Book Chat September 2015

book chat

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I’d seen Where’d You Go, Bernadette on various lists over the past year or so, and I finally got around to reading it. It’s an unusual book, mainly written as a series of emails, letters, etc. from one character to another. The very basic storyline is that smart-but-troubled mom Bernadette disappears, wreaking havoc in the lives of her Microsoft-exec husband and precocious-yet-fragile daughter. The plot didn’t really grab me, but what I did enjoy was that the various characters were caricatures of types of people you might roll your eyes at: the pretentious private school moms, the PC West Coast types, etc. This “smart humor” kept the book going for me.

*****

shades

Shades of Doon, reviewed by Sophie, age 14 (thanks to BookLook Bloggers for a review copy):
Shades of Doon is the 3rd novel of a series set in Doon, a mythical Scottish kingdom. Veronica and Kenna must work together to solve the
mystery of the Witch of Doon (whom they thought was destroyed)’s whereabouts. Using the Rings of Aontacht and maybe a few schemes of their own, they work together to defeat the witch and all evil for good.
I love the writing style of these books, written in a humorous tone that keeps the reader interested and eager to read more. 4 stars.

*****

Pioneer Girl Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ever since I learned about Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography coming out, I was anxious to read it. For the uninitiated: this is the original manuscript written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She and her daughter, Rose, used it to write the Little House on the Prairie books. 

There is so much to be said for this book that it really deserves its own post, but I’ll try to be brief 🙂 .

This is a LARGE book. The book itself is about 12″ square, and the introductory material is about 80 pages before you even reach Laura’s manuscript. When you do, the annotations are probably twice as long as the text. It can be a little tricky to read, because the notes and texts don’t always line up evenly. Sometimes, you’ll be reading notes about a part of the manuscript from a page before. But it didn’t take me too long to adjust to these things.

Laura’s manuscript is pretty basic. It’s like if a person wrote down their memories. Reading it made me really appreciate the work that went into the actual books — the work of transforming a basic memory into a story with an arc and characters that come alive. Over and over, I was reminded of doing this when I wrote my own memoir.

The notes are exhaustive. They’re often interesting, giving additional historical insight about an event Laura has described. Other times, they go a bit overboard, in my opinion. A passage Laura writes about wildflowers on the prairie will be footnoted with 2 pages of scientific names of every flower on the Kansas prairie in 1880, for instance. Seemingly, every character mentioned in the manuscript has been searched out by the editor from census and other records, and their life detailed in footnotes. To me, it was more info than I needed, but for the real die-hard Little House fan, maybe it’s good. It was obvious that this was edited by a college professor.

We get some comments from Laura and Rose; those were interesting. Of the long winter of 1880-81 that inspired her “The Long Winter” book, Laura wrote, “It has been rather trying, living it all over again as I did in the writing of it and I am glad it is finished.”

It intrigued me that Laura was not that great of a speller. Somehow, I would have expected that she was.

Very interesting, overall. I think anyone interested in the pioneer era of the US would enjoy this. You can appreciate the text and just read the notes that interest you.

What is the best book you’ve read recently? See what others have been reading at 5 Minutes for Books.

6 thoughts on “Book Chat September 2015

  1. I always enjoy your book reviews and when Sophie or Melissa make an appearance, that’s cool, too. Happy Tuesday!

  2. Isn’t it interesting how the size of a book can affect how we feel about it? Sometimes a book appeals to me just for its size alone. 🙂 Interesting list! One of the most interesting books I’m reading right now is actually a re-read, “The Time Paradox” about how we view time.

  3. I looked over Pioneer Girl and decided I needed a “LONG Winter” in which to work thru it! Glad you read Bernadette–it was a break from daily reality when I was listening to it in the car. Good reviews like always.

  4. I got Pioneer Girl near the end of my LIW Reading challenge last February, and didn’t have time to finish it before that was over. I started it anyway but never got very far. Oddly, its size is one thing that kept me from picking it up – just because it didn’t fit anywhere that I usually leave books I am reading. I am thinking at this point I might save it for next year’s LIW reading challenge.

    I received the book I won from you today – thank you!!!

  5. I just finished reading “The Girl on the Train.” It was all right. Not a groundbreaking story, by any means, but I did find myself wanting to go back to reading it. So, in that case, it was a ‘page turner’! Also trying to read “Childhood’s End”…mostly because there is going to be a SyFy channel version of it in the near future, and I want to know the story. LOL. Just got into the 2nd part, which is MUCH more readable. I will admit, I got pretty lost in the first part and was ready to give up. But somehow the plot got more interesting in the 2nd part…or the writing style got better. Not sure which.

  6. Enjoyed hearing your take on Pioneer Girl. Chuckling about the notes about the wildflowers. I am not ENOUGH of a Wilder fan to want to read it but it’s curious to hear about!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.