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What I'm reading now: Twofer Edition: 11 April 29

My apologies for the lack of a post last Friday-- what with the holidays and all, the whole weekend was a little busy. By the  time I remembered to post, it was Wednesday. At that point, I decided I'd just wait the two days and post as per the usual schedule.
I haven't been reading as much recently, so my list isn't twice as long as usual. I did read some excellent and thought-provoking books, though...

Neurodiversity: discovering the extraordinary gifts of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other brain differences--Thomas Armstrong (non-fiction)
City of Tranquil Light--Bo Caldwell (literary fiction)
Grammar matters: the social significance of how we use language-- Jila Ghomeshi (non-fiction)
Satori--Don Winslow
I, Sniper--Stephen Hunter
War is a force that gives us meaning--Chris Hedges (non-fiction)
The sins of Brother Curtis: a story of betrayal, conviction, and the Mormon church--Lisa Davis (non-fiction)
Beneath the Bleeding--Val McDermid
The hero and the crown--Robin McKinley (YA Fantasy)
Flight of a witch--Ellis Peters

Neurodiversity, by Thomas Armstrong, is a discussion of the seldom-considered positive side of various brain differences. Without minimizing the difficulties and pain for those who are affected (directly or indirectly) with brain differences like autism, dyslexia, or depression, Armstrong points out that these conditions have their strengths, too. Autism, for example, brings with it a powerful focus on the object of one's interest, and the ability to note and pick out details without being distracted by the whole-- something extremely helpful in, say, accounting, or checking tissue samples for abnormal cells. Dyslexia often includes greater-than-normal ability in the arts and in visual-spatial abilities. Armstrong finishes with a discussion of what kind of classroom might be most helpful in teaching the neurodiverse. This would be an excellent starting point for any parent with a neurodiverse child, because it also offers lists of resources: books, websites, and adaptive technologies.

City of Tranquil Light, by Bo Caldwell, is a beautiful book. I read it on the advice of my mother, and immediately on finishing it, passed it on to two of my friends. It's the story of a couple who are missionaries in China. That's the short version, and it doesn't do the book justice. It's a love story; it's friendships across cultural lines; it's adventure and fear; it's the growth of faith; it's putting down roots so deep into a country that the place where you were born is never home again. Caldwell's writing is... I've sat here for five minutes trying to put it into words, but I can't. Just go read the book, okay? You can thank me later.

Grammar matters, by Jila Ghomeshi.  Ghomeshi (sister, by the way, to Jian Ghomeshi, who is ubiquitous on the CBC) discusses what actually matters about the way we use language, and what does not. She argues that many of the rules of "proper" grammar  are arbitrary, and don't really make any difference in one's being understood. The telling difference of grammar is more in how one is perceived. "I ain't got any," Ghomeshi says, is as easily understood as "I don't have any," but the first speaker sounds less intelligent and capable. I didn't agree with all of her points, but I think I will be trying to be a little less of a grammar snob than I have been. (Cue quiet celebration among my friends and co-workers.)

Satori, by Don Winslow. This is the second book I've read this year where a writer continues the story of characters created by another-- in this case, the character of Nicholas Hel from Trevanian's Shibumi. (The first was The Attenbury Emeralds  by Jill Paton Walsh, based on the characters by Dorothy L. Sayers.) It's been a few years since I read Shibumi, but what I remember of Nicholas Hel, as well as Trevanian's writing style, was well-served by this prequel. Satori is an excellent thriller, with lots of plot turns and cliff-hanger chapter endings, and you almost need a chart to keep track of the double-crosses and triple-crosses that come up as Hel tries to execute a mission for the Americans in Vietnam and get out alive. An excellent read, and I would also recommend one of Winslow's earlier books (the only other one of his that I've read), California Fire and Life, as well as Shibumi, by Trevanian, which is where this all started.

I'll just mention, briefly, that if you want to have a better understanding of some of the conflicts going on around the world today, read War is a force that gives us meaning, by Chris Hedges. Hedges was a war reporter for years, and has had plenty of up-close-and-personal experience with war.

I've got a number of interesting books in a stack beside my reading lamp, and more on hold and on order at the library, so check back again in a week (or two), and I'll have more to tell you about. There are more non-fiction titles (I seem to be reading more non-fiction than usual), and some very interesting-looking thriller authors that I've just come across....

What I'm Reading Now: Even Briefer Edition: 11 April 15

Well, colour me embarrassed. I didn't note down anything I read this week. I know there was a true crime book of some description, A Woman of Independant Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey (straight-up fiction of a slightly earlier time (copyright 1978)), The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (YA fantasy), and I'm reading two books concurrently: I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter, and The Sins of Brother Curtis by Lisa Davis, which I suppose is a variant on true crime. (It's the story of a man who sexually abused young boys in the Mormon church).

I have also been doing some reading online. There's a deconstruction of the Left Behind series which I've found fascinating. (It may be found here: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/ ) It's written by Fred Clark, who wants to address some of the glaring errors in the Left Behind series, specifically characterization, world-building, structure, and theology. Or, in other words, everything. Well worth reading, especially if you know someone who is otherwise reasonable but thinks the series is non-fiction...

Another site I'm enjoying at the moment: www.notalwaysright.com  If you enjoy little vignettes of stupidity in consumer life, you might enjoy this.

Sorry I've been a slacker this week. I'll try to do better next week, although I foresee some difficulty posting exactly on Friday...

What I'm reading now: Brief edition: 08 April 11

The Union Club Mysteries--Isaac Asimov
Casebook of the Black Widowers--Isaac Asimov
Victim of circumstance--W.E. Davis
Murder sets seed-- Janis Harrison
Unknown means-- Elizabeth Becka
Stolen-- Lesley Pearce (Fiction)
When the killing’s done-- T.C. Boyle (Literary Fiction)
Secrets to the grave-- Tami Hoag
A couple of short takes here:

Victim of Circumstance:  It's an older mystery, from the middle of a series, and it's Christian fiction. I dislike starting in the middle of things, but this was... readable. Decent. Might even read another one of his if I ever find one.

Murder sets seed: Also an older book, also from the middle of a series, this time of gardening/florist mysteries. It was quite decent.

Stolen: Is it mystery? is it plain old ordinary fiction? Mystery-- I suppose. My overall reaction? "Meh."

When the killing's done:  Definitely literary fiction-- I found myself wondering about the significance of various things. It wasn't a pleasant read, but it was a good read. If you want a nuanced take on managing the environment, this is a good choice.

Secrets to the grave: I read Tami Hoag's stuff avidly for a while. I lost interest. This one brought me back again.

 

What I'm reading now: Not an April Fool's Joke Edition: 11 April 01

Trace Evidence-- Elizabeth Becka (also writes as Lisa Black)
Redeemed (SEVENS: week 7)-- Scott Wallens (YA)
Sunshine--Robin McKinley (Fantasy)
The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity-- David Marshall (Theology)
The Righteous Men-- Sam Bourne (still reading)

It’s been a slow reading week. On the plus side, I did get to watch the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jenniefer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, 1995), which is almost like reading the book. Seriously-- a wonderful production-- all five hours of it. (On the minus side, I rediscovered a certain sensitivity to Coverplast bandages... but that's another story).

Trace Evidence-- Elizabeth Becka.
A few weeks back, I commented on Lisa Black. I was rather impressed with what I’d just read, and when I found out that Lisa Black's real name was Elizabeth Becka and that she’d written two books under that  name, I immediately put holds on them. (The friend who tipped me off to this fact beat me to them, so I had to wait until now.) I read the first one this last week.
It’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good, but it suffers by comparison to Takedown. Trace Evidence actually reads something like a warmup for Takedown: female forensic scientist/investigator who is a single mom, teenage daughter, overly political but otherwise lazy boss, eccentric genius squirrelled away in a corner of the lab-- a lot of the characters seem a little familiar. The writing is good, but improves in Takedown, and the plot is workmanlike.
My advice? Either read Elizabeth Becka first and leave a reasonable length of time before you read Lisa Black, or if you must read Lisa Black first, wait a considerable time before you go back to Becka.

Sunshine--Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley is a favorite author, as I believe I've mentioned before. For some reason, though, I've put off reading Sunshine for quite a while. Maybe it's just because I own the  book, and I tend to put off reading my own books in favor of library books. Then again, it could be because of the subject matter: vampires.
Let me hastily say: nobody sparkles. Sunshine predates those other monstrosities by two years, and Sunshine treats vampires in a much more believable way: vampires are terrifying and very inhuman, and any intersection between the human world and the world of the suckers (as they're sometimes referred to) is bound to end badly, especially for the humans. (McKinley's writing is worlds better, too.)
The fantasy world McKinley creates is somewhat post-apocalyptic and gritty, but not without humor and warmth. She does some original things with the legends of vampires and were-beasts (were-chickens, anyone?), and her touches of humor balance the darkness and seriousness beautifully.
This one is a definite read.*
*except possibly for the squeamish... and there is one brief R-rated scene in the middle. The same scene might come in for a language warning, too. It's only two pages, though, and after that it's quite clean.

Note in passing: I read the last of the Sevens series this week, too, and it tied things up quite well. I was quite impressed, actually-- it's hard to keep seven different storylines going, and Scott Wallens did quite well.

Note in passing II: I'm going to move my scheduled posting date to Fridays. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.