I wanted to love Moods since the work was obviously so important to Louisa May Alcott.  And I liked it.  It was a beautifully written, moody book, thought-provoking and entertaining by turns.

I didn’t thrill to it the way I thrilled to some of Alcott’s others, though.  It didn’t involve me as deeply as Little Women or An Old Fashioned Girl.  It didn’t have the light, fun luminescence of Eight Cousins or Rose in Bloom.  Instead of searing itself on my mind, becoming part of my soul, this book was fun for the moment, and then faded into the mass of stories that forms the main fog of my literary history.  Is this because I read it as an adult rather than a teenager? Because its ending is less than perfectly happy? Because it is, after all, a less stellar work? It’s hard to say.

Its’ possible, though, that this book is less of a masterpiece than Alcott believed and hoped it to be.  There’s a lesson in that, I think.  Like Alcott, I’d be well advised to finish the work of my heart–but also to keep after the stuff that resonates more with other people.  It’s hard to judge which of one’s own works might be truly the best.

Goal, Motivation & Conflict and The Elements of Style

Lots of writing friends have recommended Goal, Motivation & Conflict, and I’ve finally read it.  I think it has some great content.  It would have made an excellent brochure or conference workshop.  It could have been an enlightening series of blog posts.  As a book, it’s a bit fluffy.  Don’t get me wrong–I love examples and charts as much as the next person.  Not being exceptionally stupid, however, I can usually make do with one or two, rather than six or eight.  Why say in one-hundred-forty-four pages what you could say as well or better in thirty?

On the other hand, the advice, when pared down to its essence, is excellent.  Characters should reach for goals, they should have reasons for doing so, and their achievement of those goals shouldn’t be rose-strewn.  All of that was worth being reminded of, so I’m not sorry I read the book.

I’m not sorry I read The Elements of Style either.  This writer’s reference has also been recommended by writing friends, and I picked it up at an RMFW conference a few years back.  Though sometimes strident, this pithy book illustrates hundreds of ways to make language clear and concise. It does so with wit and verve. A few of the guidelines show their age (my version was printed in 1962), but most are timeless. This book I’m keeping.

The Floating Admiral

I love Dorothy Sayers.  I’m fond of G.K. Chesterton and Agatha Christie.  This game (they were wise not to call it a story), unfortunately, mixed up their talents (and those of several authors I’m less familiar with) in a way that did justice to none of them.

The puzzle they set for each other hared off in so many directions, it was impossible for even the great fiction writers represented here to stick to a recognizable narrative arc.  Neither did the characters always seem to be the same people from segment to segment.

On the other hand, it was interesting to see what these various authors made of each others’ puzzles, and I was impressed enough with the ending Anthony Berkeley came up with that I’m going to see if I can hunt down more of his work.  For me, finding a new author I like makes it worth the read.

The Poisonwood Bible

Lush with Barbara Kinsolver’s typical detail, this story transported me to a time and place I knew little about.  The characters have distinct, interesting voices, and though I could see the train-wreck of a culture clash coming from the very first page, I read on, pulled inexorably toward the disaster, and then through it to the interesting things the surviving characters made of their lives afterward.  I came away wanting to know more about the history of the Congo and maybe all of Africa.

As always when I read something like this, I found myself wondering what other important twentieth century events and movements my high school “World History” managed to completely skip.

I did find it difficult to believe a Southern Baptist preacher would be as immersed in the Apocrypha as the Reverend Price was, and that made me wonder about how accurately other cultures might be portrayed in the book.  But perhaps Kingsolver took more trouble to research the various African groups than the American cultures she wasn’t fully part of.

This issue, however, is trifling, and on the whole, The Poisonwood Bible was well worth reading.  Not, perhaps, good enough to make it onto my keeper shelf (for books I frequently reread), but close.

The Hundred Foot Journey

This was beautifully written with rich, make-me-hungry descriptions. The characters are well-rounded and well-drawn, and the relationships between them are complex.

I found myself enjoying the Mumbai chapters more than the ones in Europe, I think because in addition to the lush setting, the family had such a vibrancy.  This got lost in the London section (quite understandably–the whole family was reeling from loss), and I think it never fully returned.  Neither Lumiere nor Paris has the wealth of place or of people that Mumbai does though Lumiere is beautiful, and full of interesting characters.

I also regret that the food turns entirely French once Hassan gets to France.  Perhaps this is because I infinitely prefer Indian food to French food (and though I prefer a somewhat calm, quiet dining atmosphere, I know plenty of people, especially Asians, who feel more at home in a boisterous party atmosphere).

I enjoy Hassan’s success, but I find myself wondering why it is that he must leave his culture behind–at least professionally–to achieve it.

Why Shoot a Butler?

I read Why Shoot a Butler? while the kids were off at school today. I’m more familiar with Georgette Heyer’s romances, but I like her enough that I was willing to try this (besides, my sister gave it to me with a glowing recommendation.)

It turned out to be a light, fun read. Frank Amberley’s obnoxious brilliance is entertaining, so much so that I was only slightly annoyed at all the places where he investigated this or that–and then didn’t tell what he discovered. Probably best that way, because it kept me from guessing everything on the second page. As it was, even my somewhat sluggish mind had unraveled about two-thirds of the puzzle by book’s end, so if I’d known more, I probably would have guessed the whole, which tends to make a mystery less interesting.

Still, the dialogue is witty, the characters crisp, and the setting the type of idyllic British countryside town I love to visit in books. (I’ve never had the opportunity to visit one in person. Who knows if they even exist, and if so, whether they’d be any fun?)

Definitely worth curling up with for a couple of entertaining hours.


A fun little book by Ingrid Law. I enjoyed every minute–from meeting Mibs Beaumont and her unusual family, through the crisis that befalls them, through the swashbuckling adventure Mibs undertakes to try and solve the problem, all the way to the semi-sweet (my favorite kind) finish. This–right here–is why I love young adult literature. It’s so nice that my kids bring home plenteous quantities of it.

Joan Johnston’s Comanche Woman

I love RMFW’s Colorado Gold conference–and one of the many good things about it is the stack of books (free & purchased) that I always bring home from it. Comanche Woman is the first I’ve read of the ones I picked up last weekend. I enjoyed it–enough that I’ve put the sequel on hold at the library.  I most appreciated the way it handled the interaction of multiple cultures, showing strengths without excusing atrocious behavior. I’d recommend this book for people who like historical or western romances–and who don’t mind the sex scenes.