Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Reading

1.  Cold Eye, Laura Anne Gilman - This very nearly wound up on the unfinished shelf...exept that would have irritated me because, as you may remember, I'm trying to clean that shelf off.  Pros: Gilman has created a very American mythology with her books about the Territory and the Devil's Hand.  Her characters are still fantastic, and I enjoy the relationship between Gabriel and Isobel.  Cons:  lordy, it moves at a snail's pace and the language is often unneccessarily vague.  I wanted something - ANYTHING - to happen...or maybe I wanted the things that were happening to just be described in a more straightforward manner.  Both of those.  These are critisisms I had of the first book...they were just a million times worse this time around.  Final verdict:  Much as I enjoyed the first book, I'm done with this series.

2.  Kindred, Octavia Butler - It's not an easy book to read, but it is a book which I believe should be read because it deepens understanding and hopefully increases empathy and compassion.  I'm impressed with how quickly Butler got right to her story...no need to dilly dally or build a background.  The reader is pushed into it immediately, and has trouble walking away from it later on.  I was glad it wasn't longer.  I'm not sure I could have handled that.  I'm very glad I read it, though, and I appreciate the critical essay and readers' guide in the back.

3.  The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden - I'd preordered this quite some time ago, knowing little to nothing about it other than the brief description on iTunes.  Shortly after it showed up in my inbox, I had two friends post glowing reviews on Facebook...which is something that's never happened before, so I moved it to the top of the list.  My oh my....is this ever one beautiful book!  If I had a checklist to create the perfect book for me, this would hit almost all of the items on that list.  Most notabley, it's an extremly well-told (Russian) fairy tale with a plucky, marvelous female protagonist.  Yes, I need a hardcover copy to add to my shelves...it was that good.

4.  Stars Above, Marissa Meyer (audio) - This is a collection of short stories based on the Lunar Chronicals which I read last month.  It was a largely unneccessary, but still enjoyable book.  Most of the stories just served to fill in the backstories of the main characters from the Lunar Chronicals, which honestly wasn't needed as Meyers had done a great job of that in her series already.  Fortunately, they were fun enough that I didn't mind.  Also not needed was the retelling of one portion of those books from a different point of view.  (That's the one story I didn't finish.)  It was all totally worth it for the last story, though, which was the only one to further the the lives of the characters, adding to the story told in the Luner Chronicles.

5.  Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly  (audio) - If you haven't seen the movie yet, run - do not walk - to your nearest theater as soon as is humanly possible.  I saw it with my girls this month, and was blown away by the story it told.  (As an aside...I'm impressed with how much tension it built around historic events that I already knew the outcome of!)  I wanted more info, so I checked out the book, and I'm glad I did.  Kudos to Shetterly for bringing to light the lives of women who deserve to be recognized for their amazing contributions to our world.

6. Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey - A friend of mine brought this book to my attention after attending a conference with the author.  I was looking for a nourishing Sunday morning book, and snatched this up when I discovered that it was on sale.  When I found myself in tears less than two pages in, I knew I had found something I needed.  Simply put, I am a progressive feminist because I am a Christian...and it was wonderful to read this affirming book which deepened my understanding.

7.  The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher (audio) - OMG, this was sooooo much fun!  I'm so very glad I did the audio.  Fisher reads it herself, and she's a stitch!  I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read any of her works before, but after this I might have to track every bit of it down.  This might not even have come on my radar (I like Star Wars, but am  by no means a superfan.), but for the fact that Fisher did an amazing Fresh Air interview for it about a month before she passed.  She was truly an original, and I'm so glad she left us this book.

8.  Kingfisher, Patricia A McKillip (my unfinished book for the month) - So weird that I didn't finish this.  It became, for some odd reason, the book that I read in the tub during post-long-run soaks while training for my half marathon last spring.  I finished the race before I finished the book, and for no good reason I let it fall off the radar.  So glad to have finally finished it.  I adore McKillip, and this book is just as wonderful as the rest of her work!

9.  The Sun is Also A Star, Nicolla Yoon - Yoon is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, and this - her second book - was part of my birthday bonanza book purchase.  I knew this book was a YA version of the movie, Before Sunrise (which I've never seen), in which two teens from different worlds spend one perfect day together and fall in love.  Admittedly, I was a touch skeptical because of that. However, I also knew that Yoon is a fantastic writer who has the ability to sweep the reader up in her stories.  My response when I finally sat down to read this book?  Read it in one sitting, loved every minute, cried frequently.  Yes, Yoon is definitly becoming a favorite.  The fact that I was both enjoying the book while simultaneously being carried back to what it felt like when I was 17 and in love?  Well..that was a gift.  (As a side note...really good YA writers get to me because they tend to cut through the BS of so-called 'adult' literature to really get to the heart of the matter.)

10.  The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit (a second unfinished book) - Another oddity.  I adore Solnit's writing, and don't remember why I set this book aside either, especialy as I only had a few chapters to go.  I had a little bit of time, so I decided to pick it up again, and within one page was transported.  Solnit's use of language is amazing, and this work definitly sits close to my heart.  I'll have to persue some of her other works.

11.  The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen - First of all, I have to stop picking up new series before they are finished. I had to hunt down an online synopsis of each of the first two books because I'd forgotten so very much.  Secondly, the first of this series - The Queen of the Tearling - is an absolutely brilliant book, but I should have been forwarned because the second didn't really sit as well with me.  Third, and I haven't quite put my finger on the why of this, the writing is occasionally confusing as to what's going on.  The author says in the back of the book that it's a difficult world and there aren't answers to everything...but I would argue that having so very much shrouded in mystery makes it difficult to follow at times.  Finally, I hated the ending.  I feel pretty cheated, and I don't often say that.  (As a side note, Emma Watson optioned the first book for the movie rights before the second and third were published, and I really wonder how she feels about that now.)  The more I think about it, actually, the angrier I am.  Intellectually, I get it...although I also feel in some ways like the author took the easy way out.  Emotionally, I kind of can't believe I wasted my time and money on these books.  So much potential...for nothing.  (Edited to add:  Shortly after I published this post, I realized exactly what my problem is.  The end plot device is not at all a new idea, and in fact was used in a made for tv movie that I watched back in middle school.  I hated it then...left me angry for days...and I hate it now.  To me, it's the lazy thing...write yourself into a corner and then hit a reset button.  I have always disliked stories that make use of this because I feel it does such a huge diservice to everything that comes before.  Why bother, if this is the way it ends?)

1 comment:

Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...

Thanks for these, Kristin, it's always interesting to read your thoughts on books! I haven't read a single one of them, and I'm always amazed and inspired at how you find such a variety...