Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What I Read In May

The library parade continues!  Only three of these were actually mine.....

And I'm going to confess - there might have been more books, but I got caught up in rewatching all of the old episodes of Call the Midwife.  Ahem.  Motto for the summer:  more books, less streaming tv.

1. Glamour In The Glass, 2. Without a Summer, 3. Valour and Vanity, 4. Of Noble Family - Mary Robinette Kowal  - I snagged these from the library as soon as they showed up in the digital catalog of ebooks and audiobooks.  They've sort of been on my reading list for years.  I say 'sort of' because I've taken them off and added them again a few times.  Why?  I read the first book in this series several years ago, and although I did enjoy the Regency/Austinesque take on magic it paled in comparison with another book a read at the same time.  (Ironskin by Tina Connolly...a steampunk take on Jane Eyre, which was the first book of a trilogy that I adore.)  I was curious about the rest of Kowal's series because they kept showing up on recommendation lists...but I was so NOT going to pay for any of them because I didn't think I'd enjoy them much.  In fact, I kind of, sort of dreaded reading them.  Well.  That was stupid of me.  As it would turn out, I burned through these books in about a week, and I enjoyed every single minute of them.  No, they aren't the deepest books in the world, and sometimes I had to roll my eyes a bit about the characterization or the plot, but they were a lot of fun to read and are based on the type of romantic relationship that clearly I'm a sucker for. Also - plucky female leads...I'm a sucker for that, too.   I'll be buying them at some point, because I can imagine rereading them down the road whenever I need a brief, fun escape.

5. The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah (audio) - My BRF (Best Running Friend) recommended this book to me, and so I read it despite my usual distrust of popular books.  I was relieved when it turned out to actually be a good book.  I do rather enjoy WWII books - for their ability to educate and help us to remember as well as for the emotional depths they usually bring me to.  The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters - women who are very different and who's paths take radically different turns.  While I can't honestly say this was the best WWII book I've ever read (A Thread of Grace, Mary Doria Russell or All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr...if you are curious.), it was certainly in my top 10.

6.  Anna and the Swallow Man,  Gavriel Saint - This middle reader book was published fairly recently, and pretty immediately got a lot of buzz.  It's also a WWII book, written from the perspective of a little girl who's father disapears in the Polish expulsion of intellectuals.  I was not able to become as emotionally invested in this book as I had expected to, but I did love the language and the ideas presented.  It gave me a lot to think about, and for that I am grateful.

7.  Murder at Mansfield, Lynn Shepherd (unfinished) - I'm kind of surprised that I couldn't get through this book.  I've truly enjoyed Sheperd's other books, which are murder mystery riffs on some of my favorite Victorian books, staring and centered around a character named Charles Maddox.  I knew this book was a take on Jane Austin's Mansfield Park, but I didn't realize it also included Maddox.  The difference, though, is that this book is more firmly based on the source material, with Maddox coming in as more of a side note.  Perhaps it's because I don't know Mansfield Park as well as the other Austin books?  (True, it's not my favorite and I've only read it once.)  And so couldn't connect?  Not sure.  May try again another time.

8.   Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert (audio) - I wasn't going to read it.  I'd listened to a few episodes of the podcast Gilbert put out to support the book release, and I kind of couldn't stand her.  (I've also never read Eat, Pray, Love...and must admit I view it somewhat suspiciously in light of it's intense popularity.)  However, a good friend of mine read it, and I decided to give it a try.  After all, the audio was only 4 hours!  Well, to my surprise this book carried a message I really needed to hear right now as I contemplate my future.  

9. Silver on the Road, Laura Anne Gilman - Yay!  My book selecting knack is completely intact and still awesome!  This book showed up on the ibooks sale page, and I admit I was initially drawn in to read the description because of the cover art.  (It's an artist who's done covers for Charles De Lint and Lynn Flewelling...and this is not the first time I've discovered a new writer by being attracted by that artist!)  I didn't buy it, and I didn't buy it, and I didn't buy it....and then I kicked myself when it disapeared from the sale page.  When it showed up again, well you can guess!  Half way through I preordered the sequel, which is due out this fall.  I love Isobel, who is another version of the tough female lead.  I love the thoughtful pace, which can be slow but which allows for some gorgeous language.  I also love this magical take on a Western, and found Gilman's world to be unique to anything I'd read before.  This was most definitely a good pick!

10.  Find a Way, Diana Nyad (audio) - I needed more audiobooks, and Nyad's book came highly recommended by one of the running magazines I follow on FB, so I decided to give it a try.  To my delight, it was amazing!  Nyad is a fantastic story teller (and she read her own book, which added considerably to the narrative), and her life story is much bigger than I expected.  The description of her various attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida did get a tad repetitive, but I completely understand why she included them as she did.  Her messages of never giving up and holding your relationships as a priority are spot on, and her powerful story of being an abuse survivor is one that people need to hear.  I hope this book gets a wide audience, I really do.  (Also...I hate swimming, and I think she's a tad nuts...especially given the jellyfish thing.)


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