pamela k taylor :books read

Visitors to Date:

Copyright 2005 Pamela K. Taylor

All Rights Reserved. Please do not repost/reprint items from this website without permission from the author. If you would like to share something from here with your friends, please just send a link and a description.

Email: momtotsan@yahoo.com

This page will be an archive of the books I featured on my blog -- a brief commentary about some of the more interesting books I've gotten a hold of.

What I'm reading now:

 

Living Islam OutLoud Ed. Saleemah Ghaffur
What we are about to... By Joanna Russ

Past Books in Chronolocial order (with commentary):

(alphabetical order: click on name to jump to the review) *The Amber Spyglass * Confessions of SuperMom * The Golden Compass * Kindred * One Shot * Redwall * The Powerbook * The Price of Temptation * Receive the Gift * Sea of Trolls *Singer in the Snow * Sing the Light * Sing the Warmth * The Subtle Knife * To Your Scattered Bodies Go * Zahrah the Windseeker *

One Shot, by Lee Child. Not my usual reading fare... I actually listened to this one on tape as I drove to a conference. It was a decent read, a page turner, but like so many thrillers left a bunch of problems lurking -- like some of the commando scenes in which the good guys break and enter, assault and murder people who are, according to law, innocent until proven guilty, but all of which has no consequences because the bad guys confess. Yeah, right. Not in the real world!

Sing the Light, Sing the Warmth, and Receive the Gift, by Louise Marley. This trilogy comes before Singer in the Snow. I really enjoyed reading them, although some of the suspense was taken away by reading Singer in the Snow (for instance, I knew that some of the characters had lived or died at particular times) so I'd recommend reading the series first if you're interested in reading Singer in the Snow. My 11 year old daughters read this series and loved it, so it's accessible to a variety of ages.
Confessions of Supermom, by Melanie Lynne Hauser. This was a fun book, if a bit silly. I couldn't totally relate, as the mom is a cleaning freak, and well... well, the less said about my prowess with the sponge the better... but nonetheless it was a quick, light read. Good for the beach.
The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson. This book was a selection of the feminist science fiction and fantasy book group. From the publisher, " The PowerBook is 21st-century fiction that uses past, present, and future as shifting dimensions of a multiple reality. It enfolds the world of computers and the Internet and transforms the signal development of our time into a wholly human medium. The story is simple. An e-writer named Ali will write to order anything you like, provided that you are prepared to enter the story as yourself and take the risk of leaving it as someone else. You can be the hero of your own life. You can have freedom for one night...but there is a price. And Ali discovers that she, too, will have to pay it. Set in Paris, Capri, and cyberspace, The PowerBook reinvents itself as it travels, using fairy tales, contemporary myths, and popular culture to weave a story of requited but failed love." I haven't gotten very far yet, but it is hysterical so far -- a young woman setting off to a distant land disguised a man with the help of a pair of flower bulbs and a well wrapped tulip! I hope it remains as amusing. This was a confusing book, but engaging. It certainly raises some interesting issues about love and relationships, reality and perception. At times, it was frustrating, since you can't always tell what is real and what is imagined.
Ishmael, By Dan Quinn. This is a book of pop philosophy thinly disguised as a novel. (Very thinly disguised.) Basic premise: a talking gorilla takes a student and walks him through the postulates of western society (as he sees them) pointing out the fallacies therein. Goal: help humankind turn themselves around so they don't overexploit the world, killing all life on it, including themselves, in the process. Not exceptionally ground breaking, and some sections were not very convincing, and, worst of all, it goes no further than presenting the problems -- no solutions offered. However, there's an exceptional re-reading of the Cain and Abel story that is worth plodding through the rest of the fluff to read. I suppose, for those who aren't already convinced that greed, materialism, the intense desire to prolong life, and the impersonality of multi-national corporations where no one is responsible for morality is leading us down the path of destruction, this might be an eye-opening book.
The Dark Materials Triology, by Phillip Pullman. Having read all three of these books now -- The Golden Compass, the Subtle Knife, and the Amber Spyglass -- I can see why they are so popular. They are quite shocking, but the story is very engaging. I was annoyed by several things: the first book is difficult to get into, with a collection of councils and personages thrown at the reader. I suspect this is to help weed out younger readers who might pick them up, and for whom the subject matter is not really appropriate. There is a middle section where the female character seems to turn into a limp lily. She revives (Thank God!!), and I suppose it can be seen as an overreaction to the events of her life which, an overreaction which she, thankfully, outgrows. The third book went into a lot of detail that seemed to be unnecessary and rather slow. The ending is very unsatisfactory. The author seemed to go to great lengths to make a certain twist prevent the ending that the reader would like. I don't know if this really was just perversity, or if there was some deeper reason I couldn't see, but it felt like the author was desperately trying to do anything to keep from a fairytale ending. I think he should have looked a bit farther, because there are lots of ways he could have done so and still had an outcome that was more satisfactory.
The Price of Temptation: this was written by a friend of mine, whose pen name is M. J. Pearson. It's a gay, regency romance. Now, I don't read romance at all, I don't read historical novels very often, and I've only read a handful of gay lit, mostly lesbian lit at that. So this was about as far out of my box as it gets. But I enjoyed the. It's a good romp. The characters were interesting, with all sorts of charm and flaws, and some really nice twists that made what might have seemed to be a stereotypical butler or cook or timid servant boy into something quite different. No, I won't tell you what they were, but it was a pleasant surprise to find the twists 20 or 30 pages in.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. A good read, although not as strong as some of her work. Eco-conscious book that intertwines three apparently unrelated stories of three generations living in a small Appalachian farming community. I have to admit, as a writer, there's nothing I like so well as a good book with obvious flaws. Gives me hope!

By Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. Who can resist a book when the author has such a delightful name! And which is African fantasy? Another young adult book. (Can you tell my twins are giving me lots of books to read?) The beginning is decidedly odd, but I'm into it enough that willing suspension of disbelief has kicked in solidly and I'm really enjoying it.

PS: After having finished the book, I'd say it is definately worth the read. I have it from the author that a sequel is in the works... can't wait!

Singer in the Snow, by Louise Marley. Louise is an excellent writer, and I have enjoyed other works by her-- The Terrorists of Irustan, The Maquisade, The Child Goddess -- very much. This is a young adult book, and I got it for my twins who devoured it and said that this should be the book for
our family book group this winter. (Each winter we pick a book and have a family book group discussion with my parents, and other family members who happen to be around. Last year we read The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night and the year before it was The Chocolate War.) Everyone enjoyed Singer in the Snow a lot (except my oldest who admitted that was largely because she is determined to dislike any book I assign to her...). It definately engendered a lively discussion.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip Jose Farmer. The first in the famous Riverworld series, and Hugo winner. I figured I had to read this one since it is such a classic, and since my friend Carol gave me a copy I couldn't really complain that I hadn't been able to find it at the library...

I have to say, I've not been very impressed; I can see why, if this were the first sci-fi book someone picked up, they might well develop the attitude that "I don't like sci-fi," especially as it won a Hugo. The pacing is very...um... deliberate, lets say. There are abrupt jumps in time, with sort of casual mention of events that happened in between, leaving the reader struggling to figure out what has happened between the last scene and this one. By the end, I didn't really care whether the superior beings were running experiments to amuse themselves, or really offerring a second chance to humankind, or even if there was much difference between the two (ie the experiment may have been about what it takes to get up to heaven).

Even so, I'm glad I've read it. And I might read the next one in the series to see if it gets any better.

Kindred, by Octavia Butler. A great read by an African-American sci-fi writer. Kindred explores issues in slavery, race relations, modernity, and how one's environment affects one's behavior, outlook on life, and personality. I recommended this one for my book group, and it made for a great discussion. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, though we all felt the ending was a bit problematical. Of course, it's a rare book that doesn't have some fairly obvious issues, and despite that common feeling, it didn't surprise any of us that this book has become a classic.

 

 

 

The Redwall Series, by Brian Jacques. My twin daughters have been swallowed up by this ongoing series for the past three years. They have read each of the thirteen some books at least three times, and some many times more. I started with Mossflower, but decided fairly quickly that it made more sense to start with Redwall as that was the first written. I think it was a wise choice because the characters are more thoroughly introduced in this book, while the first one sort of assumes a knowledge of the Redwall world.

I have to admit, I've developed in the past five years or so a real dislike of books which basically take animals, dress them up like humans, given them human habits (like cooking, eating at tables, weaving tapestries, building abbeys, and battling one another). This started with children's books such as the Arthur series. I couldn't quite understand why the completely human Arthur and friends weren't humans. Why were some of them unidentifiable creatures, others rats and rabbits? Why not just make them human if you are going to have them behave exactly like humans?? Once I'd become sensitized, I began to see the trend all over children's literature -- from Peter Rabbit to Richard Scarry's Busy Town.

So, coming in, these books were a hard sell for me. Jacques does give the rabbits some rabbity qualities and the squirrels some squirrelly ones. But the animals are far too human for my tastes, especially when the little girl mice are cute, sweet, nice and awesome cooks and handmaids, while the little boys are rambunctious, playful, and fierce, brave warriers.

Perhaps more problematic is that the books show a lack of care in writing, perhaps because the issues I picked up on are ones a child or teenager are less likely to catch. For instance, at one point Jacques describes the protagonists and creeping along Indian file. Only, there aren't any humans in the books (though there are human things -- farms, wagons, barns, etc) so a reference to humans seemed out of place. Why not just single file, which would have done as good a job without the jarring imagery. At another point, the mouse abbot tells his young follower that the abbey mice do not take another living being's life. Two sentences later, he send the lad out to go fishing! Only after the fish is caught and roasted do we learn that they will take life for food. Obviously, it would have been better to have the abbot add that little caveat when he was lecturing his young apprentice about being too warlike.

Anyway, after about 125 pages or so, I started to get into the story more and did enjoy the read, despite my pet peeves and the occasional sloppy writing. My kids, as I said, have thoroughly enjoyed the books, as have many adults I know.

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer. Although this book is being marketed as young adult, and my 11 year old daughter loved it, I think it would appeal to most adults. Certainly many of the references will be lost on kids. Sea of Trolls is a historical fantasy, telling the story of Jack, a young apprentice bard, and his adventures after being taken captive by Viking berserkers. It's very readable, and offers some good food for thought, particularly around issues of how different cultures make sense of the world, and how members of different cultures can like and hate each other at the same time. I don't usually like fantasy very much; Sea of Trolls uses a young protagonist who is learning on his own, so the inconsistencies I usually find with books where the characters can use magic are not a problem here. If Jack can't magic away something, it's because he doesn't know how. All in all, a great read.