What I Read: November

I determined to try and meet my 140 book goal despite my laziness previously. It helps that I got a lot of children’s illustrated Christmas books, lol. Obviously, that is not my ideal reading. I think they are excellent for relaxation from stress, but I’m not sure I would want to count them normally. Anyway, I read 21 books in November.

Children’s Christmas Books

The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot. I love James Herriot, but this is a tear-jerker, and probably too sad for the intended age (we’re a leetle, read “a lot,” sensitive about animals in this family).
Christmas in Williamsburg: 300 Years of Family Traditions by Karen Kostyal. I was just not impressed by this, it seemed rather incoherent (although I was a bit out of it when I read it).
Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant. I got this because I remembered the silver packages from my childhood (which featured a lot of Cynthia Rylant books, my mom didn’t remember this one).
The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket. Boring and unfunny.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket. Adorable illustrations and concept, too bad about the tone.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. What on earth?
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco. My childhood featured several Patricia Polacco books, but I didn’t remember this one although my mom did. This one is bittersweet, featuring a couple separated during the Holocaust and reunited in old age, so caution for the sensitive.

Light Fiction

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Um, so I don’t get the craze about this although it was funny (I’m NOT a sci-fi person, so I probably missed a lot of the poking fun).

Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead. Um, quite a massive drop in quality from his Pendragon Cycle, and, I felt, in morality. I finished this one and started Scarlet which I eventually quit as it got worse. Bran’s no hero. Quite zero sum in a way that especially bothered me. Some very perverse, grotesque slaughters of animals and scare tactics (including horses, is this just an American thing to put horses on a higher plane? I guess I assumed it was British too, but maybe not for the time period, but its fantasy historical fiction). Unprovoked killing of men by “good” guys.

Mixed Magics: Four Tales of Chrestomanci. The first two of these I enjoyed far more than I think Charmed Life, they are delightfully funny and charming (precious Cat in the second one). The third is eh, the fourth a bit better (some funny shots at Greek gods).

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I remember this from childhood, and my scandalized feelings about the Herdmans (clearly, I was a bit Alice-like). We even watched a play version. I read this hilarious and heartwarming books very quickly in one day, and since I’ve discovered it was a series, I think I’d like to try more (since I need tons of light stuff to get through more serious reading).

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. This was such fun, except toward the end, I was hoping for something more upbeat, I’d preferred the Pinhoes to be more wholly good. Also, the power Chrestomanci has over his fellow magic people bothers me. There shouldn’t be one person with unilateral decision-making capacities. Particularly a person with magical abilities. I like Chrestomanci (Chrisopher Chant) himself, overall (athough I’d like him better if he felt he shouldn’t have that much power), but I don’t like the Chrestomanci position.

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Historical fiction, I was wondering how accurate this portrayal was, but it was written in the 1920’s, so she probably had access to people who were alive at the times about which she was writing, but still. I was rather annoyed by about every characters, but I did find the book interesting for a “light” read.

Literary Fiction

All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. I’d skimmed some of these stories as a child, but I didn’t remember anything to inspire me to pick them up quickly though I’d been meaning to do so. My mom borrowed a bunch of his works from the library, and when I worked a tedious job, I decided to get Playaways and got this one (narrated by Christopher Timothy). I was hooked right off. Little me clearly didn’t understand/appreciate British humor. I decided I wanted to try to read the second and quickly realized, no, I must listen, so I borrowed the second audio version. These are gems. The humor, the detail, the learning, the homeyness, the characters plus the narrator-actor’s brilliant reading and accents bring it quite alive. If blood and guts grosses you out, this isn’t for you. An be wary animal-lovers, there are some hard stories. I almost thought I couldn’t make it through a few.

So Big by Edna Ferber. When I read A Lantern in Her Hand, I was reminded of this. So many of the same irritations. Rather depressing and yet at the same time rather fanciful. I know Ferber would’ve or could’ve known people like this, but it still had the sort of “poor hardworking hopeless people” attitude that someone who isn’t in that sphere uses. I definitely prefer Berry’s outlook toward farming even as I realize he usually has more more recent, more potentially prosperous (in soil and access geographically to other things) settings, and even as fanciful I think his outlook can be; he gives dignity not despair and pointlessness.

Merlin by Stephen R. Lawhead. I enjoyed this one more than Taliesin. The feel is strikingly different. It’s also darker. I’ve thought a lot about bad content and tone toward content, but I guess didn’t think about emotions. I’m on Arthur now and started thinking about all the palpable hate. There are few acts of violence described, but not usually too graphically, and they fit with the historical (Saxon invasions) setting. The main characters are usually distinctly “good” characters in this series, but they are surrounded by so much hatred. It’s chilling and depressing, especially since the author is writing fantasy historical fiction. Much of what he writes rings similar to Sutcliff books, except darker; he’s done his research. Just bear all this in mind as it can be emotionally daunting or depressing. Thus far, I think it is definitely worth a read.

Popular Nonfiction

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. I don’t agree with his philosophy, but I do think there are things I could learn, so I might re-read.

Accounting 101: From Calculating Revenues and Profits to Determining Assets and Liabilities, an Essential Guide to Accounting Basics by Michele Cagan. I’m planning on taking the accounting CLEP, so this was for that. It was written for prospective entrepreneurs and written to people who don’t know much about business, so I’m not sure how helpful it was for me. The writing seemed a bit, informal?

Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson. A lot of this I’d heard before, but it puts ALL the aspects of sleep together along with tons of science plus stuff I’d not heard plus tips. All very organized (unlike the above sentence). I want to buy this.

Scholarly Nonfiction

Infectious Disease: A Very Short Introduction by Marta L. Wayne and Benjamin M. Bolker. I’m rather a germaphobe, so I like to know. Actually, I find epidemiology fascinating and it’s on my list of prospective majors (for when I’m rich and can just keep going to school for everything I find interesting). This had some very interesting information on the mathematics and statistics involved in tracking disease which is something I’d never heard or thought of, rather beyond me now, but definitely interesting. I’m interested in reading as many of these Very Short Introductions as I can (at least the more concrete ones, I’m not sure I could take the more abstract ones, like Consciousness and the like, I’ve little patience for that, but we’ll see how I like them), and have a whole batch to borrow next from the library.

 

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