Between the Bookends: November 2014

Between the Bookends Books GeekMom
My Foreign Cities © Liveright
My Foreign Cities © Liveright

As we leave behind Halloween and head inextricably forwards towards turkey, trimmings, and tinsel, the GeekMoms are still finding time to read. If you dare to join them this month, you will find astronauts, dragonslayers, mysterious children, Plato, a platypus, and a rather curious dead dog.

GeekMom Samantha Cook just finished reading My Foreign Cities: A Memoir by Elizabeth Scarboro. She had held off reading it for some time, thinking that the love story with an inevitable end might be overwhelming and sad.

She couldn’t have been more wrong.

A touching tale of two lovers, one with cystic fibrosis, this memoir turned out to be one of the most uplifting and validating love stories she has ever read. Scarboro’s writing is descriptive and endearing, like she is sitting in front of you narrating. The reality of the situation is not lost nor glossed over, but adds to the complexity of a shining example in what love is and what love does. In the end, this is a story about being present, brave, and fiercely alive in whatever time we have with each other.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children © Quirk
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children © Quirk

As it often occurs, it took the threat of a movie for Lisa to finally dig into one of the many books she had been meaning to read. This was the case with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, a book that proved nearly impossible to put down.

The book became known for its weirdly clever use of vintage photos, but also has a wild story to tell. From Jacob’s first nostalgic and eerie introduction to his Grandpa Portman, to a tragic turn of events in the woods surrounding his grandpa’s home when Jacob was 15, to his travels to a remote Welsh island in search of his Miss Peregrine’s Home and the truth behind his grandpa’s life, the twists, turns, and surprises keep happening. They don’t stop until the end, leaving the reader wondering if they’d returned from a wild trip or woken from a dark and beautiful dream.

She also picked up Jasper Fforde’s mystery, The Fourth Bear, after her 12-year-old daughter brought home Fforde’s young reader’s novel, The Last Dragonslayer, the first book in Fforde’s Chronicles of Kazam series. Having only read his classic book-jumping adventures in the Thursday Next series, which have resulted in Lisa really wanting a dodo as a pet, departing into his dark and wickedly funny Nursery Crime series seemed strange at first. Despite the Mother Goose-based characters and material, these nursery crimes are not for kids. Them’s mean streets for Detective Jack Spratt and his partner Sergeant Mary Mary, especially when journalist Goldilocks has gone missing.

Vanishing Grace © Zondervan
Vanishing Grace © Zondervan

She did, however, end up reading the more ‘tween-friendly The Last Dragonslayer as well, when her daughter wasn’t looking. Like Fforde’s adult novels,The Last Dragonslayer has a strong female protagonist, over-the-top strange and fun character names, and more puns than any book should be allowed. It’s hard not to keep reading through, with Fforde’s brand of Monty Python-esque humor and his attention to literary details; it’s hard to stop after one book!

GeekMom Judy has been enjoying a new book by Philip Yancey called Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? Having grown up a strict Baptist and finding a new path in her adult years, she has been fascinated by the discussions about how the church in general is perceived as being alienating in recent years. Judy found  herself pondering the suggestions Yancey offers on how to turn this attitude around for days afterward.

It was doubly touching for her to read the book No Man’s War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife while she was riding in a car headed to greet her son, who was returning from his deployment in Afghanistan. The author, Angela Ricketts, writes candidly about what it’s like to be married to a man who is married to the Army. Judy learned a lot about what military life is like for the families of our service men and women and thought of the author and her family many times as she then drove around the military base in KY that was mentioned often in the book. Reading as the mom of a soldier, but also feeling empathy from being a wife herself, made this book one that was hard to put down, even at the cleanest rest stops along the way. She rates it as one of the top books she’s read this year.

The Martian © Crown
The Martian © Crown

Judy was also fascinated to read a book called Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found, about a woman who finds out in her late teens that instead of “just being the clumsy one” in the family, she actually has a rare disease that will eventually rob her of her sight. This memoir follows the author, Rebecca Alexander (with Sascha Alper), through her young adult years, as she tries to make peace with the diagnosis—then pretend it really isn’t happening to her, all at the same time. Stories like this one, about how people survive the perils life can throw your way, are what make memoirs Judy’s favorite genre in the library.

So far, GeekMom Karen‘s favorite science-fiction novel of the year is The Martian by Andy Weir. This is a hard SF engineering story about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars after a near-future NASA mission goes wrong. He has to use the resources he has to survive until a rescue mission can get to him. As a former NASA engineer, the mission design, engineering, and science all seem spot on to Karen, although the tone of some of the NASA engineers doesn’t quite ring true. The novel takes the character through a series of setbacks and achievements all the way until the end. This would be a good book for any teenager interested in the current future of space exploration, as well as any fan of the magazine Analog.

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time © Vintage
The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time © Vintage

GeekMom Sophie has had very little time to read this month, thanks to a much-needed vacation to Walt Disney World. She did, however, manage to finish off her book club’s current selection, The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time by Mark Haddon. She hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect from this book, but it certainly wasn’t what she ended up reading. Although she enjoyed the story, especially the inserted diagrams and maps, she was surprised to find herself at the end having expected the book to continue far longer—and she found the ending a bit of a let down.

Sophie hopes to find a bit more time for reading in the coming months, especially as she just received a collector’s edition copy of A Vision of Fire, the debut novel by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin. Now that her jet lag has worn off, she intends to dive in and find out what all the fuss has been about.

Plato & a Platypus Walk Into a Bar... © Harry N. Abrams
Plato & a Platypus Walk Into a Bar… © Harry N. Abrams

GeekMom Rebecca Angel is having fun with philosophy by reading Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. They take deep questions about life, types of reasoning, and complex theories, and use jokes to explain them. It isn’t a gimmick: the jokes make it easier to understand complicated logic. Plus, they are actually funny!

Copies of some books were provided by their publishers for review purposes.

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