What I’m Reading: March Edition

Yikes.  Somehow I got way behind on my book review posts.  Who knows if I can even remember the books I read two months ago, but I’ll give it a shot.  Additionally, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, given how many books I read in March and how little I remember them.

Ender’s GameOrson Scott Card : I have a friend who couldn’t get behind The Hunger Games.  She’s one of the only ones, but she’s also brilliant.  She read Ender’s Game and said, this is what THG should have been.  So I read it.  And she’s right in a way.  This book is intense, strategic, underemotional.  It’s calculated, cold, and warlike.  And it’s about children playing anti-gravity war games.  Not teens…children under the age of 10.  The story was brilliant, brutal, and clever, just like the main character, the boy Ender.  Equal parts war strategies and science fiction, the ending is both conceivable and frighting.  I highly recommend it, especially for you fellas who think THG is for girls.

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixJ. K. Rowling : So much angst!  So much love and angst and exams and Voldemort and letting people go.  One of my least favorite of the seven, and still immensely enjoyable.  Except for the angst.

A Technique for Producing IdeasJames Webb Young : This booklet is less a book than a lecture to a business class, but it has amazing perspective on ideas and their creation.  It discusses a balance between general knowledge and specific knowledge, and how to make connections that can sell to anyone.  At less than 100 pages, it’s worth another reading.

MaineJ. Courtney Sullivan: Another book club venture!  This one follows four women of three generations.  Each has their own issues, perspectives, and secrets.  They all see events through different lenses. One is a vain matriarch who never asked for the position; another a recovering alcoholic who constantly points out her family’s dysfunction; another the sister-in-law who strives for perfection and longs for passion; and one a people-pleasing soon-to-be-mother who brings them all together.  The story itself was a bit uneven to me, as Sullivan balanced four separate voices, but it made up for it in the amount of history created for these four women.  I wanted more from the story, but couldn’t ask it because so much was already there.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenRansom Riggs : I wanted to like this book more than I did.  It was beautifully put together, a testament to the visual nature of this generation.  Creepy old-timey photos are embedded within the story as photos of the “peculiar children.”  And it was fantasy and charming and set in frickin’ Scotland, which I love.  But the story itself was only so-so to me.  Maybe it was the timey-wimey stuff.  Maybe the characters seemed pale.  Maybe I felt it was trying too hard to be creepy.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy John le Carré : The more I consider this book, the better it becomes.  At first blush, it’s a confusing muddle of unexplained terms and underwhelming characters.  But as you get further into the story and into the world of Britain’s spies, you realize the genius of le Carre.  He unfolds the characters, little by little, so that each page reveals a morsel of their personalities.  And these spies are not dashing; they are middle-aged and having crises and wondering if they’ll ever feel the passion of their youths.  At the core is this magnificent spy story, and at the center of that story is George Smiley, a truly fascinating literary figure.  This story, thrilling with little to no action, is book-ended by a very odd story of a young pupil at a school and the teacher he befriends.  Oh, this is a good one, folks.  Le Carre, bless your soul for creating a new type of spy!

**The Alchemist Paulo Coelho : I can’t describe this book well.  It’s about everything: following your dream, sacrificing, the passivity of others, the need to listen to your heart, the pain of letting go, the importance of trust, the dependence upon faith.  All through the experiences of a young sheepherder and his encounter with a king, who tells the young boy about Personal Legends and finding our treasures.  It’s a beautiful novel that I can’t possibly summarize well.  Just read this thing, okay?  It’s short, and it’ll work your world.

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