Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

I approached this book with trepidation and every intention of reading as slowly as I could. I had to put the book down every third chapter or so to make sure I had processed all the information. A couple of times, I went back and looked up stuff in previous chapters.

And since many of the people I know haven't finished this book yet, I'm not really giving anything like my normal review. I will say that I loved this book every bit as much as I loved the previous six.

Also, I want to say that I took a quiz on The Leaky Cauldron to predict what would happen in book 7--and I was oh-so-very wrong with most of my answers. It's probably a good thing that I never took the others. (I think there were two more.) Really, that just made the reading all the more fun--I like being surprised.

And I'd be more than happy to discuss this book with any other HP fans out there--I just don't want to post spoilers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In an Instant by Lee and Bob Woodruff

In this well-rounded memoir, Lee and Bob Woodruff write a joint accounting of their experiences of Bob's head injury in Iraq. They describe their history as a couple, and the friendships and previous experiences which helped them to deal with this life-altering event.

Though Lee's accounts aren't as polished as Bob's, the book is still a fascinating read. (I wasn't prepared for that--I expected to feel luke-warm toward this book at best.) The Woodruffs' life together has been topsy-turvy since its beginning, so the only point in the book that I found myself impatient with was the beginning, and that was undoubtedly due to my own expectations of the book.

If I would have changed anything, I would have included more details about brain injury treatment and therapy. At one point, Lee mentions that the collaboration of the military and private sector doctors treating Bob "would ultimately have positive implications for all soldiers with traumatic brain injuries." But that's all that is ever said about it, and I would really, really like to know. (And more importantly, will that ever change how civilian head injuries are addressed/treated?)

And of course, there was a little thrill when I saw my own last name in the book. (It turns out that a relative of mine was Bob's doctor on the plane to the US.)

The book is more focused on pre-accident events than Bob's journey to recovery, which makes it seem like lighter fare than the other TBI memoirs I've read, but since the details are important and interesting, I can say that I would easily recommend this book.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Summit Avenue by Mary Sharratt

How can you not want to read a book that begins, "How can you weave a life from fairy tales?" I encountered this book while looking at small press websites. I don't even think I read the rest of the summary blurb until I was actually a few chapters into it.

The protagonist is Kathrin Albrecht, a young woman who emigrates from pre-World War I Germany to find a better life in America. She begins her life there as a flour mill worker, learns English, and then finds herself in the good graces of Violet Waverly, a widow who is working on a project and needs a German translator.

I enjoyed the way the fairy tales are woven within Kathrin's story and that the similarities she sees aren't necessarily the parallels the reader sees. I also enjoyed the framing of the story, so that you have a sense of where the story will end--or where you think it will end.

The only slides in my enjoyment of this book were in little moments that I didn't find to be consistent with Kathrin's voice or traditions of the period. There were just a couple paragraphs--one about pre-legal abortion methods that really felt like a rushed mini history lesson (or like it was an interesting bit of information that Sharratt intensely felt needed to be integrated somehow) and the other was regarding wedding rings. (Double ring ceremonies were not common until World War II and as they were both children of European parents, I am doubtful that either of their fathers would have worn wedding bands.)

But those were just a few paragraphs, and the rest of the book was easy to fall into. People will call this book unconventional, but only because the relationship between Kathrin and Violet becomes Sapphic. Like all fairy tales, this is a story of maturation, fear, and love--and it's well worth your attention.