This month the GeekMoms’ never-ending stack of books unfurled stories featuring angry teens, dragons, a bit of psychology, witches, and more witches. What have you read lately?
Laura is reading Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave by Adam Alter.The author, an expert in the psychology of marketing, packs the book with ingenuous studies showing what really influences us. The conclusions are strange, funny, and surprisingly useful. No chance of reading this book without talking about it. Laura just finished The Humanity Project by Jean Thompson. It’s packed with very real characters, from an angry teenager haunted by a secret to a wealthy woman who wonders if she can pay people to be good. Even the author’s smallest observations, like the artifice of a metallic jacket, have purpose in the larger story.
Kay Moore is finally reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire after finally seeing the awesome touring stage musical last year. This is the prehistory of Elphaba, who is the Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz stories, and how the story looks from a more witchly point of view. Besides this intriguing plot hook, the story has rich, inventive language, more complex character motivations and plot developments than in the Wizard of Oz and the other Baum-authored stories that serve as inspiration and background.
This story provides a longer, more complete and detailed (but less tuneful!) telling of Elphaba’s story than what we get from the stage production. Kay is not yet halfway through the book, but she is enjoying the description and character development. The pacing so far (although it is early to rule on a novel’s pacing) seems leisurely, but this is her beach read and she is strolling along happily. There are some curses and some sexual descriptions that some readers might prefer to avoid. Kay looks forward to contrasting the book to the Baum novels, the classic and recent Oz movies, and the Wicked stage musical.
Robin Hobb is one of Rebecca’s top authors, and her latest book, Blood of Dragons, does not disappoint. It’s an adult fantasy novel. Yes there’s sex and violence, but the relationships between characters are the point of the story. Hobb deals with the complex web of new and old relationships, their lingering effects on people, and the variety of ways to cope and grow because of them. Multiple female characters that are so different! That’s fresh air in fantasy! Blood of Dragons continues in the world Hobbs started with the Assasin series. (Rebecca has enjoyed all of them except the Soldier’s Son.) And yeah, there are dragons. They are intelligent, belligerent, and Rebecca wants one.
The cover of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe was so compelling that Kris Bordessa accidentally bought it twice: first at the thrift shop and again, a week later, at the used bookstore. Inside the cover, Harvard graduate student, Connie Godwin, undertakes the task of finding a mysterious book as the basis of her dissertation. The story alternates between 1991 and 17th century Salem, Massachusetts as Connie works to unearth this book with ties to once-upon-a-time cunning women and a legacy of witchcraft. It’s an easy read and a good candidate for a beach read for those who can’t abide chick lit.
And here’s just a sampling of what we were reading in May last year:
Melissa Wiley is trying to brush up her German by slowly — veeerrry slowly — reading her way through Heidi, one of her childhood favorites, auf Deutsch. A week into the project, she has finally reached page two. In her native language, she has been enjoying (at a much brisker pace) her third trip through Alan Bennett’s delightful The Uncommon Reader, a book that speaks to the soul of every bookworm. And some of the happiest moments of her week were spent enjoying a treasured family read-aloud, Meindert DeJong’s The Wheel on the School with two of her children. It’s the first time for the six-year-old, and like her sisters before her, young Rilla is transfixed by the efforts of six Dutch schoolchildren to lure storks back to the rooftops of their tiny village.
Patricia read The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks. The movie with the same name is out in theaters right now. A young Marine infantryman served multiple tours in Iraq managed to survive numerous IED attacks. A laminated picture of a girl he had picked up in the sand at the beginning of his first tour was thought to be his good luck charm. After he finishes his Marine enlistment, he searches for the girl, finds her and becomes part of her (and her son’s) life. Part of the beauty of Sparks’ books is his spectacular setting in North and South Carolina. The book was very good, and the day after Patricia finished the book she saw the movie and was not quite as enamored with the movie version: for starters, it was set in Louisiana instead of North Carolina. Secondly, they didn’t seem to make the Keith Clayton character quite as evil as portrayed in the book. There are many many other differences also, and I will simply say that the book is much better. The Lucky One is an adult book that is probably tame enough for teenagers; there are adult themes such as language and references to lovemaking but nothing graphic.
Ariane adored the duck’s comically simple answers in Ducks Don’t Wear Socks by John Nedwidek. She also enjoyed the delightful cadence and southern charm of Bedtime at the Swamp by Kristyn Crow. Her daughter’s favorite was the bizarre yet entertaining Moo Cow Kaboom (which she calls “boom cow”) by Thatcher Hurd. All three titles were quickly purchased as a permanent addition to their home’s reading collection.
The author of several hands-on activity books for kids, Kris Bordessa has a thing for transforming perfectly good garbage into craft projects. Her book, Team Challenges: Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity, features more than 200 team building activities that have been used with youth groups, in the classroom, and even at the occasional wine party. She lives in Hawaii with her family, where there's always some sort of gardening experiment in the works.