Bookpile: February 2011

*The Age of Innocence – Left me feeling much the same way The Great Gatsby did – unsatisfied and annoyed. It started off so promisingly, fell into shallow and ridiculous characters and in the end, Newland was an unspeakable coward. I could cheer for him to break his engagement and follow his heart, but not gonna do it after he marries May. Am I supposed to? Am I supposed to pine and feel sorry for him in his self-imposed misery as he “loves” from afar? Because I’m not sure he really grasps the concept. And I suppose he was an unspeakable coward from the beginning given that he would think that the rules of society were ridiculous but he never, ever, ever acted on that “belief.” And outside of Newland, who was fairly shallow, none of the other characters had much life. May was a blank even more bound by convention than Newland and Ellen a puzzle. Bah. (Link goes to the free Kindle e-book I read.)

*Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Amazing how much of this book seeps into the common vernacular. I’ve always known that 42 was the answer. The question cracked me up. Not entirely sure just why this never made it to the top of the list to read.

Science fiction version of Pratchett sans footnotes would be my quick take. And I love Pratchett. The complete absurd is normal (mice are running the Earth as a huge experiment) and there are always a few characters who act consistently odd and yet are the most normal part of the entire story. The ending was less than satisfactory, but I think that was mostly due to the fact that the copy I was reading had a 92-page special section on the making of the movie. So I was expecting more book and it just ended. Wasn’t ready for it.

Pottery Barn Kids: Kids’ Rooms
The New Smart Approach to Kids’ Rooms
Children’s Rooms
More research for my new project. Apparently the last book is so old you can’t get it at Amazon. I thought you could get everything at Amazon. Mostly just looked through at the pictures for ideas. After a while, these books are all telling you the same thing, so if you’re looking for books like this, definitely pick for the pictures. Or pick different books than these that will give you specific projects to do if you need more than inspiration. (The Pottery Barn one does give you projects in each section.)

Armed and Female – This is the old version which came out in 1993. And it shows because every statistic is from the late 80s. Making it 20 out-of-date. But still a good read. And when I went to look for it on Amazon, I see she has what looks like an updated version that came out last year.

The statistics are old and we feel much safer now than back then. (I remember the late 80s. I wonder if the stats back up our feelings.) But many of the stories and what’s really anecdotal evidence is still useful and interesting. And no matter what the crime stats, the reality is that a handgun can be the difference between being a victim and a victor. (Yes, we picked this up because we’re looking at getting me a gun. Without Plaid to protect me anymore, it seems a sensible thing.)

* We Were The Mulvaneys – Ugh. Glad the library had this one and I didn’t have to spend money on it. Don’t get me wrong; Oates is a fine writer. But she danced around the crux of the story for the first 125 pages – even though I was perfectly capable of figuring out where she was going – and then drug us through their pain toward … what? Not a happy ending exactly. These are people with incredible scars who will always be just short of recovery even though they’re trying. Not saying it’s not a valid story, just not one I would choose to read. I seem to prefer fast-paced and definite conclusions, so this one just wasn’t for me. And it was so-o-o long.

* Just So Stories – I’d always heard this title, knew it was Kipling, knew it was short stories. But it wasn’t at all what I expected. These are African folk tales – the kind of story that explains why the world is the way it is. We learn why the rhino is so wrinkly and the leopard has spots and the elephant has a trunk. Each story is short and might make for good bedtime reading. I got the free Kindle version, which meant I had it on my phone and could read stories here and there as I had time. Not going to be my favorites, but I’m glad I’ve read them now.

* The Phantom Tollbooth – How did I miss this one as a kid? I know I’ve seen the movie, although I’m pretty sure that was as an adult even. This one is totally up my alley. And if you like Willy Wonka or Dr. Seuss, you’ll like this one too. A moral lesson cleverly packaged up as an adventure tale. (The way the places are named actually makes me think of Pilgrim’s Progress. Huh.) Underlying message is that we must constantly battle the demons that live in Ignorance or we’ll end up there as well. Much better to live in the kingdom of Wisdom, ruled by Rhyme and Reason. (I particularly like Reason, of course.) It’s a condemnation of every time a child whines, “I’m bored.” And that is even more relevant today. I’d think this would be a good read-aloud book or read at the same time book because of the discussions it could spark.

(Side note: Juster also wrote The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, which I never knew was ever a book. It was one of my mom’s favorite cartoons. That woman really did love math.)

* – Denotes a 451 Challenge book