Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Reading - Part 2, July

Fabulous month for books!  Yay!

1.  Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo - I read Shadow and Bone, Bardugo's debut novel, about a year ago, and I loved it soooo much that I took the rather unusual step of waiting until the trilogy was complete before I continued on.  Trust me, the self-control of that action was Herculean.  Fortunately, the third book was released at the end of June, and I was able to sit down and read them both!

2.  Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo - Which I did in about 3 days.  They are amazing books.  I believe they fall into the YA category, but that shouldn't be a deterrent for anyone.  The tension and emotional depth match that of many of the 'adult' fantasy novels that I've read....maybe even beat them.  I was truly surprised by just how quickly Bardugo jumped into the action...but then YA novelists don't tend to waste any time.  I was also more than a bit surprised at exactly how emotionally invested I was.  Bravo! 

3. Human Croquet, Kate Atkinson - I still use the word "Exciting" to describe Atkinson's books.  Her writing just thrills me - for the beauty of the language as well as for the cleverness with which she manipulates it.  There are descriptions in here that are so lovely that I had to go back and reread them a few times, savouring each word.  This particular book had something of a fairy tale feel, which of course was a lot of fun.  I love the tangled family webs Atkinson weaves, and I love the way she gives us a glimpse of the future in the end. 

4.  Lexicon, Max Barry - The ideas behind this book are really incredible, and can be summed up with the simple notion that words are power.  In all honesty, this was much more of an action thriller than I really enjoy.  (Definitely more than I had expected.)  At times, it was a bit much, and I'm horribly confused by the ending.  Granted, I'm not someone who actually enjoys an ambiguous ending.  Better a definitive ending that I don't like than one that leaves me scratching my head.  SO, I'm going to chose to think what I want to think about it. 

5. Hyperbole and A Half, Allie Brosh - This book kind of defies categorization.  Allie Brosh used her very simple artwork to start a personal blog with entries that were part essay, part comic strip.  That blog eventually became this book.  I adored it.  There are a few tales that are laugh out loud funny, but there are also some pieces that give really good insight into human nature.  Of particular importance are the chapters on depression.  If you've ever dealt with depression, or if you've got loved ones who are fighting it, you simply must read this book.

Then I went on a bit of a library binge...finding a bunch of books that were on my wish list.  I'm having a love affair with my library's digital services!  Having said that, my results were rather mixed. 

6.  The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert (audio) - First of all, I have never - nor do I have any intentions of - read Eat, Pray, Love.  I was actually prepared to ignore this book BECAUSE of the popularity of Gilbert's breakthrough memoir.  Glad I didn't.  I happen to really adore historical fiction on a grand scale....even better if it contains interesting female characters...and this book fits that bill beautifully.  Love, love, loved it!  Was totally emotionally invested, and had trouble setting it aside at times!

7.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin - A charmer of a book!  It was good to read a more lighthearted book after the last, to be perfectly honest.  I'd learned about this book on Books on the Nightstand, and one of the things they had admired was the rich collection of literary references that are contained in this story of a bookseller's life.  I happen to like pop culture references in books (not always) but usually have trouble catching them because my nose is generally in a book, making me blind and deaf to what others are enjoying.  So for me, a book of literary references is genius!  I have to say, that even though this was a lighter book it still made me pretty emotional.  So much fun, but meaningful too.

8.  Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi - I desperately wanted to read this book.  It had come highly recommended, and as a modern retelling of the Snow White tale was right up my alley.  (If you want to get me to read a book, promise me a fairy tale.)  Sad to say, I'm glad I found it available through the library.  Had I paid for it, I would have felt obligated to read until the end.  Honestly, I only made it about a quarter of the way in.  It left me cold.   I just couldn't connect with the characters, and the writing style felt like it valued style over substance.  A huge disappointment.

9.  The Sandcastle Girls, Chris Bohjalian (audio) - Super glad I found this in the library's digital catalog and didn't waste my money on it.  It was another BOTNS recommendation, and had been on my wish list for a while.  I just never took to it.  Made it about half way before I gave up.  The crazy thing is that I adored the voices of both of the female narrators.  It was also a subject I knew nothing about - the Armenian genocide - and the historical information was very well done.  Despite that, I never really enjoyed listening to it and ultimately decided that I felt a tad like I was being lectured at. The whole experience just felt odd.

10.  Geek Love, Katherine Dunn - I get that this is considered by many to be a modern classic.  I'm not one of them.  Ugh.  The writing style was hard to follow and confusing in some areas.  Dunn's tendency to drop hints about the history of this family to hook your interest ultimately became annoying.  I'll give her that it was an extraordinarily unique book when first published 25ish years ago, and I can only imagine what a splash it made.  I didn't care enough to finish it, though.

11.  The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak - Sometimes a format is not good for a book.  This is the big lesson I learned when I tried to listen to The Book Thief in audio.  I listened to roughly a third of it, and hated it.  Not wanting to give up, though, I tried again in print (also digital download) and I absolutely loved it.  (I considered trying Sandcastle Girls in print as well, but didn't feel as if that particular book would benefit as much.)  The language is gorgeous in this book, and the style that it's written in totally speaks to me because it's how I tend to write.  Yeah, I'm a sucker for a good WWII book, and that's part of it, too.  Super glad I gave it a second chance.  (Why yes, my family is somewhat used to walking in on my sobbing uncontrollably over a book....)

12. Love and Treasure, Ayelette Waldman - Speaking of WWII books....  I'd never read Waldman before, although she became a personal hero of mine years ago because of an essay that she wrote about her relationships with her husband and children and how they balance out.  (For the record, that essay caused a firestorm, and I totally agreed with Waldman's position.)  Honestly, this wasn't even on my wish list.  I just saw that it was available and downloaded it.  Wow.  I could not put it down.  One of the things I appreciated is that Waldman chose to tell the story through different points of view and different time periods.  I love the fact that some threads of the story had tragic ends, some were happy, and some were merely there.  That is, after all, life.

13.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (audio, read by the author) - Honestly, I don't know how I managed an English degree and then another 20 some odd years without reading Angelou, but I didn't.  I'm a little bit ashamed that it took Angelou's death and Janet Mock's memoir to finally draw me in.  There are not enough words to describe how marvelous this book is.  If you haven't read it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so...and I even more strongly encourage you to listen to Dr. Angelou's reading of it.  There is great magic in listening to her voice as she tells her own story.

14.  The Children of Men, PD James (audio) - I absolutely love the movie adaptation of this novel, and have been intrigued with the idea of the book for quite some time knowing that the movie was quite a bit different but that James approved and liked it.  I'm going to have to start reading more PD James...it's just that simple.  I'll admit that dystopian novels are generally not my thing.  (Post-apocalyptical, well that's another matter - wink, wink...nudge, nudge.)  However, I'm very glad I read this one.  The focus on mass-infertility really takes it to an interesting place, and gave me quite a bit to ponder.    

1 comment:

Shelda said...

I love PD James. But then I'm more into mysteries than you are, and she has some great ones. I love her insights into human nature, and all the collateral damage of crimes (mostly murders).