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Naughty In Nice

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This series is total fluff--do not expect great literature here. This latest one in the series is the most enjoyable yet. impoverished aristocratic amateur detective Georgie goes to the Riviera and encounters jewel thiefs, a French marquis, and of course her Irish man. Like I said, no redeeming value. I'm looking forward to the next one.
The Sparrow

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Wow. It's science fiction and it's theology and it's unbelievably well written. By the third chapter of this novel, I was deeply interested/involved with all of the characters--that is some authorial feat. I don't want to say much more about it--just read it.
T Is For Trespass

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I'm a big fan of Sue Grafton, but this was not a favorite. Mostly because her villain in this book was too unsavory and the topics (elderly abuse, pedophilia) too depressing. I also don't like the technique she has adopted (that many other mystery authors have adopted) of alternating points of view between the detective Kinsey and the villain. I don't want to get inside the mind of a killer/perpetrator/etc. I want to know only as much about the perp. as Kinsey does. There is also no development in this book of Kinsey's personal life, so there is not much to relieve the gloom of the main plot line.
Wildwood

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I was very excited to find this book, first because I love the illustrations and second because the authors are from Portland where I used to live. And to top that off, one of the authors is in the band the Decemberists. Ok, so I've never heard them but, cool! I was not disappointed. It's a really fun read. A little bit derivative of CS Lewis. But hey! It's about time somebody tried to write books as good as the Narnia Chronicles. The characters are great. The world building, awesome. Best of all is the illustrations--full color illustrations with those old timey captions as well as black and white illustrations. So gorgeous, I could look at them for hours. And it's very entertaining to read about Portland landmarks like Pittock Mansion and Sauvie Island and St Johns Wood mixed in with the fantasy land. There were a few things I didn't find super believable (the parent's behavior mostly--the fantasy world, totally believable to me.) But overall I greatly enjoyed this. I also enjoyed the fact that these are obviously super progressive "crunchy" authors. There's a little political allegory, meditation, and bicycle riding thrown in. Very Portland!
The Outback Stars

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If you like Elizabeth Moon you'll like this--basically it's military sci-fi, enjoyable and suspenseful.
The Sorcerer's House

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This was my first Gene Wolfe book, and it was fun. I find that I agree with both the negative and positive comments that people have posted about it. I very much enjoyed the epistolatory format, the unreliable narrative, and the totally confusing plot. Overall--light, fun, and quirky. I'll definitely read more by him.
The Stone Gods

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This book has a lot of flaws--she's pretty heavy handed with the political satire/dystopia stuff and the novel's three part structure is a little too surreal/disjointed for me, but somehow I really enjoyed it anyway. People talk a lot in their comments about it being a sci-fi novel--to me, this isn't science fiction, it's our near future. I think she pretty brilliantly describes the logical consequences of where our current ecological/sociological collective choices are taking us. Sure, she exaggerates, but not much. There are some very clever and funny bits, and a love story that's not very developed but touching all the same. From some of her books that I've read, I had gained an impression of Jeannette Winterson as having more style than substance. This book changed my mind and makes me want to read some of her earlier books that I skipped.
Happy Accidents

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I loved Jane Lynch before reading her autobiography, and I love her even more after. She does not have an unkind word to say about anyone in her past, she doesn't blame anyone for anything that has happened in her life, and she is honest about her self. She is not the most exciting writer in the world--although it occurs to me I should have listened to this book on disk rather than reading it, she has such a gorgeous voice. But I love her story and I think she is an amazing person. What a kick ass, strong, wise, kind, inspiring amazing woman, lesbian, comedian, and actress. Wow!
The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity

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Michael Marmot makes the case that health is on a gradient and the lower one's social standing the worse one's health--not so much because of the lack of money itself as because of the lack of control over one's life and the inability to fully participate in the activities of life that bring joy and are health promoting. This book is the end result of years of research (The Whitehall 1 and 11 studies) and it shows. I found it really interesting and it has definitely caused me to look at the whole issue of poverty and health in a different way. And, while it deals with some depressing stats, this is ultimately a hopeful book, because it shows that by making policy changes and starting programs that lessen inequality we can improve the health of entire societies.
Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

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I don't agree with everything Glaeser says but overall I found it really interesting, thought-provoking and it opened my eyes to a lot of things. I already agreed with him that the density of cities is great and breeds connectivity, new ideas, and creativity. And I also knew that it is much better for the environment for people to cluster together in cities where they use less gas, less energy and contain their impact (as opposed to spreading out in suburbs and rural areas. But I used to be a big fan of preserving all old buildings and not allowing high rises. Glaeser makes a really good case for why we should build up and preserve strategically, not preserve everything blindly. Unless we want our beautiful old cities to only be playgrounds for the rich, and want builders to go elsewhere and sprawl all over the rest of the country....As environmentalists, we need to think about the good of the whole, not just the good of our neighborhood. I still think that there is perhaps an in-between strategy. between low two story buildings and sky-scrapers. And I don't have his blithe faith in the free market. But he makes a lot of really good points and has changed my mind on a number of issues. I hope that politicians, ecologists, and urban planners will all read and discuss this.
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