Saturday, October 22, 2016

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - Therese Anne Fowler

Found this book while I was searching the library catalog for books that started with "Z" for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge. Like many people, I enjoy reading and learning about the Jazz Age, or the Roaring Twenties, or however you want to call it. Although I can't claim to have read any of Zelda's writing, or any of her husband's beyond The Great Gatsby, which I love (note to self - let's make this a priority next year!), I find myself interested in their lives, so this book seemed like a perfect find.

All in all, I can definitely recommend this book. I will say I found it a little slow to start, but it was always engrossing, and it held my interest completely. It also made me want to seek out biographies and learn more about Zelda's life. So if you're looking for a book about the 20s, about Zelda in particular, or if you need a book that starts with Z for a challenge, definitely give this one a try!

Friday, October 21, 2016

October Reread - The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

I chose to reread this classic as part of the Back to the Classics Challenge, under this category:

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college).  If it's a book you loved, does it stand the test of time?  If it's a book you disliked, is it any better a second time around?

This book was part of a high school English class, about a million years ago. I remember liking it a lot, at the time and I wrote a short paper on it and got a good grade. Of course, with my barely working memory, I only remembered a couple things from the book, so in a way it was like discovering it anew - or reading a book you've heard about so you know the name of the main character, but not much else.

My recollection definitely stood the test of time, and in fact, I think as an adult I can appreciate the book a lot more, even if my brain isn't as attuned to picking up on imagery and etc. as it was when I was a lot younger (and also still in school, where these things were pointed out, to be fair). I found the writing clear (even if Hawthorne overused the words "ignominy" and "ignominious") and the story straightforwardly told. The pacing was good too - the story didn't lag or get bogged down, it moved along at a good pace. The last few chapters in particular had me turning pages, wanting to see how everything turned out. All in all, I can highly recommend this classic book (again).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The World According to Bertie - Alexander McCall Smith

Where to start with this book? I'm debating whether or not I want to jump on a soapbox and ramble.

OK, I'll spare the 2 people that maybe read this blog my rant, but sufficient to say, I loathe and despise a nasty, disgusting, and abusive (yes, abusive!) character in this book with all my being. But I reserve even more vitriol for the person that stands by while the titular Bertie gets abused.

The rest of the book was an interesting update on the lives of those in and around 44 Scotland Street.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Five Children and It - E. Nesbit

This book had to be read so that I could read a book in the Back to the Classics Challenge. It's the first book in a series, of which I have the third and final book. For the most part, this book was charming, although its original publication date (1902) means that we couldn't avoid some racism, as well as classism (sigh). However, in general it was a fast read chock full of lessons about being careful for what you wish for.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nothing Lasts Forever - Roderick Thorp

So readers, remember back in March when I confessed to this NetGalley mistake? This book is another one of those mistakes.

If you've seen the movie Die Hard, you've more or less read this book, as the movie faithfully adapted it, with some probably-all-for-the-best changes. The story zips along at a good pace, and the reader is left turning pages to see how things will turn out. This is an enjoyable thriller that keeps the reader in suspense.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

X: A Novel - Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

If you guessed that I got this book specifically for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, you'd be correct! And I am pleased to report that it was a wonderful choice. I devoured this book in a single day. It was a very immersive experience, and I think the author, Malcolm X's daughter, and her co-author did a a fantastic job of making this reader feel like she was there watching the story unfold in front of my eyes. I saw the Spike Lee film Malcolm X when it was originally released in theaters, but I didn't remember a lot of details of his early life. This book fills in his background and tells the story from a first-person point of view, so the reader is privy to thoughts and feelings. This book is a YA novel, but it's based on reality, and it was interesting to see how Malcolm X's early life shaped his later years. Recommended.

Friday, September 30, 2016

September - This Month in Reading

September's reading turned out a bit better than I had feared, but I didn't meet my goal of reading my review book - my computer is acting up and it's difficult to read an eBook that way, which one of many excuses I have for not meeting that goal. On the other hand, I managed 6 books, which wasn't a terrible number all things considered.

So for the last quarter of the year, I need to really buckle down. In fact, let's do a quick 3rd-quarter challenge status report to see what's what:

Back to the Classics Challenge - 8/12 read, not bad. I do need to finish up this last 4 though.

Mount TBR Challenge - 31/60 read. I'm only halfway, when I should have read more like 45 out of 60 books, so I need to keep this one moving along.

Color-Coded Reading Challenge - DONE, 9/9 books read. Hooray!

Read It Again, Sam - 5/16 rereads completed - OUCH. Need to get on this one pronto.

2016 Banned Books Challenge - 2 out of 3-5 books read; hmm, I need to see if I have maybe missed counting a book for this one - or dig up one I can count!

Books in Translation - DONE, 20 out of 10-12 books read. Series reading really helped this one. I might see about transferring up into a higher level, but for now, I'm happy with this.

French Bingo 2016 - I've only read 3 books that count for this one so far, and I don't think they are close to a bingo; this one might require some thinking about.

Literary Loners Reading Challenge 2016 - I don't actually see a number of books that I signed up for in my challenge post, but I've read 15 books, so I assume I am done - ?

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge - Almost done with this one; I"m just missing U, V, X, and Z, and I have books for X and Z coming, so I'm feeling good about this one.

TBR Pile Challenge - 5/12 and 0/12 alternate books read. OUCH again! This challenge needs some attention. Part of the problem is series books, so I will have to prioritize this so as to make progress.

LGBTQIA Reading Challenge - 1/5 books read - SIGH. This one needs attention too!

Planet Earth Challenge - this is my own ongoing challenge to read a book set in each country on Earth; it may never be complete, but I'm adding it here for the sake of keeping this list complete.

So for the last 3 months of 2016, I need to finish my review book, do my rereads and series book reads, and finish up some of the challenges, especially those I'm sort of behind on.

How's your 2016 reading coming along?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Cabinet of Wonders - Marie Rutkoski

During the book-grabbing frenzy of the Borders Last Days sales, I picked up many books that were part of a series, which led to me putting off reading them because I would have to read other books, etc. This book is one such book - I have the second book in the series on the TBR pile, but I had to start at the beginning by reading this book.

I enjoyed this bright and interesting tale that is partly grounded in the middle ages but also features magic and cool inventions and sentient tin animals (I SO want one!) and etc. The main character is plucky and smart and inventive, the story clips along at a good pace, and I was definitely turning pages to see what would happen next.

So now I am clear to read the second book, and I am really looking forward to seeing how all the cool things the author set up in this book play out! If you like Game of Thrones but would enjoy less of the gore and adult content, or enjoyed The Golden Compass, you would probably like this book too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Aaaaaaaand we're back to a book that I thought was OK, but felt was WAY too long - about twice as long as it should have been, in my opinion. I think there are two reasons for this trend: 1) a longer book just feels more important and serious to many people and 2) publishing companies can justify higher book prices. In any case, though, it gives me reading fatigue and makes me start questioning the point of the book in general, and the point of the details in particular. It seemed like so much of this book was repetitive, and there were so many details that didn't matter.

It all reminded me of this quote from Chekhov:

"Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

This book was like an enormous armory filled with minutely described armaments, none of which go off at any point.

Overall assessment: there are a lot of far better books if you're looking for books about World War II.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Neon Bible - John Kennedy Toole

Let's just cut to the chase - I really loved this book. It was a good story, well told, without the ridiculous "figurative language" that contemporary "literary fiction" is crammed full of. And what do you know, it wasn't overlong, either! What a shame it is that this author didn't live to see the fame and fortune he so richly deserved. I suspect that if he had been around in our era, he would be considered a genius. But then again, who knows; his writing is good and not pretentious, so maybe he would be overlooked by the "critics." 

I really need to stop overusing the "ironic quotes" thing. 

If you'd like to read my glowing review of the author's only published book, that can be found here. Maybe I'll get myself a copy of that book as a holiday gift this year (I had read it from a used Library Sale copy that I donated back because it wasn't in perfect condition). It would provide a wonderful antidote to what passes for prize-worthy writing in this day and age. 

Highly recommended.