard of Bingen: An Integrated Vision (2001); non-fiction
Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh, Women in the Vanishing Cloister: Organizational Decline in Catholic Religious Orders in the United States (1993); non-fiction

Saturday, June 21, 2008

50BC08: The Right Attitude to Rain

50 Book Challenge 2008 #14:

The Right Attitude to Rain: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries) The Right Attitude to Rain: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this third installment of the Isabel Dalhousie series, Alexander McCall Smith has done an admirable job of advancing the plot without being too redundant. For those unfamiliar with the series, but who have read the authors No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, Isabel Dalhousie is a far different protagonist than Mma Ramotswe. While both philosophers in their own right, Isabel's philsophies are academic and rooted in social modernity whereas Precious Ramotswe prides herself on simple wisdom in the face of changing tradition.

If you are expecting a whodunit-smoking-gun- mystery, you will be sorely disappointed. Instead, McCall Smith explores the mysteries of the human heart and psyche. Why do we do what we do? Why do we say what we say? We all have our own mysteries to investigate. I do think the "mystery" label is deceiving--at least for this particular book in the series.

Another warning: for those used to the sparkly clean morality of Mma Ramotswe and friends, this series is a little spicier--of the garlic variety, not the jalapeño variety (so for those of you who enjoy steamy sex scenes, don't hold your breath).

All-in-all, a fun read, although I found the plot moving so much more quickly than usual that I skimmed over some of Isabel's more philosophical moments, eager for the next plot point.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

50BC08 #13: Bellwether

Bellwether Bellwether by Connie Willis

rating: 3 of 5 stars
What do thirty sheep, a disheveled chaos theorist, and a statistician have in common? Everything, according to this very eccentric love story from Connie Willis.

I found myself waiting for "something" to happen, yet being interested enough in the characters not to put the book down. While a bit repetitive in driving home its chaos theory-related/serendipity-is-the-mother-of-invention points, the book is unique it is approach to romance running through the lines of scientific dialogue.

Willis creates vivid characters who border on the absurd, but not in a fictional way. The reader will laugh out loud in recognizing co-workers, friends, and probably even family members in the characters in the novel.

An unusual and fun reading experience recommended for scientists, animal lovers and everyone in between.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

50BC08 #12: God in Concord by Jane Langton

God in Concord (Homer Kelly Mystery) God in Concord by Jane Langton

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane Langton's Homer Kelly is one part absent-minded professor, one part Doctor Who (sans time travel) and one part...well, Homer Kelly. Suffering from JFS (Jessica Fletcher Syndrome), mystery and death seem to "sniff out" Homer, rather than the other way around.

The story is not just merely about scenic suburban life and the petty trifles of its inhabitants. That provides the narrative façade for an astute commentary regarding the politics of development/city planning, environmentalism and the dangers/benefits of nostalgia.

Langton's characters are vividly multi-dimensional, torn in their allegiances by both heart and mind. The author asks the reader not to pass immediate judgment, suggesting that the potential for villainy resides within us as well, under the right set of circumstances.

I think this is one of Langton's better books in the series. Highly recommended for Thoreau buffs and those readers familiar with Boston/Concord, Massachusetts.