Pre-Holiday reading catch up

December 18, 2016

I have been reading up a storm, but I have been negligent when it comes to reviewing. To make up for it, here are some of my thoughts on a few of the books I’ve read in the past couple of months. I’d call them non-denominational stocking stuffer reviews, but that’s a bit long…

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was an absolutely amazing read. Set in France during WWII, the story was kinetic and engaging. The characters are complicated individuals with complex relationships, and as the war progresses they must make increasingly difficult decisions. It took me a bit longer to get through this book than usual. You see, I got to the part where the SS was taking over and things were getting increasingly more violent and troubling in France…right around November 9. It was an upsetting time and I had to take a step back for a while, but eventually I finished the book and it has stayed with me. It was at times a difficult read, but a very good one.

 

I have sort of mixed feelings about The Mothers by Brit Bennett. The storytelling and writing style are magnificent, but many of the characters really annoyed me. After a while I got really frustrated wight he decisions they were making — not frustrated enough to stop reading, but frustrated nonetheless. I wouldn’t say the ending felt particularly satisfying for me, but since I struggled with other parts, that isn’t surprising. Even though the characters and their choices bothered me, I liked the book because I really enjoyed Bennett’s narrative style.

 

Jhumpa Lahiri (of The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies fame) wrote In Other Words in Italian. She writes of her love for the language, her experience learning it, and why and how she has chosen to write in this new (to her) language. This book is about language and identity and belonging. It is quiet and lovely and I really liked it.

 

I read What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi in one day, in one sitting. I always love Oyeyemi’s writing, but the stories in this book are on another level. The all felt complete, yet I didn’t want them to end. I might be re-reading this one soon, just to re-immerse myself in Oyeyemi’s fantastic prose.

 

So there you have it. A few of the books I’ve read recently and non-denominational stocking stuffer sized reviews. As 2016 draws to a close, I will be pulling together my stats for the year and making my goals for 2017. Once I have everything tabulated and decided, I will write some sort of end of the year mega-post.

Readathon In Review

October 14, 2015

I’m a bit delayed in this, but I’m finally sitting down to recount my Popepocalypse Readathon experience. I think it ended up going really well. It was nice to have a few days in which I decided to just devote the time to reading and relaxing. Also, the weather was great, so I spent a ton of time out on my balcony (did I mention my new apartment has a balcony? It’s fantastic and I’m kind of obsessed with it) and at the local coffee shop’s outdoor seating just enjoying the lovely weather with tea and books.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. I should stop blathering on about the weather and tell you about the books.

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First up was Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge. It’s a graphic … biography? (like graphic novel, but a biography. Can I just call it a graphic novel even though it’s a true story?) about Margaret Sanger, who is generally regarded as the mother of birth control. She’s was a bit of a complicated woman and remains a polarizing figure since she wasn’t super intersectional in her feminism, but I think that this was book was a fair representation of her. The art style of this wasn’t my absolute favorite, but I think that’s just personal preference.

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After that, I moved on to Peter Pan. I mean, it’s a classic. I don’t even have much to say about it beyond that. It’s a good deal darker and a kind of more bizarre than all the Disney-fied versions that we see these days.

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The next book I read was Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy. I honestly recommend that everyone read this because it is touching and inspiring and hilarious and so many other things that I don’t even have words for. But careful reading it in public because after a while it becomes really difficult to stifle all the laughter.

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Then I moved on to Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older. This had been on my list for a while and I realized that this readathon was the perfect time to dive in. You guys, this book was so good and so much fun. So. Much. Fun. It’s part of the Bone Street Rumba series and I’m excited to read the other books that take place in this world.

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The book I closed out the readathon with was Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Again. So good. This is one that I think I want to read again even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since I finished it.

I had so much fun doing this readathon and sharing pictures of what I was reading and my progress on social media (and if you’re not following me on Instagram, why not? You’re missing out on some awesome bookish pics. And random shots of food and my cat for variety). Can I just have a three-day weekend to do this every couple of months? That would be spectacular.

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!

Hollow City — Review

June 12, 2014

I found out about Hollow City at BEA last year and finally (finally finally) got to read it. I loved reading this book.

It picks up pretty much right where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children left off, but I think this leg of the story moved way faster. While MPHFPC had the build up of mystery and intrigue, Hollow City has the action and suspense (and a bit of intrigue).

I also think that Hollow City used the vintage photos in a way that really added to the story (you might recall that I was iffy on their usage in the first book). A couple of the photos were ones that we’d seen before, but the majority were new, equally cool/creepy photos and they were incorporated into the book really well.

Seriously, just go read these books. They’re fun and fantastic.

& Sons — Review

June 11, 2014

It’s been a while since I read & Sons and, to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. At its core it is a family saga, which I generally love, but there are some bizarre twists and turns where it kind of lost me along the way.

There was so much dysfunction. And while that can of course be interesting to read, the dysfunction of the characters in & Sons was kind of just exhausting.

This was just one of those books that, for whatever reason, didn’t click with me. It is incredibly well written though, and the characters are well-developed. Given these considerations I would still recommend it for readers who enjoy literary fiction and family sagas. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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.

I don’t read many short story collections. I don’t know why and I suspect that it’s just because I forget about them. After reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove I suspect I’m missing out. I believe my first sentence must be amended to “I don’t read enough short story collections.”

This book is phenomenal. It’s the perfect combination of funny and whimsy and creepy and unnameable/unidentifiable awesome.

Karen Russell appears to have completely mastered writing a story just to the point where it’s allowed to end, but where readers want it to continue. This collection is compulsively readable and the characters stay with you. I still want to know more about those titular vampires and their time before and after Russell captured them on the page.

That’s all I’m saying. You have a short story collection to get. Go forth and read my friends!

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while now. I have that compulsion to always read the book before seeing the movie, so when there was all that buzz about the film it moved up a bit on my list. And yet I only got around to reading it a couple of months ago (and I’m reviewing it now. This should give you an idea of my backlog/time management skills). It felt oddly appropriate that I didn’t get around to reading it until after I moved to Philly though.

I have to say, while I enjoyed this book, it didn’t really thrill me like it did a lot of other readers. I’m really going to blame the expectations game for that one. You see, I don’t have any particular criticisms of the book. I think that the characters were well-developed and their relationships complex. Parts of the plot might have been a bit far-fetched, but I can spare a bit of suspension of disbelief as a reader now and then. When this book fell a bit flat for me, I think it was just because I had heard such great things from so many people that the book couldn’t possibly meet the expectations I had built up in my mind.

I don’t think I would go so far as to call this a story of redemption, but it is at least a story about the beginning of recovery and forgiveness. Even if it wasn’t at the top of my list of things I’ve read recently, I’d definitely recommend it.

At some point I plan on watching the movie and seeing how it stacks up against the book. The book had some unexpected twists and turns and I’m wondering how they’ll play out on screen. I also found it difficult, on occasion, to connect with the characters, and I think that the movie could either really improve on that or really botch it. I’ll have to wait and find out!

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy includes: 
Oryx and Crake
The Year of the Flood
MaddAddam

I really enjoyed reading this trilogy. The characters and plot are intriguing and I think Atwood told the story in an interesting way. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood focus on different sets of characters, but take place primarily during the same time period. MaddAddam is essentially the convergence of everything — it’s where you get (some) answers.

The trilogy takes place in a kind of post-apocalyptic world. Much of humanity has been wiped out, allowing the world to be claimed by the hybrid plant and animal species created by the Corps in the years before. Those who remain struggle to survive and wonder if anyone else has.

Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood are both somewhat self-contained and MaddAddam ties them together. The thing about MaddAddam is that a lot of changes occur at this point in the story, and so the characters start to change. Some of these changes seem a bit too abrupt or out of character, but taken within the larger context of things and all that the characters had to endure in their lives, I’m willing to believe that characters could undergo such drastic changes.

While MaddAddam answers many questions that readers ask during Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, it brought up other questions for me that were either never addressed or never answered. Part of this comes from the fact that the story is told primarily through the perspectives of different characters. If the characters do not have answers, we as readers do not either. Since some of the questions that I had were bigger picture or spanning history that a single generation could not witness, many remain unanswered.

As I said before, I enjoyed this trilogy. It was a different kind of post-apocalyptic dystopian tale than a lot of the other ones being written these days. I would certainly recommend it, especially for anyone who has read Atwood before and is a fan of her work.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the author, K. Ford K. in exchange for an honest review.

I should probably begin by mentioning that I know absolutely nothing about John the Baptist beyond the whole Salome-asking-for-his-head thing. And I’m even hazy on the details of that. So I read this as straight historical fiction. Others with more of a religious education/background might read it differently and therefore have different things to say.

To get straight dow to business, I really enjoyed reading this book. I found the characters to be engaging and it was easy to connect with their struggles and frustrations.

There are some things that bother me though. Hessa is our protagonist. She has this phenomenal gift that ultimately draws her to John and she is his strength and driving force, yet the story is so much about him. She goes against tradition in so many other ways, but she can’t make her story her own.

It also almost feels like nothing happens (which is a bizarre thing to say because in reality a lot happens). After a certain point, everything just feels extraordinarily laid out.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t read this book. You should. It is a prime example of great storytelling and awesome historical fiction. It transports you to another time and another place while reading.

Others agree because The Wife of John the Baptist is up for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the general fiction category. That means that right now you can go to the award page and read an excerpt of the book for free. Free people!

Now go forth and read!