Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mañana - William Hjortsberg

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been compensated for this review and my opinion is my own.

This book reads like a film noir narrated by a baby boomer. Even though this is a contemporary novel, I easily pictured a 1970s-era film being made of this story. I liked the setting and the relentless plot. Great book for fans of well done crime novels.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Kissing Contest - Francis Gideon

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this short story from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been compensated for this review and my opinion is my own.

I liked this philosophical short story from Less Than Three Press. It made a fitting companion piece to The Human Agenda, as it seems to cover the idea that people should be who they really are, and should not have to fake their way through life to a make others happy. I would definitely read more fiction from this author. Recommended. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Human Agenda - Joe Wenke

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been compensated for this review and my opinion is my own.

This book's subtitle, Conversations about Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity, says it all. The book is made up of a series of conversations the author has had with various members of the quiltbag (LGBTQI) community, including the gorgeous Carmen Carrera, who appeared on one of my very favorite TV shows, RuPaul's Drag Race, before coming out as a trans woman. Each conversation is thought provoking, with multiple conversations touching on current issues such as "tolerance" vs "acceptance," trans* people being seen as disordered, even by people who consider themselves allies of gay people, etc. There is a lot of material here for discussion and much food for thought. Recommended.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March - This Month in Reading

March really got away from me. Between work, social commitments, my own projects and classes and etc., and other misc. nonsense I only managed to read 5 books - and I am still playing catch up, rather than finishing all the reading I had planned to do in March so I'd be set up to tackle the TBR pile in April.

Oh well!

On the plus side, many of the books I did read counted for challenge reading, so that was good.

So for April, I plan to actually catch up with some NetGalley reviews and a library book, and if I happen to do more, that would be great too.

How was your reading in March? Ready for an April shower of books?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Best Everything - Sarah Tomp

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been compensated for this review and my opinion is my own.

This is a really enjoyable YA book. Its unusual setting and plot was great - although the book had some classic elements of YA books, the nontraditional elements made it fresh and engaging. The second person narration was effective, more so than I think third person narration would have been - it made me wonder how things had turned out, and kept me reading and turning pages. I was truly sympathetic to the situation the main character finds herself in; she was easy to root for, even if I didn't love all of her decisions. Recommended.

One note on technical difficulties - my electronic copy had teeny tiny type and I couldn't enlarge it no matter what I did. That hadn't happened to me before in Adobe Digital Editions, so I am not sure why it happened now. I sincerely hope it doesn't happen again, because it made this book very difficult to read, so reading took a lot longer than it normally would have.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March Reread - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The writing in this book is so well done that at all time during the reading you feel as if you are there with the title character, experiencing his day with him. The book's focus on a single day shows just how small the world of a prisoner is; how the life of a prisoner is deliberately put together in such a way as to deprive him or her of the free time for anything other than survival. Because the details matter - in this environment, losing track of the details means death.

I seem to remember reading this book in the original Russian back in my university days, and even then it  was easy to see that this book must have been very threatening to the Soviet government. One of these days I will read more of Solzhenitsyn's work too. A modern classic, and highly recommended. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson (spoilers?)

Disclaimer: I can't discuss this book without describing some aspects of it that could be construed as spoilers, so I'm mentioning this up front in case you'd prefer to avoid them. 

What can I say about this classic novella (which I didn't realize was so short until I started reading it - that will teach me to do some research before I choose books for the Back to the Classics Challenge!) that hasn't already been said? I have managed to avoid any kind of movies or stage productions of this book, so before I started reading, I only knew that the main story consisted of the titular doctor, who takes a potion of his own invention and turns into Mr. Hyde, a criminal and sociopath. I was surprised that the book tells us this story through peripheral characters; I had expected it to be told more from Dr. Jekyll's point of view. Instead we as readers are also bystanders who find out what occurred through letters written by Dr. Jekyll and some other characters. This was actually effective, because it keeps the main conceit of the plot a secret until the very end.

And what to make of the end? Is Hyde redeemed? Was Dr. Jekyll able to prevail, even though Hyde had appeared to take over completely? I like that there is some room for uncertainty. This would be a fun book to discuss in a book club or college level class. Recommended.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ask the Dark - Henry Turner

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been compensated for this review and my opinion is my own.

Wow, this was a truly compulsive read! I couldn't stop reading once I started - the story goes along at a fast clip and keeps you turning pages. The narrator is someone who seems like he could be a real pain, but at the same time we are immediately drawn into his inner world and he becomes enormously sympathetic right off the bat. In fact, he made me think of a teenage Daryl Dixon from the Walking Dead TV show. This is a great debut and I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next. Recommended.

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales - Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, translated by Maria Tatar, edited by Erika Eichenseer

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.com in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been compensated for this review and my opinion is my own.

Fairy-tale, myth, and legend fans will love this collection of stories originally collected in the mid-1800s but lost until being rediscovered in 2012. As a child, I read many Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen stories, and these tales make a great accompaniment to those famous collections.

I think my favorite stories in this book were "The Figs," "The Portrait," "Ashfeathers" (a Cinderella-type story), "The Scorned Princess," "The Traveling Animals," "Woodpecker,""Hans Dudeldee," and "Oferla." I must say I found a few of the stories puzzling; I wondered if there was supposed to be a lesson to take away. Maybe not - it's easy to imagine these stories being told by a fire in a cozy cottage, maybe to provide entertainment on a winter night. Or maybe the lesson isn't something that easily translates into one we would understand as people living at the beginning of the 21st century.

This book includes a section of brief commentary on each story, which provides background information as well as information linking these stories to other tales and legends, as well as discussion of common themes, incidents, and motifs. There's also a section of notes on the sources of the tales. Recommended.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February - This Month in Reading

At the end of January, I wrote that I wanted to read at least 1 book for each challenge and take care of a couple NetGalley reviews I needed to do. I didn't exactly manage this, as there were some challenges that went "unread" this month, but that's OK. I read a respectable 13 books in February, including several for the Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge (which went unread in January) so I'm happy with this progress.

For March, I need to do some metaphorical spring cleaning and "catch up" with some outstanding reading items. I have some NetGalley reviews that need to be done, so they will be a priority for a few days, and I also have 1 library book that I need to complete before I go on another NetGalley/library diet for a couple months so I can get back to reading from the physical TBR pile. I'll do my best to work on challenges in March but I'll be happy if I can just get to a place where I can really attack the TBR pile in April.

How was your reading in February? Do you have any book-related "spring cleaning" planned?