September Reviews

I had a pretty good month for quantity and quality this month. And the best news is I finished up my Netflix binge of Supernatural right at the end of September, so I should get even more read and written in October.

991197Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

As most of you probably know, Persepolis is a graphic memoir of Satrapi’s childhood and early adulthood in Iran during the Iranian revolution years of the 1980’s. It simultaneously captures the more universal aspects of her growing-up experience and presents the stress and fear brought on by the threat and reality of war and politically instability and oppression. It was simply and beautifully drawn as well, small panels done in bold lines of black and white, which often really added to the power of the message. I highly recommend this one.

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J Maas18006496

Overall a very solid installment. This series has expanded above and beyond its somewhat cliched beginnings and become really wonderful. I did have a few small problems with this one, namely that the character development was somewhat lacking. We had good action and some new character introductions, so maybe there just wasn’t time but I felt like a lot of relationships changed somewhat suddenly and that romantic pairs were thrown together simply to satisfy a reader desire for everyone to be happy in love, which I find kind of annoying. But there was great plot development in this, and lots of high-stakes action, which made this 700+ pager fly by extremely quickly. Highly enjoyable, as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Maas.

22754100The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I’d heard some ambivalent and negative reviews and wasn’t sure I’d read it, but I was glad I did. A small cast of characters makes the whodunnit pretty easy to predict, but the genius of this plot is that none of the characters are obviously evil and all of them have motive and some sort of character flaw that would allow them to act on it. They’re all unlikeable, which I thought was really interesting, trying to decide who to like or root for or suspect and I got hooked into it and was kept guessing just enough (my predicition was right in the end, but I just wasn’t sure) to read this in two sittings over two days.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon10967

This installment in the saga was pretty good overall, spectacular at moments, but I felt it dragging a lot and I was ultimately pretty unsatisfied with where it left off. There were a few new developments, but it mostly dwelled on problems and conflicts set up at the end of the previous installment that this never actually resolved. There were really remarkable passages, usually in small domestic scenes, that were just beautifully composed, but the overall story was a bit disappointing.

24817626Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

It’s been a few weeks since I finished this and I still can’t figure out how to feel about it. First, I’ll say that in a weird way, this book is trying to do some of the same things that To Kill a Mockingbird does, just less successfully. This dwells rather needlessly on long stretches of Maycomb history and teenage Jean Louise flashback but rushes the climactic confrontation and resolution. I have no basis for saying this, but I strongly suspect something almost identical to this happened to Harper Lee, because it’s emotional, but it lacks the symbolism and subtlety of her other, famous work. It’s ultimately cathartic, but it mostly just meanders. I wish I could read it completely blindly, as though it wasn’t TKM’s characters in “the future” (sarcastic air quotes. I really don’t see this as a direct sequel, since it’s not quite factually consistent) to suss out whether or not I’m jaded or just plainly didn’t enjoy it. I think it’s probably a mix of both.

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling22716447

This is Mindy Kaling’s second memoir and it mostly covers the few years since the publication of her first, though she did delve back into her years of college and early years in LA as well. I listened to the audiobook, which she narrates, and highly enjoyed it. Mindy’s smart and funny, and she also has some great insights that make it more worthwhile than a piece of light entertainment. In particular, I enjoyed her closing commentary on body image and think it’s definitely worth the listen or read.

The 2015 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

I really didn’t pay much attention to the Man Booker Prize until this year but it seems to be getting a lot of attention from the book bloggers and vloggers I follow and I thought I’d check out some of the shortlist. It seems like a great way for someone like me–relatively inexperienced in modern literary fiction writers–to find a place to start reading in the genre. Especially since the Man Booker prize has in recent years opened itself up to submissions from writers outside the UK adding some diversity to the selection of long and shortlisted works.

So, though it’s a bit late in the game to start this, I thought I’d set myself the goal of reading and reviewing all six shortlisted novels, hopefully sometime before the end of 2015 (The prize winner will be announced October 13, but I definitely will not get finished that quickly!)

Here’s the list, if you haven’t seen it already, and I’ll link my reviews up here once they are posted as well. Let me know if you’ve been checking out the shortlist, and, if so,who you predict will win! I’ve been hearing lots of buzz around A Little Life but I know A Brief History of Seven Killings and The Year of the Runaways have been very well loved by those who’ve read them as well:

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

The Fisherman by Chigozie Obioma

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

September TBR

I don’t post a monthly TBR anymore (and if you remember the days that I did, then congrats on being an old-timer, I think it’s been more than a year). But last night I was looking at my currently reading shelf on Goodreads and the stack on my end-table, which essentially serves the same function, and vowed I would finish all of my currently reading books by the end of September. So, since public embarrassment is actually a pretty good motivator for me, here’s the list of books I have completed at least a percentage of, but want to finish by the end of the month:

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Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas-This one won’t be a stretch to complete; it’s my newest “current” read, I’m enjoying it greatly and I should have it done by the end of this holiday weekend.

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The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon – I’ve had this one marked “currently reading” for three months and I have been reading it on and off that whole time–pick it up for a few minutes, listen to an hour of the audiobook in the car, but only once a week or so, in and amongst other things. I’m liking it and am slowly starting to get hooked back into the Outlander world by it, but the slow start hasn’t been helping it out.

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The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald – My book club picked this one and I didn’t quite get finished before skimming to the end and going to the meeting anyway, but I want to go back and read the last 100 or so pages properly because I was really enjoying Fitzgerald’s writing and style with this.

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn– Another book club pick I was enjoying, but got too busy to finish in time to attend the meeting. I set it down in favor of the next month’s pick (Half of A Yellow Sun–I did finish and was great and a great choice for a discussion group) but I do want to finish it.

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Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – I am nearly done with this very interesting, exceedingly excellent graphic memoir, but I lost momentum on it when I left it behind when I left for vacation at the end of August. Now that I’m back, it’s time to finish it out.

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee-I bought this the day it came out and made a pretty good dent in it the first two weeks I had it but I set it down in favor of something else. It’s not terrible, but I start feeling kind of stressed out about it every time I pick it up, constantly monitoring my own reaction to everything that happens in it. I want to finish it, now that the buzz has died down a bit and I have come to realize that it is not really at all a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and that no matter what happens, the two stories are separate entities and TKM won’t be improved or destroyed by the newcomer.

August Reviews

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I spent this month watching another three and half seasons of Supernatural on Netfilx, so this will be a short post one once again, even including comic books in the mix. Only three more seasons until I’m caught up and hopefully back to a more robust reading schedule once again!

22736613Hold Me Closer by David Levithan

It’s been a really long time since I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but I wasn’t too lost diving straight into this companion “musical novel”. It was funny and sweet, packing a little more punch than I thought it might going into it. as we explore Tiny Cooper’s life from childhood all the way through his parade of ex-boyfriends up to and including Will Grayson.

449251Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A multi-character, multi-layered story done fantastically well. Adichie explores romantic and familial relationships and the good and bad of humanity in war-time in this novel set during Nigeria’s 1960’s Biafran War. She centers the story on five Biafran characters whose stories are immediately and clearly intertwined, creating a story that offers multiple perspectives, but is still narrow enough in scope to feel intimate. I disliked the timeline jump forward, then flashback/flashforward that happened in the middle of the book, but otherwise the structure of this worked quite well, as not one of the multiple POV characters was less interesting than the rest since all of them had such poignant things to show and say about love and war and guilt and goodness. Definitely recommended.

6954438Sweet Tooth Vol 1: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire

A strange post-apocalyptic tale about a sheltered boy who ventures out on his own after the death of his father. This takes a little getting used to, and it’s fairly slow moving, but I enjoyed the mystery and action elements of this and I think Gus will be an interesting character to follow as he learns more and more about the realities of the world outside his woods.

Top Five Wednesday: Required Reading

I hated very few books I had to read for school, but I didn’t love very many either. Most I just slogged through, but wound up feeling some sort of appreciation for them when I was done. But most of the books I did love, I still consider to be some of my very favorite books of all time. So extra special thanks to the English teachers/profs who chose/taught these so well:

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

An answer I suspect will be a common one. I read this in 9th grade English and loved it. I reread some or all of it every year or so and it’s been interesting to see how my reading of it has changed over time. P.S. — I still haven’t finished Go Set A Watchman, so let’s not talk about that yet.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This was actually the last book I was ever required to read–in my junior year of college. Really beautiful, and interesting and it was evident it was a favorite of the professor’s as well. It was engrossing, but at the same time challenging, in the best possible sense. Not difficult to read, necessarily, but this twisted reality in a way that really made me think deeply about it.

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The Chosen by Chaim Potok

So this is almost cheating, because I read this in a book club I participated in in high school as an extra-curricular, but I would never have picked this book up without it being on the list for that group, so I’m counting it. The Chosen is one of those books I can’t quite entirely explain my love for. Maybe it’s the simple, striking prose, or the shattered innocence arc of the plot or something, but it’s been an absolute favorite of mine ever since I first read it nearly 10 years ago.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was reading another Fitzgerald recently–The Beautiful and Damned–and I was reminded why I loved The Great Gatsby so much. Fitzgerald makes you stop and go back and reread what you just read, just for the aesthetic of his sentence. The last couple of sentences make up one of the best quotes ever. “Gatsby believed in the green light…”

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The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini

Another extra curricular book club choice, but it was also assigned over the summer for AP English Lit and I put it off for awhile, knowing what was coming. A really haunting story about friendship and forgiveness, set in modern Afghanistan, an eye-opening look at that country for me.


Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerreadsLainey. To view the complete list of participants (and add your name to the list!) click here for the Goodreads group.

Comic Roundup-June/July

Series I’m Following-Issues

25356679Kaptara by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod

I think Kaptara has a lot of creativity and a lot of promise, but after only three issues, it’s still finding its footing. It’s funny, but I could use a few more serious moments I think. Or something. I don’t feel particularly invested in it at the moment as I feel so little for the characters. But it’s still early.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples 16148398

The fifth arc of Saga ended at the beginning of July and it was just as gut-wrenching as every other finale in this series so far. Saga was the first comic book I ever read (a year ago now, which is crazy, I still feel like a total newbie) and it continues to be my favorite. It balances humor and weirdness and action and emotion perfectly.

6839093Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Issue #50 released at the beginning of July, concluding the tenth arc of this planned twelve arc series, and I can’t even begin to explain how epic it was. I’m dying for the next installment because the epilogue little teaser in this was way too much.

We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce25698374

I’m not even caught up on Brian K. Vaughan’s backlist, but I knew I had to run out and get this. I usually don’t get hooked by one issue of anything, but this did it. Unusual conflict, major apocalypse, ragtag band of revolutionaries. I was sold.

25484756Injection by Warren Ellis

This one is really beautiful to look at. I read the first three issues all spread out over a few weeks and I’m kind of lost, but that’s one of those things that is probably my fault, not the story’s.

The Fiction by Curt Pires and David Rubin25766953

Read the first issue of this so far and I quite enjoyed the premise (getting sucked into the story! Every reader’s wish come true!) and the action of the first installment. Definitely going to continue with it.

Trades

23228585Sex Criminals Vol 2: Two Worlds, One Cop by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

You wanna know something pathetic? I only just now got the reference in the title. Moving on.

This volume slowed down a bit, taking time to develop characters. The plot advanced a lot more slowly than I might have liked, but it had some beautiful serious moments. It also, of course had some unbelievably hilarious moments as well (Suzie at the gynecologist and The Wicked and The Divine parody are coming to mind first here)

Ms. Marvel Vol 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson, et. al.23546843

This volume somehow made me fall in love with this series; I was pretty indifferent about it before. But this was adorable and fun. It seems to have found a sweet spot for its irreverent charm and I’m really looking forward to following it more closely in the future.

8932593Y The Last Man Deluxe Edition: Book 5 by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr.

It took me almost a year, but I finally finished this series. I stopped halfway through this volume because I didn’t want it to end, but when I finally got there, I really liked the conclusion. Even though it hurt a little bit.

East of West Vol 3: There is No Us by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta22358464

I feel like I’m finally starting to get/get into this series. I want to reread it and try to understand it a little bit better before I pick up volume 4, because I think it is going to go some very interesting places and be worth the effort.

22554204Lumberjanes Vol 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen

This was really cute. I love the colors and the go-girl, strong feminist attitude of the whole thing. It also had its moments where it was funny, but it had more where I thought it was trying way too hard to be funny. I do really like most of the characters, distinctive and fun, but I hope they get some more depth to their personalities as the series goes on. I’ll pick up the next volume when it’s out and see where it goes.

The Wicked and The Divine Vol 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie24666002

This is another series that has a great concept and is really beautiful to look at, but seems to be missing something. This volume turned around at the very end and had an awesome, wtf cliffhanger ending, but the rest of it was kind of slow and repetitive in theme.

What are you reading? What should I be checking out? With Saga and Chew on hiatus I’m in need of some more amazing series to be excited about.

July Reviews

Another month, another reviews post. I had a super busy month, so it just flew by, but I did manage to finish a YA fantasy novel that I bought on a whim, some non-fiction choices that have been on my shelf for awhile and fun summer YA contemporary. Not very racially diverse, but it did turn into a No-Boys allowed reading list, which is always fun to do once in a while. 
19367070Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

A short and lovely little stand-alone fantasy novel. Yes, yes a short, stand-alone fantasy novel. It did feel a little bit too short to me, not explaining some oft the politics and thing quite enough, but at the same time I did like the simplicity of it. No lengthy, boring backstories and histories, but very vivid characters and an entertaining story, so if you’re in the mood for some low fantasy but don’t want to commit half your year to a massive series, definitely check this one out.

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Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

So I love the show, but I got done with this book and loved it even more. It dances around explaining why prisons are broken, showing rather than telling how all-consuming and transformative they are, forcing prisoners to adapt to the system, learning only those skills that will not serve them well on the outside. I didn’t really think this book would make me think as much as it did, and I valued it a lot for that.

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Susan Cain’s TED Talk was recommended to me by a career counselor at college, back two years ago when I was struggling to find a job and I found a lot of comfort and inspiration in it at the time. I haven’t watched it again lately, but the book for me did not resurrect those old good feelings. It didn’t feel like it expanded on any one idea, instead reinforcing the duality of introvert/extrovert, rather than exploring some sort of spectrum. I felt like a lot of ideas were touched on and then restated and stated again, without getting any great development. Like a TED talk, only long and boring rather than entertaining or enlightening. I think it’s an interesting piece, but I don’t know that I got all that much more out of the 300 page book than I did the 10 or so minute video.

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Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

This was a quick read, despite its apparent thickness, and a fun one. One girl finds herself without her best friend and gains her independence by completing the list of dares she left behind. It was cute, nothing crazy dark or sad, and a fun book to fly through in the summertime.

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And that’s all folks! A short and sweet little review post this month because I spent the second half of the month watching Supernatural on Nextflix thanks to a recommendation from my IRL friend (and blog reader!) Savanna. Bitch.

(If she doesn’t comment “Jerk” and/or none of you know the reference, I’ll look like such a terrible person.)

Top Five Wednesday: Upcoming Releases I’m Anticipating

Top Five Wednesday time again! This week we’re sharing the top five books we are most anticipating for the rest of 2015. Armada and Go Set A Watchman were way up there on my list for the year, so I had to come up with some new ones and I did not come up empty handed. Definitely plenty of great books coming the rest of the year.

I’ve linked Goodreads pages to the titles if you’re interested, just be wary of spoilers for the sequels on the list!

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1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas (Throne of Glass #4)-September 1st

I’m a fan of the series and am definitely always looking for more to the adventure.

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2. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson – September 22nd

The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series and I’m so excited to read something else by Rae Carson.

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3. Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #5) – October 6th

Definitely looking forward to continuing the story that started in The Alloy of Law and anything in the Mistborn world is going to land high on the reading list for me.

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4. Winter by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles #4) – November 10th

Another series installment. This, the final Lunar Chronicles book, has been over a year in coming already and I can’t wait to have it.

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5. Soundless by Richelle Mead – November 10th

I loved Vampire Academy and Bloodlines by Richelle Mead and I’ll definitely be checking this one out.


Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerreadsLainey. To view the complete list of participants (and add your name to the list!) click here for the Goodreads group.

Top Five Wednesday: Things On My Bookshelf

Thought I’d try something a little new and do a Top Five Wednesday (Which was created by GingerReadsLainey on Youtube) in place of a Top Ten Tuesday. Both rock, but I liked this week’s top 5 Wednesday topic a ton. I don’t know how interesting mine will be, since the answer is basically just various knick-knacks, but this will be a fun one to watch/read. If you think so too, check out the complete list of T5W participants here.

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1. My Bookish Craft Project: So last summer, right after reading both available installments of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, I was looking around on Tumblr for relevant posts and fan blogs and things when I came across a quick tutorial for making a little lamp that looks like the magical, light, gemstone spheres that are so significant to that book. It was easy: glass jar, and beads and little LED lights from the floral section of the craft store. I love how mine turned out.

2. Dave: They opened up a little Dave&Buster’s style restaurant/arcade/laser tag place near where I grew up and I’ve gone there a few times with friends. Picked up a stuffed minion with my arcade winnings the first time I went and now he guards my TBR. I don’t know which minion he actually is, but I decided some time ago his name would be Dave.

3. My maybe dead lucky bamboo plant. I got this for free at an Earth Day celebration thing when I was a junior in college, so it’s like 3 years old. I transplanted it a few times until it grew to it’s current size and it was doing pretty well until this spring I thought it might like some more sun and left it outside for a few days. Basically bleached it completely white before I realized what was happening and I brought it back inside and trimmed off all the dead leaves. Now we’ll wait and see if it can come back.

4. Book boxes: Bought these at Michaels. They hold bookmarks and some miscellaneous papers.

5. Some other little knick knacks:  I got a painted clay horse as a gift from my mom shortly after I moved that I think she bought in Arizona and then there’s a little pegasus on a small slab of amethyst geode that I got at a rock shop in Estes Park, CO. I also have a few Willow Tree angels that I bought ages ago still love to have. The “Wisdom” reading girl is especially perfect for the bookshelf and is probably my favorite.

May and June Reviews

It was my blogging resolution this year to write at least a mini-review of every book I read, and, though I fell behind, I haven’t failed yet! Pretty good genre variety happening in my reading life lately, which has been awesome, but it makes this post look absolutely chaotic. Fantasy? Literary fiction? YA contemporary? Sciency non-fiction? All here. Hope you find something to enjoy.

22465605Miss Mayhem (Rebel Belle #2) by Rachel Hawkins

Like it’s predecessor, Rebel Belle, this was fun modern fantasy fare. It suffers a lot from what I’ve taken to calling second-book syndrome wherein the second book in a trilogy serves only to wrap up the first book and set up the third, with no real solid plot of its own. This felt that way: a little low-stakes and boring while straining the central romance in a way that we know they will resolve by the end of book 3 because, well, we just do. I still have high hopes for book 3 of course, I think this is a solid concept with some pretty fun characters that will conclude staisfactorily, this was just a bit of a rough stop along the way.

Boundless (Unearthly #3) by Cynthia Hand13049981

This is the best paranormal romance I have read in the last year or two. I’d say only Daughter of Smoke and Bone is better (and, really, to be fair, is quite different). I was worried about this series in book 2, which definitely suffered from second book syndrome, but this final installment in the trilogy was not at all disappointing. It ended a bit abruptly, but it was very satisfying and had a love triangle that was frustrating in a good way more than a bad that had a happy–but not too happy–resolution. Clara was strong and honest, a bit of a Mary-Sue admittedly, but the kind of female lead with power I wish more romance books portrayed.

16096824A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I listened to the audiobook of this while road tripping with my friend and we both loved this. The world is built quickly and well, its fairy tale aspects lending it inspiration and the strength of a good story, but by the end it takes enough turns that it feels fresh. I thought certain minor characters could have used more development (and that there could have been more of them in general—a big fancy castle has lots of servants that you might interact with) but overall I’m really excited to continue with this series and watch Sarah J. Maas build even more on an already stunning foundation.

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon5293561

Slow, slow, slow in the middle. I slogged a bit through this one, but ultimately it was really great. I love how Gabaldon played with the timeline in this one, taking us forward and then telling the bulk of the story as a story within the story. It could have been boring, but in this case it played on the tension already inherent in the build up to the Battle of Culloden Moor, which we knew was happening from the very beginning of the series. I think the early episode in Paris was dragged out a bit too long, and I think there are several scenes, like battles, where we are stuck in Claire’s perspective, when it would be a lot more interesting to follow around someone else. Overall, however, this was a really excellent follow-up; a sequel that grew the world and introduced new characters and even more complications to build on in the next installments.

6522033Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

This had some of the same pacing problems as Dragonfly in Amber, but to a lesser extent. I loved the additional perspectives, though there are definitely scenes when the overlap is very odd, especially since Claire’s perspective is always in first person while everyone else’s is told in third. Like at the beginning of this book, we see a character watching Claire in a scene that is very pivotal for Claire’s character. It would make sense to be in her head for this very quiet, internal, decision-making scene and we are not. It felt very strange to be pushed to the outside for that. It makes sense to follow other characters in scenes that Claire isn’t present for, but in a scene in which her thoughts are paramount, it really felt odd. But once we got settled and rolling with the story, the various episodes in this installment were all excellent. There were a few sections that felt overly lengthy, but for the most part the pages flew by and I don’t think the series flagging in quality at all.

Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon6584000

“Oh my God, the book people are making me crazy” was the refrain on my road trip recently. This book makes the price of a Kindle Paperwhite totally worth it so you can read in the dark late into the night without disturbing your travel-mate. It had that mid-act slow down that I seem to experience a lot with this series, but I got into the crazy drama by the end. I’m loving this series. Slipping into some dangerous stereotypes here, but it’s almost soap-opera trashy while still maintaining a intellectual’s historical detail (with plenty of literary misery to go around).

18143977All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I thought the prose in this was great, beautiful descriptions and symbolism and metaphor. The story was good, the characters even better. I get why this was so popular when it came out, but that hype combined with a sense that it was trying too hard to be literary made me like it a little bit less than I might have otherwise. Still highly recommend it, though and I’m very glad I picked it up.

Animal Farm by George Orwell170448

I was supposed to have read this when I was in 8th or 9th grade for this extra-cirricular book group I was in and I wound up not having the time. But the entire time I was reading this I was kicking myself for letting it pass me by back then, because all of my comparisions were not to Soviet Russia, but to the rhetoric of post 9/11 USA, so I kept thinking that this would have had so much more impact on 13 year old me in 2004. But still. It’s classic for a reason; very smart satire. I did think that it got a little bit repetitive at times, Orwell beating a dead horse as it were, trying a little too hard to get the point across.

23399202Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

The negative thing I have to say about this one is that it had somewhat strange pacing: slow to start and too jammed full of stuff in a short amount of space at the end, but overall I enjoyed it. It’s got a rather unique perspective, from a gay teenager who is feeling a little too accepted by his family and decides to move across the country, attend boarding school  where no one knows him and see what he might discover about his identity without the looming shadow of his sexuality defining him. That whole concept was fascinating to watch and it was executed well enough, though I get the feeling I’ll have completely forgotten about this story in a short amount of time.

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger23399277

I really enjoyed The Duff a few months ago, so I knew I had to check this companion novel out. This one follows Sonny, who is the best friend of The Duff’s Wesley’s sister Amy. It’s also a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac as Sonny falls in love with the new guy at school over IM…while (oops!) logged into Amy’s account. I think Kody Keplinger really knows how to construct a good character on the front end of a story, but the plot and development in this left me wanting. Character development was an unconvincing tell, not show and the friendship between Amy and Sonny didn’t ever click for me. I don’t really think this is worth it unless you’re a huge fan of all of Kody Keplinger’s books, in which case you’ve already read it.

11133791Tilt by Ellen Hopkins

My first Ellen Hopkins. I held out for a long time thinking her work wouldn’t be my thing, and it seems I was right. But I mildly enjoyed this while I was reading. A decent story, pretty good characters, ones that felt a little flat, but not so much I wasn’t enjoying myself. I really liked the structured poems with the words pulled out that made another sentence, but otherwise didn’t get the appeal of the free verse style. I finished it, thought “that was nice, but I don’t know that I’ll bother to read one of her books again” and tried to move on with my life.

But moving on with my life involved jumping in the car and driving for over an hour and I got to thinking more about this, especially the little author’s note at the end about resources for AIDS and abstaining from sex until you’re in a committed relationship and whatnot and suddenly the stories clicked together. I realized it wasn’t meant to be a realistic teen tale, but morality propaganda and it went a little more definitely sour for me. Not that abstinence is the worst thing you can preach to kids, but the sad and scary stuff  in this took on a new “Don’t have sex or ELSE” meaning that I really didn’t care for.

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss20613511

A really interesting book about a scientific political issue that was not particularly technical or bitingly crictical of any one side (thought that’s not to say it doesn’t argue for one or the other, it just wasn’t overwrought with accusation or emotion, like so many of the vaccine arguments are. It’s extremely insightful, pointing out all kinds of crazy problematic meanings and things between the metaphors we use to describe things and what we think we mean vs what they might be revealing about our attitudes. It was short, but extremely thought-provoking, and its lyrical style makes it a great place to start if you’re looking to break into non-fiction.

22501993Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

This took me absolutely ages to finish and I have no idea how to review it, because so much is going on in it. It’s long–probably too long–but covers an astonishing number of topics quite well. Alan Turing’s life is the thread that connects it all together, but this often deviates for lengthy stretches on tangents about mathematics, history, philosophy, computer science, and the gay experience in the early 20th century.  I found it all fascinating, and Alan Turing’s story amazing and heartbreaking by turns. I definitely recommend this, but only if you’re in for the long haul and you won’t let yourself be intimidated by some discussion of math and logic.

I especially recommend the audiobook, which has a lovely narrator who does different voices for the different written excerpts (including some unintentionally hilarious American accents) that helped me keep everything straight.

I am so glad to be caught up, I hope to have some more posts up this month now that I’m back on track!