For the Just-for-Me Book Club, I solicited book recommendations from bloggers and commenters who visit here often. I had 24 books to look forward to – the following books are numbers 8, 9 and 10!
First up, I read I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest. It was recommended to me by Amanda. This young adult novel had an intriguing premise. Two childhood friends create a graphic novel together. May is devastated by her friend’s death. Suddenly she starts seeing Princess X everywhere – it seems to have gone viral – but no one knew about it except the two of them. Is her friend communicating from beyond the grave? Or was their idea stolen? May tries to get to the bottom of the mystery with the help of two hackers. I liked the strong female character, the platonic relationships with boys, the Seattle setting, and the art (Princess X’s mom, especially!) I had numerous quibbles with the technology as depicted in the book (what teen reboots their laptop after every use?) and some plot problems were solved by the hackers’ genius skills, which were not always explained to the reader. But overall, I like how May persevered for the sake of her lost friendship.
Next I read Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, which was recommended to me by Mrs. Fever. I knew nothing about Cleopatra other than that she was a queen of Egypt and she had had relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. I have never seen a movie or read another book about her. The book starts with a straight-forward chapter, followed by a description of a key incident (Cleopatra meeting Caesar). From there, it meanders through Cleopatra’s lineage, mostly via incidental mentions and footnotes, while the story of Cleopatra and Caesar continues. The author enjoyed unusual sentence constructions and jokes which meant I had to re-read sentences multiple times. Meanwhile, the book was wonderfully researched. What I liked best was that the author was able to deconstruct the legend of Cleopatra as primarily a seductress, and put her forth as a politically astute ruler. By the end of the book, I knew a lot about royal life in her times, as well as the political climate and the relationship between Egypt and Rome.
Finally, I read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, which was recommended to me by Laura. Of all the books on my to-read list, this one was the biggest stretch for me. I would never have picked it up on my own. I have no interest in horses or racing. In fact, I am opposed to horse and dog racing. I found it hard to read because of the cruel treatment of the jockeys and other racing world staff, who were treated far worse than the prize animals. However, the book was spectacularly researched and engagingly written. I could not help but admire the dedication of the principals involved, horse and human. It was also a great social record of the 1930s and 40s, especially the role of the media. The author made vivid how Seabiscuit captured the imagination of the people during the Great Depression and the lead-up to WWII. Despite the endless “scratches” (races cancelled at the last minute), the events kept me on the edge of my seat. I was especially impressed by the personal challenges faced by the author during the writing of the book. Recommended!
I continue to be delighted by reading everyone’s choices. In some ways it lets me see into your minds, what interests you and what you value.
Do you ever judge people by what they read or what is on their book shelves?
I am always up for hearing what you’ve read lately (and I won’t hold it against you if your reading is light – there is a place in the world for books of all kinds!)