Saturday, March 31, 2012

March - This Month in Reading

March went much better for reading than January and February. Last month, I wrote that I wanted to read at least 10 books, including at least 1 book for the TBR Pile Challenge and the Mixing It Up Challenge and at least 2 books for the Color Coded Reading Challenge and my personal challenge, the Around the World Challenge. The good news is I did meet some of these goals - I read a total of 12 books, including 1 each for the TBR and Mixing It Up challenges. I also managed to read one book for the Color Coded challenge, but I wasn't able to finish the first book I managed to start for my personal challenge - it'll have to be the first book for April.

So for April, I need to work on my Around the World Challenge. I might have to hit the library for some books for the challenge, since I don't have many for the listed countries on hand, unfortunately. Overall, I'd like to read at least 10 books, including at least 2 for the World challenge, and at least 1 for the other challenges.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen

This book was recommended to me by a couple of reader friends, so when I found a copy on the Library Sale shelves, I eagerly grabbed it. Sadly, I can't say I enjoyed it as much as my pals apparently did. On the positive side, some of the dialogue was outstanding - it perfectly captured the manipulative, circular way midwestern people of a certain age speak, to the point where I could picture people I have known in my life that spoke in exactly this way. I did finish the book, as I was curious enough about what would happen that I didn't give up. On the other hand, much of the writing was pretentious claptrap; this book could have been half as long. Some of the things that happen are pointless and implausible. Three or four of the minor characters were so loathsome to me I was honestly hoping they'd come to some bad end as a catharsis. So all in all I can't recommend this book, unfortunately.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll

The second Alice adventure, and another book I wish I had read as a child, as I would have liked it quite a bit. The wordplay and the poems are a lot of fun, even if some of the references are a little archaic to modern ears. All in all a fun couple of books.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Somehow I managed to never read this book before now, which is a shame - I would have loved this as a kid. When I saw it on the Library Sale shelves, I eagerly purchased it so I could remedy the situation and read this book. A wonderful story and a quick, fun read.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

This book was a reread, I first read it back when it was originally published. It's funny how one's memory plays tricks - it wasn't exactly like I remembered. I suppose my brain conflated the movie with the book, plus it's been many years. Now that I am a bit (ahem) older than the character of Bridget, I definitely identify with her feeling hapless a lot of the time, and the other half of me wants to give her a shake and tell her to stop being silly. This was a quick read that served well as a palate-cleanser for the rest of the month's reading.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

This was a YA book that didn't quite hit the mark for this not-so-Y-adult reader. The desert setting didn't appeal to me (a personal preference, I know). Much of the subject matter has been recycled from other, better books/films. I felt like it could have been half the length, and it seemed to ramble in places. The writing was clunkier than I expected, as the writer has won multiple Newbery Honors and usually books so honored are well written. Not sure what to make of it. It was a quick read, however.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Ice Queen - Alice Hoffman

I'm no longer sure how I came into possession of this book; I think it was from my office's book exchange shelves (which are no longer there, unfortunately!). This was a quick read with some interesting characters and circumstances but I am not sure it will live in my mind at all. I think I would have rather heard more about a character who is not seen/heard from much in the book than some of the others, and I'm not sure what to think about some of the events that take place, but maybe it's just my limitations as a reader.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finny - Justin Kramon

Another Borders Last Days book, this was a pleasant read. On the first few pages I wasn't sure if I would like Finny or if she was too bratty for me, but ultimately I liked her quite a bit. I think some of the characters were better fleshed out than others but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

To Be a Slave - Julius Lester

This was a disturbing book, as it's a compilation of first-hand accounts of what slavery in the U.S. was like, from the words of the slaves themselves. It's a difficult read but an important one. Most countries have things in the past that are embarrassing now, in the early 21st century, but it's important for us to understand how things used to be so we can attempt to keep improving.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Tenth Man - E. William Podojil

I found out about this book through The Eelhouse, a wonderful B&B in one of my favorite cities on earth, Amsterdam. Apparently the Eelhouse is a setting in the book, and one of the characters is based on the owner. Overall I enjoyed this book, it was a serviceable thriller that didn't have any more clunky dialogue or typos than many current "bestsellers." I liked the way the author fleshed out the characters and I didn't mind some of the more far-fetched things, as they are part of a thriller and make it more enjoyable. I liked his characterization of a serial killer, and how he portrayed the psychology of that character.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Coma - Alex Garland

This was a puzzling book, a quick, compulsive read. I feel like some of the images will stay with me and I'll be thinking them over for a while. The author wrote the screenplay for the excellent zombie movie 28 Days Later and I can see echoes of that movie in this book. The illustrations, which seem to be in the style of woodcuts (if they aren't actually woodcuts) added a lot to the story as well. I'd definitely seek out the other books by this author.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt - Jon-Jon Goulian

I was prepared to dislike the author and his memoir, to roll my eyes at his privileged upbringing and his unsettled life. However, I was unable to dislike him; I found myself really enjoying his voice, his sense of humor, and his way of describing events from his past. He seems to be trying to answer a two-part question in this book, namely "why am I the way I am and what's the point of it all?" I can't answer the second part, as I don't know either. I will, however, take a stab at the first part and say, you are the way you are, i.e., the titular man in the gray flannel skirt, because you knew that your family loved and supported you. They may not have understood or agreed with everything you have done over the years, but deep down you know that they care and that they love you. Not all of us are that lucky (I certainly wasn't) but I'm happy that you were/are, and I enjoyed your book. And if you ever figure out the second part of your question, please let me know!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ugly to Start With - John Michael Cummings

This was my first-ever commissioned review, and I am happy to say that I can highly recommend this book, a collection of short stories. As I've said, I'm not usually a fan of short story collections, because as a reader I usually want to spend more time with the characters. This book solved that problem neatly by sharing the same narrator and characters, so the overall effect was of an impressionistic novel. Of the stories, my favorites were the eponymous "Ugly to Start With," which I found to be a heartbreaking depiction of disappointment and broken dreams, and "The Scratchboard Project," which beautifully illustrated the inner lives of two characters in describing their behavior. The title of the latter story also perfectly describes what happens during the story (I don't want to elaborate in case of spoilers). The narrator was sympathetic, and I think the author skillfully lets us in on his motivations and feelings so that we can understand why he does what he does, even if it sometimes doesn't appear to make sense to others. I will definitely seek out the other writings of this author. Highly recommended.