Book Blog I

**Note: I began typing this on January 25, hence the discrepancy with the dates.

Books Bought/Received This Month:
The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory
The Boleyn Inheritance, Philippa Gregory
The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory
The Wise Woman, Philippa Gregory
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
John Adams, David McCullough
1776, David McCullough
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon
Daniel Isn’t Talking, Marti Leimbach
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

Books Read This Month:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Daniel Isn’t Talking
The Boleyn Inheritence
The Constant Princess

My husband told me I should post my book blogs around the 25th of each month, since Christmas is on the 25th of December and that’s when I got a majority of the books for this month. Of course, he suggested this to me this morning, and then I realized, “Hey, today is the 25th. I better get posting.” So here you are with the first book blog (hence the name, “Book Blog I”).

 Okay, so I got a lot more books than I have read so far. But I am also halfway through two other books, but I surely can’t post about them until I finish them. Plus,  I read four(and a half) books so far this year, which means at this rate I am well on my way to reading at least 50 books this year, and that’s pretty cool. However, reflecting back on my first month’s reading, I realize that I might have to keep a reading diary to help me remember what I read.

So the first book I read was The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory. I actually started reading this book on Christmas Day, and finished a large majority of it that afternoon, while my husband was playing his new Wii games. This book was undoubtedly my favorite one by Gregory thus far. A bulk of Gregory’s writing focuses on the Tudor family of 15th and 16th century England: Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn. This book was written from the perspective of Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. In other books I had read by Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl), Katherine was featured but not prominent. The focus was more on Anne Boleyn, who ultimately steals Henry from Katherine and becomes his second wife. While I had some idea who she was and her story, this book brought her to a new light. I don’t think I have ever been so inspired by a book character than I was by Katherine in this novel. Despite the fact that her first husband dies and she is forced to marry his selfish younger brother, who is many years younger than her and blames her for not having a son, takes a mistress, puts her aside, exiles her from the kingdom, disowns their daughter, forces her to say their marriage was not legitimate, and ultimately causes her death, Katherine does not even flinch. She is graceful, selfless, and feels completely in the right. Her devotion to her religion of Catholicism, in a newly-formed Protestant world, is unwavering. Gregory takes a tragic historic figure and transforms her into a character that is charming, believable, and inspiring. I doubt I will find another Gregory book that I love so much.

The Boleyn Inheritence is the other Philippa Gregory book I got for Christmas. This book was interesting because Gregory wrote it from the perspective of three different characters: Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law to Anne; Anne of Cleeves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife; and Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. I really found this book compelling because it helped us get more into the psyche of the crazy king, Henry. Plus, in this book, history really did repeat itself with the characters of Anne of Cleeves and Katherine – Anne of Cleeves is almost a mirror image of Katherine of Aragon, in both her manner and her grace; while Katherine Howard is not only a kin of Anne Boleyn, but as young and stupid as her predecessor as well. Plus, in this book, Henry is much older, much uglier, and – dare we say – much more, erm, sterile. However, in Tudor England, infertility is a fault of the women alone, so to understand what these women go through at the hand of their so-called husbands is enlightening. Of course, it also, as I told my husband, made me hate men a little bit more for what they put women  through during the time. My only issue with this book is that Jane Boleyn is a supposed “bad guy,” but her antagonistic ways were not very apparent to me. In fact, I did not even know that she was supposed to be a villianess until I was purusing Gregory’s website one day. 

The next two books I read I got while I was in Atlanta visiting my parents. I have recently become fascinated with autism and its different strands. I think much of this is due in part to the student I have mentioned with Asperger’s. So after getting $75 worth of B&N gift cards for Christmas, we decided to stop by the store near my parents house so I could redeem the cards. There was a book that I was interested in,  Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, by John Elder Robison, but apparently it has gained  a lot of popularity lately and they were all out. However, the friendly B&N Reference Center lady did recommend to me The Curious Incident . . .  so I decided to check it out. While there, I also found another book (Daniel Isn’t Talking) that was in the sale section for $5 (a hardback, no less! Score!) and decided for $5, I would give it a shot.

The Curious Incident of the Dog is an interesting book in the way it is written. It kind of reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Breakfast of Champions but in a more likeable way. Like BoC, this book uses little anecdotes and less traditional ways of writing, such as math of equations actually written on the page. Plus, because the main character is a teenage boy with Asperger’s, it is difficult to get into his mind sometimes. You feel some distance from the main character, but I supposed this is the catch of this book, considering one of the main “symptoms” of Autism is the distance from other people and the lack of social skills. While I wasn’t necessarily WOWED like the lady at B&N said I would be, this was definitely an interesting (and fast) read; once I picked the book up, I didn’t want to stop reading. It also incorporates other life events in it as well – lying, affairs, snooping neighbors – so if you don’t necessarily have an interest in Autism like I do, it is still a good read.

The other book, Daniel Isn’t Talking, to put it bluntly, had me in tears at some points. Now, I have become more emotional in my young adult life than I ever was before, but it is hard for a book to make me want to cry out of joy. However, this book did just that. Unlike The Curious Incident, this book is told from the perspective of a mother who just found out her three year-old has autism. Despite this diagnosis, the mother, Melanie, strives to have a normal life for herself, Daniel, and her other daughter. Using a new sort of speech therapy to teach her son to communicate, and makes impressive gains with him without the use of a “special” school. Amidst this, Melanie has to deal with her jerkoff of a husband who takes off and starts dating his old girlfriend again (this book had me hating men for a while, too) and then comes crawling back to her at the end (I won’t spoil the ending . . . oh, okay, I will. I cheered for Melanie at this point!). I think what gets me the most with this book though is pure emotion this writing conveys (hence, the crying). The joy that Leimbach evokes as Melanie makes significant gains with her little boy is rather overpowering. This book definitely tops my list (and is now listed under My Favorite Books on Facebook).

Well, there you have it, the first book blog of the year. I already have my line-up for February going, and am well on my way for this month! It is my goal to read 50 books (at least) by the end of the year (100 would be better, although that might have to be my goal for 2010), and I think I am off to a good start, despite the fact that I bought way more books than I have read. Oh, well, as my Manteo Book Sellers shirt from the Outer Banks says: “You can never have too many books!”  🙂

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