Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani

Yet another serendipitous Library Sale shelves find, I can't believe I waited as long as I did to read this super-engrossing novel. Set in 17th century Iran (Persia?), this story centers around carpet makers, and in particular, a young woman who wants to become a carpet designer in a world that is resistant to women's involvement in trades. The writing is great and the story really flows; once you start reading this it's very hard to put it down. I enjoyed the level of detail the author provided about life in this time and place, and now I'll have to add it to my "possible time machine visits" list. Recommended.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

White Tears - Hari Kunzru (Spoilers?)

Came across this book by chance in a library catalog search, since I was lacking a book for the "white" category of the Color Coded Reading Challenge. As it happens, this turned out to be a good choice for October reading, as it's kind of a mind-freak ghost story. It reminded me of Memento or Fight Club, where there is a main character that we follow but whom we are not sure we can trust, or not sure of our motives - I guess it's the classic unreliable narrator. To be honest, I am not sure if some parts of the story actually happened or if they were some kind of hallucination. The subject matter was interesting too - the author has explored a bit about how early 20th century racism affected the ability of talented musicians to be heard. It also tweaks hardcore collectors, which I liked. All in all this was a nice addition to my reading, and I will definitely check out the author's other books. Recommended.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Plainsong - Kent Haruf

I can see why this book was a National Book Award finalist - the writing is simple but affecting, and gently brings the reader along into the story and the lives of the characters. The characters are well drawn, and I liked the way the author entwined them. Originally published in 1999, this book is definitely of its time - for some reason, it mentally takes me back very easily, and seems very much of that era. Apparently there was a movie made of this book; I'd like to see it, to see how closely my mental images of the scenery and the town and the people match up. Recommended.

I'm claiming this book for the "other color" category of the Color Coded Reading Challenge, as the cover is mainly gray, as shown below.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The House on the Borderland - William Hope Hodgson

This book was a fitting beginning to my October reading, as it's a classic horror novel. Compared to modern horror, which is often very gory, this book was more of an existential horror piece. It's definitely wonderfully creepy, in tone and in content, and left me with a sense of dread. Recommended.

I'm going to claim this book for the "yellow" category in the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, based on its cover, as shown below.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September - This Month in Reading

Wow, I think I might have gotten my reading mojo back! At the end of August, I said I wanted to read 4 books to match August, and in reality I read 9 - hooray! I was able to focus somewhat on my reading challenges so that was good.

Now that we are about to be in the best month of the year, I have to turn my attention to challenge reading. In fact, let's do a quick check-in:

Back to the Classics Challenge: 3/12 books read (yikes!!)
Color Coded Challenge: 4/9 books read
TBR Pile Challenge: 9/12 books read
LGBTQIA Challenge: 2/5 books read
Mount TBR Challenge: 21/60 books read

As you can see, my lack of reading earlier this year really puts me in a bind for these. I should have 45/60 books for the Mount TBR Challenge for one thing - 39 books will now have to be crammed in to my reading for the next 3 months for that challenge alone - luckily most of the books I have identified for my challenges work for that one. I think I will have to have a more organized approach to these challenges, so I will try to complete the Color Coded Challenge first, then move on to the Back to the Classics Challenge. I'm hoping I can cram all that reading (or at least most of it) into October - wish me luck!

How is your final quarter of 2017 reading shaping up?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Given Day - Dennis Lehane

This book is a classic Library Sale find: it looked interesting on the shelf, I happily paid 50 cents, and then... it got set on the physical TBR pile and got dusty. After reading it, I kind of get why - the time period in which the book is set (early 20th Century) is interesting to me, and the back cover description seemed interesting but also possibly depressing, and the book itself is just over 700 pages (!) so it's not a casual, quick read.

Now that I have finished it, I can say that although I liked some of the characters I think the same story could have been told in far fewer pages. Some of the subplots just seemed unnecessary, and many scenes in the book just ran long when I didn't think they needed to. So although I enjoyed it for what it was, on the other hand, I have mixed feelings in general.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Rainbow Boys - Alex Sánchez

So this book is the polar opposite of a 2,000+ year old treatise on waging wars, ha ha. It's a well done YA novel about three high school age young men who are all grappling with their sexuality. I discovered this book in a fortuitous library catalog search and I am go glad I did! I found the characters engaging and the writing style was compelling - this was a fast read that covered a lot of ground. I really liked the characters, and I liked how the author was able to have three situations that young people can really relate to and show how many individuals react to challenges. Apparently there are two sequels, so maybe next year I can use them for the Color-Coded Reading Challenge :) Recommended.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Art of War - Sun Tzu

This book really is what the title states - it's the author's method of waging war. I remember when it was a fad to read this book in the 1980s, when "big business" was really getting out of hand and corporate takeovers, etc., were a norm - I think all those MBAs and finance majors got a kick out of thinking that they were some kind of "warriors" with briefcases and contracts instead of actual weapons (although I suppose people do, or can, use things like contracts as weapons quite a bit....). In any case, although of course it's mainly geared toward actual warfare, there are some things I suppose one could apply to daily life, such as this:

During the early morning spirits are keen, during the day they flag, and in the evening thoughts turn toward home. 
And therefore those skilled in war avoid the enemy when his spirit is keen and attack him when it is sluggish and his soldiers homesick. 

Here's another 2 that are very relevant:

One anxious to defend his reputation pays no regard to anything else. 


If he is of a compassionate nature you can harass him. 

I feel like I see these things in action all around me these days.

To be honest, based on the topic, this book wasn't something that I was super interested in, but all in all, with the introduction, notes, and other info that was included, I ultimately found it interesting from a historical perspective.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Main Street - Sinclair Lewis

Oh my, what a wicked satire this is. To tell the truth, I have known people, more than I like to admit, that are EXACTLY like the people described in this book. EXACTLY. The strange insistence that their town is the BEST.TOWN.EVER!!!1!!!11!!!!, the constant comparisons of the town to the nearest big city (with the town always coming out on top, of course), the automatic assumption that if you are from said big city you're some kind of silly know-nothing full of dumb/useless ideas force fed to you from eggheads in ivory towers, the lack of interest in anything beyond a few safe topics (cars, sports, town gossip) - and of course, an insistence that anyone who isn't as prosperous as the town's people think they should be is just lazy - or, of course, a foreigner.

The best and yet scariest part is when the characters talk politics. This book was originally published in 1920, but in all honesty it's the same nonsense being spewed today. Help the poor?!?! Why, that would be SOSHULIZM!!!!!!!!!!!1!!11!!! Unions?!?!?! SOSHULIZM!!1!!!11 Sound familiar?

To get more specific about the book itself, I liked the main character and felt a lot of sympathy for her. It's hard to start over anywhere, but it's infinitely harder to come from a larger place and start over in a smaller place, in my opinion and in my experience. The book did seem to run a bit long for my taste; I felt like the author made his point and the story could have been a bit shorter. But all in all this was illuminating and I would like to read his other books.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather

WOW, readers - just WOW. I am now a Willa Cather superfan. She has once again bewitched me with her ability to create living, breathing characters out of paper and ink, and place them in settings I had no real prior interest in that I now wish I could see for myself.

It's funny, because on paper this book has little to interest me. It's basically a novel-length character study of the titular Archbishop, covering the many years he presides over New Mexico, when it was still a new territory for the US. However, once I started reading it I could barely cope with having to put it down. Something about her writing creates a direct link to images in my brain, and I feel instantly immersed in the story. I cannot wait to read more of her books. Highly recommended.