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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
by Amy Chua
I read this for my local book club. What I had read of it in the newspaper did not lead me to think I would like it. My own personal philosophy on parenting is that parents need to drastically reduce their pressure on kids to do what the parents want, and need to focus instead of figuring out what the kids want to do. I'd be happy to put my kids up against Amy Chua's any idea and see which ones are more competent, functional adults and which ones get more scholarships to Harvard or Julliard. But the memoir itself is very nuanced and there is a tone of self-mockery about it that I liked very much. Even though I like to think of myself as a loosey-goosey kind of parent, there are actually some really strict rules and expectations at my house. My kids have been told since they were small that we would not be paying for college, so if they want to go, they'd better expect to get scholarships. They are all capable of getting full-ride scholarships just about anywhere. Or if not, they can work through college. My husband and I did that, too. There are times when I have been too hard on my kids and times when I have just done absolutely the wrong thing. I like Chua's painful honest exposure of herself. You will be surprised by this book.
Careless in Red
by Elizabeth George
I've found the Inspector Lynley series this year, through the PBS series which is partly available streaming on Netflix. I was interested enough to seek out the books. This is my favorite of the series, which diverged from the TV plot in interesting ways. It's heavy on the details of the world of the victims, and sometimes takes hundreds of pages until the murder. I admit, I am more interested in Lynley and Havers than anything else, but the writing is good enough that I never mind the diversions.

The Invisible Wall
by Harry Bernstein
This is the story of an invisible wall between the jews and the gentiles in the first days of WWI written from the viewpoint of a young boy. It is tender and heartbreaking and beautifully well written. It also made me rethink my own life and prejudices. That sounds like a book your English teacher would make you read, doesn't it? It was written by a man in the last years of his life who looked back only then because he could bear to. I wish Harry Bernstein had written more, but I can't wish he hadn't waited to become so perfectly suited to write this.
Zanna's Gift
by Orson Scott Card
This is a sweet and sorrowful story about the way a family keeps a lost child in their hearts for the rest of their lives. You know Card for his science fiction and fantasy. This is all his best characterization and his prose pared down to poetry.

Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford
When I was in college, I was the news editor for a student newspaper. One of my reporters wrote an article about the Japanese interment camps in Southern Utah. I was trying to edit it for clarity, and ended up making a terrible mistake in judgment, and offended the author and likely a bunch of his sources. It was so difficult for me, as a student of German history, to see anything but the worst in those camps. Jamie Ford writes a true story about them, and about a Chinese boy who does not go into them, but tries to get his friend out. I loved this bitter, sweet story. It was the perfect flavor for me, and a bit of redemption for us all.
The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory
First I have to say that I did not like the movie based on this book. It just did not have time to give the characters the proper development. On the other hand, don't go pick up this book because you think you are going to be transported to a fairy-tale world where you will fall in love with everyone. Harry the Eighth was a pig and his court was full of people equally despicable. The Boleyn family are no heroes, and even Mary Boleyn is a very flawed heroine. But it is great historical fiction. Lots of real history, some speculation, and you will keep reading.

In the Company of Angels
by David Farland
I don't know if this book will have interest for those outside of the Mormon culture, but this is a story often told, usually with hyperbolic sweetness. I was disappointed that no official church company would publish Dave's evenhanded account. There are heroes in this story and villains. But even the villains are humanized and the heroes are flawed. I loved the plain reasoning behind the deaths of so many of this pioneer company and I loved the viewpoint characters chosen. I could go on and on about what a great book this is. I cried at the end, and I don't cry often. I didn't want it to happen, and I knew what was coming all along.
The Actor and the Housewife
by Shannon Hale

This is a book about a Mormon housewife, happily married with four children, who makes an unusual and platonic relationship with a Hollywood actor. It gives a true picture of the real life in Mormondom, with flaws and virtues. It also deals with the uncomfortable social problems when everyone around you is telling you that a platonic relationship with a man is impossible. If you want sparkling dialog, it's here. If you want to laugh until it hurts, open this book. If you want to cry, you won't avoid it. If you want the kind of book you grip with white knuckles to find out what happens, here it is. If you want relationships that are real, if you want to be angry and then to forgive, if you want to see how a housewife uses her skills with pie to save the world--it's here. This is one of the best books of the year.


Painting from Life
by Brian Kershisnik
What do I know about art? Well, maybe not much. But I will tell you, the only art I have framed and mounted in my own is by Brian Kershisnik (excluding covers from my books). My favorite art period has always been German Expressionism/Der Blaue Reiter. One of my specialties in grad school was Dada and the Expressionists and I still have some articles hanging around that I thought I would get published someday on them. Kershisnik has many of those qualities I loved in Expressionism. I find Impressionism to be a bit trite these days, since it only shows what is visual, and I am far more interested in what is beneath the visual. That is what Kershisnik paints. I love the painting of a woman flying with infant, and all his paintings on the theme of flying (Flying Instruction, for example). I love the dancing dogs, the spoon tricks, the people standing on each other's shoulders, The Pegasus swimming, and the whole series of Musicians Sleeping. We are all Musicians Sleeping, I think.
The Spanish Bow
by Andromeda Romano-Lax
As someone who has picked up an interest in music late in life, I was gripped by this story written by an author who started to play the cello as an adult, about a young man who plays the cello set against the backdrop of WWII. A love triangle, terrible mistakes, handicaps, Nazis. What more could you want?

Austenland
by Shannon Hale
If you ever wished you lived in a Jane Austen novel, this is the book for you.
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
This is not a book for young readers, though it is about a young boy growing up in Afghanistan with his father's servant's son as his best friend. This was a hard book to read, but it is not something to turn away from. I forgot half the time I was reading a ficitonal account, it felt so real. The rest of the time, I marveled at the details of the story and how everything came together in the end. I wanted this happy ending, but it didn't come cheap.

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
I loved the movie with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. I loved the book more. About a butler devoted to his master's service, even when the master is seriously flawed. Even when he must give up his only chance at love.
The Jane Austen Book Club
by Karen Joy Fowler
You already know that I assume you've read everything by Jane Austen? And the Bronte sisters. And Emily Dickinson. And Edith Wharton. And Henry James. This is part modern-day interpretation, part commentary. Very much my style.

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
This was another book club read, something I probably never would have picked up on my own. But how I loved it! The voices are just so dead-on authentic, at least from my pov. I loved the courageousness of writing a book like this on a topic that could have been easily treated with disgust. But it's not. Every character in the book is realistically presented. I don't love them all, but they all felt like people I knew. It's set in the south and it about the black help for rich white women. It is the perfect book.
Market Day
by James Sturm
So I'm not an arist. I don't know what an artist would think of this book, but I loved it. I loved the art, and how it evoked for me the sense of old world Europe, and I loved the dilemma of the main character whose wife is pregnant and is trying to make a living as an artist. So poignant, so perfect. I don't know if this will make sense to anyone else, but it made me feel the same way I felt when I watched Vincent and the Doctor.

The Good Thief
by Hannah Tinti
This is an unusual story about a young boy missing a hand who grows up in an orphanage and is "adopted" by a thief who wants to use him in his scams. But the boy is also on a journey to find out how he is and what happened to his hand. You won't forget this.


Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2014 all rights reserved.
Last revised OCtober 1, 2014.