Friday, September 30, 2016

September Reading

1.  A Song for Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay (audio) - I was completely out of fresh podcasts, and needed something to listen to while running, so I found this while browsing for favorite writers in our library's digital services.  While technically it's a reread, it's literally been decades since I actually read this book, so I honestly didn't remember much at all.  (This is a sign that maybe it's time to start pulling out crates from the basement so that I can reread a couple of series that I remember loving from college.). One of the things I most love about Kay's work is that his female characters are so well-drawn.  I don't find that in the work of many male fantasy writers, so it's always a treat.  I love falling in love with characters, as I did in this book.

2. Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift - This is one of the last recommendations I took from Books on the Nightstand before that lovely podcast decided to come to an end.  It's a slim book - I was able to read it in a single evening - and it packed an emotional wallop the size of which way outweighs the number of pages.  It's the story of a single afternoon, and what comes of it.  I loved the way in which the narrative shifted back and forth over the events of that day, with hints of things to come gradually becoming the full story of an entire life.  I loved the details...the way in which all senses became involved in the telling so that it felt like I was actually a part of the story.  And I loved Jane...just because.

3a.  The Key To The Coward's Spell, Alex Bledsoe - love Bledsoe's short stories, which support his two series of books.  This is an Eddie LaCrosse novel....some time ago I listened to the audio of those books and just fell in love with them.  Super fun!  The short story goes into some rather serious issues, and it's not exactly a light read because of that.  Still, it's good to revisit a character....and perhaps this means Bledsoe is working on a new Eddie LaCrosse book?

3b.  Night Flower, Kate Elliott - and this was a short story/novella that supports Elliott's Court of Fives books!  It's the love story of her protagonist's parents, and while it was a sweet read I'm not entirely sure it was neccessary.

4.  How to Live: or A Life of Montaigne, Sarah Bakewell - An older BOTNS recommendation, that I picked up when it finally went on sale.  It was interesting...but I didn't love it as much as other people have loved it.  I will say that it was an excellent introduction to the life and works of Montaigne, written in a very approachable manner.

5. Sister Light, Sister Dark, Jane Yolen - This is the first book in an older trilogy from an author so beloved by me that I find it difficult to understand why I hadn't read them before.  Hmmm..  They only recently became available in digital format, and I snapped the first one up when it went on sale.  I will soon be procuring the other two books.  I adore fairy tale, folklore, mythology...all of that good stuff!  The fact that Yolen tells her tale through those devices, followed by the 'truth' of what happened to create them makes these books truly special. (As an aside, it's fun to imagine where our modern day scholars do and don't get things right!)

6.  Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel - This is also one of the later BOTNS recommendations.  Probably wouldn't have read it if it hadn't gone on the ibooks sale page, but nevertheless I enjoyed it.  Told through interviews, news reports, official briefings, it's a quick read with some fun characters.  There's a sequel coming out...I may or may not read it.  As much fun as it was, it's not really sticking with me - despite those fun characters and a unique plot.

7.  Chapel of Ease, Alex Bledsoe - I love Bledsoe's Tufa novels.  This is his fourth, and I was happy to find that it returned to form after a somewhat dissapointing third novel.  The fact that it folded Broadway musicals into the narrative perhaps made it even better for this Broadway superfan!  The spin on the main character was unexpected given the general nature of the books, but it was well done.

8. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (audio) - I'm going to be clear.  This is not a "fun" book to read.  It is, however, and important book to read...and one that I think should be required reading for all students of history in this country, no matter how Whitehead plays with reality by altering time and space and by making the railroad  an actual railroad.  If you don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement, you should read this.  If you care about equality and justice, you should read this.  If you don't understand or want a better understanding of race relations in the US, you should read this.  It's not fun, and it's not easy....but it is neccesary.

9.  Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay - This is Kay's newest, and it was true to form.  The world he built is rich, and the characters are lovely. Interestingly enough, it was a continuation of his long-ago Sarantium books.  (and I may have to reread those, too....sigh).  Again, I find it amazing that the best characters are the women.  Lovely, lovely read.

10.  Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo - I adore Leigh Bardugo and her Grisha world.  This is the sequel to Six of Crows, and I have to say that I'm glad it completes the story which that book began.  I don't know if I could have waited another year to finish!!  Take note, this is how you do flawed characters who maybe aren't the nicest people in the world, but with whom you want the readers to be fully connected with and rooting for.  Loved the backstories that were fleshed out in this book.  Once again, I also truly appreciate the diversity among the characters.

The Pile O'Unfinished:

11. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, trans. Ken Liu (audio) - Yep, this book was a really big deal in the science fiction world.  While normally I'm not a fan of actual science fiction, I do love Ken Liu's work, so I decided to give it a try.  I appreciate the writing, and I did find it interesting...but for whatever reason it just wasn't my cup of tea and I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

12.  Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton (audio) - I'm a fan of Melton's, and while sometimes her writing style strikes me as a bit much, I generally find her work meaningful.  I think my mistake was in picking up the audio version of her new memoir.  Melton does the reading, and while normally I enjoy hearing the author add to her work, this time it just didn't work for me.  Melton does an excellent job with the narration - adding just the right amount of emotion - but (and I hesitate to actually say this for a variety of reasons) for me, her voice was annoying and childlike.  I'll pick the book up in print at some other time.

13. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell (audio) - I tried.  It was annoying.  The humor was just too much for me, although I did appreciate the guest voices that were brought in.