October 10, 2016

Recent Reads

151. Incite 2, Color Passions: The Best of Mixed Media
Book blurb: 109 artists share their zest for color through painting, collage, encaustic, art journaling, jewelry art and more.

I liked this for what it was. It's like having a curated art exhibition in your hands, and reading a bit about what inspired the artists. Colorful and fun. Rating: 3 stars.

152. Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story
A quote from the author's end notes: "Legal access to safe and effective methods of birth control made it possible for us to pursue our lives and dreams without being shackled by our biology. It's amazing the extent to which we now take this fact for granted, but I simply can't imagine a greater gift to humanity." I concur.

I'd heard of Margaret Sanger, but had no idea what a powerful, influential, controversial, and connected woman she was. Why is her face not on our currency? I remember reading a book titled Great Men and Women as a kid, and I hope that an updated version would include women like her. This graphic biography is a perfect introduction to this important historical figure, and while I am not a fan of the art, I was delighted to learn more about Sanger and her efforts and accomplishments. Rating: 4 stars.

153. A Single Man
I listened to the audiobook which is superbly narrated by Simon Prebble.

How is it that two of my five star reads this year are novellas by gay men about gay men? They would not even come close to passing the Bechdel test, and yet I loved them. I guess these books are considered classics for a reason.

I've heard much about the author over the years, not sure what specifically now, but his name seems to come up quite a bit, and I've been curious about his work. Decided to start here, and oh my goodness, I loved it from the first line to the last one. I actually listened to the last ten minutes a couple of times over.

First published in 1964, this is the story of George, a middle aged gay man, who is dealing with the sudden death of his partner (which happens off-screen, so to speak), and is determined to live life by his normal routines. This story unfolds over a twenty four hour period, and explores the textures of life with an honesty most of us reserve only for our private journals. I struggle to put into words why this moved me so. We are most flawed and beautiful when we are most human, and this story is an homage to this wonderful thing called life. Rating: 5 stars.

154. Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)
Why is it that the "abandoned children who have to find their own way in the world" trope affects us so?

This is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy, which is the first of several trilogies in the epic Realms of the Elderlings fantasy series. I've heard such fave reviews about this series, so decided this was the summer to take the plunge.

The thing about the book blurb is that is gives too much away, so all I'll say is that this is the story of a royal bastard (I mean that literally), who is raised in the shadow of the royal household. The world he inhabits has magic, but discovering what forms it takes along with our young protagonist is half the fun. There is lots of action and adventure, scheming and betrayal, battles and bloodshed, friendship and loyalty, cowardice and bravery, and I thoroughly enjoyed how this story unfolded.

I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Paul Boehmer, and while I did not love the narration, I got used to it. I've got the rest of the books in this long series lined up, and look forward to seeing what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

155. My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy #1)
If you know me, you probably know that I don't believe that every Tom, Dick and Sally should write a memoir, and I tend to be rather skeptical of this genre in general. Every now and then I stumble across a memoir that proves me wrong, and I am delighted to be proved wrong.

This is a lovely memoir of a family who leaves gloomy England and relocates to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. Their (mis)adventures is relayed by the youngest member of the family, the author. Gerry is a keen observer of the flora and fauna that surround him, and his family gets as close an examination as everything else. The writing is wonderful, and I laughed out loud several times. I was once convulsed into a laughing fit that had me breathless and in tears. The rest of the time I was smiling and shaking my head with affection at the antics of this family.

There are some major things that are not explained - how for example the family could afford these adventures, how the author has such clear and vivid memories, etc. There are also some uncomfortable ways in which the locals and the Mom are described, but in the end I found that I really did not care. This lovely book is a throw back to the days of "free range parenting" (the kind I'll bet most of us over the age of 35 experienced), and is a wonderful recounting of both natural and familial history. Highly recommended. Rating: 4 stars.

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