Monday, October 31, 2016

October - This Month in Reading

At the beginning of October, I was hoping to complete the Back to the Classics Challenge. I didn't, but I did read 2 out of the 4 books left, and one of them was more than 1,000 pages, so it took some time to read! I also read a few more random books for the Alphabet Soup Challenge. I still haven't finished my review book, but it's in progress (and it's great!), and I think I can easily finish the Classics Challenge in early November, and then move on to finishing up the TBR Pile Challenge. I'd like to finish that up in November, which would give me all of December to read from my general TBR pile and also fill in other books I need in order to complete the rest of my challenges.

How's your end of the year reading shaping up?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Díaz

This is another book that I feel like I heard a lot about in the book blogosphere and that I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the characters felt kind of real; on the other, it seems like the author is daring us to like them. The shared Dominican Republic/New Jersey setting is refreshing - I don't read a lot of books (OK, any books) about the DR or people from there, so it was good to get some history and cultural knowledge. On the other hand I feel like the tone of the book is supposed to hit us somewhere between realistic and magical realism and I'm not sure where it lands. So while I found this book easy to read (the footnotes and the intermingled Spanish terms, which seem to have bothered a lot of Amazon reviewers, were fine with me) and I didn't dislike it, I also wasn't sure what to make of it generally.

Have you read this book? I'd love to discuss it, leave a comment!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Complete Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe

What better way to celebrate all things autumnal and Octobral (I think I just made that word up) than the works of one of the best American writers of the macabre to have ever lived? This wonderful book was a lucky Borders Last Days Sale find - I think I paid half price, which was a great bargain. It's a huge doorstop of a book, with more than 1,000 pages of this master writer's works. I had read some of them before - The Raven, of course, and Annabel Lee, and The Fall of the House of Usher and some of the other well known short stories, but had never read all of these works, so this was a fantastic immersion.

Some random thoughts: I had never read The Pit and the Pendulum, so that was a treat - it painted word pictures so vivid they will live in my mind for a while. The Cask of Amontillado was also a wondrously creepy story. Poe truly had a talent for translating the dark side of human thoughts and behavior into prose, and was able to bring the reader along on a journey into the minds of his characters. It's amazing that all the detective stories we take for granted, including Sherlock Holmes, were influenced by The Murders in the Rue Morgue and that the story Ligeia influenced what we now call science fiction. He was truly a writer ahead of his time.

And he was a really good poet - in my opinion The Raven stands as one of the best American poems, but I had actually forgotten about The Bells, which I really like, as well as An Enigma, To My Mother, The Haunted Place - too many to just list here.

If this enormous book had a "flaw," it was the inclusion of some literary criticism and essays that I could have done without - I was more in the mood for the stories and poems. The publishers also included some "poems written in youth" that were not bad but didn't have the impact of some of the later poems, but you can see the talent developing.

Bottom line, Poe stands the test of time as a master. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - Therese Anne Fowler

Found this book while I was searching the library catalog for books that started with "Z" for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge. Like many people, I enjoy reading and learning about the Jazz Age, or the Roaring Twenties, or however you want to call it. Although I can't claim to have read any of Zelda's writing, or any of her husband's beyond The Great Gatsby, which I love (note to self - let's make this a priority next year!), I find myself interested in their lives, so this book seemed like a perfect find.

All in all, I can definitely recommend this book. I will say I found it a little slow to start, but it was always engrossing, and it held my interest completely. It also made me want to seek out biographies and learn more about Zelda's life. So if you're looking for a book about the 20s, about Zelda in particular, or if you need a book that starts with Z for a challenge, definitely give this one a try!

Friday, October 21, 2016

October Reread - The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

I chose to reread this classic as part of the Back to the Classics Challenge, under this category:

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college).  If it's a book you loved, does it stand the test of time?  If it's a book you disliked, is it any better a second time around?

This book was part of a high school English class, about a million years ago. I remember liking it a lot, at the time and I wrote a short paper on it and got a good grade. Of course, with my barely working memory, I only remembered a couple things from the book, so in a way it was like discovering it anew - or reading a book you've heard about so you know the name of the main character, but not much else.

My recollection definitely stood the test of time, and in fact, I think as an adult I can appreciate the book a lot more, even if my brain isn't as attuned to picking up on imagery and etc. as it was when I was a lot younger (and also still in school, where these things were pointed out, to be fair). I found the writing clear (even if Hawthorne overused the words "ignominy" and "ignominious") and the story straightforwardly told. The pacing was good too - the story didn't lag or get bogged down, it moved along at a good pace. The last few chapters in particular had me turning pages, wanting to see how everything turned out. All in all, I can highly recommend this classic book (again).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The World According to Bertie - Alexander McCall Smith

Where to start with this book? I'm debating whether or not I want to jump on a soapbox and ramble.

OK, I'll spare the 2 people that maybe read this blog my rant, but sufficient to say, I loathe and despise a nasty, disgusting, and abusive (yes, abusive!) character in this book with all my being. But I reserve even more vitriol for the person that stands by while the titular Bertie gets abused.

The rest of the book was an interesting update on the lives of those in and around 44 Scotland Street.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Five Children and It - E. Nesbit

This book had to be read so that I could read a book in the Back to the Classics Challenge. It's the first book in a series, of which I have the third and final book. For the most part, this book was charming, although its original publication date (1902) means that we couldn't avoid some racism, as well as classism (sigh). However, in general it was a fast read chock full of lessons about being careful for what you wish for.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nothing Lasts Forever - Roderick Thorp

So readers, remember back in March when I confessed to this NetGalley mistake? This book is another one of those mistakes.

If you've seen the movie Die Hard, you've more or less read this book, as the movie faithfully adapted it, with some probably-all-for-the-best changes. The story zips along at a good pace, and the reader is left turning pages to see how things will turn out. This is an enjoyable thriller that keeps the reader in suspense.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

X: A Novel - Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

If you guessed that I got this book specifically for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, you'd be correct! And I am pleased to report that it was a wonderful choice. I devoured this book in a single day. It was a very immersive experience, and I think the author, Malcolm X's daughter, and her co-author did a a fantastic job of making this reader feel like she was there watching the story unfold in front of my eyes. I saw the Spike Lee film Malcolm X when it was originally released in theaters, but I didn't remember a lot of details of his early life. This book fills in his background and tells the story from a first-person point of view, so the reader is privy to thoughts and feelings. This book is a YA novel, but it's based on reality, and it was interesting to see how Malcolm X's early life shaped his later years. Recommended.