Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Necromancer's House - Christopher Buehlman

One of these days I'm going to just resign my fangirl reader membership and get it over with. Why, you might ask? Because despite being a big fan of many writers, I have a bad habit of not getting ahold of and devouring their latest books ASAP. Part of it is that I am trying not to accumulate new books at too fast of a pace, since I am always staring into the unforgiving jaws of a physical TBR pile (which is slowly but surely shrinking!). Another dumb thing I started doing was trying to "save" highly anticipated books as rewards for getting through other books that I had thought I wanted to read but then ended up balking at reading (maybe I "wasn't [ever] in the mood" for reading that particular book, or it was something that I thought I should read but was afraid it might be dull, etc.). Another reason is that I am out of the loop and don't always hear about new releases; I guess I need to work on that. Recommendations welcome!

This book was one of those "save it as a reward" books - I've had it for what seems like ages, but I kept waiting to read it, thinking I needed to read more of the other books that have been on the pile longer, or whatever. And while I still have a pile to whittle down, I am going to do my best to prioritize future reading using my fangirl tendencies, because readers, Christopher Buehlman is dope (in the "synonym for amazing, awesome, cool, fantastic, wonderful, etc." sense). He is the only horror author worth reading, in my opinion, and he's the only one I will willingly read. There is no tiresome fluff here, no clunky writing, just well written page turning story. While reading, I couldn't imagine how the story would end and couldn't wait to find out. My only criticism, such as it is, is that I would have loved to hear more of the backstory; maybe we'll get a prequel someday? A sequel? A series? What can I say, loving a book makes me greedy for more.

TL/DR: Highly recommended. :)

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Eighth Day of the Week - Marek Hłasko

As I have said before a number of times, one of the things I like best about the Library Sale shelves is the element of surprise - you never know what might turn up there for a pittance. So it was with this book, which originally caught my eye because it looked vintage. In fact, it's a 1958 English-language first edition of a book originally published in Poland in 1957. How cool is that? It's been cooling its proverbial heels on my TBR shelf for a while now and it's finally had its turn to be reviewed.

This book was a rather poignant and bleak look at what it was like to be young in Poland in the late 50s. You definitely feel the weight of World War II, the communist regime, the Russian occupation, and the general hopelessness that was in the air. At the same time, the young people in the book are struggling to maintain hope - mainly through love relationships, and/or drinking, as they might be the only things in their lives they can exercise some control over. Everyone is waiting for something to happen, but they seem powerless to do anything but wait. I can't get more into detail without spoiling the entire book, so I'll just end here by recommending this philosophical novel.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Infants of the Spring - Wallace Thurman

I had originally planned to read The Blacker the Berry by the same author for this year's Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge, but ultimately decided to read this book first. Now I really have to prioritize that book, most likely for next year's challenge, as this one was amazing, and I hear that book is even better.

What can I say about this book? It's a roman à clef, and I could guess at some of the characters' identities, but I could use a lot more education about the people involved to figure out some of the others. But all that aside, it's a great novel, dissecting the sometimes competing notions of the times and touching on race, class, what actually constitutes "talent," and so much more. I truly wish this book were twice as long, as I think there is so much more that could have been said, but maybe that's just greedy of me.

The author tragically died at the age of 32; what a shame that the world was not able to receive more of his work. Does anyone know of a good biography of him? After a quick trip to Wikipedia I really want to find out more about him as a person.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In the Company of Wolves: Follow the Raven - James Michael Larranaga

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

The writing in this book is a return to the well done writing level on display in Blood Orange Soda. We follow the main character from the first book, Quin, on an entirely new adventure with some of the same cast of characters. I really liked how the author developed the relationships between Quin and some of the ancillary characters from the first book, as well as creating connections with previously unrelated characters. Also welcome was his writing about Native American history and culture, which is all too often unjustly overlooked. The dash of the paranormal was cool too - just enough to be an interesting aspect of the story, but not enough to make the story seem implausible. This is another fast-paced thriller in a series that I hope continues. If you are a fan of the X-Files, Fringe, or other paranormal type shows like that, you would most likely really enjoy this series and this book in particular. The first book would make a great holiday read while you wait for this book to come out in March of 2016. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In the Company of Wolves: Thinning the Herd - James Michael Larranaga

Exciting November doings here - I got an author request to review a book. How cool! I had read another book by this author, Blood Orange Soda, last year and enjoyed it, so this was a neat request. However, I realized that the book he asked me to review is actually the second in a series, and as you all know, I don't read book series out of order. A quick trip to Amazon solved that issue, and now I've read this, the first book in the series.

To be honest, the writing in this book wasn't as good as the writing in Blood Orange Soda. However, I liked the main character and the Minnesota (in January!) setting. The premise is unusual for a thriller, so that was refreshing too, and it's a fast-paced story that does keep you turning pages. If you are into what I call the "usual suspects" of suspense/thriller writing, you will probably like this book too.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Souls of Black Folk - W.E.B. Du Bois

This is a collection of essays that are heartbreaking and thought provoking and uplifting in turn. The author's optimism comes through at times, as does his frustration at the state of American society at the turn of the 20th Century. As I have written so many times on this blog, it's unbelievable to me that  Du Bois' description of what he calls "the Veil" (i.e., segregation, as a simplification) is not as different in the year 2015 as he clearly hoped it would be. This is profoundly depressing, to be honest.

As a change of mood, I have to concentrate on the sociological value of this collection, which is wonderful. Du Bois is a fantastic writer who can really paint a picture. He can also elicit emotions in the reader, which was particularly noticeable in Chapter XI: Of the Passing of the First-Born, which is a poignant essay about his son. All in all this is a valuable portrait of life and well worth reading. Recommended.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tartuffe - Molière (Spoilers?)

This play is deceptively short but packs a nice satirical wallop. In fact, it was considered offensive by many groups, including the church, the aristocracy, etc. when it was first produced in 1664. I can see why; Molière makes Orgon seem like an incredible buffoon and a dupe, and he is definitely striking out at hypocrites and phonies and those that are all too easily taken in by them. 

A quick trip to Wikipedia shows that the play was rewritten multiple times, and in fact it's a later version that is the most commonly read/performed today; this makes me wonder about the original version - I wonder if there are any existing versions that are relatively easy to access? 

As a reader who is a product of my time, I wouldn't have minded a bit more explanation of why Orgon and his mother are so easily taken in by a hypocritical con artist, but it's not a big deal in the context of the play. I will say that my favorite scene is the one in which Valère and Mariane are trying to come to terms with the news that Orgon is going to marry Mariane to Tartuffe; I thought this scene was very funny. I definitely need to read more Molière! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

Finally got around to reading this book, that had a lot of buzz when it first came out. This is a serviceable thriller, and a definite page turner, which is not to say it doesn't have issues. I can't say a lot about it without venturing in to heavy spoiler territory, but I will say I disliked the ending, even though it makes a sort of sense in the universe of the book itself.

Here are some random words and phrases that sum up my feelings about this book:
  • Unreliable narrator
  • Clever
  • Too  long
  • Mixed feelings
  • Twisted
  • Loose ends
  • Diabolical
  • Plot twists
  • Ultimately unsatisfying
I managed to avoid the movie but I think I'll watch it now out of curiosity. Mixed feelings. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yok - Tim Davys

This book pulls out all the stops. It's different than the first three in that it tells multiple stories, rather than focusing on one larger story; however, these stories seem to share a theme that touches on the meaning of life (or lack thereof?). I can't get into it further without getting into serious spoiler territory. All I can say is that I loved this series and I wish that the author would put forth another one. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Torquai - Tim Davys

This book is more like Amberville, but it's a locked-room mystery and police procedural. I have to say I really like the characters in these books. Yes, they are sentient stuffed animals, but there's something amazing about picturing a stuffed zebra with red and green stripes wearing a suit (as an example). As a note, you don't need to have read the previous books to enjoy each book in the series. 

Each of these books has an underlying theme that is just sort of an undercurrent; I wouldn't mind hearing more about these themes to be honest. I am about to start the fourth and final book in this series, and I am already simultaneously looking forward to another book and dreading finishing it, as there won't be another one to look forward to. Highly recommended series.