Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Books

1.  A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab - I love Schwab.  I really, really do.  And I love Delilah Bard...who may be the single most fascinating female character I've come across in a really long time. On top of that, this fantasy world really is a lot of fun because it's so much more unique than anything else I've found in a while.  I'm mad at Schwab for leaving this one on a cliffhanger...with no idea of how long I'll have to wait for the next book...grrrr.  (She cops to it in the end notes.  It's the first time she's ever done that.  I sort of forgive her.  Sort of.)  I think this is a series that I need in hardback.  It's just that damn good. 

2.  Columbine, Dave Cullen (audio) - No, this is not a book I would have ever picked up on my own.  I'm not someone who enjoys reading 'true crime' books, or anything even remotely related to that genre.  However, this book is very greatly admired by the hosts of the Literary Disco podcast - so much so, that it comes up in their conversations all of the time, and so I finally decided to read it.  I have to say, it deserves every single bit of praise that it's received.  Columbine is not at all an easy story to read...but it's both exceedingly well-told and well-researched.  Truth?  Many of the things I thought I knew about Columbine were not.  Truth?  I'm not ashamed to admit that this book left me in tears several times.  Completely, and utterly, heartbreaking. 

3.  The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer (audio) - No, I'm not particularly fond of Palmer's music.  It's just not my thing, and that's ok.  However, I adore her and follow with great interest on facebook.  She's fascinating, and she has some really amazing things to say about the power of human connection.  In fact, I've used her TED Talk in a sermon because I find her to be that profound.  I've been meaning to read this for a really long time, but an earlier attempt fizzled for no good reason.  I've got a digital copy that I purchased, but decided to try the audio again because Palmer narrates it herself.  Seriously, I think this should be listened to.  It comes straight from her heart, and wow...such an amazing message. 

4.  The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown - Another book of the sort I don't usually pick up on my own, although Brown has come highly recommended by a variety of sources that I trust. This summer will mark my third experience as a facilitator for the required theme class at Spectacular - an amazing summer camp that is put on by my church every year for high school students.  The curriculum is always amazing, and this book is one of two that we were asked to read this year as part of our preparation.  So I knew it would be good, and helpful for Spec.  I didn't know it would be so very profound in my own life.  In fact, it was exactly what I needed, giving me much to think about and work through in my journal.

5.  On Writing, Stephen King (audio) - A confession.  I've read a lot of King's books, and while I generally find myself fully engrossed, I can't actually say that I enjoy them. Also, some of King's (fairly recent) public (sour grapes) comments about other writers have really turned me off. I bought this book a couple of years ago on the recommendation of a good friend of mine who just so happens to be an amazing writer...but my general ambivalence about King prevented me from actually reading it.  I discovered the audio this month, and decided to give that a go.  Surprisingly enough, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  The memoir part was mercifully brief, but insightful, and the writing advice part was fascinating.  When I finished, I pulled the book off of my shelf, bookmarked the beginning of the section on writing, and handed it to my husband, who is diligently working on his own books.

6.  The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, Rod Duncan - Proving once again that my talent for sniffing out fantastic new books during browsing sessions at my local bookstore is still intact!  I found this six months ago or so at B&N, and took a quick pic for a reminder because it because it looked intriguing. Shortly after that it showed up on the sale page for iBooks, so I snapped it up.  It is in some ways a curious choice for me.  Steampunk in general isn't really my thing - although I have sniffed out at least one other trilogy that I really liked.  The thing that probably attracted me the most was the blurb on the cover by Graham Joyce, who's a writer I respect greatly.  I'm quite happy to report that I absolutely loved it and even devoured it in a single, glorious day.  No, it's not a perfect book, but it's fun and has an amazing,feisty female lead, and is different enough to pique my interest. There are two sequels, and I've put them both on my wish list for when I next need an easy, fun 'popcorn' type read.

7.  The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon - I picked this up a while ago because it was an award winner, and the concept intrigued me.  Moon's book is another take on the 'in the near future if we could solve/fix all medical 'imperfections', should we?' theme.  In this case, our protagonist is a man who was born a smidge too late for the treatments that now 'cure' autistic children. Thanks to the many therapies that were available, though, he has been able to build an independent, happy life for himself.  Then, a new treatment becomes available.  Should he take it?  Would he still be himself if he was no longer autistic?  It's not a book I could read quickly, in part because such questions make me deeply uncomfortable, and in part because of the voice that Moon created for her protagonist, which she developed through tons of research into autism.  Kudos to Moon for an amazingly well-written book.  My own discomfort aside, these are questions we should be asking ourselves.  I will say that I had trouble emotionally connecting, though, which contributed to it being a slow read. 

9.  The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr (audio) - This seems to be my month for masterclass lessons in writing.  I came to this book through Karr's NPR Fresh Air interview, in which I fell in love with her because of an exercise she puts her grad students through.  Memoir is not particularly a genre that I enjoy, but the discussion of how to write one is nevertheless fascinating.  I highly recommend this to anyone who either enjoys reading memoirs or has an interest in writing.

10.  Kingfisher, Patricia A. McKillip - A new McKillip book is always a treat, and I ordered this one so fast after learning about it that I think my keyboard was smoking!  (You should see my beautiful shelf of McKillip hardbacks...the design is always lovely.) I love what she does with tying a mythical story into a modern setting, and her language is just delicious.  Sometimes I do have to slow down and puzzle through some of her passages, but that's ok. It's been a while since she's put out a new novel, and it was worth the wait!

11.  River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay - I wanted a long book for Spring Break, and this is what I settled on.  (I got some great recommendations from my friends on FB for other books, and fully plan on reading them this spring/summer.)  Kay's writing is just gorgeous - so lyrical, so magical.  This book is set several hundred years after the events of Under Heaven - which I read recently - so it's basically the same fantasy version of ancient China.  As always, it takes a little bit of work to truly get into Kay's work, but once you do it's oh so worth it.  I find myself particularly intrigued by his female characters, which are every bit as well rounded and interesting as his males - not always the case with men who write science fiction and fantasy.  Once I fell into the book, it was hard to come back out. 

And Now the Shamefully (OK, not really shamefully...life is too short) Unfinished:


1.  Library of Souls, Ransom Riggs - I almost don't know why I decided to read this.  I absolutely loved the first book in the series, but was horrendously turned off by the second book.  I made it 50 pages in...and then realized I just didn't care.  I was very amused by one scene...but not enough to continue reading.  Life's just too short.

2.  Why Not Me, Mindy Kaling (audio) - I really enjoyed Kaling's first book, but the fact of the matter is that that book was an entire story.  This one is a series of essays, and even though I do appreciate and like Kaling's sense of humor, it was too disjointed for my taste.

3.  Out of Orange, Cleary Wolters (audio) - I read Piper Kerman's Orange is the New Black a few years ago, and really enjoyed it.  I was, however, late to the table with the Netflix hit by the same name.  When I started to watch it earlier this month - I'm already finished with all three currently available seasons - I checked out Kerman's book again so that I could brush up on a few details I had forgotten, and in the process stumbled on this book, which is the memoir of the real Alex Vaus.  Truth is, the woman is a really, really bad writer...even with an assist from a pro.  Couldn't get past the gratuitous cursing, and found I really didn't care. 

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