Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What I Have Been Reading

Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane. This e-book was a pleasant surprise to me. It is a deep and thoughtful exploration of Austen's novels and values through her use of food in her books. I have not read a critical study of Austen in years, sad to say. I really enjoyed this book and it has made me want to re-read, for the sixth or more time, Austen with a new view. I particularly enjoyed her chapters on Mansfield Park and Emma. The Kindle edition is $2.99.

Jackson by Max Brand was an e-book that I have mixed feelings about. It was a bit confusing at the beginning with jumps between time and viewpoint. We learn about Andrew Jackson from the view of a writer who is researching Jackson during his presidential campaign. The information seemed to be mostly accurate. I have an award winning biography of Jackson, so I plan on reading it soon for comparison. Brand points out that everything we know about modern presidential politics started back in the early 1800s. The reader is informed on all the 'new' ideas from that time, like snipers and the use of "OK".

There are some great lines.
"People believe what they read, " Emma said from the door..."It is the most depressing fact in the modern world."
"Jackson is the price you pay for having Jefferson." (Allowing a true democratic process means the people will choose who they will.)

The authorial voice is quite present throughout the book, and his political thoughts are quite evident.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin was a Christmas 2013 gift, and I have been reading at it for a year! I loved Goodwin's book "No Ordinary Time on Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt". Her portrayal of Lincoln leaves me so impressed with the man and the leader. Why have I not finished it? Well, perhaps because I read a chapter and want to ruminate on it. And then the Civil War came and I am not so interested in war. I mean, I skipped all the War in "War and Peace" when I read it at age 19! But I am 200 pages from the end. I expect I will finish it before summer, lol.

The Donzerly Light by Ryne Douglas Pearson was a light read which I enjoyed, especially after a slow beginning. This e-book was the first novel by the author, and it was rejected. After his success as a screen writer (Mercury Rising) he decided to publish this book, which he always liked. The supernatural story is about a 1990s Wall Street wannabe who is given the power to know what stocks to buy, guaranteeing a quick rise to success. He loses his self, his girl, and finally everything else when his power turns dark. Sometimes this felt like a morality tale, sometime like Faust, a bit of the Gothic and mystery genre, it is hard to categorize. I quite enjoyed it.

Other books I have not blogged about which I read in the last months include:

Flourtown by S. G. Redling, an ecological/dystopia story about a community isolated from the world after a accident exposes them to a toxin that is transmittable. The people are sick and dying, trapped in a guarded enclosed city. It was an enjoyable conspiracy thriller.

I Am Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson, horror/sci-fi classics which I enjoyed. The Shrinking Man 1950s movie gave me nightmares when I was a girl!

An Unfinished Season by Ward Just, which I thought very good. Set in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young man's learning about the world and the experiences that determine his future.

Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook was the basis of the movie by the same name...I liked the movie better.

Honolulu by Alan Brennert  traces the forty year journey of a woman who escapes Korea in 1914 as a picture bride only to find life in Hawaii is hard and sometimes cruel. I loved the character and enjoyed learning about this time and place in history. I look forward to reading more books by Brennert.

I read most of Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks but lost interest. His 700 page book is the story of John Brown and his sons from the perspective of the only surviving Brown son. I did not like some of the characters, felt bogged down at times, and after reading a rather gory scene I decided I really did not want to read about Harper's Ferry and the slaughter. What I did learn is that extremism and terrorism have always gone together. The e-book has a lot of errors.

We have had record snow here, and it has been a continual process of digging out the mailbox...