Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Books

In which I decide to work my way through as much of my reading list backlog as possible because I knew that any and all gift money this month was probably going to go to MORE BOOKS!!!!!!!!  Also, some library holds came due.

1.  Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult - I don't often rush to buy books by popular famous authors, being somewhat nervous about what the general public considers to be a good book.  I happened to stumble across this book being offered for a special price, though, less than a week after it was recommended on Books On The Nightstand.  First, I love elephants - always have, always will - so the tie in really touched my heart.  (Incidentally, I'm also planning on reading the nonfiction books suggested by the author at the end.)  Second, only two times in my life have I been surprised by the end of a book...call this a side effect of being such a prolific reader...and this was the second of those.  Amazing!

2.  Yes, Please, Amy Poehler (audio, read by the author) - If you are going to read a memoir by a funny lady, it's best to listen to the audio, especially if she gets several guest readers to help her along the way.  (I thought she was kidding when she listed them at the beginning.)  It was a really fun book - and it held some surprising insight within.  Plus, I wound up listening to it during three roundtrips to visit my Grandmother who was in the hospital two hours away, and it was the perfect antidote to the stress I was under.

3.  The Awakened Kingdom, N.K. Jemisin - Jemisin is one of my favorite discoveries over the last few years.  (Thanks Lana!)  I preordered this novela - which was a follow up to Jemisin's brilliant Inheritance Trilogy.  Read it in one sitting, and I loved it.  As with the best of sci-fi/fantasty writers, Jemesin used her alternate world to make some pretty big points about issues in our own world.  Bravo.

4.  Waiting For Sunrise - A BOTNS recommendation that I got on sale. The blurb is super exciting.  The book, not so much.  Lots of pretty writing...no plot or characters that I could get into.  (So much potential...so sad....)

5.  Dragonflight, 6. Dragonquest, 7.  The White Dragon, Anne McCaffrey (Collectively, The DragonRiders of Pern) - Strange fact, for someone who loves fantasy as much as I do, I had never before read these books, which are by most accounts considered classics in the genre.  So here are some thoughts.  First, I probably would have enjoyed these books a lot more if I'd read them when I was a lot younger.  Second, they aren't particularly well-written, which was something of a surprise given their stature in the fantasy world.  Third, the gender politics/relationships are atrocious.  Fourth, I was kind of surprised that I didn't really give a darn about any of the characters other than to loathe them all at different levels.  The exception?  The dragons and fire lizards.  Fifth, No one can argue that McCaffrey's dragons are a heavy influence on every dragon in print that's come since. As I'm terribly fond of dragon books, it was easy to see the connections.  Kind of like literary archeology to read these.  Sixth, despite all of my negative comments, I binge read these books and enjoyed the experience.  They pretty much met my expectation - which was for that of anachronistic popcorn books.  I did not go in expecting brilliance, and so I wasn't disappointed.  I have absolutely no plans to read any other McCaffrey books. 

8.  The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton - This book kept popping up on year end lists, although not so often as many others.  When I found it in the digital download catalog at my library, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.  I read it in a single day.  In fact, I stayed up until midnight to finish it, and that doesn't happen very often anymore.  (I'm a girl who needs her sleep!)  It wasn't a perfect book by any means, but it was captivating.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that I feel about this book very much like I feel about John Boyne's The Absolutist....which is that this is a book which teaches compassion, and that's a very, very important thing.

9.  The Book of Strange New Things, Mickel Faber - I bought this one because it did end up on so many best of lists for 2014, and because the blurbs were so intriguing.  I fell head over heels in love with the characters in less than two pages, and the writing is AMAZING.  I did find the audio available through the library, so I switched part way through from written page to audio...which is something I've never done before.  In fact, I highly recommend the audio for this book because the reader does an amazing job of vocalizing the aliens.  (Not a spoiler...all descriptions of the book  point to it being a missionary in space.)  I've not read any of Faber's other books....he's only written three, and by all accounts the other two are amazing.  The great sadness is that Faber has decided to retire from writing.  Such a tragic loss.  Really can't say enough good things.  It was so much more than I expected...and it was that rare bird of beautiful language being married to a beautiful plot with an amazing emotional connection for the reader.  (Also, I kind of want to reread The Sparrow now....)

10.  We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas - Another book that kept popping up on Best of 2014 lists, I checked this one out from the library also.  It's a curious thing.  I'm not fond of books that are just about life in general (rather being the sort of person who needs SOMETHING to happen in a book), but I enjoyed reading this immensely, but I also wound up putting it down and not picking it back up again.  Just not my cup of tea, I guess, even if it is rather beautifully written and packed full of compelling characters.  May try to have another go at it at some point. 

11.  Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher - Oh my lord, I LOVED this book!  It's an epistolary novel, with the story told through a series of Letters of Recommendation written by an old, cantankerous English Professor, who's struggling amidst budget cuts in his department at a small liberal arts college.  I suppose it's more of a character study than a plotted novel.  Regardless, it was so much fun to read.  I literally laughed out loud so very many times!

12.  Dreamer's Pool, Juliette Marillier - I love Marillier's Sevenwaters series, so I was tickled when I discovered that she'd started a new series. Marillier writes the type of fantasy books that are exactly my sort of thing - largely based on Celtic myth/Irish history.  Her books are beautifully written and I always adore her characters.  Happy to say this book managed to snare my heart just as the Sevenwaters books did.  I can't wait to read more!

13.  Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson - another library hold that came due.  It's a must read for everyone.  Stevenson is a lawyer who's had an amazing career shinning a light on the horrendous problems in our justice system.  I read the book in less than 24 hours, and was frequently in tears.  I'm not naive...I knew things were bad, and I knew that I lived in a place of privilege that makes it hard for me to understand...but I didn't know things were quite so bad.  And yet there is hope, and there are good people who are standing up and doing the right thing.  If you think we Americans live in a country with a fair justice system, or if you are  one of the people who doesn't understand all of the recent protests, you most especially need to read this book.   Compassion, mercy and justice....these are things our country desperately needs to learn.



Some fun:  I made the rather curious decision (for me) to spend all of my birthday money this year on books rather on practical needs.  I wound up with:  The Shadowed Sun, The Killing Moon, A Natural History of Dragons, The Book of Strange New Things, The Faraway nearby, Ex-Libris, Dear Committee Members, An   Woman, How to Be Both, Ancillary Justice, The Painter, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., I Capture the Castle, The Newlyweds, Dreamer's Pool, Girlchild, The Drowning Girl, Havisham, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Bird Box, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and The Golum and the Jinni.  (Three books were books I'd already read and or wanted in a different format....five or six were on the sale page at iTunes)  It was glorious! 

of course...now it's a tad difficult to figure out what I want to read next....