Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones - Alexander McCall Smith (Spoilers)

So I thought maybe in this book we had a glimmer of hope that Bertie would get some things that he wanted - and I suppose he kind of did - but for the most part, I think the author is deliberately toying with the readers now, by pulling the rug out from under. SIGH. There were a lot of strangely dropped plot elements in this book - Cyril's puppies get sold, and there seems to be some weirdness about that, but then it's just kind of dropped. Matthew gets saved from drowning by dolphins and no one believes him and then that gets dropped - I mean, he tells Big Lou, and she believes him, but other than that it's dropped. Bruce has some kind of change of heart and appears to become a better person overnight - will it last? Pat is absent, will she be back? I guess I will have to read the next book to see what's what!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

No Exit - Jean-Paul Sartre

There is probably nothing I can say about this play that hasn't already been said, and much better. So I'll just say that I can see why this would have been a sensation when it was first produced. I feel like I have seen a stage production of this - maybe it was in college or something - ? I'm not sure. But it definitely makes me think about both other people in general, and also how we try so hard to curate how other people see us, which may or may not be successful. Sorry if this is too rambly or incoherent, it's hard to put down thoughts.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Farewell to Manzanar - Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston

Another timely read. We have public figures using the internment of Americans of Japanese descent/ancestry (I'm including those people who came to the US and wished to become citizens but were denied that ability because of racist laws) as a possible precedent for doing the same thing to other groups... I honestly feel like I have stepped through the looking glass recently.

I'm sure it would be wasted on them, but these public figures and their supporters should read this book. The author writes honestly about her time in the internment camps, and the impact that the combination of entrenched racism and being forced to live like a bunch of criminals because of racism had on her life long after she left. It's heartbreaking to think of a child having to bear that burden because of people's close-mindedness and tribalism. And this wasn't even 100 years ago!! As human beings, we really should be doing a lot better than this. Hearing these stories from the people who lived them is one way thoughtful people can learn and can maybe help prevent awful things like this from recurring.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I Love You, Beth Cooper - Larry Doyle

Not sure what to make of this book. It's something of a pastiche of teen comedies from recent years, although the movie it seems closest to in spirit is probably Superbad. It was a fast read and etc., but some of the stuff kind of grossed me out, to be honest - are there really high school girls that will, well, um, you know with any and every guy that is halfways good looking and a few who aren't? Maybe it's just my inner prude or something - ? Anyhow, if you like stuff like American Pie and etc., you'll like this.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December Reread - Something Rotten - Jasper Fforde (Spoilers)

This book is strangely timely, considering that many people in leadership positions these days seem to behave like Yorrick Kaine and so many people seem to be under the influence of his Ovinator; lurking behind it all is a sinister global corporation increasingly taking over people's lives. Ripped from the headlines indeed! The ending was very touching and brought tears to my eyes. Some of the goings-on are hysterical and really made me laugh - I am not sure I could love the Emperor Zhark character more. I'll be reading a couple more of these this month, so as to FINALLY catch up with the series, and as I said in the previous review, it's a welcome distraction.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Man on the Balcony - Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

These Martin Beck books are really enjoyable - they move right along, and they aren't bloated or weighed down with unnecessary nonsense to add 200+ pages. There's a lovely economy of story. We're introduced to the crime and over the course of the book it's solved. What can be better than that? The ending did seem just a little abrupt, to be honest - almost like there should have been one more chapter or something, but that's not a big deal. I do like how the details of the cops' lives are provided without having to have pages of extraneous details. All in all this is an enjoyable series.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist (Spoilers?)

So the "elevator pitch" for this book would be "Logan's Run meets Never Let Me Go with a Scandinavian twist." The "twist" I refer to is the sense of calm that pervades this book - this story could certainly be told in a much different way, but I like that there is that feeling of tranquility throughout. I think it makes the story sink in more deeply that if it had been written in a more overtly emotional fashion. Don't get me wrong - there is a lot of emotion here, and a lot of emotional scenes, it's just that they are presented in a way that's ... reflective, I guess.

In some ways, I am not 100% of the message the author expects readers to take away from this book. As someone who is rather close (coughcoughcough) in age to the protagonist of this book, and who is married but childfree, I can identify with a relate the sense of procreation being considered more important than quality of life for single people, older people, etc. - and the idea that there are no adult spaces left, that "families" (ONLY including people who have children, and NEVER referring to a married couple) are taking over every conceivable space and place, literally and figuratively pushing out people who dare to veer off what I see called on the Internet the LifeScriptTM (birth, school, graduate high school, graduate college, get a job with decent pay/benefits, "settle down" by getting married and immediately having kids... you get the idea). This book is definitely food for much thought, and it will stay with me for a long time. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November - This Month in Reading

Readers, this has been a memorable month in many ways, not all of them good. One good thing is that I finally read my review book - and it was great! I also met my goals of completing my Back to the Classics Challenge reading, which is good. I am very close to reading the minimal required number of books for the TBR Pile Challenge, which I was hoping to finish in November, but I kind of gave myself a bad start by having too many of the books as series books, which required extra reading that doesn't count for the challenge itself, etc. As of right now, the challenges I need to finish are Alphabet Soup (just need 1 last book!), TBR Pile, Read It Again, Sam, Banned Books, 
Mount TBR, and French Bingo - I think the rest are completed. Hooray! 

My total book count for November was 18 books, which is a nice big number that I am happy with. Because I'm a bit behind on the aforementioned challenges, I will have to read at least that many books in December, but I think I am up to the challenge. Note to self: let's figure out a way to avoid doing this mad dash to the finish line next December! 

How is your reading shaping up for this last month of 2016?

November Reread - The Well of Lost Plots - Jasper Fforde (Spoilers?)

Rereading this wonderful series has been a real antidote to some pre-holiday (mid-holiday?) malaise. This is probably my favorite book of the series so far, because it takes place almost entirely within the book world. I love the author's endlessly imaginative explanations for how books are really created, and how they really work. I actually feel guilty now when I have to stop reading right in the middle of a scene and etc., because I can't help thinking about how annoying that would be to the characters acting out the story. I also love the amusing takes on classic book characters like the Wuthering Heights cast - it's so fun to read. It's funny that I first read this series before I had actually read many of the books Fforde references, such as Jane Eyre and Heights, and now I feel like I get even more references that I probably missed before. All in all I would love to visit the WOLP myself, and book jump into this series. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sea of Poppies - Amitav Ghosh

Readers, it's not often that I am truly bowled over by a book. I mean, I enjoy a lot of books, but it's rare that I am really over the moon about a book like I was about this one. All I can say is - WOW. I was immediately drawn in and could not put this book down. The story was completely engrossing, and the writing was so clear and well done that I truly felt like I was on board the Ibis. The author skillfully weaves the story and brings all the story threads together. The last 20 pages or so are a marvel of tension and suspense. All in all I can't say enough good things about this book - the best part is that there are two more volumes in this trilogy. I cannot wait to get my hands on those next books! Highly recommended.