Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Book Reviews

I told Abe that I was writing book reviews tonight and he said, "Book reviews? You've only read one book during the past two months!" Which may be true. Since I was reading it in five minute increments, I think it took me about six weeks to read Reliquary. But I checked to see when I last did book reviews, and it was March....so in the past four months I've averaged almost two books a month, which, if I must say so myself, is not so shabby for a working mom. (Abraham has probably read approximately 50 books--not exaggerating--during that time, though, so I suppose he has license to scorn my comparative reading pittance.)

On Fortune's Wheel
by Cynthia Voigt
Set in a medeival-esque fantasy land, On Fortune's Wheel tells the story of a young woman named Birle who, restless in her workaday life as an innkeeper's daughter, chances upon a young lord who is running away from his own responsibilities to the mysterious lands of the south. She swears herself into his service and follows him downriver, into all kinds of adventure. The journey (of course) is also a journey of growth and self-discovery for Birle, who grows from childhood, into a lover, and finally into an independent and strong young woman.

I liked it. Abraham, on the other hand, read it and commented, "There was no plot. Also, why did all the men have 'hungry eyes'?" To each their own, I suppose.

by Maeve Binchy

Quentins is supposed to be centered around a restaurant-- the people who run it, the people who eat there, the life events that happen within its walls.

If Binchy had stuck to that premise, I think I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit. However, she kind of gets off on this tangent about this young single woman having an affair with an older married man, who is perfectly charming but ends up being a crook and having to leave the country with his wife and children. And the there's her suffering, blah, blah, blah. And then she hears that the man kills himself, blah, blah, blah. And then she goes to America, blah, blah, blah, and then I got bored and quit reading.

Good writing, typical quirky Binchy characters, but I just didn't find it that interesting. Could have just been my mood. Or maybe the story redeems itself at the end. But, after 400 pages, I just lost interest.

The River Why
by David James Duncan

I picked this up because it's on my sis-in-law Karen's list of most awesome books ever. And I positively adored the first quarter of this book, found it quite hilarious, and enjoyed the charmingly verbose, over-the-top writing style.

But then I got bored and quit reading.

Perhaps I am easily bored?

by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Reliquary did not bore me. Reliquary, an anthropological/scientific mystery/thriller, was actually quite fascinating, on a couple of different levels.

The book opens in modern-day NewYork, in a mild state of crisis. Several people have been violently murdered and decapitated in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of a series of murders that had occurred 18 months earlier in the city's Museum of Natural Science (described in the book Relic). The book follows the action as an FBI Agent, a couple of cops, a journalist, and a team of scientists try to figure out who-- or what--is responsible for the murders.

So the plot was interesting and engaging--but the thing I found most intriguing about this book was that the story explored the lives and culture of people who have given up life "above ground" and committed themselves to a different sort of life in darkness, living year-round in the abandoned subway tunnels and shafts in underground New York City.

Overall, an entertaining and interesting read. Plus, you have to love Agent Pendergast.

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder
by Martha Linehan

I read this one for work (I manage the office at a mental health agency) and found it to be quite interesting. I'm a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and the hottest new variation in CBT is a treatment approach known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Martha Linehan is a psychologist who found that the "unrelenting" emphasis on change in CBT was ineffective in treating women with Borderline Personality Disorder, who needed a more balanced approach that emphasized both validation of emotional experience and the development of skills to overcome self-defeating behaviors. She describes her overall therapeutic approach in this book, but largely emphasizes the skill-building portion of the treatment, which describes how to teach the following skills: mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. I like her approach because it is very practical, but also very warm.

I'm constantly chasing people around the office with copies of this book in my arms, begging them to read it, so if you're interested in this sort of thing, I'd definitely recommend it.

(Note: I also read Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire. I'll review those when I've read the third one, Mockingjay, which will be coming out at the end of this month!)


Seth said...

Nice reviews... very enjoyable reading as always. I especially liked how you described Duncan's writing style as "charmingly verbose, over-the-top"... it made me chuckle. And it got me wondering... how would you describe your own writing style?

Rachel said...

Mellifluous. ;)

Seth said...

Sweet... and just in case ya'll were wondering... that is a real word and I think it is a pretty apt description. :-)

It means:

1 : having a smooth rich flow

2 : filled with something (as honey) that sweetens

(Thank you Merriam-Webster online dictionary.)


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