Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My July Reading

July came and went by swathed in dark gray clouds, cold winds, and rain. It was like summer never came to my part of the world and we went straight to fall. So I've been one disgruntled person this month, trying to stay away from everyone's summer photographs on Facebook. Some day, it'll be me. May be next month...

In the meantime, thank goodness for the steady companionship of books, for the weather has jilted me.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Categories: General Fiction
Comments: I laughed out loud in parts where I wasn't already smiling. To some reviewers, this book comes across as bitter and cringe-inducing. To me, this hapless egotist (now, there's an oxymoron) stumbles through his world convinced life has stiffed him and gets his passive-aggressive revenge kicks from his students. That's the story in a nutshell. It's the unveiling of the character of one Jason Fitger, who is a has-been professor in the Payne University's Engli_h Department, which is so poor it can't repair its own departmental sign. His books have tanked. His wife divorced him. His ex-lovers don't talk to him. And his only claim to fame was that once he was the apple of the eye of the professor whose Seminar class he attended along with all of these women and some of the men in his life. Fitger writes recommendation letters for his students where he takes his bitterness out on his students, the people he's submitting the recommendation letters to, and mutual acquaintances.

In a letter to the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences in support of his colleague Lance West, Fitger writes:

If we don't engage in an aggressive effort to retain him, other (more prestigious) institutions will poach.

West is unprepossessing—but he is also a striver. Put a ladder in front of him and he will eagerly climb. So much intellectual will and ambition! I confess: at this point in my career, that sort of enthusiasm fatigues me. The role that is left to me is to stand in the patronizing shadow of my younger and more aspiring colleagues and push Up the chimney with you, and don't get soot on your knickers along the way!

Those of you in the superior ranks of the Land of Red Tape would do well to watch your back: if West hasn't yet fled this institution, he'll have one of your jobs in a few short years..

Lord of Dishonor by Edith Layton
Categories: Romance, Regency
Comments: The two protagonists enter reluctantly into a fake engagement that is altruistic from Christian's side in order to prod Amanda's malingering love interest into proposing to her. The engagement is forced upon them when they're "discovered" by Amanda's mother and her guests, after the couple are "accidentally" put in the same bedroom together in the dead of the night. Neither of them wants to be engaged to the other, but pretend to be so for Amanda's benefit. Well, it does have the hoped-for effect in that Giles arrives posthaste at Christian's manor where Amanda and Christian are exploring their fake engagement in the company of Christian's repellant family. Much Sturm und Drang ensues. This was my June TBR Challenge post and my detailed comments are here.

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
Categories: Romance, Regency
Comments: After reading Cold-Hearted Rake, I wasn't enthused about reading Lady Helen Ravenel and Rhys Winterborne's story. Quite a bit of their story had already occurred in CHR, and while I enjoyed CHR's dual storylines, I just didn't see their story needing a whole another book. And my gut feeling there has turned out to be true at least for me. I was underwhelmed by Marrying Winterborne. I know I'm completely in the minority. It's been universally acclaimed. Ah, well.

The story I'm really looking forward to is Pandora and West's story. (And of course Devil in Spring. WHO doesn't think Devil in Winter is one of the top romances of all time?)

The deBurgh Bride by Deborah Simmons
Comments: Elene Fitzhugh is a termagant, well-versed in the use of sharpened daggers and a sharper tongue. Geoffrey de Burgh, warrior and scholar, is patience and courtesy incarnate. Theirs is a marriage-of-convenience engineered by the king. This is a medieval that shows knightly chivalry at its best. Geoffrey gives his marriage his all, not losing his cool or his courtesy even in the face of her insults, shrieks, threats to his person at knife-point, and lack of bathing or reading skills. You're thinking, how in the world is this romance going to fly? Well, it does, thanks to the author's skill. I will admit though that I found myself in sympathy with Geoffrey for most of the book and his attraction to her unfathomable. But the author makes the romance work. More of my thoughts are at All About Romance.

Make Your Mind an Ocean by Lama Yeshe
Categories: Nonfiction, Spiritual
Comments: This is a book about Buddhist psychology. Buddhism looks within for solutions, not without, which is how modern western psychology works. Lama Yeshe was a Buddhist monk who studied in Tibet and Nepal. In the 1970s, he went out in the wider world to educate people about Buddhism. This book is a collection of four of his talks and long Q&As in Melbourne, Australia in March 1975. These are very much in the format of a wise teacher imparting wisdom to students. My detailed comments are here as part of my July TBR Challenge post.

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
Categories: Nonfiction
Comments: This book is a collection of four of Sacks's essays written in the last two years of his life. He was a doctor-writer in the grand tradition of Atul Gawande, Paul Kalanithi, and Abraham Verghese. Like them, Sacks wrestled with life and death in his books. For eighty years, he lived life on his own terms: It is the fate of every human being to be a unique individual to find his own path, to live his own life, and to die his own death. It is with a sense of gratitude that Sacks conducted his whole life. From his residency in medicine, through his career in neurology, through his interactions with his patients, to his near-death experience during mountaineering, his writings, and his numerous friends, he lived life in gratitude for what he had been given by others and for what he had been able to give back. My detailed comments are here.

Organzing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your office, and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern
Categories: Nonfiction, Life Skills
Comments: This book was an NYT bestseller, and Morgenstern has quite a successful organizing company with clients ranging from celebrities to big corporations. She's been interviewed on Oprah and Good Morning America. So she's considered quite an authority.

However, I was underwhelmed by the book. I found it trite and overly prescriptive and restrictive. The planning worksheets, detailed hourly breakdowns, the purchase of precise accessories all are too nitpicky and fussy.

Putting everything in opaque baskets is one way to get it out of view but the more you hide things away, the more likely you are to buy multiples of things you already have, because you can't find and/or see what you already have. Besides, all these portable carts, corner tables, and bookshelves filled with baskets and plastic drawers and tubs simply looks cluttered and well, tacky. There's no possible d├ęcor or house architecture where this could work seamlessly and smartly. This is especially true of small, highly busy areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

I did find her advice on filing and organization of paperwork useful, because papers are my besetting sin. I'm currently in the midst of a Organize House Project where my goal is to go from room to room, touching everything, purging heavily, and organizing the rest. And dealing with my papers, which are spread out over a few shelves of a bookcase, rather than in the filing cabinet, are something that I'm dreading and that are probably the most important things to sort, purge, and organize.

Which leads me to my main problem with the book. Her emphasis should've been more on purge, purge, purge, and less on finding more ways to store the same junk.

Other than the paperwork, I'm fairly organized, so I found the book more annoying than useful. I'd hoped for a revolutionary epiphany, given her credentials, instead I got detailed commonplace.


willaful said...

Me. :-( Not a big Devil in Winter fan.

That organizing book sounds terrible! I like It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh. Excellent thinking on stuff. I also used Stephanie Wilson's Getting Organized for a paper system, but you might find it has some of the same flaws as that one.

Keira Soleore said...

Oh, I'm so sorry Devil in Winter didn't work for you. It's such a favorite of mine and you and I usually have similar reading tastes that I couldn't have forseen you wouldn't like it.

I'm curious: Do you like Kleypas's Travis series? Those are my huge favorites, too.

I look up Walsh. Thanks much for the suggestion. I'm usually such a paper list maker but I found with this book that I'm reluctant to try detailed journaling/worksheeting of the organization projects. I'll definitely give Walsh a look but will give Wilson a pass.

willaful said...

Blue-Eyed Devil is a favorite of mine, the others I can take or leave. I generally prefer her historicals.

Keira Soleore said...

Blue-Eyed Devil is my favorite Travis, too. I'm also partial to Sugar Daddy.