Sunday, November 30, 2014

November - This Month in Reading

At the end of October, I wrote that I wanted to read about 12 books in November - clearing up a NetGalley binge and closing out 2 challenges. In the end, I managed to read 16 books, and I did complete the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, so that was a really good thing.

On the not-so-good list, the NetGalley binge and some other impulse reading choices meant that I didn't do much TBR pile reading - which means I will have to read a whopping 23 TBR pile books in December in order to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro to complete the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. Sigh. It's my own fault and I feel up to the challenge of reading that much, but of course I do wish I were closer to the goal. I have 2 remaining NetGalley books that I am set to review and then it'll be all TBR pile, all the time until I metaphorically plant my flag on the top of the mountain and jump up and down while beaming from ear to ear as I gaze on (at least somewhat) emptied TBR shelves.

Is anybody else settling in to a last-minute challenge binge for December?

The Flappers: Vixen - Jillian Larkin

This was one of the way-too-many Borders Last Days Sales books that found its way onto my TBR pile in 2011 - and I finally managed to read it! It was a light, frothy piece of YA entertainment, with plenty of 1920s-era scandal and intrigue and teen relationships and etc. Evidently a second book was released in 2011 (this one was published in 2010) and I suspect there are more by now too; I'd check them out to see what happens next. The book reminded me of a series on the CW network, and I expect  if you are a fan of that network, you'd really like this book/series.

Since You've Been Gone - Mary Jennifer Payne

This was a touching YA book that tackles some tough subjects. The first-person narration was really effective, as it kept the reader as much in the dark as the narrator, rather than having the reader feel like s/he knows things the narrator doesn't. It's nice to see a young female character that's smart and resourceful. I think this fast-paced read would appeal to a wide audience.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Rainbow - D.H. Lawrence

Found this book when I needed one last read to complete the Color-Coded Reading Challenge. I had enjoyed Lady Chatterly's Lover, so I figured this was a good bet. In the end, I was half-right: I enjoyed half of the book quite a bit, but the other "half" was made up of rambling and belaboring the point. I didn't remember that being the case in Lady Chatterly; but maybe it's deliberate in this book, as this book spans several generations of the same family. Maybe Lawrence is attempting to show, both through the story as well as the actual writing, how things repeat through generations even as things change. One word that repeats over and over is "fecund" or a variation (most often "fecundity"). In the end this word became associated with the physical effects of childbirth and the rearing of an infant in my mind and it started to seem gross to me.

Having now read 2 books by Lawrence, it seems that a common theme is the friction between the everyday/mechanical world and the world of the senses/nature. There is also some inherent conflict in relationships, where the feelings of "love" and/or "infatuation" wax and wane, sometimes in the span of a few hours. This is something I have criticized Tolstoy for doing, because for some reason it bothers me - but maybe that's just because I'm not a complex enough being to appreciate a thought process that is more subtle than my own. Who knows.

As always, I'd love to discuss this book and its themes (both obvious and much less so) in a college/university type class. Or in the comments, if you'd care to leave one! :-)

And with this book, I bid a fond farewell to the Color-Coded Reading Challenge, hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. I had a wonderful time reading books I may not have otherwise encountered for this challenge, as per usual. I'm looking forward to signing up for the 2015 version (will probably do this in December). Bev also has links to some other interesting looking 2015 challenges that I should ignore and NOT join, but I will take a look at my TBR shelves and see if I can't somehow justify joining them.  Check out her blog and see which challenges you would like to tackle next year!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

This book was also at the library, so I figured I may as well read it too. I can see why this book gets praised - it tackles teen romance and first love but is balanced with a sensitive portrayal of some tough subjects as well. I am not the target market for this book, but I found it enjoyable enough, and the 1980s setting made me feel very nostalgic.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

What can I say, this book was at the library and so was I, so I checked it out. It was a fast read for being a thick book. I'm still not sure how I feel about the main character - on the one hand I could sort of sympathize with her a little, but on the other hand she reminded me of an acquaintance from years ago whose timid affect got old very quickly. I am not the boldest extrovert - au contraire, I am an introvert and I can struggle mightily with certain social situations. But even so, more than once I wanted to grab the main character by the shoulders and give her a shake and tell her to get over herself. I would have liked to hear more about some of the other characters too. The story gets repetitive and I think it could have been shorter without losing any of the main events, etc. The dialogue was good and there were times it made me laugh audibly. So although I found this book reasonably enjoyable, it was also something of a mixed bag.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lost in Shangri-La - Mitchell Zuckoff

Wow, what an amazing story this book tells - and it's all true! This suspenseful story of a plane crash and subsequent rescue effort mounted during World War II on what is now New Guinea is equally horrifying and inspirational, but is above all gripping. The author tracked down a treasure trove of photographs and first-person accounts of the events, including diary entries made by the people involved at the time. What an amazing story. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Attachments - Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is an author I feel like I see a lot on book blogs, so I decided I should check her out. I'm glad I did, this was an enjoyable, light, fast read. Looking forward to reading her other books.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Krabat - Otfried Preussler

Another book I couldn't resist on NetGalley. This was a really enjoyable fairy tale/fable/fantasy that was originally published in 1971. It's based on a Wendish legend, which explains the Slavic-sounding character names. There was a clarity and a simplicity to the writing that reminded me of books I read when I was a kid - the story is straightforward and told well but there is still a lot of mysteries to discover and solve. Recommended.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Billy Bones: Tales from the Secrets Closet - Christopher Lincoln

This book has a cute skeleton illustration on the cover, so I couldn't resist it on a recent trip to the library (don't ask). I love skeletons, skulls, and bones so the concept - a skeleton family that keep secrets in a mansion - was irresistible. The story was fun and I have to make a special mention of the illustrations by Avi Ofer - they were charming and added a lot to my enjoyment of the book. Apparently there is a sequel that I can look forward to reading; I'll have to add it to my list. This was a creative, enjoyable book for young readers. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Child's Past Life - Cai Jun

If I had to describe this book in one word, I would have to use the word "spellbinding." It's part ghost story, part revenge tale, part (non-traditional) love story, part murder mystery, and I was absolutely captivated from the first page. The plot is an intricate puzzle that explores the concept of karma and consequences while weaving a supernatural tale that is melancholy and yet hopeful at the same time. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I Am Sophie Tucker - Susan Ecker, Lloyd Ecker

I love entertainment from the first part of the 20th Century, and am therefore familiar with Sophie Tucker's music, so when this biographical novel popped up on NetGalley I was excited to read it and hoping it would be great.

In fact, it wasn't great - it was fantastic! I couldn't put this book down. I feel like I spent the day with Sophie Tucker. Although this is technically a novel, it's a fictionalized biography and is full of anecdotes about other famous people and great photos. The writing style is breezy and enjoyable and I laughed out loud more than once while reading. Even if you are not familiar with Sophie Tucker or her music, you will love her by the time you finish this book. Highly recommended.

C.O.W.L. Volume I: Principles of Power - Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, Rod Reis

I really enjoyed this stylish graphic novel. There are some seriously breathtaking images in this book. The  story was compelling and raised some interesting points about how a society always seems to need enemies, and will happily invent some if necessary. I liked how the authors showed the down side of being a female celebrity in this era (the book takes place in 1962) - which isn't all that different than being a female celebrity in 2014, sadly. I'm very curious to find out what happens next. Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Glass Magician - Charlie N. Holmberg

Another reasonably enjoyable book in this creative series. I want a magical bookmark, not to mention some of the other inventive magical things in these books! There's a great story in here, and once again a great deal of creativity, but this time I found myself a little more irritated with the sexism in the book this time. Our heroine is plucky and courageous and intelligent - and cooks and cleans constantly too, because the silly menfolk just can't manage. With that said, I am interested to see what happens next.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Paper Magician - Charlie N. Holmberg

When I read the description on NetGalley, I was immediately intrigued with this book's highly creative and original premise - the author is obviously a very creative person. However, although ultimately I liked the book, I didn't love it like I was hoping I would. For some reason (possibly my reading comprehension), what I perceived as small inconsistencies in the story kept jumping out at me, derailing my reading. This book reminds me of The Magician's Apprentice by Lev Grossman (minus the adult content in that book) - there was something about the writing in both books that pulled me out of total book immersion once too often, interfering with my enjoyment. I liked this book a lot better, but not as much as I was hoping to.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Waistcoats & Weaponry - Gail Carriger

Wow! I just finished this book and I am still reeling. This was another amazing adventure that I couldn't put down once I started reading. I really like how the author keeps expanding and deepening the overall plot in each book - it's getting nice and complicated! What could have been a decent but ultimately frivolous series is instead highly entertaining as well as thought provoking. I cannot wait to see how the next book builds on the events of this one - it should be spectacular. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Gift of Fear - Gavin de Becker

This book is one I have heard of for ages all over the internet, and I finally decided I just needed to read it already and see what all the discussion was about. The subtitle of this book is Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence and that pretty much sums it up - this book talks about the value of using "intuition" or "gut feelings" to help with personal safety. For example, many of us are socialized to "be nice" at all times, and we are therefore often nice to total strangers. While most of the time this works out fine (and can make society a bit more pleasant for everyone), if someone is creeping you out, even if you can't identify exactly why, it's OK, and it's NOT rude, to remove yourself from the situation. Etc. This book is by now somewhat dated; I assumed it was published much more recently than 1997, but that's OK. It has some interesting info and I'm glad I finally read it.