So, here are the books I have read for the month of June. It was a pretty good month, most of the books I read were above average.This makes 50 books out of the 105 goal I have set for this year. There’s a legend that explains the rating system below the reviews. Reviews in quotes were borrowed from amazon.com:
1. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian ©2005 –This male author has written this book through a female character’s voice, and he does a great job. “Sybil Danforth, midwife and mother of the story’s narrator, 14-year-old Connie, has a thriving practice and normal family life. Then the unthinkable happens: on a cold winter night in the middle of coaching Charlotte Bedford through her lengthy and strenuous labor, tragedy strikes — Charlotte dies while trying to give birth to her son. With phone lines heaving with ice and roads too treacherous to drive upon, Sybil is forced into a decision — to save the unborn baby via a homemade Caeserean or let him die along with his mother.
As the events of that evening unfold, readers are privy to shocking information: the Caesarean Sybil is forced to perform may have been done on a living woman. Soon a courtroom battle ensues, pitting the medical community against midwifery, and readers will be left wondering after each page is turned what really happened on that cold, dark night.”☻☻☻☻☻
2. The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy © 2007 – OK, I admit I have an interest in gender issues. It must be the “psychologist” in me; I am fascinated by people coping with gender dysphoria and other forms of gender “disorders”. This book, though factual, was very accessible to read and provided valuable insight into the struggles of people unhappy with their gender and wishing to change it. The author talks about both male-to-female and female-to-male transgendered individuals. “Born into a wealthy family near the beginning of the 20th century, Laura Dillon attended Oxford University and went on to become a doctor, a published author, and, eventually, a man named Michael. At Oxford, she tried to identify as a homosexual, but that didn’t quite fit; it would be years before the words transsexual or transgendered were coined. In 1939, Dillon began to experiment with a new drug, testosterone. Her life changed after meeting Dr. Gillies, a practitioner in the emerging field of plastic surgery, who performed several operations to reconfigure Dillon’s anatomy. Upon meeting Roberta Crowell in 1949, Michael believed that he had found his soul mate. Born and raised as a man, Crowell was in the process of transforming into a woman. Following a failed love affair, Dillon traveled to India to study Buddhism. He died a pauper after finally discovering happiness among monks in Tibet. He left a legacy of notebooks, memoirs, and a groundbreaking treatise on the nature of sex and gender. These form the basis of Kennedy’s narrative, which leapfrogs back and forth across Dillon’s life. Kennedy traces the emotional isolation and triumphs throughout Dillon’s struggle to define himself according to his own rules. The author peppers the text with historical details of early-20th-century medicine and evolving notions of gender in Western society. This story is fascinating to modern readers whether or not they have personal questions about gender.—Heidi Dolamore, San Mateo County Library, CA ”☻☻☻☻
3. Phytosphere by Scott Mackay © 2007 –This book was difficult to put down and was one of the best I read for sheer entertainment this year. Strictly sci-fi, but not hard science fiction where the author bores you with complicated scientific details and conjectures. No, this is fiction of a more sociological nature as it follows the fates of people stuck on an Earth dying from alien hostility.“After settlement negotiations between humanity and the alien Tarsalans go horribly wrong, the Earth is engulfed in a mysterious green sphere-blocking all sunlight from reaching the surface. Only two scientists-one isolated on the Moon’s lunar colony, the other trapped on a dying Earth-possess the minds and the means to destroy the sphere before it renders the world completely barren…”☻☻☻☻☻
4 The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin ©2000 – This book was perfect – until the utterly ambiguous ending ruined it. Since the book was based on a real life event, I guess I understand why it ended the way it did, but from a strict entertainment standpoint – kerblooey! “The lines between reality and illusion are intriguingly blurred in this novel from the author of the Tales of the City series. Maupin also takes on various questions about how art imitates life, since there are many similarities here between author and protagonist. The deceptively simple story line concerns Gabriel Noone, a San Francisco radio personality whose “grabby little armchair yarns” have developed a cult following; indeed, the books based on these weekly NPR broadcasts “have never stopped selling.” But Gabriel is experiencing severe writer’s block as he endures an emotional crisis triggered by the decision of Jess, his longtime male companion, to separate: “I lost a vital engine I never even knew I had.” When a manuscript sent to Gabriel for an endorsement turns out to be a harrowing memoir of sexual abuse written by a 13-year-old, he is moved to contact the precocious youngster. It seems that Gabriel has been an on-the-air lifeline for Peter Lomax, who has been adopted by a female doctor with some pressing problems of her own. This vulnerable threesome embark on a pas de trois that envelops the reader in an increasingly absorbing puzzle.”☻☻☻
5 A Wicked Snow by Gregg Olsen ©2007 –“In his first novel, true crime writer Olsen brings complex mystery and crackling authenticity to bear on a cold case police procedural. Hannah Griffin has spent most of her life trying to forget the notorious Christmas Eve house fire that claimed her family and turned up almost two dozen other bodies buried in their yard; though the case remained unsolved, Hannah’s mother became, posthumously, the de facto prime suspect. Twenty years later, Hannah’s a happily married mother of one, a crime scene investigator for Santa Louisa, Calif., and a lifetime away from her traumatic Oregon childhood—until a series of mysterious events indicates that her mother may still be alive. Hannah reopens the case, as well as old wounds, after enlisting the help of FBI Special Agent Jeff Bauer, the still-haunted chief officer from the original investigation.”☻☻☻☻
6 Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John © 2007 –I love memoirs. They are really the only non-fiction that I enjoy reading. This one was good, but not great. It didn’t leave me with much to think about. Perhaps I don’t know enough about the Rhodesian conflicts to form an opinion on the parties involved.“The author of several biographies, St. John now turns her eye toward her own African childhood. The daughter of a white soldier and his spirited wife, Lauren was excited when her family left South Africa for Rhodesia in the mid-1970s. Her father longed to fight again as he had in his youth, and Lauren found herself as caught up in it as he was. When several members of a nearby family, including a boy in Lauren’s class, are murdered by insurgents, Lauren and her family move into their farm home, Rainbow’s End. The farm is a child’s paradise: a giraffe Lauren christens Jenny roams the land, and Lauren rides her stubborn horse, Charm, around the vast grounds. But peril is everywhere, as deadly snakes slither around and sometimes inside the house, and terrorists prowl in the nighttime. When the war comes to an end and Rhodesia becomes Zimbabwe, Lauren finds herself an outsider in her country. Lush descriptions of both the terrain and the war distinguish St. John’s moving memoir. Kristine Huntley”☻☻☻
7 R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton ©2004 – Another entertaining jaunt with Kinsey Millhone, the female private investigator whose saga started with
”A is for Alibi” and has continued consecutively through the alphabet. This one has a bit more about personalities she encounters in her life then the usual highly dangerous cases she solves. In this story, she is being paid to “babysit” a rich heiress after she is released from prison (no, it’s not about Paris H., this book was written before that!) to make sure she stays out of trouble. Of course, she does not. ☻☻☻☻
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan © 2006 – Just plain, well…plain. Nothing new here. Middle-aged woman remakes her life after jettisoning her miserable lout of a husband. So what?
Absent Friends by S.J. Rozan – Novel about people who were friends since childhood and how their lives were affected by 911. Sounded promising, but the author’s journalistic style really put me off.
☻☻☻☻☻ Excellent. I highly recommend this book. Wonderfully plotted or chockful of insights.
☻☻☻☻ Very good. May have minor aspects of style or plot that prevented it from getting 5 smileys.
☻☻☻ Flawed, but of some entertainment or thought-provoking value.
☻☻ Read this book if you are stranded on a desert island and have nothing else handy to read.
☻ Don’t bother, it’s a waste of time. A suggested use for this book is to light the fire for cooking your fish on the desert island.