Tuesday, August 20, 2013

summer post 5

The Translator by Nina Schuyler.  Something about the book description had me really excited about this book, so I was excited to get it electronically as a pre-pub before our library copy arrived.  Once I I wrapped my head around how different this was from my expectations, I was able to settle in.  It's not what I would normally pick for myself, but I can see how it will popular with many readers; perhaps a good book-group choice.
(Our library copy arrived but was mis-bound.  The replacement has arrived.)

Perv by Jesse Bering.  I was expecting a little deeper psychology than was featured, although there was enough that I was unsatisfied.  The author could have talked less about how it felt growing up gay and more on the subject matter of the chapters.  In many ways, he was too present; there was too much author, almost like he was a character instead of just being the narrator.  Mr. Bering, to you I recommend Mary Roach as a good example.
Note on my eReader: I usually love footnotes.  They add so much.  But they never display properly in my eReader and I'm constantly flipping (tappaing?) back and forth and losing my place.  Someone should work on this.

Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle by Mary J. MacLeod.  I have patrons who will enjoy this book.  It is sweet and an easy read; the author does a good job of giving a sense of the place.  There are quite a lot of people, but some of them are fairly well-developed characters.
There were several things that annoyed me about the book, mostly just the author's writing style.  It's apparent that she's a nurse who has written a book and she's not in any way a "writer": every other sentence ends in an exclamation point, there is little variation in sentence length, and many of the descriptors are predictable and pat.

Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers by John J. Ross.  This is an interesting topic and the book may seem quite good to most readers.  I'm sad for that.
First, the author begins the book with the chapter on Shakespeare.  If he were to stick to the medicine, everything would probably have been fine.  Instead, he takes a tangent to talk a little bit about the Stratford/Oxford disagreement.  He oversimplifies the arguments and summarily dismisses everyone who doesn't share his particular view as a "vocal and eccentric minority" (3).  "This belief rests on two snobbish and mistaken assumptions" (also 3), he says, and I'm not going to get into the argument here, but I would just like to point out:
1.  In my experience in, you know, literature classes, libraries, that sort of thing, the Oxfordians are by no means a minority.  The argument seems to be gaining ground.
2.  The assumptions Ross lists are not the basis for the Oxfordian argument at all.  He's got it wrong.
3.  The whole subject is completely unnecessary as far as the book goes, because the only evidence Ross can make about Shakespeare's health comes from the the plays and the increase in the mention of certain illnesses throughout his writing.  It has nothing (!) to do with who Shakespeare really was.

So, why alienate a considerable portion of your readers on page 3?  Ross also finds ways to squeeze reference to the Stratford/Oxford argument in a few more times throughout the book, only to tell us (yes, I'm Oxfordian, thank you) how unenlightened and snobby we are.

The very concerning thing is that, if this is how the author treats arguments that differ from his, how are we to have any faith in what he diagnoses?  In several of the chapters, he mentions that other (usually earlier) scholars have suggested this author or that author had such-and-such disease. He dismisses these with a few brief sentences.  He's one of those dangerous people who can speak-- or, in this case, write-- in such an authoritative-sounding way that it would be easy to believe without a second thought.  Instead, these are poorly-structured arguments riding on the force of his personality.  As an example-- and unfortunately I cannot give you the exact facts because I've turned the book in-- after diagnosing several authors in a row with a similar cluster of disorders, he dismisses an earlier diagnosis in a following chapter by suggesting that a 4th instance of (I think) mercury poisoning would "strain the credulity of the reader."  Sorry, I'm not aware of a cap or quota on illnesses.  It's certainly not a valid reason to brush aside a valid suggestion. 

Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi.  What can I say, I'm a sucker for librarian romances, and for no good reason.  This author could have used a good editor: there were a surprising number of fragments, and I don't think they were intended.  They seemed pretty uniformly to each be a clause belonging to the previous sentence that, for some reason, had accidentally gotten separated by a period.
It wasn't a particularly excellent romance; the most emotional I got was when the whole town turned out to help shift the stacks in the library.  If only we could have that sort of support.  It was nice that most of the library information was accurate, and using subject headings (with their Dewey call numbers!) as chapter titles was a nice way to incorporate the library feel without being super unrealistic.

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett. I had not read anything at all about this book before downloading it pre-pub.  That's perhaps my favorite part about getting books from netgalley: not having read the descriptions yet, I'm ready to be totally surprised, absolutely carried along by the story.
My favorite thing about this book was how it tracked several stories through time: where the book wandered from1600-1800, the main character in his early 20s, and the main character in his mid (?) 30s.  Each had a unique sense of time and place.  The only thing that was a bit difficult to follow was that there were quite a few people introduced in the story of the book, which makes it difficult for me to follow, and then there was some cross-over between people in the book's story who were mentioned in the modern storyline. 
I did predict most of the mysteries' resolutions, but not until quite close to the end. I think people who enjoyed People of the Book would also like this one.

Books I downloaded from NetGalley but didn't get more than a quarter of the way through:
Rebels at the Bar by Jill Norgren
A Slap in the Face by William B. Irvine
The Hermit in the Garden by Gordon Campbell
These are all great books.  I was really interested in all these titles.  It is unfortunate that, during the window when I could have read these, I also had books that were even more interesting.  (A Slap in the Face actually didn't get off to such a great start-- I was expecting something a bit more on the level with Holy Sh*t but Slap had...a lower reading level.  But I ordered it for my library and a coworker is currently reading it, and I trust her judgement.)

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