Sunday, January 31, 2016

January - This Month in Reading

January was a productive reading month for me - I read 16 books, and managed to almost read at least 1 book for each challenge that I've signed up for. I made a lot of headway with some of the series that I have to read in order to get to a couple books on my TBR pile, and I am really enjoying these - it's fun to get to know the characters in this compressed timeframe.

For February, I'd like to keep up this momentum and read another 16 books at least. I have a bunch of books coming to me from the library (the recent snowstorm messed up their system of bringing books from one branch to another, so a lot of the books I had on hold have been delayed). And of course I have my faithful TBR pile to draw on, so I should have plenty of books to read.

How did your January reading shape up?

Friday, January 29, 2016

January Reread - The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde

I have been meaning to reread this series for ages now, but with my looming TBR pile I felt guilty about rereads when there were so many other books I should be reading instead. However, the combination of the Read It Again, Sam Challenge and the need to read the latest book in this series for my TBR Pile Challenge now allows me to reread this guilt-free - hooray!

Having reread this book now, I'm really glad I insisted on doing this, as I didn't have strong memories of the details. In fact, I would have been hard pressed to come up with the significant events in my mind, and as fun as this series is (and it is!), it's also full of important story points that one needs to keep in mind. All in all though, I was happy to revisit this favorite series, and I'm really looking forward to going along for the ride again.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne (Spoilers?)

In my challenge post I predicted this book would be a ripping yarn, and I was right! This was indeed a fun adventure story. It's funny now, knowing that I could go around the entire planet in just over 2 days using airplanes, to realize that at this time it would have taken at least 80 days to make the same journey. On the other hand, assuming one was more interested in the local surroundings than Mr. Fogg, I would rather travel the same route in 190 days in order to have some fun experiences (that preferably didn't involve an overeager cop) along the way. I liked the character of Passepartout and although I kind of came to an understanding of Phileas Fogg he was sort of unknowable throughout the book - it wasn't a problem but at the same time a part of the ending made less sense without any character development. I think Verne did a good job of creating suspenseful situations that left us wondering how the characters could get out of them - and then resolving them in a fairly logical way. All in all, I see why this is a classic, and I look forward to reading more Verne.

As a note, I happened to read Penguin's Michael Glencross translation, and it was excellent, complete with interesting notes, as well as an introduction and other good info - if you're looking for a well-done edition of this book.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Redbreast - Jo Nesbø (Spoilers?)

The third book in the Harry Hole series is a corker - it was very entertaining. There were 2 parallel stories that intersected - one in the past and one in the present - and I liked the way the stories came together in the end. It was fitting that during a huge snowstorm, I was reading a book where Inspector* Hole (mostly) stays put in Oslo for once. I haven't been to Oslo (yet) but it was helpful to imagine it while snow was falling, especially since there were a lot of winter scenes in the book. I will say that Part Five was very touching and well done, and I liked the way it was handled overall, giving us exposition while also giving us an emotional wallop.

I still like Hole; sometimes he is hard to like and sometimes it's just circumstances that happen to cause others around him to have bad things happen to them that reflect poorly on him in a way and make me feel bad for the people close to him on his behalf. Does that make any sense?? I doubt it, sorry. Just assume I've had a long evening at Schrøders, ha ha ha. 

In any case, if you like suspense novels, murder mysteries, and etc., you should like this series.

*I think I inadvertently gave Hole a promotion in my last review - in any case it's all good now

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

This was a fast and enjoyable read. It skipped around a lot, so it was sort of like hanging out with a fun and funny friend and just chatting about things. This book was published in 2011, so it covers her career up to The Office, as well as talking about her childhood and college days and etc., as well as general musings on life. Great beach or vacation reading.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cockroaches - Jo Nesbø

Book 2 of the Harry Hole series. I like the gloomy character of Inspector Hole, and the setting in Thailand was enjoyable. From time to time I found the plot slightly hard to follow but in the end it all worked out. The next book will be coming up soon!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

Having read this book, it's easy to see why it's held in high regard and is considered a classic - it's a very specific story and yet the story of the main character is also a highly universal one in some ways. The writing is clear and elegant and it allows the reader to experience the events in the book emotionally while reading. The author does a wonderful job of helping the reader understand the motivations that drive the main character's actions, so that we can understand even if we don't necessarily sympathize with some of them. This was a deceptively fast and easy read that will stay in my mind. Evidently there is a sequel; I will have to read that, as I would love to hear more. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel (Spoilers?)

The writing in this book reminded me a bit too much of this book - it seems like it should be better than it actually is. I think I can better express my thoughts about this book in list form:

Good things:
1. This was a really fast read - it kept me turning pages and it read really quickly.
2. I like post-apocalyptic settings and/or stories about people surviving in a place without easy access to food, water, technology, etc. so the premise was interesting to me.
3. I didn't mind the shifting back and forth in time in the storytelling - but it was a bit dragged out here and there. I did like seeing the characters making connections and making connections in my mind as I read.
4. For some reason I had a very easy time mentally casting a few of the characters - not sure why but it enhanced my reading.

Not-so-good things:
1. Parts of the ending were anticlimactic. Things were built up but then didn't come to much. On the other hand, it might have been too cliche if they had.
2. Things are brought up and dropped too easily. Much is made of the prophet's symbol but it comes to nothing. I can guess at the meaning but it would have been nice to flesh it out.
3. Speaking of the prophet, I would have liked to know more about this character... or maybe I can just guess at this too, since I watch the Walking Dead  and Game of Thrones TV shows and they have had similar characters... ?
4. I wish the author had worldbuilt a little more. So the flu didn't affect animals? Wouldn't there be packs of wild dogs and etc. then? What happened to the prophet's mother? Where did all the weapons come from - did people make crossbows or find them someplace or what?

I'll stop here but in general this was another mixed feelings book. I didn't hate it or anything, but I wanted to like it a lot more than I did.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sweet Thursday - John Steinbeck

Couldn't resist this book after falling in love with Cannery Row last month. Why on earth didn't I get into John Steinbeck long before now? He has rapidly become a serious literary crush. Parts of this book really made me laugh. It was great to catch up with the characters from Cannery Row and see how they have changed (or haven't, as the case may be). In some ways the love story was silly and farfetched, but that didn't bother me much, since the book as a whole is so entertaining. I even like the characters I don't like, if that makes any sense. Hasn't everyone known a person like Mack, who tries to do the right thing and is all too often thwarted by fate or life or whatever? The only drawback to this book is that there are no others to continue this story. Recommended.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Purity of Blood - Arturo Pérez-Reverte

This book, the second in a series*, had a slightly different tone than the first book, and I really enjoyed that. While the first book was a more straightforward swashbuckling tale, this book, while still featuring a decent amount of action, intrigue, mystery, and etc., seemed to have more of a message. There were some things that happened that I would have liked to hear more about, but that isn't a big deal, and who knows, maybe they will come up in later books. Once again, this was a fast read, and a great choice for readers who like historical fiction.
*My review of the first book can be found here