Summer might finally be upon us and with humid, sticky weather and cold beverages come my desire to compile another reading list. Beach reads, patio reads, sitting-on-my-couch-in-the-air-conditioning-reads… They’re all fabulous and I’m here for all of it.

Since I don’t really follow the rules or the seasons when I read, this list is pretty damn random. I kind of just feel like reading these books, so why not read them this summer? (Note: a couple of these may look kind of familiar because I’m repeating them from my unemployment reading list. I am now marginally more employed {but still looking for a full-time gig if you’re in the market for an archivist!} and didn’t get all the way through it, but I still want to read the books!)

All the Single Ladies. I need my feminist non-fiction. It’s like a glass of restorative water for me. And we all know hydration is important in these scorching summer months. Also, Beyoncé reference.

A Darker Shade of Magic. If summer isn’t for magic and whimsy, what, pray tell, is it for?

The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector. Awesome short stories by awesome lady writer. Here for it. I might read this in dribs and drabs throughout the summer. There are a lot of them.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. I lusted after this a couple of BEAs ago and finally got my hands on it and haven’t read it yet. It’s historical fiction and has “ice cream” in the title. I feel like it might actually be my perfect summer book.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. Helen Oyeyemi. Need I say more?

I Capture the Castle. Somehow I haven’t read this. I got a copy from the Apparating Library at Book Riot Live in November, so I have no excuse. Clearly it is time to fix this problem.

Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness. Sort of self-help-y, but also humor and sociology and such. Might help me with life, but also make me feel better about life? That’s good for summer, right?

So that’s my list. You can see I’ve really thought these through [insert all the sarcasm marks]. Apparently summer is time for my lazy, meandering reading. I’m OK with that.

What are you reading? Do you follow conventions and read certain kinds of books during the summer? Are there other things you think I should read this summer? What’s the rationale?

Advertisements

I’ve been meaning to write about Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night for a while, but I kept getting distracted. If the title sounds familiar, it’s possible that you’re a Book Riot fan and heard Liberty proclaim that she would eat James Patterson if this book doesn’t do well.

Well, I’m a lucky duck with *connections* and I managed to get my hands on an advance copy.

Guys, I think James Patterson is safe.

The Queen of the Night is so good. So. Good.

I love historical fiction and I love sort of epic, sprawling tales that follow characters through radically different stages in life. This book scratches all of those itches for me. I love how the protagonist is able to shift and adapt to new situations — she’s a strong, if somewhat selfish character. She is complicated and intense and I really liked seeing her story unfold. I also enjoyed how opera plays an ongoing role in the book. It added an extra sense of depth to the story. That being said, I don’t think that an interest in/knowledge of opera is necessary to enjoy The Queen of the Night.

I don’t want to say any more about it at this point (other than it’s fantastic and you should read it) because I want you to really be able to take it all in fresh when you read it.

It comes out in February 2016. Plan accordingly. Once you start reading it, you might not want to stop and it’s a hefty-ish book. But yeah, read it. Make sure James Patterson is safe.

Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names got a number of rave reviews, and while I found parts of the story compelling, it just felt oddly familiar and a little too vague. Generally, those two don’t go hand-in-hand, but in this case I think the vagueness led to the familiar feel.

So much of the book — the characters, the plot, the setting — was so vaguely expressed that an otherwise moving tale fades into the background of “young man from a war-torn country struggles to create a new life in the US.” I’m not saying that these stories are unimportant or boring, but with no distinguishing details and similar storytelling techniques, it can be difficult to differentiate.

I even found myself wondering time and again if this was a book that a movie I’d seen a few months ago (the name of which has completely left my head) was based upon. Eventually I decided it wasn’t, but there were some striking similarities.

So it’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, it’s just that I felt something was lacking. Sorry I can’t give you more than that…

Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist was mesmerizing and unexpected and exactly what I wanted without my even realizing it.

I’m a big fan of historical fiction and I really enjoy books set in less common time periods and locales. The Miniaturist takes place in seventeenth century Amsterdam, beginning when 18-year old Nella arrives in the city to join her husband Johannes and his unusual household.

Nella is excited by the prospect of her new life, but it isn’t what she expected. Soon after her arrival, Nella’s husband presents her with a gift: a luxurious cabinet-sized replica of the house. Nella contacts a miniaturist in order to furnish her cabinet and with that falls headlong into the web of secrecy and wonder surrounding the household, her new family members, and the city at large.

The Miniaturist is by turns spooky, beautiful, and heartbreaking. There is so much packed into this book and it’s just lovely. I’m so glad that I got a copy of it back a BEA 2014 and I highly recommend it.

China Dolls — Review

March 5, 2015

Lisa See’s China Dolls had been on my list for a while and I finally read it in January when I fortuitously noticed that the ebook was available to read from my library through Overdrive.

It’s taken me a while to write about it simply because I have had trouble deciding how I feel about the book.

I often enjoy historical fiction, and I really enjoyed reading about this time span in the country’s history and its focus on the minority experience during it, but in other ways, the book really didn’t thrill me.

The characters felt flat and the plot felt alternatively dragging and rushed. Everything on paper was set up for me to love this book, but it just wasn’t right for me. Others have loved the book, so maybe I’m the outlier here. If the setting sounds interesting to you, perhaps give it a shot.

The Last Batch of 2014

January 14, 2015

In my life I am constantly reading and though I try to stay consistent in my reviewing, I am usually a bit behind in that area. Yes, I’ll pause for your gasps of shock and disbelief. It’s a new year and there’s a new crop of books, so I figure why should I bring my backlog with me? So now you’re getting little snapshots of many of the books I read in the latter part of 2014. Some books won’t be mentioned here because I plan to talk about them in a slightly different context. But more on that later.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah follows Nigerian teenagers Ifemelu and Obinze into and out of other countries as they enter adulthood and navigate race, romance, and relationships. Sharp, funny, and fearless, it’s a great read fro pretty much anyone.

 

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

Hatshepsut was the longest reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, but her rise to power and the circumstances of her reign are shrouded in secrecy. The language of this book kind of bothered me — the whole thing was necessarily somewhat speculative, but the continuous hedging irked me. I would have preferred a disclaimer at the start that allowed it to be written with clearer, more certain language.

 

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird is an enchanting reimagining of a classic tale. This book is masterfully inventive and Oyeyemi’s strong, brilliant, beautiful voice shines through.

 

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell 

This collection of essays is just as weird as I would expect something from Karen Russell to be. I didn’t like this collection as much as Vampires in the Lemon Grove (which is newer). There is a kind of extra melancholy streak to these stories besides the dark twisty-ness of other stuff of hers that I’ve liked.

 

Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear

Dana Goodyear jumps —tastebuds first— into “foodie” culture and the world of extreme eating, following devotees of ultra-authentic ethnic cuisines, raw food aficionados, and so much more. I would eat maybe two of the things described in this book, but I’m bizarrely fascinated by these people and their lifestyles. Sometimes I wish she would have dug a bit deeper or described a bit more, but this was an enjoyable read.

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A superflu wipes out huge swaths of the population. Fifteen years later, a roving band of actors and musicians travels between communities of survivors performing Shakespeare. The narrative hops between the Traveling Symphony and the decline of civilization immediately after the pandemic. It’s a vivid and utterly transfixing novel.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Due to a series of unfortunate events, astronaut Mark Watney is living alone on Mars. And no one knows. With no way to signal Earth, a limited food supply, and a dogged determination to stay alive, Watney puts his skills and smart-assert to the test. I read this in 24 hours. I did not stop. I completely blew off familial obligations while reading this over the holidays. I have no regrets.

 

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

This is the first romance novel I’ve read in quite some time, and I really enjoyed it. It’s the first book in the Rules of Scoundrels series which revolves around London’s most exclusive gaming hell. I won’t say much about it, but it’s significantly less ridiculous than a lot of other historical romance tends to be.

 

So now you’re mostly caught up to where I am now with my current reading. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a complete list of everything I’ve read this year, but I think it gives a pretty good picture. There will be a few other things that mention books from 2014, but my 2015 book reviews will start popping up here pretty soon. We’re moving onward!

The Luminaries — Review

November 24, 2014

Eleanor Catton won the Booker Prize for The Luminaries and while it took me a few tries to get into it, it is undeniably an impressive work of literary and historical fiction.

The book might be over 800 pages, but I don’t really have that much to say about it. It is a bigliterary fiction book. In listing the approximate page count I think I’ve lost some of you already and that’s fine, but for those of you still with me I do think that it is work the time investment.

The Luminaries is an intricate web of stories woven together with mystery, revenge, and fortunes lost and gained. There are pieces that don’t appear to be connected until the very end, which makes the last bit of the book really pay off.

This book definitely isn’t for everyone. It takes a while to get going and at first there isn’t much to really suggest why the reader should actually care about what’s happening, but if you give it a chance the intrigue of it all will pull you in.

If you have the patience for literary fiction that takes a little while to find the right pace, and enjoy historical fiction with different settings (New Zealand! Gold rush!) then I would definitely recommend this.

You might think that a book detailing a cholera outbreak and the beginning of a shift in understanding how the disease spreads wouldn’t make great middle-grade/YA literature. And yet…

In The Great Trouble Deborah Hopkinson introduces us to Eel — an orphan and mudlark who searches the banks of the Thames for things to sell. Eel has somebody after him, so he keeps a low profile, but he manages to get by and he has some people that he can count on along Broad Street. Then cholera, or the “blue death” hits and people are falling ill all around him.

Eel goes to the famous, if eccentric, Dr. John Snow for help and while Dr. Snow cannot help the people who are already sick, he has an unusual theory about cholera that could potentially save countless lives. It is up to Eel to help Dr. Snow gather enough evidence to prove his theory and save the neighborhood.

The Great Trouble will appeal to a variety of audiences. Eel is a relatable character and the action is fast-paced, with bits of mystery thrown in for good measure.

You guys know I love historical fiction and Hilary Mantel just does it so well.

I don’t even know what to say about Bring Up the Bodies beyond the obvious: read it.

It’s atmospheric and the characters have depth and even though you know the ultimate outcome (because, you know, history) you’re much more focused on what’s going on at that moment and the individual dilemmas and dramas of the characters.

It has its slow moments, but patience pays off.

This is the second book in a trilogy (the first book, Wolf Hall, is also awesome) and I can’t wait to read the conclusion. I’m impatient, so I wouldn’t blame you if you waited until all three books were out before you started reading.

Warning: This review contains spoilers because I really just can’t talk about this one without giving stuff away. 

This is the sixth book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series. The previous book, Speaking from Among the Bones ends on quite the cliffhanger, with the revelation that Harriet has been found. Now I, eternal optimist that I am (when it comes to books at least), desperately wanted her to somehow be alive, but the body counts have been fairly high in these books so I really knew better.

In the series Flavia solves mysteries, so intrigue is nothing new, and yet it felt different in this book. Perhaps because it was more personal, but the situations seemed more dangerous. The entire book is on-edge.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending of this book. It’s also unclear if this is the end of the series (Bradley’s website gives no indication one way or the other). Personally, I would love to read about Flavia’s antics at boarding school. I think it would be a great way to show her development as a character while introducing new obstacles and interests. I can imagine her finding a like-minded friend or two and toeing the line with hilarious results. If the series does not continue though, I think that I am mostly satisfied with the way that this book leaves everything. Nothing feels unresolved.