I brought eight books to Kelleys Island for our two-week vacation. I started all of them, finished five. The other three* didn't catch or hold my interest. Here's a very quick review of my choices.
I really enjoyed Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses, the story of a woman who seeks to improve her life via yoga. Even though I know little about yoga (have never been to a class), the adventures of this hip white liberal mom were entertaining and occasionally profound.
I could identify very easily with the author of In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, an adjunct instructor of English who teaches at both a small private college and a larger community college. Not all that long ago I was in a similar position.
I recognized his struggles and triumphs and appreciate his critiques of the system. His conclusions are a bit more negative than mine, but at least some of this may be explained by the fact that I'm not longer an adjunct (part-timer) but a full-time tenured professor.
The Guinea Pig Diaries was amusing, interesting and entertaining in equal parts. The subtitle explains this fascinating book: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests.
Zero Day is a thriller about an cyber-meltdown caused by terrorist hackers. It starts with planes falling out of the sky, nuclear power plant disasters, and other crises caused by our society's increased reliance on the internet to run everything. The author is a Microsoft computer expert, so the scenario he paints is not just paranoid speculation.
Finally, I had to find out what all the fuss was about. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo started slowly, and after a hundred pages or so I still wasn't sure why it was a best-seller. But gradually I got sucked into the world of journalism, crime and Swedish society. The story involves various kinds of violence towards women (mostly) but doesn't dwell on gory details. As I got near the end of the book I rationed myself to reading one chapter at so I wouldn't finish it too soon.
Of these three, Return Engagement seemed most promising. It's an alternative history novel in which the U.S. Civil War ended without a victory for the Union, and the North and South continue to battle during a re-imagined WWII.
As interesting as the premise is, the writing seemed flat and the characters dull. I plodded through it for several days before deciding it was a waste of valuable vacation time.
* Deliver Us from Evil is a thriller that I read all the way through but was so forgettable that I put it in the group of books I started but didn't finish. Need I say more?
Parrot and Olivier in America, a fictionalized version of the travels of Alexis de Tocqueville in America, sounded good on the book jacket blurb. The writing style didn't work for me. I read a chapter or two and put it down. Forever.