Look! I can read fiction and other books not related to babies!
No Touch Monkey: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday My father gave me this book to read, probably because I spent some time traveling around Europe in my younger days. Here, Halliday looks back on her days of backpacking around the world, mostly with assorted boyfriends. Halliday was a much more hard-core backpacker than I – where I stuck to Europe, and generally took money with me, Halliday describes travels through Africa and southeast Asia as well as Europe, sometimes with no money for food or shelter. Halliday gets down and dirty with the stories, from her boyfriend being chased from the public restroom in Munich, to intestinal difficulties in India and dislocating her knee in Sumatra. Yep, it’s amusing. Yep, I’m glad not to be there.
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett I know, it’s a children’s book again, but it’s a current best-seller, and deserving of it. Petra and Calder are sixth-graders at an alternative school in Chicago. They find themselves mixed up in the theft of a Vermeer painting that should have been part of an exhibit in the Chicago art museum. Everything around them seems to connect to the theft, but what is coincidence and what is clue? Can they find the painting before the thief destroys it? This is a highly enjoyable book, both thoughtful and fast-paced.
Firethorn by Sarah Micklem And again, I have difficulty resisting the rare fantasy book that gets starred reviews in multiple publishing magazines. But this is not your typical sparkly magic, epic fantasy. Micklem has a finely realized world with a researched, authentic medieval feel, but a developed religion based around twelve gods. The world is starkly divided between the nobles of the Blood and the commoners, or mudfolk. Firethorn, trained as an herbalist, has lost her place in the household she grew up in with the death of her mistress. After a year alone in the forest, she feels herself touched by the gods – but what does that mean, and what do they want from her? Even when she thinks she knows, things do not turn out as she expects. She decides that the god Ardor has bound her to follow a young knight to war, but this is fraught with difficulty. Not only do his companions not believe he can have real feelings for his “sheath”, but the divide between the Blood and mudfolk is so strong that Galen and Firethorn themselves cannot work around it. Firethorn is so out of place in this world that the book made for disturbing, yet gripping, reading. Alas, it’s only the first of three, and so does not resolve at all neatly.