Here are the book reviews for every book I've read this year.
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean: was our most recent book club choice. This book was the inspiration for the movie "Adaptation" starring Nicholas Cage. It is a very interesting book about, well orchids. It may be a little too academic for some, but I loved the long descriptions of colonial Florida and the history of orchid hunting around the world. (As a matter of fact I suggested that Brian assign this book as one of his summer reading assignments for his Advanced Placement Biology class. It's that botanically centered.) The battles between the current orchid growers/collectors/thieves and the United States Government and Seminole Indians were fascinating to read about too. The book follows the real life struggles of John Laroche, an eccentric orchid lover, greenhouse manager, and lovable anarchist. He is one of the most bizarre characters you'll ever meet and the world of orchids is almost as strange. My only complaint about the book is that it has no pictures. The descriptions of the millions of species of orchids are wonderful but I was longing for some good pictures. I give this book a B.
Under Orders by Dick Francis: I've been reading Dick Francis books for years. There are dozens of them out there and they are all centered around the British horse racing world. As an ex-jockey, Francis writes wonderfully about the life he knows. In this book his ex=jockey hero, Sid Halley, is once again using his tenacity and private detective skills to solve a racetrack murder. I learned more about off track betting and online gambling in this book than I ever wanted to know. The Francis books are always quick, entertaining reads, perfect for an airplane or a beach chair. Grab any one of them and you'll enjoy it. A
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry: This was my pick for book club. Of the three books I've chosen so far, all of them have been complete snoozers. It's horrible. I chose this book because I read a review about it that compared it to Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which I absolutely loved. This book was nothing like Gilead. The writing was very 'stream of consciousness' and it felt like the author was trying to get all of his political, religious and social views in to one book and he didn't care if there was much of a story there to move it along. The only redeeming factor in this book is that it is set in a rural farming community in the 1920s-1960s so it was a complete reflection of the lives of my grandparents and my dad. I really enjoyed all of the farming descriptions and the small town social dynamics that I've heard described by my grandpa hundreds of times in stories about "the old days". But if you weren't raised by a couple of farmers you probably wouldn't enjoy it much at all. I'd say this book barely gets a D from me.
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes: This is one of those books I grabbed quickly from the shelf because I was in between book club selections and it had an interesting cover. Turns out it was pretty good. The book is set in England in the 1960s, an era I know nothing about. Apparently this was the time when the aristocracy lost all of their social power because everyone realized that new money (made by actual work) was just as good as old money (inherited along with a title). The story revolves around a middle aged man that must go back and visit several of his friends from his past in order to investigate and event that took place when they were all running around together being irresponsible teenagers. I found the book to be informative, interesting and entertaining. B+
The Shack by William Young: I may be one of the last people on the planet to read this book so this review may be of no interest to most of you but.....I loved this book. It really challenged me to reexamine my relationship with God and my view of his attitude/love toward me. The expressions of love between God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and man in this book were so beautiful. I know that some people are bothered by a) the rape and murder of a child and b) the female personification of God in the book, but neither one of those effected my enjoyment of the book. If you have ever struggled with the question "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" then you should read this book. A+
Theodore Roosevelt: Wilderness Warrior by Daniel Brinkley: I absolutely loved this biography. It was LONG (as a matter of fact I didn't finish it because I had to return it to the library) and very slow in parts but the amount of information in this book, not only about Teddy Roosevelt himself, but about our country in the post Civil War and turn of the century days was truly remarkable. I really fell in love with Teddy and his off beat set of friends of enemies in the political realms of New York City and D.C. Reading about the beginnings of places I have been and loved (Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Badlands) was really awesome. I highly recommend this book for the serious reader. A+
The Camel Club by David Baldacci: This book was very slow in the beginning and I didn't really get into the story until at least halfway through. It was a typical legal thriller set in D.C., full of hidden murders, conspiracies that reach the White House and a socially inept band of honest detectives on the case. I give it a C.
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. Click here for review.