Monday, July 31, 2017

A Very Good Month of Books Indeed

1.  The Girl From Everywhere, Heidi Heilig - I discovered this book through NPR's 2016 book concierge, one of several I put on my wish list.  Oh my.  It's a true delight!  Truly unique idea, fantastic characters that really drew me in, excellent pacing, and thought-provoking concepts.  Mostly, though, it's just a really good story.

2.  The Ship Beyond Time, Heidi Heilig - So of course, I had to read the follow-up.  It wasn't quite as magical, but I loved it as well.  I love that Heilig used her books to ask really big questions, and I love the way she navigated those questions.  In retrospect, this could have been one of those books with the 'twist' ending that I hate (ahem, remember how ticked off I was with the Queen of the Tearling books?), but Heilig didn't go there at all, instead crafting an ending that was deeply, deeply satisfying.

3.  The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova - Oh.  My.  Lord.  I can't believe I forced myself through this awful book.  I LOVED Kostova's first book, The Historian.  Perhaps I should have paid better attention when the reviews said her second book wasn't good.  The third....well, it's ridiculous that I pushed myself to read this all the way through.  If the book were 1/3 of what it is then perhaps it would have been good.  The central story that Kostova is trying to tell could be an important one.  Unfortunately, she muddied it with a worthless framing device, pointless digressions, and writing techniques that tried to be fancier than was warranted.

4.  Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (audio) - It's been less than a year since I discovered this book, so to return with a reread so soon is unusual for me...but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to discover what the audio added to the story.

5.  Hunger, Roxane Gay (audio, read by the author) - As someone with a complicated relationship with my own body and with food, I related to this book in a way that some may consider surprising even though the details of my life and Gay's are not at all similar.  It's an important book, and I highly recommend it.  We don't talk honestly enough about our bodies, and this is an important first step.

6.  March, Geraldine Brooks - I think Louisa May Alcott would have approved of this beautiful novel that tells the story of what happened to the father of her "Little Women" while he was off at war.  It's a beautiful book - well-deserving of the accolades it received.  I've often been critical of writers who seek to capitalize on the classics, but this is one of the few cases where I've truly seen it done right.  Bravo, Ms. Brooks.

7.  Magic For Nothing, Seanan McGuire - Truth time, I was getting a bit tired of the Incryptid series, and the our youngest sibling just didn't capture my attention like her big sister and brother did. My one big problem with the entire series is that it takes too long to really get into the books.  In this case, I was 100 pages in before it captured my attention.  The entire first act was m'eh.  Oh well.  Still planning on reading the next one!

8.  The Changeling, Victor Lavelle - Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It was a perfect modern-day fairy tale, and I loved every minute.  Hands down, one of the best books I've read this year so far.  I've read one other Lavelle book, and knew I liked his writing style, but I honestly wasn't expecting a straight-up urban fairy tale.  Now I feel like I need to go read everything else he's ever done!

9. Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck - In doing a bit of research for my current job, I discovered a phenomenal website (Storytelling Nonprofit) run by a brilliant writer who recommended this book in one of her posts.  I was intrigued as it seemed to fit a particular need I have had for quite some time.  Haven't finished it yet because I'm working through the exercises, and it's just going to take time.  Truthfully, there's nothing in here that's new or surprising - it's a variation on a common theme with these sorts of books - but it is speaking my language, so I'm enjoying it.

10. Buried Heart, Kate Elliot - The final in the Fives trilogy.  Oddly enough, I had trouble getting into it.  The pacing felt different from the others, with the beginning being an extension of the end of the second book in a way that was a bit jarring to start with.  Overall, I'm satisfied with the series and I very much appreciated the way that Elliot finished it up, even though I felt it petered out a bit in the third book as if she'd lost a little bit of steam, and/or didn't have quite enough material to actually fill a third book.  That makes it sound worse than it was....I"m only a little bit disappointed that it wasn't as great as the first two.  Elliot will always be one of my favorites.

Giving Up On 'Em (for now):

11. The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber - I wanted to like it, but ultimately it committed the crime of failing to make me actually care about any of the characters.  Life is just too short.

12. Mile Markers, Kristin Armstrong - Too precious, not enough insight, too suburban mommy blogger, nothing unique....too something, not enough substance.

13. One Square Inch of Silence, Gordon Hempton - I loved the interview that drew me to this book, but I just couldn't connect for whatever reason.  I suspect it's timing and it may go better at another time.