Thursday, February 19, 2015

January books

This January, the books were oh-so-good to me.  It's been a long time since I've had a streak of such great, unexpected books.  Here are my four (six, if you count their sequels) favorites:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 

This was one of the most charming books I have ever read.  A 40-year-old man with undiagnosed Aspergers develops a questionnaire to find himself the perfect wife.  Instead, he meets the wild and unpredictable Rosie, who becomes his best friend.

Reading as a writer, I constantly paused to re-read one of the most marvelous examples of voice I have ever read.  And somehow the author manages to show us the world through Don Tillman's unusual set of eyes as well as the world's reaction to Don Tillman.  The details are fabulous, the characters are charming, the interactions are so darling.  I loved every page of this unexpected love story.  The sequel, The Rosie Effect, was great as well.  

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

The second book in the YA Reckoners series is even more magnificent than the first--and that's saying something.  

We have the same endearing narrator who is still in love with the Epic Megan, and still devoted to destroying Epics--but he thinks he understands how to riddle out their weaknesses now.  Great details are filled in about the coming of the Epics and their rules, abilities, and backstories.  

Firefight is set in Manhattan--Babilar, or Babylon Restored, in this book, and the setting is as fanciful and charming as the all-steel Newcago.  This series is so creative and engaging with characters who are trying to be good in the face of evil.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

This is my favorite of the female comedian memoirs I've read lately, including those by Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey.  There is a lot of coarse language in the book, and I'm so out of touch with comedy that I had no idea who she was talking about much of the time.  

But!  I really appreciated her thoughts, including her mantra towards other woman's choices regarding childbirth, parenting, working, and living: 'Good for her.  Not for me!'  

I loved how she said she decided early on that her currency was not going to be her looks--it was going to be her mind and her humor.  

Talking about careers and success, she says, "You have to care about your work but not about the result.  You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look."  Advice I needed to hear!

The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison 

The author turned a ward in Draper, UT, into the setting for two murders--and a Mormon bishop's wife into a detective.  She did it in a way that seemed realistic, believable, and accessible to both Mormons and outsiders to this close-knit community with so many cultural and doctrinal distinctions.  
While I guessed at certain elements in the conclusions, the spins in the plot kept me on my toes, and I just really liked seeing a modern Miss Marple that I could identify with.  I appreciated the issues she struggled with and the emotions she felt.  I really, really loved the detective.

I did find some details not quite right--a bishop leaving orders in notes for his wife, her impression of her position as the 'mother of the ward,'--but that might be because I'm not part of that Utah culture.

I will stand my ground on this: cinnamon rolls take a long time to make.  They rise twice!  They are my specialty, so I kept getting thrown out of the story when the main character would whip up a batch in an hour.  (How nitpicky is that!) 

I also had a hard time believing in the evil portrayed here, but that's a constant for me when I read murder mysteries.  Maybe I know too many nice people! 

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