Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Read in May 2015

This month was a relatively light reading month because I spent the bulk of my free time knitting and sewing. I've been working on this sweater off and on since the start of the year, but during May I finally finished the sleeves. Now all I have left on it is to knit the button holes (and pick out buttons... a whole challenging adventure fraught with anxiety and indecision in and of itself). The real impact this has had on my reading is that all of the books I read this month, I listened to on audio.

I'm a huge advocate of audiobooks. Yes, an audiobook counts as a book. The only time reading an audiobook doesn't "count" is if you leave it playing in the other room where you can't hear it. You get the same story, the same language, the same setting, and the same characters in an audiobook that you do in a physical or ebook. It is just a different mode of delivery. Depending on your learning style, you may actually understand and retain more vital information from an audiobook. I read slowly and my eyes fatigue before my brain tires of the book. An audiobook allows me to read faster and longer and I can multi-task. Doing this dishes is much more pleasant while listening to a caper and my long commute is bearable if I'm unraveling a mystery too. Knitting is enjoyable all by itself, but I frequently listen to a book while I knit or sew.

So! Go forth! Consume your literature as you choose and feel no shame.

The Hidden Man by David Ellis
Legal Thriller
It's been decades since Sammy Cutler's little sister was abducted and murdered by a pedophile. Now, Cutler has been charged with the pedophile's murder and has hired his estranged childhood best friend to defend him.

I found this to be really repetitive. I finished the story just because I wanted to get all of the ends wrapped up and find out whodunit, but didn't really enjoy it. I felt like Ellis didn't want to get too bogged down in the legal detail so rather than have more story or character development, he just kept summarizing what we'd already gone over. Kolarich's backstory was interesting and I expect it gets more developed as the series progresses.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp
Kit Bristol has found a comfortable place in the world as a gentleman's manservant, but his life is disrupted when he must don his master's cape and become a notorious highwayman to rescue an otherworldly princess.

This reminded me a lot of Suldrun's Garden, the first in the Lyonesse series by Jack Vance, except not quite as dark, though The Accidental Highwayman does have a pretty macabre sense of humor. Lots of wordplay and the print version has illustrations by Tripp. Pretty fun overall.

Push by Sapphire
Street Lit
Pregnant, illiterate, and 16 years old, Precious Jones is asked to leave school, but rather than spend her days with her abusive mother, Precious seeks an escape at an alternative school.

Emotionally disruptive, lyrical, and intense.

I listened to this as an audiobook and I am very glad that I did. There are some (intentional) grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book and I think that I would have spent too much time focused on trying to understand and "translate" the printed text and missed the voice and melody.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Traditional Historical Fiction
Australian sheep farmers, the Clearys struggle through family tragedies, doomed romances, and the unforgiving Outback in this multi-generational saga.

I'm surprised that the ARRT classified McCullough as "traditional historical fiction" rather than "epic historical fiction". The Thorn Birds spans three generations and two continents. McCullough's other books, like Morgan's Run or her Master's of Rome series (neither of which I've read, but have read about), are generally discussed in terms of their incredible scope too.

Had I not listened to this book, I'm not sure that I would have finished. I enjoyed the story, found the characters interesting, and enjoyed the new-to-me setting of Australia, but it moved very slowly. I rarely read for setting and McCullough establishes an extremely vivid sense of place that I liked, but had I been required to actually read and physically turn pages, I probably wouldn't have made it through. If you don't require your plots to unfold at break neck speed and are looking for a romantic family saga, The Thorn Birds may be for you.

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Amateur Detective Mystery
Internet psychic Manfred moves to isolated Midnight, Texas and meets the small community of unusual, unique characters, all of whom have mysterious pasts.

I was pretty disappointed by Midnight Crossroad, but I suspect that had more to do with unsatisfied expectation, rather than the quality of the book. I've read two of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series (start with Dead Until Dark) and liked them. I watched all of True Blood, the HBO show based on the series, and I can say with only slight reservation that I liked the show too. But I'm vampired out. I'm tired of vampires. I'm tired of evil vampires, sparkly vampires, vampires with souls (okay, maybe I'm not tired of Angel, but how could you tire of that jawline?), sexy vampires, angsty vampires, teen vampires, infected/infectious vampires... I'm done. I'm just done tuckered out when it comes to blood sucking fiends. So when I wanted a light, entertaining read featuring some gritty characters and some general plot-driven weirdness (paranormal acceptable), the first installment of the Midnight, Texas series sounded like a great vampire-free fit. The description says nothing about vampires. Spoiler: there's a vampire. I am just so annoyed. He isn't even that big of a character, but also not really necessary. Let's just focus on these weird characters' bizarre pasts or Fiji's witchcraft. Vampires not required.

My reading goal for June: No vampires.
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