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March books

(I always hesitate over whether to write "book list" or "booklist." It probably ends up being split about 50/50.)

On to March's reading!

1. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, Pamela Mingle

I'm invariably disappointed in P&P continuations, but this one wasn't half bad - it was hard at first to reconcile this Mary with the P&P!Mary (her character has grown and changed for the better, but it didn't quite ring true as a natural progression), but by the end I really had grown to like her. All in all, quite tolerable enough to tempt me.

2. Water Street, Patricia Reilly Giff

Juvenile historical fiction about growing up in the shadow of the under-construction Brooklyn Bridge. This had a lot of character development, and really excellent writing.

3. The Hotel: a week in the life of the Plaza, Sonny Kleinfield

An old book, and one I just had to read before withdrawing from the library collection. :) The Plaza, of course, is the upscale New York hotel where Eloise lives! Dated as it was, it was absolutely delightful.

4. The Sense & Sensibility Screenplay & diaries, Emma Thompson

Please can I just be Emma Thompson's friend? She is fabulous and witty and everything I want to be when I grow up.

5. Land of a Thousand Dreams, B. J. Hoff

*cough* Might give this series a rest now that I've gotten through my fav Morgan/Finola scenes. Except that one in the next book ... agh.

6. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

Time for a reread! The audio versions, this time, since I already know the story and don't have to concentrate on listening exclusively.

7. The Look of Architecture, Witold Rybczynski

I've found a new favorite architecture writer! This was a highly readable and short intro/essay on just what the title says: the look of architecture.

8. Explore Everything, Bradley Garret

Ok, well, I have OPINIONS. So this book is about the urban exploration that Bradley Garret did as part of a London-based exploration group (ostensibly for "research" for a thesis. Ok wait what school is like, cool, do illegal stuff for your thesis project? Or do I just not get higher education.) Urban exploration is illegally breaking into construction sites, abandoned buildings, subway tunnels, etc, usually accompanied by lots of photo documentation. It's cool (about on par with the illegal street racing that I also love reading about) but, yanno, not something that I condone or would participate in. But hey, fun to read about, right? Right! And the parts of this book that actually tell about the explorations, that was fascinating.

However, Bradley and his cohorts are, well, kind of douchbags. While - despite this review - the book was one of my most interesting reads in March, the tone and attitude just rubbed me completely the wrong way. And like another reviewer said, the book is also "guilty of solipsistic teenaged philosophizing." Here, let me share some excerpts:

...I see [urban exploration] as being about taking back rights to the city from which we have been wrongfully restricted through subversions that erode security and threaten clear narratives about what one can and can't do.


Not all our explorations were entirely benign. However, the inconvenience caused by a few people sneaking into the sewers, tunnels and construction sites of cities, even if a lock is picked or an alarm temporarily disabled, is negligible.

Ask the people who actually own the property and have to deal with the aftermath of your explorations if it's negligible. (Also, later he tells how they broke into a sterile biscuit factory - this is Britain, after all - despite knowing that if they were discovered, food safety regulations would require the factory to treat their unauthorized presence as contamination and stop production until a complete cleaning was done, costing the company much loss of time and money. He recounts this story with not a bit of glee and no remorse.)

on being interviewed: "I was worried given the questions they were asking, that they would try to paint us as vandals or make my research look like a waste of time and money."

Hey, you said it, not me.

Also of concern was the way the language of addiction was used to describe their experiences -

"the trade off, however, came at a high price. Once we realized what we could get away with, the adrenaline addiction became completely debilitating to every day life, and many in the group found themselves becoming increasing distanced from friends who did not explore."

"We were becoming more socially marginalized ..."

One interesting observation, after they did some exploration in the States (most notably Chicago):

We came to the conclusion that the UK is in many ways far more authoritarian and violent than the united states, it's just hidden behind a veneer of British reserve and a general willingness to accept the status quo.

9. Minding the Manor, Mollie Moran

Highly recommended to fans of Below Stairs, Downton Abbey, or Upstairs, Downstairs. Mollie started as a scullery maid at age 14 and had managed, by her early twenties, to be the head chef for a large household. Although the dialect takes a bit of getting used to, it adds a lovely conversational tone to the book - you can just about imagine you're sitting across the tea table from her listening to her tell her stories.

10. Underground, David Maculay

What happens underground in cities - from buried electric cables to subway tunnels. Lavishly illustrated and just awesome in general.

11. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

Another reread; another audiobook.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 1st, 2014 10:28 pm (UTC)
"The Sense & Sensibility Screenplay & diaries, Emma Thompson

Please can I just be Emma Thompson's friend? She is fabulous and witty and everything I want to be when I grow up."

Yes! This.

Did you ever see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5prYhXQtCk?

Apr. 6th, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
I read the text of her speech before I ever saw the clip. It was witty enough on paper, but then to see her actually deliver it - amazing!
Apr. 2nd, 2014 12:44 am (UTC)
I love the Macaulay books!
Apr. 2nd, 2014 12:55 pm (UTC)
The exploration stuff is really interesting!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )