April 2011 Archives

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday


Well, it's been awhile since I did one of these reading updates. Since I cannot go back to the last one and bore you with everything I've read since then---oh, ok, I could, but I won't--I'll just give a quick update of the few latest things I've read.

Mike and Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse. These are the first two books in the Psmith series. Mike is basically a book about the English school experience of two young men, the Mike of the title and Psmith, the "p" being silent in this case. It is about cricket, too, and I had to go read the rules of cricket (and watch some cricket on YouTube--isn't the internet amazing?) to really get into the book, but once I did, it was quite amusing. Mike's father falls upon hard times, so in the second book, he has to go to work at the bank instead of going on to University. Psmith follows and carries things along in his very, um, unique style. You run into evil bosses, socialist soapbox orators, and all kinds of cricket players.

Wodehouse is probably an acquired taste that not everyone has. He once remarked that there were only 2 ways to write: as if everything mattered or as if nothing mattered, and he chose the second. I find him immensely funny and refreshing. I've got two more in the Psmith series on my Nook and I'll be popping into them over the summer.

Besides the widely acclaimed Jeeves novels, Wodehouse also wrote a series about the inhabitants of Blandings Castle with one of his funniest characters--The Efficient Baxter. One of the scenes in the first Blandings book had me laughing so hard I nearly cried. Priceless, and highly recommended.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I am not normally a reader of fantasy literature. I don't know why, it is just a genre that I never read much in, beyond, say, The Lord of the Rings. A young friend of mine gave me this book to read, one she thought was extremely well done. I cracked it open with more than a little trepidation. I really dislike it when someone gives me a book that they loved and I think, "Huh, wonder what the big deal is about this?"

That wasn't the case with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was amazed that it was actually a first novel. It is very long--probably too long--but it is a page turner and keeps you interested in what will happen to the characters.

It is the story of Kvothe--a hero of some sort--told in his own words to a Chronicler. So we only learn the pieces of his life a little at a time. Kvothe is the son of traveling troupers, used to performing and singing and moving about from place to place. Kvothe's parents, indeed his whole troupe, are killed by mysterious demon-like bad guys--the Chandrian--who are more than the stuff of myths and songs. Kvothe finds his way into the University after some years living alone on the streets. There he begins refining his great intellect, making friends and enemies, and falling in love.

But we don't know much at the end of 800 pages, and that's where I find fault with the author. He is genius for making a world up that we believe in. He has a main character that I care about. But he has meandered through 900 pages, and his hero is 16 or so. We still don't know how he becomes a hero and what terrible things happen to him to put him in the place he is now. Plus, after luxuriating along for hundreds of pages, the ending to this book seems tacked on and abrupt.

But it was good. Good enough to make me want to read the second book. Good enough for me to pick up some different fantasy works and try them out. So I recommend, with a few reservations.

And finally, because it is obviously my nature to be an eclectic reader:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I don't know how I missed these novels as a girl. Lord knows I read plenty in the same genre. But I picked the first couple of books in the series up at the last used book sale. After the long haul of Lent and Holy Week, I wanted something young, fresh, hopeful to read. The story of the orphan Anne Shirley and her adoption by the old brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla was just the tonic I was looking at. Anne is always falling into trouble, but she has a good heart and an exceedingly good outlook on life. I would have loved this book as a 10 year old, and I love it now as a grownup.

Mega thumbs up on this one. I'm on to Anne of Avonlea next.

How 'bout ya'll?

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything


Just finished reading this book, by Fr James Martin, SJ. He's the same guy that wrote My Life With the Saints, which I read very profitably a year or two ago. When I saw this one at Half Price Books, I had to pick it up.

This book is a discussion of Ignatian spirituality and its application to life--and not just those who decide to become Jesuits! (Thank goodness, since I am not about to become a Jesuit. I think my husband would object.)

Fr. Martin writes clearly and lucidly on the subject, with anecdotes that give examples of what he is talking about. He has a gift for using his personal life to illustrate points that I find very charming and useful. He certainly doesn't hold himself up as a paragon of virtue or the greatest living Jesuit, or anything like that. He just lays out some basic principles and discusses how to use them in various situations.

I found the parts on living simply interesting, since that is an area that tugs at my heart as I contemplate the mass of possessions and STUFF by which I am surrounded. I was also quite taken by his discussion of decision making. And I was smacked down by the insight that (to paraphrase Fr Martin): No decision, even the right one, will come with no downside or faults.

Sounds obvious, no? But it is not ever obvious to ME. In trying to come to a decision, I find myself vacillating, "How can this be the right decision, when I can see that this could happen, or this, or this....."

Anyway, Fr. Martin is doing his level best to redeem the Jesuits in my eyes and in my thinking.

I recommend this book.



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