Monday, February 19, 2007

Fast Reads

I must have a little bit of a restless nature lately as the last three books have been short and easy to read. But I had a great time reading them and it was a great way to spend this holiday weekend.

I found the first book,Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy, as I read a recent blog at Semicolon. They had been doing a study of the Middle East and as I was reading the memoir of Queen Noor I was intrigued. I had to get the book via an inter-library loan but it was worth it. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is a retelling of an Iraqi folktale from the 11th century. A poor merchant in Baghdad is the father of 7 daughters, too poor to provide much more than a meager living while his brother, the father of 7 sons, lives the life of a wealthy merchant. Yet riches aren't always what they seem! Buran, the middle daughter, angry with her uncle for spurning her and her sisters convinces her father to agree to her dearest wish - to masquerade as a boy and travel afar off to learn the traders art. Before Buran's story is over she has "not only established the family's fortune," but has bested her uncle and cousins as well! It was truly enjoyable!

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainia by Marina Lewycka was the Book Group read for AbeBooks. Certainly not one I had heard about or would have been apt to pick up on my own, but I stretched a little and tried it. Again it was another cultural jump. This time to England where an elderly Ukrainian immigrant decides to marry a much younger woman - much to the dismay of his two daughters! I must admit that I had to give this book the 50 page rule but finally fell into it. I didn't love it the way that many in the group did but perhaps that's because I worry often about my parents as they are approaching their later years. What was seen as humorous tended to hit me harder and perhaps much more close to the heart. I did learn a lot about the immigrant saga and the history of the tractor as well as the Ukraine - a great plus.

The last book was a little gem. Written in 1943, Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes, is the family memoir of a Norwegian family in San Francisco in the early 1900's. Each chapter reflects the sweet caring of a clever and crafty mother. I found myself giggling and laughing at every chapter. This little book can be read in an evening and is a real trip back in time. In it I saw my own mom, and both of my grandmothers!! This book counts as one of my "classic" reads of the year because my "classic" definition was something over 50 years old!!

My library stock has now been whittled down to 6 and none look like fast reads - but more opportunities to adventure!! That feels like the perfect thing as I continue on Jury Duty. I had a good laugh this week when one juror asked if I really read all the books I bring with me!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Leap of Faith

Queen Noor has penned an educational and poignant biography of her marriage to King Hussein of Jordan in the book Leap of Faith; Memoirs of an Unexpected Life. I learn something new on each page - I am reading history through the eyes of an insider.

Born into prestige and privilege, Lisa Halaby met King Hussein as she was working abroad in Jordan. He was a recent widower and considered a most eligible bachelor. Their courtship was secret and ever so quick - a certain surprise to both of them. I have enjoyed her candor as well as the political history that she imparts. I never really knew or understood the history of Jordan, its people or much about the Muslim religion. It is a fascinating book and very readable. I must love biographies so much because I am nosey!

My pile of books to read is growing higher and higher. I brought home new titles from the library the other afternoon which only added to the current ones on the nightstand! Now Daniel Silva's The Messenger, Mama's Bank Account, Inkspell, Water for Elephants, A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine, and Silent in the Grave are all waiting patiently. Don't they all sound great?? To top it off I keep getting great recommendations from blogs, friends, and family. I have GOT to learn to multi-task while I read...

The weather here has been beautiful. One day I found myself picnicing at the park as even the ducks looked envious of what I was reading - probably what I was eating but I can imagine it differently!!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

NonFiction Buzz

I recently read a recommendation by Nancy Pearl (my library goddess) about a book called To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever; A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry by Will Blythe. She recommended it as a great nonfiction read .... very readable and spunky. Loving college basketball like I do I thought it would be a kick. Although it is definitely different than I expected I am really enjoying it. The writer has made it part memoir and part journalistic project or as he calls it, "written by the beast and by the journalist!" The rivalry is real and the author lives it himself, yet he maintains enough of a distance that he rather fairly exposes us to both sides of the ball! I am almost done --- good timing too. North Carolina recently whomped my team (U of Arizona) and now I am ready to pass the book on to a real North Carolina fan. I am usually a sporadic nonfiction reader but I have tried to really focus on this one and read it all the way through rather than mixing it in with my other fiction books. It seems to be working and I am finding the book easy to pick up and become involved in. It is also a good bus companion as I continue to commute to jury duty.

I completed Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen over the weekend and loved it. It was a Newbery Honor book, announced last Wednesday. The story of a brave young woman in Montana during 1917 - 1918 in the midst of World War I. I LOVED it and found that I could easily compare it to Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker - even a tad bit like the feel of My Antonia by Willa Cather (my favorite!) It makes me want to visit the vast prairies and gaze out on them myself. The story was inspired by the true story of the author's relative and the post script gave information on genealogical research and a connection to websites where people could investigate on their own family lines. That was a fun twist. I wonder how many young adults would do that very thing? I sure want to pass it on to some of my friends though. It was great and read really fast. The character was spunky and keen, full of moxy that I like to feel I have yet really know I probably don't! Isn't that why we read about different characters?!?

They just announced the release date of the last Harry Potter. It will come out when we are on vacation this summer. I wonder if we can pick it up in route on the trip and read it in the car. We will need multiple copies for the readers in this household. We all get a bit possessive.