Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer (2006)

This is the first book of The Time Traveler's trilogy. Peter Schock lives in current day London, and has a busy father who never has time for him, his mother is working on a film in Hollywood. He goes off to the the country with his nanny where he meets Kate Dyer, who's father is a scientist and they both get accidentally transported to 1763 by an anti-gravity machine. There they meet the nasty Tar Man, who takes off with their machine. Luckily Gideon Seymour sees them appear and takes care of them, taking them to a well of family - the Byngs. Gideon is an interesting character, having been saved from hanging for stealing some food by Lord Luxon, for whom he becomes a trusting servant and cutpurse for a while. He is escaping from Luxon by taking a position with the Byngs, when he runs into Peter and Kate. He tries to help them to get back their machine and get back to their own century, encountering highway men and all sorts of obstacles on the way.

So it is basically an adventure story where two current day kids get thrown into the 18th century and get the history lesson of their lives. I always like historical details of everyday life - the sights, sounds and smells, such as the fact that no one, including the rich, bathed much back then, so everybody had an odor about them. A fun read to counteract a heavy book I am reading. Maybe I will read the rest of the trilogy, maybe not.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2013 Review

It is worth doing this analysis of the previous year’s reading. The blog itself is useful and I use it to see which books I have read by an author or to choose Christmas gits, but only upon reflection do I realize all the fascinating worlds that opened up to me through my readings.  I did not read any classics and still like historical fiction, contemporary fiction, thrillers, some romance and children’s and young adult books, very little non-fiction. I continued reading Baldacci and Nora Roberts, this year read three Vince Flynn books as he passed away, and have an intention of reading through most of his Mitch Rapp books. Of my favorite authors, I read Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway, one of my favorite books of the year; Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed; Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, and Audrey Niffenegger’s Raven Girl (met the author at a library conference.) My other favorite fiction books were: The Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, Love Anthony by Lisa Genova, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (maybe my favorite book of the year),and  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I also discovered Maeve Binchy, a popular Irish writer. In non-fiction I was fascinated by Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, MSNBC reporter Rachael Maddow’s analysis of our military in Drift, and Will Schwalbe’s End of Your Life Book Club – the ultimate book lover’s book, as well as a look into ending your life gracefully and helping others do so. I also tried to do a bit of regional reading. When heading out to Montana and Wyoming, I tried reading something about the area, and asked people out there what to read that was typical of the area. Ivan Doig and CJ Box were suggested authors. I also tried to read up on the Middle East a bit – both fiction and non-fiction, and am still in the middle of that.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn (1999)

I wanted to read the early Mitch Rapp books, so I would understand the later ones, especially why President Hayes trusts Rapp and how the relationship started with Anna Rielly. Though this was the first Rapp book written by Flynn, it is the third book chronologically. He later went back and wrote Mitch Rapp's back story.

Since I am just reading On Killing, a non-fiction book about the difficulty of soldiers to actually kill another human being, especially when looking them in the eye, I am reminded of the uniqueness of Rapp being able to kill so efficiently and wonder about myself for liking this character so much. I was planning to reread the first book to remind myself how Rapp became what he was, because there was a very good reason, if I recall correctly.

My other caveat is about the whole Middle East terrorist scenario. I just had dinner with some Arab students and find I am still so ignorant of their culture, their thinking, and can easily understand that they could dislike us Americans, after all we have done to their countries. I could understand the anger of the terrorists in this book - though I do not condone their actions at all. I am wondering if it is PC to even be reading this book, but since the old commie enemies are no longer around, unfortunately these are the new enemies of choice in thrillers.

Rafique Aziz is the ultimate bad-ass terrorist, who has planned for years a way to take over the White House and hold the President of the US hostage to his demands for his people. Most of his plan works out well, but he has not factored in Mitch Rapp, who not only captured Aziz's mentor that provided information in the nick of time to get the President in the safe bunker, but Rapp is able to infiltrate the locked down, explosive rigged White House to get intel out and with the help of various special forces, bring the plan to a halt. So yes, another riveting thriller from Vince Flynn.

There are many aspects of this book that make it fascinating to me, besides just being an exciting story. There was the nuanced Rapp himself, who can come to the rescue of a damsel in distress, though that is against his orders, and the conflicts within him - to be focused, use his anger to react quickly, but reign in with thought when necessary. Then there was the look into all the folks making decisions in our government. There are a lot of chiefs (including my favorite Irene Kennedy and her mentor Thomas Stansfield), so I am no longer surprised that we don't always make the best decisions as a country and I am glad I don't have anything to do with those kinds of decisions, except as far as I can help elect the president that I think will try to make the best choices in my opinion. The scariest part is when a political way of thinking takes precedence over what is best for the nation and the world. The special forces like the SEALS are always an interesting group, and though I still don't have them straight, three different special forces were described and the differences in their responsibilities explained. I am glad they all worked together on this one. I also liked that the White House is full of secret tunnels, elevators, etc. I don't know how much of that is true, but I would like to think of the White House as our castle with its secrets. 

One last comment. Since this was not available in audio, I checked it out from the library in hardcover. I found it languished on my nightstand and book table for quite a while. I can't say that a large hardcover is my favorite format anymore. I think for reading I like the medium sized paperbacks the best. I did like the map of the area from the Pentagon to the Capital, so I could visualize the movements of the action. One thing I miss highly in audio books.

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber (2011)

I was looking for something light and Christmassy to balance out a heavier book I have started to read. This was a bit too light for me, and it looks like I have read only one other Macomber book, so it is hard to say if I need to stay away from this author.

Cassie has a good job, friends, but not the perfect husband and family she imagined she would have to make Christmas perfect, even though she has even tried online dating. So she lets her friend talk her into going to a matchmaker for an exhorbitant fee (money she has saved for the „perfect” wedding.) The matchmaker is a gruff, critical man named Simon. For some unexplicable reason there is chemistry between them, though of course it takes a while for both to realize that.

I remember as a kid fantasizing about getting married – as in having a dreamy guy and beautiful wedding, but somehow the difficulty of working out a relationship never entered those dreams. Cassie too seems to have an unrealistic view of what family life would be like and thinks a friends photo of her family is „perfect.” Who knows how they really get along.

I can’t say I didn’t like the book at all, as it had some colorful characters. The part that I really enjoyed was that Simon gave Cassie three tasks to do, to see her mettle – ringing Salvation Army bells in freezing weather, helping a Santa with kids, and giving a dinner for her neighbors, with whom she does not really get along. That was the most touching and Christmassy moment for me, when lonely people get together and start warming up to each other. So, I will give it that – I did get some Christmas spirit out of the book.