The Good

For the past month, I’ve taken off on a bit of a long-delayed summer reading jag. First, a graduate school commitment that required spending all but two weekends during June and July sitting in classrooms curtailed my ability to read for pleasure.  Oh, I did plenty of reading, but none that I’ll discuss in any detail here.  Next came the absolutely heady feeling of actually finishing those classes.  Even better, I’ve only scheduled three hours rather than six for the fall semester thanks to having taken a few courses before officially beginning my Ed.D. program.  The rest of my cohort will take a course I’ve already completed, which timed out nicely in giving me a little breathing room at the start of the school year.  Top all of that off with discovering the Overdrive app–which allows for downloading digital copies of books from my local library–and I needed no excuse for spending most of my free time adding to the “Read” column of my Goodreads page

I’d like to say all that time was well-spent.  As usual, though, a few books rose to the top while a few others sunk to the bottom (fortunately, not literally, considering much of this reading occurred poolside). 

Those that rose high:

No, I’m not schizophrenic.  I like to think of it as “eclectic.”  I will admit I tend to gravitate to mysteries/crime fiction when I’m seeking distraction and a bit of an escape via print.  The House at Seas End and The Hypnotist fall into that category nicely.  I found Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series earlier this year, and read the first two books back to back before bemoaning the fact that I’d have to wait for the publication of the third installment.  These books remind me somewhat of Elizabeth George’s early work–back before I had to break up with her for killing off one of my favorite characters unnecessarily.  It’s probably the English setting and the relationship between the female protagonist and a male detective that leads to the comparisons.  In this case, Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist rather than a police officer, but she still gets involved in lots of crime solving with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.  The Hypnotist also can’t avoid comparison to other well-known books–in this case the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series.  Like those books, The Hypnotist comes to American audiences via translation from the original Swedish.  Those cold winters must lead to lots of opportunity for thinking up crime novel plots.  Dark, twisted, crime novel plots.  I did find this book disturbing in places, but I couldn’t put it down once I started.  Evidently, the authors (a husband/wife team writing under a pen name Lars Kepler) plan a series with their lead character, Detective Joona Linna.  I’ll be reading more.

I did attempt to branch out a bit in my selections, and the next two books on my recommendation list reflect that.  Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple fits in to another favorite genre of mine–the memoir.  In this case, Roose shares his experiences during the semester he transferred from Brown University to Liberty, the university founded in Lynchburg, Virginia, by Jerry Falwell.  Roose previously interned with one of my favorite writers, A. J. Jacobs, as Jacobs wrote The Year of Living Biblically.  The idea of getting to know young people of the religious right from the inside came to Roose after he visited Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church during his work with Jacobs.   I enjoyed the book both for the peek inside a very different kind of college experience and for Roose’s perspective as someone to whom the beliefs of this segment of our population were completely foreign.  Roose reports that before enrolling at Liberty, he didn’t know anyone who identified himself as a born-again Christian.  Having grown up in the middle of the Bible Belt, it’s hard for me to even imagine not being immersed in a fairly fundamentalist religious climate.  What’s impressive about Roose’s account is that he manages to take in his experiences and tell his story without sounding condescending or painting a one-dimensional picture of his fellow students.

The last book, Sisterhood Everlasting, likely got a four-star rating on its nostalgia factor alone.  I picked up Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants after my middle-school-aged daughter raved about it.  I wanted to find out what had her so intrigued at that juncture between childhood and the teen years.  The books captured so well all the angst that inevitably comes with growing up.  I loved them, and I loved talking to DD1 about them.  The most recent entry in the series comes after a hiatus and catches up with the four main characters as they struggle with life after college and dealing with adulthood.  It’s definitely worth the read if you’ve enjoyed the previous Sisterhood books.

Tune in later this week for the rest of the story…I’ll be reviewing the (not so) bad and the ugly entires on my summer reading list as well.

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