Friday, July 23, 2010

Good Books: Summer Reading Binge!

Back from vacation, tanned and happy -- and with a bunch of new books read that I can tell you about! I spent a ton of time stretched out on the sand in my beach chair last week, plowing through books -- reading on the beach is just the best, isn't it? I love how the sound of the waves sort of mutes everything and helps you focus. (Maybe I need to get one of those "ocean sounds" CDs to help me focus at work!)

So I finished three books at the beach, though I was pretty far into one of them before I got there. That one was Middlemarch by George Eliot -- one of the "classic" books I've been challenging myself to read more of. (Might as well use that liberal arts degree, huh?)

I'm not going to lie -- this one was a tough read, and not just because it was almost 800 pages long! George Eliot doesn't write in light, satirical prose like Jane Austen or in rich, emotional language like the Bronte sisters. She tries hard for realism in her books, which makes some parts of the book really dry and technical, especially the sections on religious and medical disputes. And don't look for happily ever afters or romantic relationships here -- she shows us what can really happen after people get married and discover what their spouses are really like.

But there were some really great characters in the book, too, especially some of the more minor characters. My favorite, I think, was one of the vicars, Mr. Farebrother. He's criticized by his parishioners because he likes to gamble a wee bit too much, but he ends up being one of the more morally sound and kind characters in the whole novel. And the tension-filled relationship between Dorothea and Will was also fascinating -- I really liked that I couldn't tell right away what their motives or intentions were.

The book I actually bought to take with me on vacation was Elin Hilderbrand's A Summer Affair -- the cover just makes it look like a good beach read, doesn't it? Plus, it's set in Nantucket, and I really love the Nantucket/Martha's Vineyard/Cape Cod area.

The novel itself was just okay as far as romances go -- I have to admit that I wasn't really very invested in the "affair" of the book's title. I was more interested in some of the side details, like Claire's glassblowing efforts and the snippy back-biting that went on between the members of a committee trying to put on a big charity event. So, if you're looking for a quick read that's not too absorbing, this one might fit the bill.

Book number three was The Women of Windsor by Catherine Whitney. As you might have guessed from the cover, this one was about some of the female members of the British royal family: the Queen Mum, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Anne. Interestingly enough, it was also written by an American -- unusual as most books about the royals, appropriately enough, seem to be written by Brits.

I learned some new things about the royal ladies in this book, especially Princess Anne and the Queen Mum. I wish there had been more focus on them, though, and less on Princess Diana and the Camilla/Charles/Diana mess. Word of caution: if you really like Princess Di, this probably isn't the book for you -- the author really is not a fan. Mostly, this just made me want another royal wedding ASAP! (Get on it, Wills and Kate!)

So that's the update on the prose I've devoured recently. Now I'm working on another classic book: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I love a good mystery!

(P.S.: I've added a widget for my GoodReads account, where I keep track of what I've read and what I'm currently reading. If you have a GoodReads account, feel free to add me as a friend!)

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