Sunday, March 05, 2006

Of Books and Burritos

On February 28, our public library’s Winter Reading Program ended. Six of us completed the reading, viewing and listening needed to win the reward—a FREE burrito from Chipotle! (Let me insert here an unsolicited plug for this McDonald’s-owned company with delicious, healthy food and great community spirit. They just built one in our town, and a librarian told me that they were falling all over themselves to work with the library to promote reading!)

So today, for lunch after church, we redeemed our coupons and consumed our prizes. Mmmm, mmmm!

Turning in our book logs caused me to consider for a moment the best—and worst—reads of the year so far. Drumroll, please.... [opening the envelope...] [imagine me in a designer gown...]

And the kids' picks are...

Bantam 15 recommends Airborne by Kenneth Oppel, a Victorian-era adventure complete with pirates and an imaginary undiscovered species.

Blondechick 13 enjoyed Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, a story about the trials and perseverance of a girl her own age, married and immediately widowed, living in a totally different culture (India) which has no place for her.

Bantam 10.75's new favorite books are The Castle in the Attic and The Battle for the Castle by Elizabeth Winthrop about a boy entering another world through a toy castle.

Bantam 7 loved Mice of the Herring Bone, Mice of the Nine Lives and Mice of the Seven Seas by Tim Davis. These are great easy chapter books for boys in that difficult period between Easy Readers and full-fledged books!

My personal favorites are new discoveries Sutter’s Cross and Levi’s Will by W. Dale Cramer. We were given an advance copy of his third novel, Bad Ground, last fall, and both my husband and I devoured it. These are published by Bethany House, but they are far from the usual soft-core romance fare being offered by so many Christian publishing houses. The characters are believable and real; the drama is in their struggle with real issues of thought and attitude toward others in their life. Do read them, if you enjoy fiction! (These are also Papa Rooster's favorite fiction reads of the year so far.)

These didn’t count for the library reading program, though, because I didn’t get them at the library. For that, I had to resort to some quick series reading—I picked up Jan Karon’s Mitford series where I left off, at the wedding story, A Common Life. Not her best, I thought, but in general, this series is delightful, uplifting, light reading. If you’re not familiar with them, the main character is an Anglican priest in a small Southern town filled with quirky characters. I love the example of Father Tim’s honest prayer life.

I also listened to an audio version of In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith. This series is set in Botswana and began with The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency . Mma Ramotswe is the heroine who solves gentle mysteries of all kinds. These are not typical whodunits, but they are a refreshing immersion in a slower, simpler world with complexities of its own. Both Papa Rooster and I highly recommend this series!

(Fans will be interested in this tidbit: the reader of the audiobook I heard was South African, so the pronunciations were presumably accurate. Did you know that “Mma” is pronounced “Mmmmmma”? It sounds like the reader has a stammering problem, when she would say something like, “Mmmmmmma Makutsi poured another cup of tea for Mmmmmmma Ramotswe.” Most of my children, if they wandered in to the kitchen while I was listening, found this funny; one was disturbed!)

Finally, because this series is so available at my library and they’re relatively quick listens, I heard The Cat Who Went Bananas by Lillian Jackson Braun—and I hope it holds its position as the worst read of 2006. (Spare me anything worse!) I didn’t know till the very end that it would be this bad—but it ended so abruptly, I told my husband it seemed like the writer (probably a ghost writer, they say) was under pressure to meet a deadline and just said, “Fine, you want a book? Here’s a book!” These mysteries feature a melancholy, yet genial, older detective named Qwilleran who owns two cats, one of whom helps him solve cases by feline intuition. The early ones I can recommend, but they’ve been declining in quality and this one is actually humorous as a case in point. Since you’re not going to read this, I’m sure, I can tell you that it ends with a fire that conveniently burns everything up…and then, oh well, “we’ll never really know what happened.” That’s actually what it said, in the book. At the end. Call it the ghost writer’s revenge, I’m thinking.

Well, there you have it—the best and the worst so far! Anybody want to nominate others in either category? (If you aren't sure how to comment, log in as Anonymous. You can still leave your name with your comment.)


owlhaven said...

I love the detective series from Botswana too! Because of my girls i really appreciate insights into African culture..

Anonymous said...

woo hoo for the Literary Hen Family!! I read the earliest The Cat Who... books, but tired of them. THat was years ago and i always wondered if I should go back to them. Thinking not...

Sherry said...

Yes, Ms. Hen, I reviewed Dale Cramer's book Levi's WIll here. I liked it very much.

Jennifer said...

Have you read the Susan Howatch's Church of England series? She writes in depth about 2 generations of Anglicans as go through life. They are the kind of books I wish I could read for the first time all over again. There are 6 in the series (and a couple of post-series books that arent nearly as good). Glittering Images is the first one.

Anonymous said...

I read those cat mysteries back in the late '80's and stopped reading them when the author had Qwill get into the occult ~ probably when they started to decline. I recently spotted them in the bookstore and thought I might give them a try again. Now I won't. Thanks for the heads up. And I do like the Mitford books. ~Michelle