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. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Martian - Andy Weir

This book was enjoyable overall but at times it got a wee bit too scientific for my literature/languages brain. I liked how the author wove the overall story together. On the down side, I feel like it was just a little too long. I have no idea what could have been cut or shortened, but after a while I really just wanted to get to the end. So this is yet another mixed-feelings book. And if you're keeping score, this is yet another example of why I avoid things that are popular.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

Quick explanation time: You may have noticed that I am not a person who keeps their eye on and follows the latest, greatest, most popular things (whether they are books, clothes, music, accessories, etc.). I think I am reasonably aware of pop culture and etc., but I don't go out of my way to consume it. This is for many reasons: fads are short-lived, I'm too old to have crushes on 19 year old singers, etc. Another reason is that I just don't often like things that happen to be popular. Having said all that, I will say that there are times when things in pop culture seem to come around so often I finally get tired of hearing about them and I cave in and partake out of curiosity or whatever (this is true mainly of books).

This book falls under this category. For a while there, it was all over the book blogosphere and it seemed to get good reviews. I resisted it and resisted it and then finally decided I should just check it out and see what all the fuss was about.

I am happy to say I'm glad I did - this book was a charming, funny, and fast read that I enjoyed in a matter of hours. The narrator's voice worked well for me and I liked "seeing" the events through his eyes. Nice and light and a perfect weekday read.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

Honestly, I don't know where to start with this book.

Would it help to write the review interview-style? 

Actually, maybe it would. Let's try it.

OK. So how did you come by this book? 

This is one of those books I feel like I have seen mentioned around a lot, but I knew nothing about it. So normally I shy away from these books; I mean, who, who, should, like, read all these so-called "popular" books, like, should I read it ironically? If I read it, does that make me a poseur? Am I just another sheep-like book blogger, tap-tap-tapping out my little words about the same half-dozen "buzz books," which I buy because, you know, they're so famous and talked about? Does it matter? When I was in third grade I had this teacher, we'll call her Mrs. Smith, although of course (of course!) her real name was different, and Mrs. Smith was one of those old battle-ax teachers who was like somewhere between 85 and like 10,000 years old, and she hated me, HATED me, and would have me leave the classroom and stand in the hall as punishment for any perceived infraction.

That sounds like it was hard, but what does it have to do with--

What does it have to do with this book? I don't know, what does anything have to do with this book? I always talk about the Library Sale shelves, and how much I love to find 50 cent paperbacks there, but then sometimes I get so wrapped up in wondering how these cast-off books, these castaways, these unwanted items, how they ended up on those shelves, and how their value has been lost --

-- lost --

how in the act of being given away (note to self: buy a thesaurus) they lose all value, all sense of self. So this book, this paperback, this culmination of the apex of the concatenation of the phalanges of one person, one soul, one singularity, and the synergy of the synthesis of the keyboard, and the act of...

Are you alright? You seem kind of all over the place.

I lost my train of thought, what was I saying? Oh yeah, so I knew nothing about this book but after reading it once again I am struck by an author's unreal privilege. I realize that this book was written in the past, the not-so-distant but distant-enough past, so it's hazy and all but not too far behind us, and now, as a reader in this post-post-modern, post-Tumblr world, we perceive privilege and racism differently. So like the whole unbelievably racist scene on the beach, is, like, not mentioned anywhere in any reviews I can see, but it knocked me back, made me wonder, is this what passes for Pulitzer Prize-worthy writing? There are these trees near my house that produce these beautiful blossoms each spring, and sometimes the blossoms don't necessarily change to leaves or fall off or whatever they're supposed to do, so come August you have these trees that have some kind of stubborn blossoms on them next to the leaves, and I wonder, is that a problem? Someone should call a botanist or something.

So you got this book for 50 cents and part of it was racist. Anything else? 

Am I allowed to think part of this book was horribly racist as long as it was a small part? Should I overlook it? Chalk it up to grief? What is a reader to do? Is it OK that there were a few parts that made me laugh? (Not the racist part) Does that make me a bad person? Is it wrong that I think Prince Charles Nelson Reilly is a great name for a band? Now am I a poseur? I'm so tired.

Sounds like you need a rest. 

I do. I really do.


TL/DR: it's neither