Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October - This Month in Reading

October reading went well for me - I managed 12 books, and I finished 2 challenges - hooray! Let's do a quick check-in:

Back to the Classics Challenge: 8/12 books read
Color Coded Challenge: completed!
TBR Pile Challenge: 10/12 books read
LGBTQIA Challenge: completed!
Mount TBR Challenge: 29/60 books read

I'm still behind on the overall Mount TBR Challenge - I should be at 50 books at the end of October, if I had stuck to the 5 books per month idea - but I made a lot of headway on the other challenges so I'm happy with all this progress, and with all this reading.

For November, I'm going to start off with the Brothers Karamazov, which is just under 1,000 pages long (gulp!) so that might take a bit of time to read, which might slow down the other reading. That's OK, I should still have time to complete these other challenges with any remaining time in November, plus December.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins (Spoilers?)

Here's the welcome anecdote to my disappointment with the last book. Wilkie Collins has cemented his place as one of my literary crushes with this book, and I don't even hold his friendship with Charles Dickens against him. Readers, once I started reading, I couldn't put this book down, and I bitterly resented anything (including sleep and meals) that took me away from the story.

And what a story it is. We have a series of unreliable narrators, all of whom show biases that affect their ability to see things clearly, telling an unfolding story that generates as many questions as it answers right up until the end. I've mentioned that I am one of those people who can suspend disbelief and go along with any decently written story, and in fact, if I can figure out where the story is going it must be super obvious. Readers, I could never have predicted the solution to this mystery if I had tried for years. And trust this author to have the ultimate ending be just as I would have wished it to be. It really almost brought a tear to my eye.

One neat thing was a reference the author makes to the murder case that is the topic of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - I thought it was a reference to that case, and reading the introduction to the novel, I was vindicated.

All in all this was, to quote innumerable book reviewers, an "intricately plotted" mystery with well drawn characters that is also an amazing page turner. Clearly I need to read more Collins too. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Charterhouse of Parma - Stendahl

Well, readers, it was bound to happen - after a streak of liking all the books I was reading, I hit one I just couldn't get into. Maybe it was the translation, who knows, but this book just didn't send me. It seemed like it was about twice as long as it should have been, and the characters didn't seem like people I was worried about or cared too much about. Maybe it's just my mental state, maybe it's the aforementioned translation, but this one I can't recommend, unfortunately.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Room with a View - E.M. Forster

Sometimes when I read books, particularly British books, written in this era, I find myself bemused by the things some of the characters take as signs of bad breeding, or as insulting behavior. Not to mention the whole "betters" thing, and the extreme class consciousness on display. I realize that that is often the author's point - they are satirizing aspects of the contemporary culture - but I still find them baffling. Part of me just wants to scream - UGH, just let the two people who are obviously in love get together without all of this silly turmoil! On the other hand, the turmoil can be sort of amusing, even if it's also frustrating.

But I don't mean to sound like a grump. All in all I enjoyed this book and it was a pleasant read.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka (Spoilers)

What can I possibly say about this book that hasn't already been said? It's a classic for a reason, and it definitely deserves this distinction. It's a dark and disturbing story that is about reversals - Gregor Samsa begins the story as the breadwinner of his household, supporting his parents and sister, and ends the story as their burden, preventing them from getting ahead, much as they were preventing him getting what he wanted out of life. I really like the way the author writes realistically about beetle-Gregor's movements; although he can understand human speech, he's not an anthropomorphized walking, talking cartoon type beetle but an actual insect. All in all this is one of those stories that won't soon leave your mind once you have read it. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Not Otherwise Specified - Hannah Moskowitz

Yet another charming YA book with a really likable main character. At times the story did seem a little packed with details and DRAMA! but then again, no one is as DRAMATIC! as an American teenager it sometimes seems. I liked the way the story unfolded and the unusual setting (a book set in the American midwest - what a revelation!). Recommended.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

This book was a charming adaptation of "the Shop Around the Corner" or "You've Got Mail" - namely the conceit that two people are falling in love through correspondence but that they don't know each other's true identities. It's a fun YA book, and a fast read. Apparently, it's being made into a movie - I hope it's as fun as this book. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Angels in America - Tony Kushner

This book is definitely a product of its times, as it's obviously set in the 80s and was written in the early 90s. It concerns characters who are in various stages of living "out" lives, and of coping with the AIDS crisis that was ravaging the gay community at the time of its writing. Reading it now, it doesn't have less of an impact emotionally, but at the same time, I wish I had read these plays in the 90s, as I think they would have had more resonance for me personally. The inclusion of Roy Cohn as a character is a good one, and in fact, it keeps the play feeling updated, as we are still dealing with closeted "homophobes" who profit by publicly spewing hate and bigotry against the LGBT+ community while privately living secret lives and lying about it. I've never actually watched the HBO film of these plays, but I really should - I would like to see these words translated into action. All in all this is a classic work that really captures the tumult of the time in which it is set. Recommended.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Black Boy - Richard Wright

A couple years ago I was bowled over by Native Son, and I'm glad I finally got the chance to read this classic American (and classic African-American) autobiography. Once again, the excellent writing flows effortlessly even when the story itself is troubling. To be honest, the first part of the book was more interesting overall, as the second half gets more into the author's time with the communist party, and that is a bit dry relative to the stories of the author's childhood. Another great classic read. Recommended.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani

Yet another serendipitous Library Sale shelves find, I can't believe I waited as long as I did to read this super-engrossing novel. Set in 17th century Iran (Persia?), this story centers around carpet makers, and in particular, a young woman who wants to become a carpet designer in a world that is resistant to women's involvement in trades. The writing is great and the story really flows; once you start reading this it's very hard to put it down. I enjoyed the level of detail the author provided about life in this time and place, and now I'll have to add it to my "possible time machine visits" list. Recommended.