Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 books

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and EatConsider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. I was caught off guard by how much I liked this book. Jeremy read it before me, and mentioned skimming over the less interesting parts. By the time I was reading the book, I was asking him, "WHAT less interesting parts??" It is ALL interesting, at least if you a) spend time in the kitchen and b) have ever wondered about the history of cooking and the tools we use to do it.

To get a feel for whether you might be interested in this book, you can read this article by Megan McArdle from a few years ago (and watch the video), or read this short article by the author of this book. Or, if you've ever read and enjoyed anything by Bill Bryson (particularly At Home: A Short History of Private Life or A Short History of Nearly Everything). Just know that this book is not as witty, but just as interesting.

Highly recommended!

The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2)The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I got quite a way through this before declaring it a DNF. This is book two in a series. As I was reading book one, I wondered if I was enjoying it because of the characters, or because of the unique setting. Book two has the same characters in a completely different setting, and it was meh to me. So it turns out I loved the setting of book one, the characters not so much.

I might come back to this book and finish it someday, but today is not that day.

EdenbrookeEdenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading (and hating) a book like Definitely Not Mr. Darcy made me appreciate what a GEM this book is. It's set in the Regency period, but the author isn't constantly referring to oddities about the time period or stretching to use unnaturally authentic (you know what I mean) language. I'm sure it's not perfectly historically accurate, but it is absolutely true to the feel of the period.

It's also clear that the author loves and is very familiar with Jane Austen, etc. There were a few turns of phrase that reminded me of her - for example, when someone speaks of someone else not being "at their level" - flashback to Mr. Elton from Emma, for sure.

It was such a treat to read a genuine, romantic-yet-not-sappy story. Well done!

Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in AuschwitzSurviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I dearly wish my adolescent self could have read this book. I was very interested in WWII as a kid and I read anything I could get my hands on, which meant that sometimes I read stuff that was way above my level. This book is written for a YA audience and it somehow manages to tell a truly harrowing story - about horrible things that happened to a CHILD, which is especially affecting - in a completely YA-appropriate way.

I was worried that I would be haunted by what happens in this book, but instead I come away from it with a new appreciation for the strength, tenacity, ingenuity, and survival instincts of children. This is a very unique story told in just the right way. I will have my kids read this when they get a little older. If I were homeschooling, I think I would include it in any WWII curriculum for ages 10+. Younger, maybe, if you read it to/with them.

Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant IslamGuests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second reading, April 2013: Still one of my all-time non-fiction favorites. (Review of first reading.)

(And now is as good a time as any to share this relevant clip of The Simpsons. Read the English transcript and enjoy the video in Spanish since I couldn't find the original.)

Lark (Lark #1)Lark by Erica Cope

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book wasn't aggressively bad, it was just not good, in a sloppy way. I think it could have been redeemed by being put through a few more drafts. The age of one character changes from one page to the next; some things happen that seem to be important but they're never discussed again; and, most egregiously, two characters who I thought were the same person turned out, in the final few pages, to be different people. This was not a purposeful surprise of the book and I still wonder if it was some kind of mistake. The characterizations of anyone aside from the central character are very weak, to the point where, when we left one of them (Grey) for a few chapters, and then came back to him, I couldn't really remember anything about him.

Lark is the kind of book that some people probably think ALL YA lit is like. But that's not true. A lot of it is much, much better than this.

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