sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

October 8, 2008

into the stacks 20.2
posted by soe 11:21 pm

I know, I know, I know. I promised you nightly updates of my summer reads a month ago and not only did I fail to deliver that, but then I also neglected to give you my September books. All I can say is that I’m working on it.

The second installment of my summer reading:

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari, by Dorothy Gilman

From the jacket: “Now the incredible Mrs. Pollifax, part-time geranium expert, part-time spy, has been sent on a safari to smoke out a very clever international assassin whose next target is the president of Zambia. ‘Just take a lot of pictures of everyone on that safari,’ the CIA man told her. ‘One of them has to be our man.’ It sounded simple enough. But it wasn’t. Because shortly after Mrs. Pollifax started taking pictures, someone stole her film. And right after that she was kidnapped by Rhodesian terrorists….”

My take: I’d once before listened to a Mrs. Pollifax mystery, so I suspected I’d like this one when I spied it at a library book sale. I was right. Not only did the book provide a fun mystery with lots of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming half the time, it also provided me with an interesting primer into the African nations of Zambia and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). Mrs. Pollifax will appeal to anyone who enjoys the Jessica Fletcher/Murder She Wrote type of books or someone who wants to be immersed in another culture in their reading.

Pages: 223

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

From the jacket: “Two sisters of opposing temperaments who share the pangs of tragic love provide the theme for Jane Austen’s dramatically human narrative, Sense and Sensibility. Elinor, practical and conventional, is the perfection of sense. Marianne, emotional and sentimental, is the embodiment of sensibility. To both comes the sorrow of unhappy love….”

My take: I led a read-along of perennial favorite Sense and Sensibility on Ravelry which lasted much of the summer as we examined five chapters a week. I enjoyed learning the outdated definition of “sensibility,” which corresponds more to a modern definition of “empathy” and which is a decidedly romantic approach to a life outlook than one governed by sense. (How I read this the first time without exploring this language change is really beyond me.) While Elinor remains a favorite, I found that I did tire of her very tightly reined in approach to life and love (even if her mother and sister’s emotionally charged lives do go a long way toward explaining it) and wanted to see an outburst or two…

Pages: 314

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart

From the jacket: “’Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?’ When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can est your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. With their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all? Welcome to the Mysterious Benedict Society.”

My take: I really enjoyed this story of four children who come together to respond to a newspaper ad — logical Reynie, resourceful Kate, obstinate Constance, and Sticky, who never forgets. Each of them, already alone in a world being subdued via television and subliminal messages, agrees to work for Mr. Benedict, a genius who has pinpointed the source of the evil and that children are being utilized to disperse it. The team, for that’s ultimately what they must become, must infiltrate the “school,” find a way to get into the good graces of its benefactor, and destroy the machinery that will ultimately destroy them if they fail. Perfect for those who don’t quite fit.

(My absolute favorite part of the book may have come even before the story began. The dedication reads “For Elliot” and the thanks conclude “… I would like to thank … my son Elliot, for being Elliot — which is to say, for making everything fine.” Can you imagine a nicer compliment?)

Pages: 486

Find the first installment of summer reads here. Part 3 next week after I return from Connecticut and Karen’s wedding…

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