Monday, March 27, 2017

What I Read December 2015

For the Library, I was running a "Mission: Possible" book club - essentially a support group for people who want to attempt to read books thought of as intimidating, long, or perpetually on their to-read list. We would read the first half of a book for one month and then the second half for the next month. We read The GoldfinchCrime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (which I have about 45 minutes left in the audiobook... I should really just finish it), and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Though the group received a lot of verbal interest and enthusiasm, it seems that my community was not actually all that excited to come to a tough reads book club, so the program ended after Gone with the Wind. I don't read particularly quickly and those books took some time to read, so they definitely hampered the volume of my reading for a bit.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Literary Fiction (American)
Following the death of his mother during a devastating terrorist attack at a New York City museum, Theo Decker steals a painting from the museum and spends his formative years living with a furniture-restoring antique dealer dealing with the ramifications of his actions.

Though I really enjoyed this, I felt like it was about 1/3 too long. The book would have been just as strong with an entire section left out (a middle chunk post-Boris and pre-conclusion) or with everything after the first... 200? pages heavily edited. That being said, Donna Tartt writes lovely sentences even when they are about mundane or repulsive things.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Socially isolated teen Jeremy Johnson Johnson has a psychic connection with the ghost of fairy tale author Jacob Grimm in this Hansel and Gretel update.

Suggested by my mother, this quirky fairy tale is charming and creepy all at the same time. I encourage you to listen to the audiobook; the narrator was fantastic. It also made me desperately want cake, but also maybe not...
Fragile by Lisa Unger
Maggie returns to her childhood home and must use her skills as a psychologist and her knowledge of an eerily similar disappearance years before to exonerate her son and find a missing girl.

This was fine and I wouldn't be upset if I found myself reading another by Unger (community reviews on GoodReads suggest that Unger's books vary quite a bit), but I don't know that I would seek them out either.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Read November 2015

Apparently, I was a little burned out November 2015. I definitely go through reading peaks and valleys, but only one book in an entire month is pretty slow for me. I spent most of December working my way through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I finished early in December 2015.

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Urban Fantasy
With previously peaceful ghosts now wreaking havoc upon Chicago, professional wizard Harry Dresden is on the case to uncover the supernatural power driving the poltergeists mad.

I like so much about this series except for the books themselves. I am willing to give Harry Dresden one more shot (have I said that before?) to see how this evolves because so many of my friends and Library patrons enjoy these. I keep hearing the series gets better a few books in, but only having one interesting, robust female character -- who barely made an appearance in this story -- while all the other male characters get a less-sexualized (and frequently more thorough) treatment is getting frustrating.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What I Read in October 2015

As you may have noticed, I've fallen a teensy bit behind on logging my reading. (Okay, maybe a year or so...) I'm catching back up, but especially for months when I've read more -- like October 2015 compared to September 2015 -- it takes me longer to write a post. But it's the end of January 2017, so it's time for a Resolution! Time to get this up to date. Fortunately, I'm not so far behind that I've forgotten what I've read and what I forgot about them and for many of these books I actually kept some (frequently brief) notes on them.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Jim and Bob Burgess are summoned home by their sister to come to the legal aid of her troubled teenage son.

I realize that my opinion is swayed by how much YA fiction I've been reading -- and how much of it was uninspiring -- that reading something meant for adults with larger language and character doors was really refreshing. That being said, I thought this was fabulous. With concise elegance, Strout introduces characters and then reintroduces them as they evolve.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Urban Fantasy
Returning to his childhood home -- no longer standing -- for a funeral, a man realizes the dark and mysterious occurrences of his youth have yet to be resolved.

I enjoy Neil Gaiman's fantasy. I like the quirky yet dire situations and settings. I liked this one in particular because it was so mundane and in many ways just a fictional memoir, but it maintained those elements of magic and the bizarre that are so special in Gaiman's books. This coming-home story was special and weird and an intriguing quick read.

Relic by Douglas Preston
Adventure Thriller
After acquiring a valuable South American artifact, the New York Museum of Natural History is wrought with gruesome murders and it's up to Museum researcher Margo Green to uncover the cause and save the Museum.

Murder in the Museum! A supernatural monster lurking in the shadows! Academic mystery solving! What a ride! For as much fun as I had reading this, it really took me absolutely aaaaages to slog through it. I also had every intention of picking up the next book in the series right away because it was just so exciting -- like Indiana Jones! -- and (as of January 2017) still haven't done so. Yet, I still remember how thrilling the transcontinental adventure was, how creepy the monster's claws were, and how generally enjoyable the story was. So take from that what you will.

The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
Following death of their father and the ensuing financial strain, Emily, Navine, and their mother move to the home they inherited from their great-grandfather - an inventor who dabbled with dark forces.

This was a fine graphic novel. I liked the quirky characters the kids encounter (see bunny and octopus-creature on the cover) better than the kids themselves and the setting was interesting, but the story didn't feel very fresh. The art and the colors used, however, were enthralling. This is the first book in a series of graphic novels and I did not feel compelled to pick up book two.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Literary Fiction, International
An eloquent butler laments the decline of fine households, attitudes towards his profession, and Edwardian England.

Expressive and melancholy, The Remains of the Day moves at an astonishingly slow amble, but the story isn't really the point, so that's okay. Remains is more of a swan song and an exploration of a time and place than a story and it was lovely.

As an additional, silly thought, my favorite thing about this cover is that it says in small text at the bottom, "By the author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go" as though the book in your hands (or on your screen) is not The Remains of the Day. This book is by the guy who wrote it! Who wudda thunk?!

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
To escape the stress and danger of war, Max Carver's parents move their family to a small, coastal town, but their anxiety continues to ratchet up as they discover that the accidental drowning of a young boy years before still impacts the community in otherworldly ways.

I wish this had been written for adults instead of for children. The villain was genuinely creepy and the story was tense and the setting appropriately eerie, but it felt like awareness of the intended audience held it back from being as magnificently mysterious as it could have been, leaving the book a bit tepid by the end.
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