Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rainy Days for Reading

A few days ago, I was home on my own, a bit bored and sad, feeling very antsy. My go-to when I'm bored and waiting for Danny to get home from work is to read, but I've successfully read (and re-read) every book I own. I decided to pop into my local Goodwill to pick up some books and I was really surprised at the selection!

I picked up Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn, and the Best British Mysteries. For a total of $4.50. Mrs. Queen Takes the Train was only 33 cents. 

I thought I'd review them all in one go... as I read them all within a few days. What can I say, I'm a fast reader! This is why I love buying books from thrift shops.

The Best British Mysteries is a collection of short stories by British authors, based in Britain. This was a really interesting collection and I was introduced to a few authors that I had never heard of before, but would love to read more. I love story collections -- it's a great way to stay interested. However, a majority of these stories just were not that interesting to me! I love a good mystery, but some of them were just a little too dreary for me. Sometimes, you just need to explain more about what's going on. It was clear halfway through that some of the authors were very new to writing, which they can't be faulted for. A bit more work and some of the stories would be top notch. That being said, I really did enjoy the collection overall!

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn is a fictional story about Queen Elizabeth. Basically, the story revolves around the Queen realizing that she's getting older and she doesn't get to do anything she really wants. She's lead a life of doing what's expected. She decides to take the train to see the Britannia, the decommissioned royal yacht that is now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh. She wonders if she, like the Brittania, is just an unnecessary decoration. The result of her taking the train to Scotland, of course, is that her staff is trying to find her, with the help of a few others. I actually really liked the book, although it is a little quaint at times. It's written by an American, so in that sense, I feel it's a little bit Anglophile-biased.

The book did raise an important issue though: the Queen talks about the decommissioning of a lot of previously accepted royal "things" (for lack of a better term), specifically the yacht and the royal train, as well as the view of her as a mere figurehead. Growing up in the US, the monarchy has always seemed very romantic to me, and so, in that way, I'm a bit biased. I can really imagine that perhaps a majority of UK citizens would be a little offended at someone writing sympathetically about the Queen crying over a decommissioned yacht or train. It's not an issue I know a lot about, but I found it incredibly interesting. (Any Brits who want to weigh in on this, feel free! I'd love to hear more about it.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver was probably my favorite book of the lot! I love books that revolve around nature and natural subjects. Specifically, this book is about one summer in a small town on the edge of an Appalachian forest. Full of primarily farmers and factory works, the book shifts between a few different perspectives: the woman in charge of monitoring the forest (on behalf of the government) who lives in a small cabin cut off from everyone else; a woman who moved to the town with her husband, who subsequently passed away, and is considered an outsider, even by her new in-laws; and an older man who runs a farm next door to a woman he hates, all while trying to breed a new form of American Chestnut tree that resists blight.

A lot of the book revolves around the extinction and preservation of species. The American Chestnut was a tree essentially killed off by blight; the woman in the forest, Deanna, is attempting to protect a litter of coyotes that she's found; and the woman on the farm, Lusa, is trying to protect her husband's way of life, farming, at any cost. The book is intensely scientific, presenting a lot of facts and research and ideas that, to some people, might be new. For example, one of the principles of the story is about the fact that coyotes are considered a nuisance and therefore, there is a nationwide hunt to reduce the coyote population; however, Deanna learned, through research, that the more coyotes are hunted and killed, the more they procreate, the larger their packs, the more area they cover. It's incredibly interesting. The story, as well, is one that is fraught with tension and relationships. Deanna meets a hunter, attempting to find the litter of coyotes, and falls in love with him, despite their opposite motives. Lusa, on the farm, attempts to get to know her in-laws after her husband's death, all while running a vast majority of the farm, a fact that her new sister-in-laws clearly dislike.

I am a big Kingsolver fan and Prodigal Summer was not disappointing. I did expect a slightly expanded ending, but I was ultimately satisfied (even if I wanted to know more).

Alright, that's it! I have a few other books to review (mostly some Stephen King I found at a thrift store), but I'll post those later.

Do you have any book recommendations for me?


  1. I'll have to check out Prodigal Summer, sounds like it'd be right up my alley. Do you have a local library? If ever they don't have what you're looking for, ask for an Interlibrary Loan and the librarians can probably find it for ya. (I might not work in the library industry anymore, but that doesn't stop me plugging it heh)

    1. Hi Cel! I actually live outside city limits... so it costs $50 for me to get a library card and then another $50 a year. I guess it might make up for it within a year (I buy a lot of books!) but it's a lot to fork over all at once!


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