Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall...the perfect time for BOOKS!

Who am I kidding...it's always the perfect time for books!

In which I decide that I want to buy books again with my birthday money this year, and so I'd best attack that pile of already purchased but never yet read books that's been waiting for my attention not-so-patiently during my summer of fantasy.  Plus one book I can't wait to buy/read.  Plus one from the library because it's short.  Plus...library!

1.  Magonia, Maria Dahvana Headley - There are two or three writers who's book blurbs I pay attention to, and so when I saw a front cover blurb by Neil Gaiman on Magonia I knew I had to read it as soon as possible.  It's amazing, and I'm very much in love with Aza and Jason, who are anything BUT the usual YA leads.  The fantasy elements are unique, and I love that they are based in odd parts of actual historical record. Curiously enough, the ending is open enough that a sequel could follow...but I'm not sure I want one.  We'll see what Headley decides to do! 

2.  The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman (unfinished) - I've heard a lot of great things about Hoffman, and about this book in particular.  The best I can say about it is that it was nice.  The writing was pleasant, but it didn't make much of an impression...which is weird given the subject matter.  Yeah.  nice.  That's it. I gave up half way through.  I just flat out didn't care enough.  I've deleted the other Hoffman book I had in my wish list/to read pile.  I can't imagine her writing getting any better for me.   

3.  The Painter, Peter Heller (unfinished) - So I put down the Hoffman book and picked this up, and was swept up within two pages.  HUGE difference!  If only...if only it had managed to hold my attention.  I do adore Peter Heller's writing, which I think is best described as lyrical.  Unfortunately, I got bogged down in the fancy prose and was really turned off by some of the plot elements. I skimmed it to get the basic plot, but did not read it as closely as it probably deserves.  Sigh.  I will admit, it was a letdown for me after The Dog Stars, but probably other people will love it. 

4.  Our Souls At Night, Kent Haruf (audio, library) - It's a slim book - only 3 hours in audio - but the sparsely told story is sweet and deeply moving.  To be perfectly honest, I think this book is probably best enjoyed as audio because the reader adds so, so much to the emotional depth of the story.  Two elderly people come together to help relieve each other of their loneliness, it's really that simple.  The ending wasn't what I had hoped for, but my imagination sees better things to come in the ever after. 

5.  We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas (audio and ebook, unfinished) - To be honest, I tried reading this some time ago, and didn't get very far before I got bored and gave up.  I have no earthly idea why I then bought a copy when it went up on the ibooks sale page...but I did, and as per this month I wanted to give it a go.  To my delight, I found the audio available through my library and so I used both.  Mare Winningham reads...and she's a delight!  Ultimately, though, this is a book about an ordinary life, and as beautiful as the prose may be and as interesting as some of the characters are....NOTHING HAPPENS!!!!  I made it through a quarter of the book this time before I decided it just isn't for me. 

6.  The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, Nichole Bernier - This was a BOTNS recommendation from a couple of years ago.  (I listened to that episode while running outside our church campgrounds in the early morning on a gorgeous June day.  Details!)  It caught my attention because it's a book about journals...and I'm someone who has a shelf full of my own journals.  Truth, if it weren't for the journal aspect this wouldn't at all be my sort of book as it's really a type of modern female lit that generally tries my patience.  But.  It does ask deep questions about journals, and about who we are, really.  Why do we write journals?  What should be done with them after we die?  Are we more ourselves in real life or in our private writings?  Do we really ever truly know each other? 

7.  The Baker's Daughter, Sarah McCoy - I'm a sucker for a WWII book, and while this wasn't even close to the best of what I've read, it was an engrossing, enjoyable read.  (Probably not smart for this allergy girl to read about bakers, though...)  I appreciated the way the modern day and the past intersected, and I really liked the characters - especially Elsie.  It is interesting in that it's a book that takes a look at how ordinary Germans suffered under the Nazi regime, which is a point of view not often taken.  Perhaps because we know Elsie is living happily in the present day, though, it's rather devoid of the type of tension I usually expect from WWII books. 

8.  The Newlyweds, Nell Freudenberger (unfinished)  - Well, this is getting embarrassing.  It's turning out to be a month of books that I bought, and just don't care about enough to finish.  The crazy thing is that I do really like Freudenberger's writing and I love Amina.  The pacing was just too slow, and there was too much repetition, and in the end I just couldn't do it.  Out of curiosity I looked up the Kirkus review, and they nailed it...blaming the 'detached and cool' tone for making it 'difficult to emotionally engage.'  Yep. 

9.  Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan Stradal (audio) - Nope, this wasn't a book I already owned.  It was, however, on my wish list and so I decided to give it a go when I found the audio, needing some books to listen to while running.  (It's a fairly recent BOTNS recommendation.)  While truthfully I'm glad I didn't buy a copy, I am at the same time glad I listened to it.  It was fun, and light, and the two readers were really good.  I really loved the fact that Eva's story was told from a sideways viewpoint through the stories of other people who's lives intersected with hers. 

10.  Run Like A Mother, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea - Yes, I've become slightly obsessed with running, and to paraphrase a good friend, I always dive in completely.  I stumbled on a news story about the amazing Mirna Vilaria, and the next thing you know I'm checking books out from the library and rushing to the store to look through magazines.  Might possibly have gone off the deep end.  This book is a general intro to running from the perspective of moms with real lives, and I love that it's packed with tidbits from lots of real runners. 

11. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, Catherynne M. Valente (audio, unfinished) - I adored the first two Fairyland books that Valente wrote, but I admit to succumbing to 'charm and whimsy fatigue' with the third.  There is, after all, such a thing as "too much."  I hadn't even known Valente had continued on with a new protagonist until I stumbled across this in a search of fantasy audio on one of my library's two digital services. I have to admit, I love our wee troll boy a LOT more than I loved September.  It occurred to me that these books in a way remind me of the Oz books - without that vaguely upsetting something that disturbed me so much when I read the Oz books as a child.  My one caviat...it is rather a LOT of whimsy, and ultimately that got to me AGAIN.  Big Sigh.  I want to love these books, but if I'm honest I just don't. 

12.  The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith (audio) - It's soooo not my regular genre, but I do rather enjoy the Galbraith books.  (I do also wish that J.K. Rowling hadn't been outed over this pseudonym, but that's another discussion entirely.)  Believe it or not, I actually figured out who done it...even though I'm not someone who generally attempts to do so while reading mysteries.  Given that it's based on writers and the publishing industry, I do wonder about Rowling's experiences.  It was fun, and I love Robin, and I am hoping more books follow. 

13.  The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman, ill. by Chris Riddell - It was finally released in the US, and I happily preordered a copy.  My oh my, is it ever a beautiful treat!  You all know I love fairy tales, right?! 

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