Between the Bookends: March 2015

Bookends © Sophie Brown
Bookends © Sophie Brown

As we sprung forward and lost a precious hour of sleep, the GeekMoms still found time to cram in plenty of reading. This month’s selection includes demonic advice, a future British dystopia, and dinosaur sex–just thankfully not all at once! Read on to delve deeper into what we’ve been reading.

Good Manners © St. Martin's Griffin
Good Manners © St. Martin’s Griffin

Last May, writer and scholar Barbara Oakley recommended Lisa check out a book by a friend of hers, science-minded advice columnist Amy Alkon, titled Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck. Unfortunately, it took nearly a year to finally get around to reading it. This is a bitingly a funny look at one woman’s tips on dealing with modern day manners in a world where the word manners has become about as offensive as the F-bomb itself. As far as actually agreeing with the advice, Lisa found it to be hit and miss at best (she didn’t even read the “dating” section, and she really had some problems with Alkon’s penchant for public shaming). This book really didn’t seem like its main intention was to issue actual sound advice in many matters. Instead, it seemed more a way of using humor to look at many modern day home and workplace social ills. However, Lisa would never recommend this read in the “try this at home” sense. Instead, readers should take Alkon’s advice with some laughs and several grains of salt, and hope she doesn’t get herself killed by an angry neighbor. She really does seem like a wickedly fun person.

On the other side of the coin, Lisa always dives into her inspirational studies during the Lenten season, and went old school, with C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, finding eerie similarities in the attitudes of the 1940s and present day. However, the companion book she chose, Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, she found particularly affecting. First published in 1961, the book is written in a series of correspondence from a high ranking demon, Screwtape, to his novice nephew Wormword as he tries to issue his bits of wisdom on how to capture a human soul. The unfortunate consequence for Wormwood if he fails is taking part in a feast—as the main course.

Lisa’s last encounter with the book was listening to an audio version read by veteran Monty Python member, John Cleese. Cleese’s very proper British reading of it, gave the book an interesting, but straightforward character study with a dark edge. Reading it again using just a bedside lamp and imagination to bring out the characters, it took on the even bleaker tone of a supernatural thriller. Readers don’t have to have any spiritual belief to enjoy this book, but no matter what they believe, it will be hard to shake off, almost as if they unintentionally took place in underworld voyeurism, or wandered upon an organized crime hit job. “Yes, dear mortal,” it seems to say, “you’ve seen too much.”

 

My Beloved Brontosaurus © Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
My Beloved Brontosaurus © Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

My Beloved Brontosaurus, by Brian Switek. Melanie read this nonfiction book (no, it’s not one of THOSE dinosaur books) after she saw it at the book store. It was definitely a case of judging a book by its cover. This book is part memoir, part science book, written in a conversational and fun tone. It chronicles some of Switek’s travels around the country as he talks about the latest discoveries in dinosaur studies, covering topics from feathers to diet, from dino society to dino sex, and of course, theories of extinction. The authors voice lent a great sense of wonder to the book, and even those who are not as into dinosaurs as Melanie might find it contagious. Reading about Switek’s adventures on the road gave things a personal touch, and helped bring a book about things dead many millions of years to life. My Beloved Brontosaurus was an easy, enjoyable, relaxing read written for the lay-person, yet full of amazing information about some of the largest creatures to ever roam the earth.

 

Shades of Grey © Hodder & Stoughton
Shades of Grey © Hodder & Stoughton

Sophie has spent much of the previous month working her way through Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, the first (and currently the only published) book of an eventual trilogy set in a dystopian Britain several hundred years in the future. In the book, social status is determined by which colors you are able to see and society revolves around marrying up the chromatic scale. Sophie found the concept very interesting and thought there was a great story in there, as long as you could avoid getting bogged down in the never-ending superfluous details. It’s a book that desperately needed an editor with a sharper pair of scissors.

She has just begin reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Helpthe latest choice of her village book club and something she would never choose to pick up herself. So far she has been pleasantly surprised at how much she is enjoying it. On a more typical note for her, she is also re-reading Ground Zero by Kevin J Anderson with the X-Files News book club; one of the best X-Files novels ever published.

 

Kalimpura © Tor Books
Kalimpura © Tor Books

Rebecca Angel finished Kalimpura, the final book in the Green trilogy by Jay Lake: upper YA to Adult. She picked up the first book years ago because the cover was so striking: a fierce girl hanging upside down from a tree with bright red blood dripping from a cut on her cheek. (The cover won some awards, so she was not alone in loving it.) Meet Green, a girl enslaved into becoming a courtesan, but is secretly taught to become an assassin. Without giving away spoilers for the books, Green takes control of her destiny in a world where gods and goddesses interact with humans (and non-humans), politics and magic go hand in hand, and one young woman can change the world. If that’s not interesting enough for you, she still kicks ass while pregnant, and then while nursing babies. Yeah!

Copies of some books have been provided for review purposes.

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