Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First, What are You Reading? Volume 4, December 2010

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read?

I hope you'll consider sharing yours on your blog and/or sharing yours here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I am re-reading two of my favorite books for kids this week in preparation for two books groups happening late this week and early next week.

First, The Ruins of Gorlan, the first book in John Flanagan's rollicking adventure series about a young "apprentice" to an ranger (a kind of spy/police force in the medieval-like fantasy world).  I'm reading that again for the mother-daughter book group my (almost) teenaged daughter and I attend monthly.

Second, The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden, truly one of Godden's finest children's novels.  That is hard for me to even write, considering she wrote so many wonderful novels for children.  

What do you like best about them?

What is not to like about the Ranger's Apprentice series?  I don't know if John Flanagan is Catholic or not, but he's really on the side of the angels as far as promoting virtues like honesty, hard work, perseverance and excellence.  But mostly, they are just fantastic stories, fast-paced and good, clean fun.  The violence is not overwhelming (though a bit dramatic for younger ears--we've saved some of the later books for our 7-year-old to read when he's a bit older).  Until recently, we were able to get the latest Ranger's Apprentice book earlier than the US market, as I had a grown-up nephew living in Australia, who would send us the latest release.  But he moved back recently, and now we'll have to wait with the rest of the country to read The Emporer of Nihon-Ja, 10th book in the series, due out in April.

The Kitchen Madonna, in a handsome new reprint by Bethlehem Books (hooray Bethlehem Books!  what a fantastic publisher), is about an English brother and sister who make a "kitchen Madonna" icon for their beloved but homesick cook.  Godden tells wonderful stories; I pretty much love everything she wrote. 

What do you like least about them?

This is a very minor gripe about the Ranger's Apprentice series.  Frankly, I'm not sure if I'm projecting this onto the series since I learned that John Flanagan was a television sit-com writer years before starting the Ranger's Apprentice series.   I have noticed from time to time a little bit of a "movie or tv" feel to them.  For instance, the banter between characters occasionally--very occasionally--can strike me as something from a buddy adventure movie or sit-com.

All of Rumer Godden's books are tinged with melancholy, certain books painfully so--I'm thinking The Doll's House or Gypsy Girl.  That's not really what I like least about her writing--Rumer Godden novels wouldn't be that without it, but it's still there and can leave an ache.

What are you reading next?

I am in earnest about trying to re-read Anthony Trollope, one of my favorite authors, but I just can't seem to carve out the time, even as I would put the paperbacks of The Warden or Can You Forgive Her? on my bedside table.   There they sit, forlorn and dejected, as I have so many other reading responsibilities, a reproach to all my good intentions.

I don't own a Kindle, but our family owns an iPad purchased several months ago at a discount from one of my sisters who got one of the first iPads and decided she didn't want it.    Thank you, dear sister!  I really enjoy it, especially when I can wrestle it away from my children playing "Angry Birds" or "Bejeweled Blitz." (Yes, we don't just read at our house).  I like it for various Apps, chiefly my all-time favorite App, Universalis, for the Liturgy of the Hours.   But I also downloaded some time back the Kindle App for iPhone/iPad.    I decided to try to see if downloading some of Trollope's novels (easily found for free, can't beat the price) would make me more likely to read it.  So far, I'm well into Can You Forgive Her? first of the fantastic Pallister novels. Now if I can just get together an Anthony Trollope book group, I will be happy for the long winter ahead.  Any takers?


  1. Okay, I love it when it is "What are You Reading" time on TCP! While the kids were working on school this morning I finished War of the Bloods in my Veins by Dashaun Morris. I found it intriguing because my world is nothing like his, yet his humanity was very clear. He was a gang leader for the Bloods, and I saw him in an appearance in a documentary about Newark, NJ called Brick City. I have a hard time understanding the poverty and abandonment so many children face. That is just not my world experience, so it was moving to my heart. I actually didn't like how little he went into some details of his life events. I think it could have been longer and better. There is a lot of cussing in it as he relates conversations. I was joking that I am going to start talking ebonics. I'll say, "Where my homee at?" to my kids. They know they're my homees. One interesting thing: A lot of times when speaking they would omit the letter C and replace it with a B as a sort of way of disrespecting the Crips. So, "be bool" would be said instead of "be cool".

    I have another book I'm trying to decide if it is worth finishing or not called Death in Slow Motion by Eleanor Cooney about a woman whose mother has dementia. It is a memoir, and I have little tolerance for whiny memoirists.

  2. More for my list... as if I need more!

    I'm not familiar with Death in Slow Motion, but a great "kind of" memoir about dementia is "The Forgetting." It was by a Wall Street Journal reporter (his name escapes me) and was excellent, sensitive reporting and experiences.